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HERCULES THE STRONG (and lucky, if you ask me) Sneaks a Look at the Return of BUFFY!!

Hey, all. "Moriarty" here. I am having to edit this piece without reading it. I am sure it's a great article, but even the thought of a single BUFFY spoiler sends me into fits. I have an irrational love for this great, great television show, and you should, too. Hercules is one of my friends who understands. I got the feeling this weekend when I was hanging out with Seth Gekko's Little Sister that she would understand, since I got a glimpse into her irrational love of ROSWELL. With BUFFY, I am powerless to resist. I am delighted that we are about to start a run of new episodes, even if I am distressed that these are the last ones for the season!! Anyway... here's HERC to let you know what's up for us all on Tuesday night.

Our long national nightmare is over.

After almost seven straight weeks of reruns, what for my money is the best show on television comes roaring back with a new episode that happens to be one of the best of the series’ four-year run.

Tonight’s installment of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Where the Wild Things Are,” serves to remind fans of EXACTLY why they’ve grown so addicted to the ongoing adventures of Buffy, Willow, Giles, et al. When firing on all cylinders, “Buffy” succeeds as peerless entertainment not because its romantic subplots are far more compelling than those of “Beverly Hills 90210” or “Dawson’s Creek” (though they are), nor because its action sequences are far more artfully rendered than those of “V.I.P.” or “Walker, Texas Ranger” (though they are). It succeeds because “Buffy” is, year in and year out, the funniest show on television.

I’ll love anything that makes me laugh, and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” makes me laugh like a hyena on nitrous oxide.

“Where the Wild Things Are” is destined to be filed in everyone’s episodic memory banks as “The One With All The Sex.” Buffy and new boyfriend Riley have become so hot for each other, their amour has awakened an angry poltergeist in Riley’s frat house that feeds off tireless passion. Before the half-hour mark, virtually the entire cast (including all of the guest stars) will find themselves in states of severe arousal.

The episode literally kicks off with heavy foreshadowing: Buffy and a fully-recovered Riley vanquish what the slayer comes to describe as a “vampire-demon tag-team” -- but not before the pair gets a serious case of the horns watching each other’s athletic college-age bodies in action. Such supernatural team ups, Buffy breathlessly insists, aren’t supposed to happen. “Vamps hate demons. It’s like stripes and polka-dots -- major clashing.”

The next morning, we learn Xander (the only core member of the supernatural-combating “Scooby Squad” not to go on to UC Sunnydale) has been reduced to arguing with hottie girlfriend Anya as he sells ice cream out of a truck. Irony doesn’t get funnier than as embodied by Anya, who spent centuries as the ultimate man-hating demon vengeance-bringer, and is now stuck in the body of a teen nymphomaniac. She is convinced that Xander is on the verge of breaking up with her because they didn’t have sex the previous night. “Anya,” assures Xander, “there’s a lot more to you and me than sex!” Anya glances away*, by her expression more certain than ever that Xander is dumping her. Xander takes her non-verbal point. “Well,” he concedes, “there should be…”

Things get even better when Anya, still new to being human, innocently makes this inquiry: “Is there something wrong with your body? ... I saw that wrinkled man on TV talking about erectile dysfunction!”

I was certain this had to be the episode’s funniest scene. I was wrong.

The action switches back to campus, where Anthony Stewart Head, as British expert-on-the-supernatural Rupert Giles, gets a chance to shine. Giles agrees with Riley’s theory that the vampire-demon teamings might be traced back to Adam, the human-demon-robot hybrid created by Riley’s ex-boss at the government-run Initiative. Riley mentions in passing an Initiative party being held that evening at his frat house, and invites Giles along. The ever-disdainful Giles begs off. “As much as I long for a good ... kegger, I have other plans – at the Espresso Pump.” When brainy-but-guileless witch-in-training Willow asks what he’ll be doing there, Giles tries to hide a expression of deep embarrassment. “I’m um grownups -- that couldn’t possibly be of any interest to you all ...”

Later, as Buffy and Riley adjourn to Riley’s room for between-classes nookie, flames from a downstairs fireplace explode out to attack one of Riley’s friends.

Anya, wandering alone because she is too fearful of the demon-slaughtering Initiative to attend their party, is startled by Spike, the “clockwork vampire” who can no longer assault humans due to the Initiative computer chip implanted in his brain. Spike has been reduced to scaring people into giving him money. “Keeps me in blood and beers,” he explains. “I’m beginning to understand why you’re so friendless,” she mocks. Counters Spike: “Looks who’s talking! I don’t see droopy boy on your arm. Did he have better things to do?”

Back at Riley’s frathouse, the party is in full swing, and Buffy is fairly hypnotized by her boyfriend across the room. Alyson Hannigan, as Willow, sells one of the evening’s best lines as she uses news of a peasant top mishap perpetrated by someone “so not-me” to coax Buffy out of her trance.

Of course, the house decides to use the party to heat things up. Some of the guests discover they can experience orgasms by leaning against a section of wall, witty Xander chats up a party girl who likes witty guys -- and Buffy and Riley, of course, head back upstairs. The Initiative soldiers are so worked up they don’t even notice when Spike (a.k.a. “Hostile 17”) shows up with Anya and starts raiding the keg. (Emma Caulfield, by the way, does a fabulous job with the conclusion of a Xander/Anya breakup fight.)

Sapho Watch: Willow and Tara, sadly, are NOT driven into each other’s arms by the edificial shenanigans. Willow follows her amusing story about “really big ponies” with a perhaps-slightly-more-than-friendly rub of Tara’s knee, only to have Tara leap away with these words: “Don’t touch me! It’s – it’s disgusting!”

Many, many strange things begin to happen, the earth begins to move, and Buffy and Riley appear to become trapped in Riley’s room, so hungry for each other they are now oblivious to their own dire circumstances.

The best bits begin when Anya, Willow, Xander and Tara track down Giles at the Espresso Pump: everybody’s favorite ex-watcher, we are horrified to learn, turns out to have talents never before even HINTED at in prior episodes. The expression on Willow’s face should earn Hannigan an Emmy. Many incredible gags ensue.

I sometimes wonder if we’ve wandered into a New Golden Age of Network Television when the works of talents like Aaron Sorkin, David E. Kelley, Glenn Gordon Caron and “Buffy” creator Joss Whedon are pumped into our homes each week for free. “Buffy,” however, benefits not only from great writing but also arguably the best cast on the airwaves: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Anthony Stewart Head, Alyson Hannigan, Nicholas Brendan, James Marsters, Emma Caulfield, Amber Benson and sometimes Seth Green may seem far too accomplished for television -- until one looks at the lousy big-screen scripts they’re offered. “Buffy” may not be the highest-rated series, but it is the most charmed, the perfect mix of first-rate thespianism and genius screenwriting.

That’s why it’s the best show on TV.

Do not defy me!

I am – Hercules!

*Emma Caulfield, who’s been hilariously deadpanning the Anya role for more than a season and a half now, proves conclusively with this glance that she deserves immediate promotion to regular cast member.

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