If there was any doubt that the panel for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was the most eagerly anticipated event at Paley Fest '08, it was erased by the mile-long line of fans that snaked around Hollywood's Cinerama Dome last night. Luckily, the event — which reunited the cast for the first time since the show ended in 2004 — more than lived up to the hype. Of course, that's not to say there weren't a few hiccups....
Participants: Sarah Michelle Gellar, Nicholas Brendon, Charisma Carpenter, Emma Caulfield, Seth Green, Amber Benson, James Marsters, Michelle Trachtenberg, David Greenwalt, Marti Noxon, Joss Whedon and TV Guide's own Matt Roush.
MIA: Alyson Hannigan (?!?), Eliza Dushku, Anthony Stewart Head and David Boreanaz (so much for that taped message).
Applause meter: Whedon, natch, got the most enthusiastic reception from the packed house, followed by Gellar, Marsters and Carpenter.
Party crasher: Less than five minutes in, it was painfully obvious that Brendon had suffered a recurrence of ericbalfourism, an affliction that causes actors to hijack panel discussions with erratic behavior and unfunny banter. (Brendon was first diagnosed with the debilitating disease at the 2005 summer press tour while promoting Kitchen Confidential.) The first sign of the relapse came while Gellar was eloquently discussing the positive influence her alter ego had on young women – including her. Just as she was wrapping up her remarks, Brendon jumped in with this doozy: "You mean it wasn't Susan Lucci?" If Gellar had a stake, I'm pretty sure she would've driven it through his heart.
Music to our ears: Whedon said he's spent "time daydreaming" about bringing Buffy to the Great White Way someday.
Dark Buffy: Gellar admitted that both Whedon and Noxon had to "talk her down off the ledge" a few times during the controversial sixth season, which saw Buffy morph from a butt-kicking heroine into a dark, bitter basketcase. Ultimately, Whedon agreed that the real Buffy had "been gone to long" that season.
Quote of the day: Summing up the appeal of writing for a show like Buffy, Greenwalt said, "There's nothing like taking all your pain and misery and shoving it into good-looking people's mouths."
Nickname game: Unbeknownst to Gellar, Whedon and Greenwalt would refer to her as "Jimmy Stewart" in the writers' room. Whedon leaned over to tell a confused-looking Gellar that the nickname "was a compliment."
Choose or lose: Roush asked Gellar to once and for all choose between Angel and Spike, to which Brendon cracked, "Given the comic book, I think Willow." OK, I'll give him that one. Speaking of Buffy's lesbian tryst in the recently published Season 8 comic book, Whedon said, "It's not a giant life change. It's not Willow. It's someone who is young… with a lot of time on her hands."
Behind the tears: Caulfield at long last revealed what was going through her mind when she delivered that gut-wrenching monologue in the acclaimed "Body" episode: "I had to go to the bathroom!"
Unsung hero: Gellar agreed with Whedon's assessment of Kristine Sutherland (aka Buffy's mom) being one "of the most underrated" actresses working today.
Same-sex hysterics: Greenwalt revealed that shortly after word leaked that Willow was going to be coming out of the closet, he got a call from an unnamed WB exec who said, "Is [Joss] really going to do this gay thing?" Whedon threatened to quit when the network asked him to leave Willow and Tara's first kiss on the cutting-room floor. "It's the one time I pulled that out," he said. "And they were like, 'No, it's OK. Leave it in.'"
The infamous Emmy snub: Whedon reminded everyone that "you don't put a show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the WB and think, 'I'm going to win Emmys!'" Gellar added, "We made the show for the fans." Cue painfully unfunny knee-slapper from Brendon involving an empty trophy case and eBay.
Good taste: Gellar reads TV Guide! She just referred to our list of TV's Top 10 Steamiest Love Scenes, in which Buffy and Spike's inaugural roll in the hay was named No. 1!
Show-killer: The audience Q&A portion of the show got off to a disastrous start when a fan asked the entire panel to reveal both their favorite movie of all time and what they're currently listening to on their iPods. What resulted was the most excruciating 20 minutes in Paley Fest history. Brendon spent three of those minutes inventing fake movie titles and berating Gellar for not adequately answering the iPod portion of the question. (For the record, she did. She's listening to the soundtrack from South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut.)
Um, awkward: Asked to reveal the real reason she refused Whedon's offer to return in Season 7 as a demonic version of Tara, Benson joked that she was too busy "making love to Marlon Brando." All kidding aside, she wanted fans to remember Tara as the sweet, innocent lesbian she was, and not some nasty, evil beast. Judging by Whedon's body language during all this, I'm sensing he may still harbor some hurt feelings over the snub. I could be wrong.
Potty mouth: What does Green miss most about his Buffy days? Arriving to work "to find that David Boreanaz had pooped in my trailer."
More Buffy: Whedon acknowledged that "so many stars would have to align" in order to pull off a Buffy movie. "But," he added, "I think it would be really cool."
Video: Sarah Michelle Gellar & Seth Green
Video: Charisma Carpenter
Video: Nick Brendon
Video: Amber Benson
Video: Emma Caulfield
Video: Michelle Trachtenberg