The presence or lack of a budget very much determines the tone and character of BUFFY. The Season 8 story is being told differently because it lacks the limits of the TV series and these limits would have made a televised Season 8 a different beast altogether. Is the quality of the story better in Season 8 than previous seasons on TV? Some fans say yes and that it ranks as high as Season 2, 3 or 5. Some fans say absolutely-are-you-kidding-me-no. While many others refuse to even acknowledge Season 8's canon existence.
Buffy the TV series was very much the little show that could. People discounted it, judged it and underestimated it. It fought uphill to make an impact. It ran the gamut of censoring and opposition to become this finished product of brilliant humor, drama, action and fantasy. It ran the trial by fire and I believe it was better for it. Like a gem polished over time by the powerful forces of nature...
These limits and the challenge of having to overcome them demanded creativity and I believe it heightened the value of the finished product.
Anyone ever seen the original film (based on the play) Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda where the entire story is set in the jury's deliberation room? I'm always amazed by stories set in one room that can remain riveting. BtVS was like that to me - one girl (Henry Fonda) in all the world set against incredible odds (11 angry men) who must fight (win the argument) the forces of evil (ignorance and prejudice) in her small hometown (jury room). The setting was limited and set; yet once the formula was laid out it opened up a whole new creative world to be explored.
Buffy was the fantasy series that didn't have enough money to do overblown special effects (Smallville has better effects, would anyone dare say it was a better show...) nor have exotic locales to visit. So here was the caveat - how can we use the limited space and special effects available to us to tell a story about a girl and her friends who fight the forces of evil?
They took these limitations and made an amazing show by focusing on the characters' journeys. It was amazing for how creatively they worked around the limitations and even used them to their advantage. It was not a perfect show and we Buffy experts are very aware of the issues in continuity and other mistakes we catch on screen. But each flaw made it better than any overblown perfect fantasy story. The flaws and limitations are embedded into the character of BtVS. Without them, the heart can't help but be changed.
Season 8 is different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series because it doesn't have the creative limitations of a budget. Is it better for this? There lies the debate. Does one find more value in a creative work that grows in adversity or a work that knows no limits? No TV budget means that Dawn transformed into a giant, that Buffy and her gang live in a castle and travel around the world to Tokyo and NYC on their private planes and helicopters. The battles are limited only by what the writer decides to lay on the artist's shoulder. An army of zombies? Sure! Why not? A battle between Giant Dawn and her Mecha counterpart? Why, yes thank you. These things would not have been possible on the TV show. (Some fans wish they hadn't happened, but let's not focus on that...)
We must also recognize that Season 8 brings with it a whole new creative environment - the comic. The truth is that Buffy Season 8 possesses brand new limits imposed by this new medium - trying to make that bottom right corner a page turner, keeping the dialogue tight while giving a visually stimulating action for the character in each panel, telling a riveting story in only 22 pages of art and dialogue boxes. It's a brand new world and it's very bright thanks to Michelle Madsen's coloring.
Avid comic readers have advised me that it takes on average 10 to 15 minutes to read a comic issue. If you're reading a Buffy Season 8 issue *that* fast, whoa buddy! Slow down. Buffy Season 8 reads deeper than most comics out there. Take your time, absorb the panel of art, re-create the characters dialogue in your imagination by using SMG's voice or imagine how Hannigan would have made a cute pout after delivering that one-liner. Admit it, you've watched the DVD's so many times that you can act out a scene using the correct body language and dialogue of your favorite characters. It's okay, you're not the only one. Now after you've brought the story to life in your imagination and had a satisfying read, go back and look for all the themes and symbolism Joss so kindly laid out for us. That deeper reading just got a whole lot, well, deeper.
Those who know me know I love Season 8 and am very much enjoying the continuation of the story. Yet even I cannot escape the fact that it's different from BtVS and I catch myself imagining what could have been. But Season 8 is what I have *now* and it's pretty damn great. Season 8 is the next generation of BUFFY. It's different and I'm embracing it. I won't stop comparing it to the show (I'm physically and mentally incapable of stopping) and it won't always be as good as that most beloved TV series, but I'll still treasure it because in this regard it could not more closely resemble BtVS - it is flawed and it is entertaining.