On Joss Whedon and the golden age of television

There used to be a big separation between writing for features and writing for television, with TV considered a far more inferior medium.

How times have changed. There’s been better quality writing on TV for many years now, and we have Joss Whedon to thank for it.

It takes forever for a feature screenplay to get made in Hollywood, and good luck getting it to the screen without a ton of highly paid script doctors mangling improving it into a failure, or without it sinking into development hell for years.

This is why Whedon fled screaming from the silver screen himself. 


Whedon first started out in television, he had a staff job writing on Rosanne, and worked on the screenplays for Speed, Toy Story, Twister, Waterworld, and X-Men. He also wrote spec scripts that never got made including Suspension, which was touted as Die Hard on a bridge, and a sci-fi action tale Afterlife.


The feature version of Buffy turned out so bad, Whedon told The New York Times Magazine he sat in the theater crying, convinced he’d never work again.

Then, as Whedon recalled to The Onion, his wife told him, “You know honey, maybe a few years from now, you’ll get to make it again, the way you want to make it.” (Don’t forget this was before movies were remade every five years.)


Then three years later, Sandollar TV thought Buffy would make a good TV series, Whedon was contacted out of a contractual obligation, and he thought it was a good idea as well. Much as Carrie still resonates today where society is trying to stop school bullying, Whedon also decided to make the series around the alienation he experienced in his high school days as well.


The headline in Entertainment Weekly read: “He makes millions doctoring movies like ‘Twister.’ Now Joss Whedon may save The WB with a chick named Buffy.” 

As Whedon told EW, he was already quite tired of the major feature world.

“The movies I write – if they get made – take several thousand years…With TV, it’s like I get to make an independent movie every week.”

Whedon also said “Buffy was the beginning of my career. It was the first time I told a story from start to finish the way I wanted.” 

Clearly, where movies keep continuing to get stuck in the sludge, television today is still moving ahead too fast to look back.