As T-shirt slogans go, it doesn't get more direct than this: "Joss Whedon is my master now."
It's a shirt common at fan conventions and anywhere else diehard pop-culture devotees gather. And few fan bases are as fervent as the one devoted to the third-generation television writer.
Few would have guessed that the premiere of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" 15 years ago would launch such a following for its creator. But the enthusiasm of "Buffy" fans helped Whedon build what is referred to as the "Whedonverse."
The Whedonverse includes "Buffy;" its spinoff, "Angel;" "Firefly" – which, 10 years later, is discussed by fans now more than it was during the short time it was on the air; "Serenity" (the "Firefly" movie); another short-lived but devotion-earning series, "Dollhouse;" and most recently, the critically acclaimed horror movie Whedon co-wrote and produced, "The Cabin in the Woods."
But on Hollywood's big stage, all of that is dwarfed by the $220 million "The Avengers," the upcoming action movie written and directed by Whedon. It is the unique culmination of four years of superhero films by Marvel Studios, that have all featured at least one character that will appear in "The Avengers."
With Whedon on the cusp of such a big moment in his career, it bears pondering just what it is that inspires such devotion among fans, who will surely line up alongside the masses to see Iron Man and the rest crack wise and fight off Loki's army.
“He’s a great writer," said actor Clark Gregg, who appears in "The Avengers," as well as Whedon's upcoming film adaptation of "Much Ado About Nothing" (which Gregg teased involved characters in the present day – even using smartphones – spouting Shakespearean dialogue).
"He's funny and writes great story and he is respectful of the sci-fi/comic universe. At the same time, he’s willing to push the boundaries of it. With a lot of the great storytellers, there’s a bit of a trickster element – tricks and surprises for the audience, done so to give them the ultimate experience – that just seems like Joss in a nutshell for me."
Whedon's work appeals to a smart, savvy audience, said "Firefly" actor Adam Baldwin.
"He picks classic stories. He’s so versed in Shakespeare and Greek tragedies. He picks timeless character and story outlines for the modern audience. With a little of his own Joss ‘Grr, arghh’ flair."
Georges Jeanty illustrates that Whedon flair as a penciler for the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" comics.
"It’s very much the style of writing he has. When you read something he’s written, it comes across. Even on the page, you get those little nuances you would see on the TV show and you would expect from Joss even at the writing stage."
Whedon's "Joss-speak," that one-of-a-kind flair for dialogue, has even inspired a book, "Slayer Slang" – for example, the addition of a "y" at the end of nouns to make a new adjective (like "angsty"). This quirky dialogue has permeated contemporary expression.
“Once something becomes part of pop culture you lose the origin," said Jeanty. "You tell somebody ‘Beam me up’ – they may never have seen ‘Star Trek’ but they know exactly what you mean."
Beyond "Slayer Slang," the books written about Whedon's style of storytelling are legion (one was even released on Tuesday), and have been good fodder for academia. There is "Slayage," a journal on "Whedon studies," as well as the Whedon Studies Association, a 501 (c)(3) that holds a biannual conference.
"(There are) layers of meaning. Deep, deep layers of meaning bound up in clever, symbolically complex language," said Tanya Cochran, associate professor of English at Union College and author of multiple works on Whedon, such as "'And That Makes Us Mighty': Joss Whedon, His Fans, and the Rhetoric of Activism."
"I always hear fans confessing how much they value being treated as intelligent," she said.
"Even with much academic research that explores the complex nature of fandom and individual fan experiences, fans continue to be stereotyped in mostly disparaging and misinformed ways. Whedon doesn’t do that as he typically aligns himself with his fans rather than distancing himself," she said.
And fans, she said, accept him as one of their own.
"It’s difficult for them not to. In the preface to early screenings of the motion picture 'Serenity,' for example, Whedon commended fans for not giving up on 'Firefly,' even after it was canceled by Fox," she said.
The most enduring quote from that preface: "We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty."
"Not you – we," Cochran said. "That sense of camaraderie is powerful."
David Lavery, professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University and author of "Joss Whedon, a Creative Portrait," put it this way: "His fans root for him as believers in what Whedon once called the 'religion in narrative.' They root for him the way a sports fan cheers for his or her team, jumping off the sofa to cheer his imaginative accomplishments. We want his TV series, and comics, and movies to succeed so they can make his imagination their imagination."
