Buffy, The Vampire Slayer: Forgotten Premiere Trailer
The WB’s teen-centered dramedy, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer quickly became one of the hottest shows on the air following it mid-season debut in March of 1997. In addition to boosting The WB’s ratings, the series gave the fledgling network a needed influx of critical acclaim and media attention. Prior to the two-hour premiere of the series, The WB aired an introductory trailer intended to bring viewers up to speed on the background of Joss Whedon’s vampire mythos. It was aired once again in the summer during a repeat of the premiere and has never been seen since.
Although initially considered for the 1996-1997 season, Buffy, The Vampire Slayer was ultimately held over until mid-season by The WB . In February of 1997, the network announced it was plugging Buffy, The Vampire Slayer into its Monday-night line-up, replacing Savannah in the 9-10PM timeslot . The series would kick off with a two-hour broadcast on Monday, March 10th with an additional ten episodes to follow beginning March 17th.
It was believed that Buffy, The Vampire Slayer would act as counter programming against the typical Monday-night fare on the other networks . The series premiere delivered on that belief, earning a 5.1/8 rating in the Nielsen overnights and beating UPN’s programming for the very first time; nationally, the premiere ranked 100th out of a total of 107 programs [4, 5]. Although dismal by the standards of the Big Three, The WB was certainly pleased with the show’s performance.
One thing that seemed to worry the network, however, was the amount of violence in the series. The premiere was rated TV PG and The WB was concerned enough to air a disclaimer prior to the premiere of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer warning that the episode was potentially too intense for younger viewers. At least one television critic castigated the network for scheduling the premiere at 8PM when those younger viewers might be watching . But a violence disclaimer wasn’t the only thing The WB showed before premiering Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.
Following the disclaimer, The WB showed a brief trailer that introduced viewers to the mythos of the series. Unofficially known as the “History of the Slayer” trailer, it has largely been forgotten in the years following its original showing.
Clocking in at just under two minutes, the trailer begins with information about earlier vampire slayers, with voiceover narration and drawings of these slayers, who included Lucy Hanover, who would later appear in Buffy, the Vampire Slayer comics. Scenes from early episodes are shown and the narration explains that “the Chosen One” has come to Sunnydale, California to combat an immense evil.
The trailer ends with narration announcing the program’s cast and the following line: “And now, the series premiere of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer.” When the pilot was repeated on Sunday, March 10th, 1997 (airing from 5-7PM), the final line was altered to say “Now, a special weekend presentation of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.”
During the summer repeat season, the two-hour premiere was split in half for rebroadcast and was shown during June and August of 1997. Whether or not the trailer preceded these airings is unknown.
Additional promotional spots for Buffy, The Vampire Slayer, featuring additional slayers, were shown in the weeks prior to the series debut but were not included as part of the premiere trailer.
A word-for-word transcript of the presentation reel follows:
The following two hour world premiere is rated TV PG and contains action scenes which may be too intense for younger viewers.
Virginia, 1866. The frequent disappearance of local Civil War widows shocked an already grieving community. These events ended when Lucy Hanover arrived in town.
Chicago, May, 1927. Forty-one bodies were found near Union Station. Shortly after the arrival of this young woman, the mysterious murders stopped.For each generation…there is only one slayer. Now, in 1997, it’s starting all over again.
Tonight, I shall walk the Earth.
Something strange is happening in Sunnydale.
What was that?
A force so powerful, so menacing…
You’re standing at the mouth of hell and it’s about to open.
There will be one person in all the world who dares to challenge it.
If she tries to stop you kill her.
This is a matter of life or death!
Now, to the Chosen One.
You are the Slayer, lives depend upon you.
They’re right behind me!
For each generation…there is only one slayer
Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendan, and Emmy Award winner Sarah Michelle Gellar
We don’t find her, there is gonna be one more dead body in the morning.
The moment is near; you are about to meet the Slayer. Now, the series premiere of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer.
In October 1999, Buffy, the Vampire Slayer spawned a spin-off, Angel. In September 2001, after five seasons on The WB, the series moved to UPN where it would run another two seasons, ending in May 2003 after 144 episodes. Angel lasted five seasons and 110 episodes on The WB, going off the air in May 2004. When The WB folded in September 2006, the pilot episodes of both series were rebroadcast as part of the network’s farewell on September 17th.
2 “Sked changes set at WB.” Daily Variety. 18 Feb. 1997: 15.
3 Stanley, T.L. “‘Buffy’ to slay small screen.” Mediaweek. 17 Feb. 1997: 9.
4 Rice, Lynette. “Talk TV.” Broadcasting & Cable. 17 Mar. 1997: 51.
5 Carmody, John. “The TV Column.” Washington Post. 19 Mar. 1997: D.04.
6 Rosenberg, Howard. “So, Like, She Hates Vampires, Y’Know?” Los Angeles Times. 10 Mar. 1997: 1.
Originally Published July 16th, 2003
Last Updated January 24th, 2013