It’s time to catch up on your Joss Whedon back catalogue people! Older fans will need no urging to revisit Buffy at Sunnydale High. We’ve also got Angel, Firefly and Dollhouse for your instant gratification this month.
Don’t assume the adventures of the ladies of Wisteria Lane belong in the same suburban soap neighbourhood as Melrose Place. This is an altogether quirkier, wittier and stranger show (it’s currently in season 8). Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Marcia Cross and Eva Longoria star, but Kyle MacLachlan is in there too.
Influenced by 24 but very much its own beast, this compulsive drama series ran to 81 episodes between 2005 and 2009. Wentworth Miller gets himself sent to prison to help his brother Lincoln (Dominic Purcell) bust out and clear his name. The great William Fichtner shows up in series 2.
Johnny Come Latelys who only caught on to the Joss Whedon cult with Avengers Assemble and Cabin in the Woods might want to go back to school and immerse themselves in this hugely influential teen sci-fi series. Sarah Michelle Gellar is Buffy, and she slays vampires, demons, etc, saving the world on a weekly basis while keeping up decent grades.
And once you have had your fill of Buffy, then it’s time to cozy up with Whedon’s spin-off series, Angel, starring David Boreanaz as a soulful vampire seeking redemption in Los Angeles. This is a slightly darker, less goofy show, but otherwise the mix of supernatural thrills and smart, morally centered scripts packs much the same appeal.
Now you freshly-minted Whedonologists, it’s time for Firefly, maybe his most beloved TV series but also a ratings failure. Set 500 years in the future, it’s a kind of new, improved version of Star Trek. Nathan Fillion is captain of the Serenity, a rogue spacecraft charting the edges of the galaxy. Fox pulled the plug after 14 episodes but Whedon resurrected cast and crew for Serenity the movie.
Finally Joss Whedon’s most recent TV venture, Dollhouse, a weird and original series about an organization that employs “dolls” – brainwashed humans – for covert missions. Between assignments, memories wiped, the dolls hang out at the dollhouse presided over by icy Adelle DeWitt (Olivia Williams). But one doll, Echo (Eliza Dushku) is beginning to retain snatches of memory… Sadly Fox dropped the show after 27 episodes.
A veteran from superior cop series The Shield, Kurt Sutter came up with this edgy, inventive show about an outlaw biker gang operating in (and largely dominating) the town of Charming, California. Described as “Hamlet on motorcycles”, SOA centres on the conflicted stepson (Charlie Hunnam) of the gang’s old school leader, played by fantasy film icon Ron Perlman. This is a bracingly raw, always entertaining ride.
Tim Roth has some fun as the testy British body language expert Dr Cal Lightman, who freelances for several public authorities to sniff out the rats, by focusing on subjects’ micro-expressions. If I said this was the most fun I’ve ever had in front of a screen I’d be lying… Or would I?
Wondering whatever happened to Firefly star Nathan Fillion? Turns out he’s starring as playboy mystery novelist turned real life investigator Rick Castle. This fun series finds plenty of comedy in Castle’s creative approach to crime solving and his love-hate relationship with Detective Stana Katic.
Sensing that zombies could be the new vampires, Shawshank Redemption director Frank Darabont adapted Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels and crafted this elegantly horrific post-apocalypse series. He also cast our own Andrew Lincoln – a long way from This Life - as the still mortal sheriff looking out for fellow survivors. Does Romero proud.