Rhonda Wilcox was hooked on Whedon's work from the very beginning of "Buffy."
"I loved the moment in the pilot when, after being warned away from the nerds by the popular girl who was befriending her, Buffy still went to hang out with the nerds: my people," she said. "In the early years, the Alyson Hannigan character of Willow was my emotional way into the show – and I've heard many others say that."
Wilcox, a professor of English at Gordon College, wrote "Why Buffy Matters: The Art of Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Fighting the Forces: What’s at Stake for Buffy The Vampire Slayer," co-authored with Lavery.
Wilcox said Whedon's fans, like herself, "are willing to take aesthetic chances; they are willing to pay serious attention to the material; they have a sense of humor (as does every production by Whedon); they are smart and caring, and they take great pleasure in seeing the work of a smart and caring creator."
"Joss demonstrates his respect and appreciation for his audience as peers in the creative process, opening up directly to them," said Simon Fleischmann of Whedonverse.net. "Unlike other creatives who might keep their fans at arm's reach, or communicate through PR-mediated gatekeepers, Joss feels comfortable enough to speak with fandom unfiltered."
Fleischmann said fans appreciate that Whedon's work doesn't pander.
"He gives his audience not what they want, but 'what they need.' He doesn't rely on cliches and established tropes – he subverts them. He doesn't introduce characters that are cute and fuzzy and lovable because marketing said they'd make good action figures. Instead, he forces his audience to confront painful situations, such as the loss of major characters, or the realization that for some people there are no happy endings."
There's an entire Whedonverse fandom track at Atlanta's annual Dragon*Con.
"We fans spend countless hours discussing many aspects of Joss' work but I think we spend the lion's share of our time speaking to the impact that it has had on our personal lives," said track director Wayne Hutchinson. "There is a strong sense of community and passion when discussing his work and that creates a strong bond."
Even though his latest work just happens to be one of the most expensive, anticipated movies of recent years, fans and colleagues expect that the same Whedon spirit will shine through.
"This is not new territory for him, it’s just bigger," noted actor Fran Kranz, of "Dollhouse" and "The Cabin in the Woods."
"Joss is finally having the attention he deserves and hopefully it just grows from here."
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I don't know how to answer you.
I don't need to read anything. All I know now is that Joss Whedon is filthy rich, and he OWES IT TO US to make more Firefly.
Demanding much? You do realise that Joss doesn't pay for the financing of most of the films he makes himself...right?
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all i can say is that i wish there were a lot more writers/directors like Whedon in Hollywood and a lot less like Michael Bay. excuse me while i go bemoan the fact that Michael Bay is directing "Ninja Turtles" instead of a well-qualified geek
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Are there any ANGEL fans or experts here? I have some questions about the episode BLOOD MONEY and the character Boone. I'd like to open a debate.
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Looking forward to seeing Avengers, Joss! Thanks for all of your work!!!
Saw it on Sunday with my family, it was Joss!
I, too, am very passionate about pomorting reading in children. I have an extensive library for both of my boys and, when my youngest balked at reading books without pictures, I bought him comic-style books just so he was reading something. He now loves the Bone series and the Hellboy series. When I was a young girl I always had a book in my hand even though my parents could not afford to buy them for me (my library card was well used). As an adult I always have at least two books on the go. My dream is to one day publish a short story or novel.
I liked him until I seen how they changed The Hulk. Edward Norton's Hulk was the best. The new one looks like as if it was made from play-do
You do realize this was because Edward Norton wouldn't re-sign. I wouldn't call it Joss' fault just because an actor won't sign.
Coe Douglas (Author) February 2, 2010 at 9:31 am The episodes get btteer as the show and characters hit their stride.I agree about Fillion. He's fantastic. Have you seen the Heroes project stuff he's doing with artist Martin Firrell?
Norton's Hulk was lame and still looked nothing like Norton. The one in the avengers looked just like Ruffalo and His Banner was a true scientist/nerd. norton was never convincing of being a braniac, especially when it came to the actual science. He was way too hip/cool. Banner was never like that. The first two hulk movies were nothing but practice for this hulk.
