August 14, 2014 3:10 PM EDT

Who says there are no second chances in Hollywood? Joss Whedon saw his script for the 1992 movie Buffy the Vampire Slayer made into a one-joke travesty of a teen comedy. Five years later, like a mystic being resurrected within a pentagram, it came back to life as a magical dramedy, a ripping thriller and the smartest work of girls-kick-ass feminism ever crafted by a pudgy guy who’s into comic books. Sarah Michelle Gellar nimbly handled the show’s undead allegories for coming-of-age conflicts (her stunt double nimbly handled the rest). And the show unspooled a rich mythology, realistic family and relationship stories and the best Sondheimian musical episode ever written for hour long television. The demons and ghouls were comically rubber-faced, but Buffy’s spirit was achingly real.

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