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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: An ascension to next-level Big Bads

Season 3 | Episode 22 | “Graduation Day (Part 2)” | Aired July 13, 1999

Graduation Day wasn’t just a big deal for Buffy. Graduation is one of the Big Days in anyone’s life, right? There are the universal Big Days that, no matter what your background or life trajectory is, we think of everyone having or at least potentially having. Graduation, your wedding day, the birth of your first child.

Even if you don’t ever plan to get married or have a kid, you know that, if you did, those would be considered momentous occasions by everyone in your life. The fact is, most of us don’t get that many universally recognizable Big Days. And even though Buffy Summers spent her fictional-but-fabulous life saving the world on a weekly basis, once she was called up as the Chosen One, she didn’t really expect to get any.

So graduation day was a big deal for Buffy. It didn’t just mean that she had finished an arbitrary set of credits and classes, it meant she had survived and outlived her own presumed expiration date. Graduation day might just have been the biggest of all the big days in her life so far, including all the times the world almost ended and then didn’t, thanks to her.

Fittingly, “Graduation Day (Part 2)” was the biggest episode of BtVS when it aired in summer of 1999 (pushed back due to the tragic Columbine shootings). Sure, the previous finales had had that sense of the-world-might-end danger, but not to the scale of “Graduation Day.” And the villains in seasons one and two, while terrible and great in their terribleness, were not to the scale of the Mayor, either.

The Mayor’s ascension left him a giant, ferocious, nearly impervious demon, making him the Biggest (in a literal sense, at least) Big Bad Buffy had ever fought. No longer was Buffy’s biggest foe a vampire, as the titles of the show might imply. Starting with the Mayor and his demonic ascension, each season was charged with introducing a bigger Big Bad.

When the Scoobies do their research on the kind of demon the Mayor is becoming, they find that it took a volcano to kill it the last time and, wouldn’t you know it, they’re just fresh out of active volcanoes in Sunnydale. The solution? Literally blowing up the hallowed halls of Sunnydale High School.

The plan is big, but not just because of the explosives. It involves Buffy exploiting the Mayor’s human weakness (his love for Faith) by taunting him with a description of how she put Faith in a coma and tapping into her own sadistic side. It also involves bringing in all of SHS’ graduation class to take up arms and fight against the Mayor and his army of vampires at the ascension. After three years of portraying most of Sunnydale as willfully ignorant of the supernatural happenings in the town, “Graduation Day” saw the non-Scoobies of the town take a step toward growing up too, as they acknowledged and fought back against the Mayor.

Every season of Buffy had a Big Bad, and the show was pretty great at consistently outdoing itself each year. (Two notable exceptions: season four’s Adam, a Frankenstein-y human/demon hybrid who met an anticlimactic end, and season six’s trio of nerds who mildly annoyed Buffy for the better part of a season before angering Willow and unleashing a great villain in her.) The Mayor was just the beginning, but it’s perfect that he had his great showdown with Buffy on graduation day, launching her not only into the “real” world of college and adult life, but into a new, unstakable set of foes who would continue plaguing her in a series of yearlong quests to beat the Slayer.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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