Whedon does not insult the viewer. He realizes that the layers he covers his characters in will be removed with much joy by the viewer. The dialogue is explicit and must not be ad libbed because then all of the pieces fall out of synch. He writes things that real people face- where to live, how to live, having dreams smashed to bits, people you love and people you hate flowing in and out of your life. Those things just take place either in a place that is more fantasy than reality, or in a time that only exists in his mind. To combine space exploration and life in the guise of the Old West- as in Firefly, was brilliant. It's a pleasure to watch something that doesn't insult the view. And...Joss is shiny.
Each viewing brings a new discovery to the viewer. Agreed. There are strata to the characters. Joss Whedon's works are worth viewing more than once. Each time the intelligent viewer discovers something they missed the first time...and the second time...and the fifth time. This recently happened to me.
Whedon is definitely a master. I have yet to be disappointed by anything from Whedonverse. Buffy, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, Toy Story, and more – Joss Whedon has more than proven himself capable of expanding to a larger audience, from teens to retirees. I look very forward to The Avengers, and feel sad for the Wonder Woman movie that will never measure up without his input!
What a great article. Nicely done!
You're not too shabby a writer yourself!
What a great article. Nicely done.
I have a question about an episode of ANGEL and a character appearing in BLOOD MONEY. Are you by chance familiar with this episode and the the character of the demon Boone?
Still leery of group Superhero movies but after X-Men:First Class and Joss Whedon hemling this one, its hard not to get excited. Maybe they'll sneak in some other superhero cameos? Like Spidey?
Please bring back Firefly! I can only watch the reruns on the Science channel so much...
it's done get over it. Now go have secks you virgin
Despite Levi's less than artful prose, he is sort of right. Firefly had the great fortune to end on "Objects in Space" the welcoming of River as a vital active member into the crew. The thirteen episodes can be viewed as River's salvation. It's a neat package. Were the series to regenerate, it could never live up to the promise of the 13 episodes that already exist. Better to move on.
Firefly most likely couldn't return, it would require a few actors that have successful series to have those series cancel simultaneously. Most notably, Nathan Fillion and Gina Torres. What could happen with enough support is a new foray into the same universe. It may seem unlikely since the series only had one season, and most may shy away from it without Nathan Fillion, but it has enough fandom to justify a spinoff. Unfortunately, Fox would also have the rights to the spinoff, even if Joss writes it. I think Fox has evolved from their poor decisions in the early 2000s though, and I also think a Firefly spinoff would take strides to have a lower budget than Firefly did.
Guess you haven't heard: a film was made that told the story of River while she was at the school, how she was rescued and the reason she was hunted. Sorry you missed it. It's called SERENITY and it's wonderful. See it.
Joss Wheaton is awesome! Buffy to firefly to how he made super hero movies amazing!
How come no mention of the work he did on Toy Story? That was his best by far.
Albert, while TOY STORY was indeed wonderful, Whedon has done greater work since. The world moves on.
Joss Whedon won an Emmy for DR HORRIBLE'S SING-ALONE BLOG, haven't you heard?
I wish they hadn't kicked him off "Wonder Woman" It would have been epic with him at the helm.
I bet they're sorry for it now LOL HA! Avengers, at this time expected to rank as the THIRD HIGHEST GROSSING FILM of ALL TIME! Suck on that, you misguided studio execs that booted him! Served!
And by the way, as Wonder Woman isn't yet made, because no one can get it right -*coughbecause they kicked off the right Director – WHEDONcough* ...WELL, i wonder how things might shape up, don't you? Ahh.
Revenge is sweet. :-)
Paging Dr Horrible, Dr Horrible, your minion is losing it.
I love Joss's work ever since I got hooked to Buffy back in 1998. I followed the fandom with Angel, Firefly, Serenity, Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-long Blog, his comic book work, Dollhouse, and now Cabin in the Woods and Avengers. He is a cult favorite director in Hollywood. Everyone praises him for his witty dialogue and his love for the characters he writes and directs. Ask any die hard Whedon fan and they can list probably a dozen or show of their favorite TV episodes, characters, or moments from any of his 4 TV shows. I just want a sequel to Serenity so bad but we aren't getting it. I just hope the enormous success of Avengers opens the doors for him to do more stuff on the big screen and maybe come back to TV someday.
