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'Buffy' nostalgia recap: In which Tara is almost very interesting

Season 5 | Episode 6 | “Family” | Aired Nov 7, 2000

This might be a little bit of a controversial opinion, but I’m not a huge Tara fan. Don’t get me wrong: She’s no Dawn. She’s not even a Xander. She’s isn’t ever really annoying or bad or negative, but in the Buffy universe, that’s not enough to stand out. She’s perfectly fine, I guess. She’s nice. And that’s just about the best description I can give of her, especially up to the point of “Family” in season five. And, honestly, that puts me right with the rest of the Scooby Gang, who in this episode are all invited to Tara’s birthday and realizing that, even though she’s always around, none of them really know anything about her. They know she likes Willow and that they like Willow and that that common interest is enough to accept her into the group, but she’s never really done much to stand out at this point. She privately voices some concern that the rest of the Scoobies don’t truly accept her and she’s not entirely wrong. They like her well enough, but if she and Willow broke up, none of them would keep in touch.

“Family” was BtVS’ attempt to make us, the audience, care more about Tara by making the characters on the show care more about her. Tara’s birthday is looming and Willow, ever the doting girlfriend, is planning her an epic birthday party. But, when Tara’s backwards-thinking family arrives to take her home for good, things get complicated. There were hints, leading up to “Family,” that Tara had a secret. She flubbed a spell with Willow on purpose, she stutters every time anyone asks about her past. It turns out that Tara’s secret is that she’s part demon. All of the women in her family are, in fact, and her dad is hellbent on bringing her home to whatever farm she grew up on, you know, for her own good.

In a moment of panic at the idea of losing her only friends (and the love of her life), Tara casts a quick spell to blind the Scoobies to her demon half — and inadvertently blinds them to all demons in general. In a town where demon attacks are more common than Starbucks, that’s not great. The gang is attacked by demons that very night, of course (demons out to get Dawn/The Key) and almost lose the fight, on account of not being able to see their attackers at all. Tara arrives in time to A) see the demons and warn about-to-die Buffy and B) lift the spell so that her friends have a fighting chance of protecting themselves.

Most people would be a little upset about the almost-getting-everyone-killed-with-a-thoughtless-spell thing, but the Scoobies are amazingly forgiving, probably because they’ve come closer to dying a lot times already and are, frankly, pretty desensitized to danger at this point in the series. Tara’s terrible father explains demands that she come with him and explains that demon-ness runs in the women folk part of the family. Tara tearfully confirms this, because, well, she’s been told that’s where her magic came from her whole life. What else is she supposed to believe? Spike, however, calls BS and punches Tara in the face — and receives a blinding, Initiative-sponsored migraine for his troubles, something that wouldn’t happen if she were anything less than human.

Yep, it’s a classic case of lying to generations of women about their being demonically evil to quietly oppress them and be a sexist jerk. In the end, Buffy and the rest of the gang stand up for Tara, insisting that her crazy family (which includes a young, pre-epic fame Amy Adams!) will have to go through them if they want to take her away. They’re Tara’s family now, they insist.

And, you know, okay. I get it. Tara was a floater. She didn’t make sense on the show because she was always just lingering on the edges, never really integrating with the group. Something needed to happen. Tara needed to become important to and loved by the Scooby Gang if she ever had a hope of being important to and loved by the fans. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the way said integration was handled. Here’s what worked and didn’t work about “Family” and the integration of Tara:

  • Worked: The Scoobies voiced the obvious. The fact that Buffy and Xander literally have a conversation about how they don’t really know Tara and that, as much as they want to like her because they love Willow and Willow loves her, they’re clueless when it comes to this girl. They don’t know what to get her for her birthday and all they can think to say about her is that she’s super nice. There’s no way this could have worked if the Scoobies acted like they’d always felt strong ties to Tara. Having strong ties to her had to be a conscious choice to read as true.
  • Didn’t work: Tara didn’t become more interesting. “Family” should have been a real turning point for Tara. It explained why she had been so shy, so reserved and gave her an excuse to really start to open up in significant ways. Maybe I’ll see more of that as I continue my rewatch, but I don’t remember Tara being super interesting post-“Family” either, at least until season 6. Being half demon could have actually been a really cool character development for her.
  • Worked: It established Willow as the indisputable center of Tara’s world. After “Family,” there’s no doubt that Willow is the most important person in Tara’s life.
  • Didn’t work: It established Willow as the default center of Tara’s world. The rest of Tara’s life is so sad. Her family is awful. She’s kind of alone in the world, save for Willow.
  • Worked: That dance with Willow at the end of the episode. Seriously, no matter how boring the character sometimes was, that’s one of the sweetest Buffy moments of all time.
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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