I couldn’t help but notice, as I watched through the series jumping from episode to episode like a junkie reaching for his next fix, that for the fourth season was in 16:9 widescreen format. What does this add? What does this take-away? How fundamentally does this alter the vision of the original works? And most importantly, WHAT IS THIS SORCERY?
Apparently, the BBC started airing the show in widescreen during the fourth season and when you stream the show online, that is what you are watching. Interesting, no? I was quickly able to spot continuity issues and framing issues with the new format, something that I assume would have Whedon rolling over in his premature, undead grave. To a certain degree, so long as it is presented in the way the source material was originally intended, it doesn’t matter; The framing will be right, the continuity will hold. But, as is true in this case, if something intended for fullscreen is retro-fitted to a widescreen format, you get stuff like these pictures. You get accidental arms in frame during solo scenes and stage lights hanging in awkward and inappropriate areas. It can really disrupt the moment.
There are other considerations in this, as I think about kids today trying to enjoy this gem of late 90s/ early 2k television. Most modern computers and laptops come in widescreen format and you’ll be hard pressed to find a television that isn’t widescreen. Now, when I see a film or piece of cinema that isn’t in widescreen, it stands out. I go into the material with the understanding that the media is dated. How can this badass show, which remains fairly contemporary, feel that way if the viewer shows up primed to think of it as some type of legacy material?
I can understand why Joss Whedon and friends would be hesitant to release Buffy on blu-ray, though I’m not entirely sure that it matters. With the prevalence of streaming services like Netflix and nefarious sources like Pirate Bay, seeing the series with that disconcerting formatting is inevitable.
Here’s someone else talking about this too (borrowed their images, in fact.):