The Avengers was amazing, they can stop making movies now. Everyone go see it. For those of you who will more than likely flame this post instantly, if you going to talk crap about the movie, please leave an example of what YOU Believe to be a good movie. It will be easier to rip your arguement apart when your horrible idea of what good movie is presented.
Avengers is ok, saw it online. I like Whedon so much I also watched The Cabin in the Woods. That was also ok, it had a unique ending.
Bring back firefly already
Ditto, Firefly died an untimely death.
I absolutely love Whedon's work on Firefly, i mean he took so many flawed characters on that show and turned it into a crew that felt alive. That is not an easy thing to do without some kind of strict architecture. You found yourself rooting for that crew, and the individuals that made it up (Jane was always my favorite, his one liners were epic). I hope they do return to Firefly, that universe they made seemed so lived in, and realistic as much as Sci-fi can be.
You can't stop the signal, Mal. Everything goes somewhere, and I go everywhere.
Joaquedn: yo ni sabeda en que9 estaba la diuscsif3n a esa hora y tambie9n me entere9 de todo por Twitter salvo el voto de Cobos que fui directo a la TV es un punto de salida!
Lance Meadows Posted on Did pops give you any pointers on pilatnng the okra? I threw a few seeds in some dirt a while ago with steady watering and nothing happened so I could use some tips.Nice recipe though, I think I will try it with some red beans & brown rice.
Joss Whedon's characters, his story arcs and his sense of both comedy and tragedy are ultimately timeless. anyone who doesn't "get" his characters or sees them as cookie cutter don't understand story, narrative or, i'm willing to bet, themselves. because it's almost impossible not to see any Mal, any Giles or even WIllow in all of us. there's a good, a very good reason that the shows he created are still so popular even long after their demise. even if you don't like clever dialogue and anything that resembles humor or an adequate supply of suspense, it's easy to see why his characters work: because they're us.
that's because they are "real", more real then these "Reality TV" stars are...How many of us relate to Snookie???? But how many of us relate to Willow, Zander, or Gunn?
Snooki comes from another planet as far as I'm concerned, but I can relate to Buffy, Willow, Xander and Oz. And Joyce Summers and Giles and other characters as well, because they all seem like people I'd love to know. Joss Whedon has a gift of making his people seem real as well as interesting and that's rare.
On hearing caorifmntion of the much speculated Warner Brother reboot of the original BTVS movie (sans him) creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer Joss Whedon must be ruefully reflecting today that the problem with vampire franchises is they just won't die off! LOL!
Hell yeah. Doll House was an awesome one too.. BRING BACK DOLL HOUSE!
I tried to love DOLLHOUSE but was unable to get into it as I have all Whedon's other works. I intend to try again soon. Fingers crossed I'll succeed where before I failed. Since everyone else adored the series, no doubt the problem lies in me.
Here I am, hat in hand to blame the problem I had with DOLLHOUSE on my DVR. The beginning scenes of the pilot were not recorded and therefore much of the premise failed to make sense. Mea culpa, mea culpa, MEA CULPA!
DOLLHOUSE is genius, JOSS WHEDON IS A GOD! It's not him, it was me.
My cousins took their kid to see it and it was quite the event. They rteend the other movies leading up to it. (Thor is her favorite). I must say Beatrix has luckily been born in the time of Pixar and Harry Potter so she's a movie pro. And watching movies is a family event so she usually knows to wait until an appropriate time to comment. Funny how children pick up social cues from what they see around them because I don't think she's ever been told not to talk during a movie. Just like Mya she's into all the classic cartoons on Netflix and loves her heroes. I think it's a wonderful thing to share in the interests of your children and just as wonderful to open your world to them. Not everything is appropropriate, and of course parents need to check before they expose their kids to certain things, but it's a great opportunity to get to know your children and connect with them. All my favorite memories of my parents involve those moments when we shared in things together, like my Dad waking up on Saturday mornings and wrapping himself in his blanket to watch Bugs Bunny and Tom & Jerry cartoons with us. I think its wonderful that you share this with Mya! Keep up the good work!!
ok... "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" ??
It's a joke, right? Like "Body by Jake" or "We got class".
Buffy the Vampire Slayer, seriously.
Congratulations on catching up to the pop culture of 1997!
