The following article appeared in today's edition of the Newark Star-Ledger. It is an editorial by Alan Sepinwall for their All TV section.

Delaying episode could make 'Buffy' target of witch hunt In three seasons, "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" has laughed her way through bouts with vampires, werewolves, demons, and even fellow slayers. Who knew that the one villain who could knock her out for the count was a mild-mannered network executive named Jamie?

In deciding to postpone this week's "Buffy" season finale to some undefined future date, WB network CEO Jamie Kellner not only established a dangerous precedent for all of network television, but he may have jammed the fatal stake through the heart of his network's first star.

Kellner said in a statement that the episode --- the conclusion of a season-long story about the Mayor of Sunnydale's plans to turn himself into a giant demon serpent at the high school graduation and eat the town --- was being delayed out of respect for the recent school shootings in Littleton, Colo. and Conyers, Ga.

'Given the current climate," Kellner said in that statement, "depicting acts of violence at a high school graduation ceremony --- even fantasy acts against 60-foot serpents and vampires --- we believe is inappropriate to broadcast around the actual dates of those time-honored ceremonies."

Certain sense of discretion in response to a tragedy should be applauded, and Kellner made the right decision a few weeks back when he pulled another "Buffy" episode right after the shootings at Columbine High School because it featured a plot in which a group of high schoolers plot to kill their classmates.

The problem is, virtually every episode of "Buffy" features some plot or another to kill the students, their parents, their dogs, etc. If you're going to start pulling every episode in which a massacre either happens or is planned, you're not going to have a show left.

And let's not forget that "Buffy" is clearly a fantasy. The bad kids don't carry hunting rifles and pipe bombs; they cast spells and train hellhounds.

And as Kellner himself pointed out, the finale was to feature Buffy (Sarah Michelle Geller) doing battle with a 60-foot demon serpent.

There's not really a risk of copycatting here, is there?

Violent television shows like "Buffy" have come under a lot of fire in the weeks since the Columbine shootings, as the country searches for some kind of explanation --- any explanation--- for what's causing all these teenagers to turn killer.

If anything in television is an unwitting culprit in all these violent outbursts, it's not the likes of "Buffy," but TV news. Kids aren't stupid; they see the way CNN, MSNBC, "Dateline", "20/20", etc., all descend upon these tragedies and cover them wall-to-wall for weeks at a time. If some troubled teenager decides he wants to go out in a blaze of glory, the cable news channels and newsmagazines have established that they'll make him famous.

The news media have cleverly avoided scrutiny by jumping onto the "Is TV violence bad for our children?" bandwagon, but take a long hard look at them the next time one of these unfortunate tragedies occur, and watch how often they replay the same sensational footage over and over and over.

They're far more exploitive and influential than a fictional fantasy like "Buffy" could ever hope to be.

Meanwhile, by pulling an episode that bore a tenuous connection at best to real-life events, Kellner has set himself and his network up as an easy mark for any group with a censorship agenda.

And if Kellner was so concerned about being disrespectful or influential during a time of national crisis, why didn't he pull the first half of the season finale, as well? Surely, scenes where Buffy's friend Xander (Nicolas Brendon) talks about his fear that he "won't leave this high school alive" had to be just as disturbing.

If I were feeling particularly cynical, I might wonder whether the whole thing is a publicity ploy by the WB. There is a "Buffy" spin-off about Buffy's ex-boyfriend Angel (David Boreanaz) planned for next season, after all. If "Graduation Day, Part 2" episode doesn't air until sometime in August, try not to be stunned if it's run back-to-back with the premiere of "Angel".

--A.S.

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