It’s odd to think about now, but back in 1997, there really weren’t that many vampires around. Sure, Dracula was always a character who slipped in and out of the public consciousness, but in general, pop culture was relatively bloodsucker-free. Also missing in the early part of ’97? Quality teen shows, which were not a focus of any of the networks at the time. But a new network called the WB had appeared in the TV universe and would remedy both the dearth of vampires and teen shows on this day in 1997, as it marked the world premiere of the first episode of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
Created by Joss Whedon and based on the characters he first created for a film that was a minor cult hit in 1992, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” told the story of Buffy Summers (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar), the titular “chosen one” whose job it was to eradicate the world of vampires, demons and other various forces of darkness. In the pilot, she finds herself on her first day of school after having just moved to the fictional Sunnydale, California, a suburban town that happens to be built on top of a Hellmouth (a sort of beacon for darkness). She soon meets up with her “Watcher” (librarian Rupert Giles, played by Anthony Stewart Head) as well as her sidekicks Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Xander (Nicholas Brendon). (Later, that group would expand to include a number of other characters, including Buffy love interest, the vampire-with-a-soul Angel, played by David Boreanaz).
It was a brilliant premise, as Buffy not only had to fight against undead evil (in the first season, she spent most of the episodes battling an ancient vampire known as the Master) but also the pressures of being a high school teen (school work, dating, friendship, thinking about the future). The show expanded greatly over the course of seven seasons and was never a major ratings hit, but it developed a deeply passionate following and helped solidify the WB as the go-to place for teen shows (“Dawson’s Creek,” “Felicity” and “Charmed” all followed closely behind).
The cast of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” have gone on to mixed careers (Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green are probably the show’s biggest success stories), but Gellar is still the face of the show. She used that face in a number of other places over the course of her career, including in Stone Temple Pilots‘ video for “Sour Girl,” from their 1999 album No. 4.