Your a dummy. This guy knows about movies, id take him over lame J.J. Abrams anyway. Atleast Josh Whedon has..vision. All of Abrams movies/shows have the same "I JUST CAME UP WITH THIS!" feel.
Why do 13 years olds come on a news board is the only question I have for you. I mean come one learn some history. Yes buffy is truly history starting with the movie then moving on to the t.v. series which was much darker than the movie.
Wow. Really? You don't see that anything called "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" was intended to be a joke? Pathetic.
And ace, when I was thirteen, people would have gotten it.
Yes, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". As Joss explained it, he was thinking of the pretty, popular girls who get killed in slasher movies, and thought, "what if SHE was the HERO of the story instead of the victim?"
It's interesting you should mention this because Joss had to fight the network executives to keep the name "Buffy the Vampire" slayer. They thought it was ridiculous. They wanted to call it just "Slayer". Though it wasn't a joke, it was meant to be exactly what it is, to show that Buffy is a person and her job/calling whatever is...unusual.
BTVS's an amazing work of art.
ANGEL is better and FIREFLY is perfection. SERENITY is astonishing. Where have you been, WR?
Whedons works remind me of the writings of the late David Eddings whom I miss greatly. There is an ethical quality to both. I Ethics go a long way with the faithful fan.
David Eddings died? Oh, rats. :(
Best writers for dialog: Quentin Tarantino and Joss Whedon. Long live the Whedonverse!
I don't get why he's so popular. All the characters are exactly the same- the exact same interchangeable "snappy" dialog attached to an archetype.
Watch a few episodes of Buffy, and you'll know why Joss ihedon is a master of character-creation. His characters evolve over time in interesting ways.
@Joss do it! I always tell people to watch the Buffy episode 'The Body' if you don't laugh, cry and leave wanting to call your mom to tell her you love her then you are heartless. I've been a Joss Whedon fan for many many years and I'm so excited he's finally getting recognition. I can't wait to see his take on The Avengers.
That was the best episode ever. Add to that the fact that he went without a sound track, where anyone else would have had syrupy strings everywhere... It made the episode extremely powerful and emotional and very,very real... There are no soundtracks when you face that day, and neither was there one for Buffy...
@Priya... you are so right about the soundtrack. Another testament to how well Joss can write and not rely so heavily on soundtrack and not have to have his witty dialogue is the episode "Hush". I mean, who else could pull off half an episode with NO talking.
Have you ever actually watched any of his shows?
Snappy dialogue isn't easy to write, Phattee. It's even more difficult to make it believable and amusing.
I hadn't realized he was writing and directing Avengers. Now I'll actually go see it.
If Joss is ever nominated for and Oscar for any of his future dribble, I swear I'm gonna shoot myself. It's bad enough that his fanboydom has infiltrated the pub quiz at my local bar with reckless abandon.
Get over yourself maybe.
I sincerely hope you remember that pledge, and I hope Whedon takes home an Oscar soon.. One less pretentious twit and an Oscar on Whedon's mantle seems like a win win situation.
Joke's on you! He has been nominated for an Oscar already, for contributing to the script for the first "Toy Story" movie.
Give me your address, I'll mail a bullet to you. You will need to supply your own gun.
Save some time and do it now.
Now I have two reasons to hope for that.
Then you should get your affairs in order, Jeff. THE AVENGERS will surely garner many nominations, if not wins.
Of course, you didn't mean what you wrote. It was hyperbole, wasn't it? Note that Rush Limbaugh didn't mean it when he said he'd leave the country if Barack Obama was elected President. We're still infected with that self-righteous human boil on the bum. When Joss Whedon wins the Oscar, you'll still be around criticising his works, won't you?
BTW, JefftheChemist, Joss already won an Emmy for DR HORRIBLE'S SING ALONG BLOG. Are you any closer to eating that bullet? Feeling a tad nervous, are you?
Of course you have a right to that opinion. It would be boring if we had to reach consensus on what to enjoy.
I like Joss Whedon. Not because he is good but because 99% of the others are so horrible it makes him look good.
So you like Joss Whedon because he's bad? :/
I don't get it. Is it avant garde? [/Principal Skinner]
I caught the rerun of Buffy several years ago, and even someone my age (60+) could appreciate the story and the characters. He is a master story teller. In person (at conventions), he is equally funny and smart. Yes, we do love you Joss.
What exactly is "telvision." Did we drop the second "e" while I was in the tub? Guess I missed that memo.
That's is all you took away from reading this? Guess it's true: there are Grammar Trolls living among us.
Joss is one of the Kings of Sci Fi. What other sci fi show besides Star Trek and Star Wars have garnered the most loyal fans? Firefly. You still see Jayne Hats at every convention, and Buffy wanna be's, Spike's, you name it. Don't see much about the other shows-because Joss has the touch-drama AND humor. Go Joss! Gonna see Avengers as soon as it comes out!
Even us big Whedon fans, however, could do without the public behavior of Adam Baldwin. Any chance he gets he channels the ghost of Breitbart reasons unknown to me. He made a public spectacle of himself most recently at a convention in Portland attacking Wil Wheaton.
Not a fan. At all.
This big Whedon fan appreciates Adam Baldwin. People of all political persuasions are Joss fans.
Posted on Awesome post even I would say the whole blog is incredibly baeituful and informative every time I visit it I learn new things from the content like this post.
Because only liberals are allowed to be publicly liberal. Totalitarian much?
Totalitarian would be conservative, not liberal. And who would bad-mouth Will Wheaton? Who goes to a convention hoping to hear one actor denigrate another? Mr. Baldwin should leave his political persona at home. The conventions are for the fans, not a political soap box for actors.
A. Winston Smith –
Wrong. Conservatives are to fascist totalitarianism what liberals are to communist totalitarianism - two sides of the same coin. Totalitarians come in both flavors. You are a totalitarian of the left-wing variety, seemingly unable to countenance that conservatives, too, may express their political beliefs in public.
Hollywood liberals have been engaged in activism for decades. Yet when an outspoken conservative does it, it's somehow wrong and verboten. Why are liberals so thin-skinned and intolerant?
I just realized that Joe B. said Portland. I thought you were referring to the incredibly minor series of tweets from the Seattle con. I saw that little dust up and thought the original commercial that sparked it was funny (although I do think mocking was a fair description), and that both Adam and Wil were being tongue in cheek in their exchange.
I can't find any reference to something happening in Portland and am curious to know what went down.
It's a free country you moron. Adam Baldwin can do/say whatever he wants! It's no crime to have conservative viewpoints and express them. He is kind, funny, stable, smart and a great guy so, like the "Leave Brittney Alone" guy so passionately cried....
"LEAVE ADAM ALONE! You're lucky he even performs for you biotches!"
A.Winston Smith- Totalitarianism is not restricted to the left or right of the political spectrum. Stalin was just as much a totalitarian as Mussolini. Baldwin has every right to express his political beliefs.
Did you actually read the twitter conversation? It was nothing. Baldwin called Wheaton out and he had every right to. Wheaton, of course, responded like the little girl he is, and the whole thing was over. Big deal. My only issue is with Adam Baldwin treating Wil Wheaton as a peer. If you read the conversation, take note that Wheaton acknowledges being a fan of Baldwin's work without reciprocation from Baldwin. I don't think anybody was really a fan of Wesley Crusher or the annoying kid from Stand By Me.
I was fan of Wesley Crusher. He meant a lot to a lot of geeky teenage girls at the time, including me, even if the character went over the heads of the angry adult males in the fandom. He wasn't just a character to crush on, he was a cipher for ourselves, as we had to learn how to navigate (and challenge) a rigid patriarchy (mirrored by the naval hierarchy of Starfleet). Wil's an absolute saint for putting up with all the fanboy abuse over the years.
I always saw Wesley as the equivalent of the Wonder Twins (and just as annoying as the aforementioned Twins)–a tacked-on character because someone thought he would help draw in the younger viewers.
30 Rock was MY great discovery this year. Went back and goegrd myself on 2 and half seasons worth totally enjoyable. Must be the Seinfeld for our times. Solid writing, great characters, a does not novelty each week, some zaniness. No wonder it has such a devoted audience. Tina Fey just rocks!!
She does indeed rock, Tina. I agree wholeheartedly with you about Ms Fey and 30 Rock, but a question arises: how is this relevant to Joss Whedon? Just wondering...
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