Buffy the Vampire Slayer hit movie theaters in 1992, introducing us to the world of slayage and phrases like, “Does the word ‘duh’ mean anything to you?” Five years later, Buffy creator Joss Whedon produced a television show, starting with episode “Welcome to the Hellmouth.” We re-introduced ourselves to Buffy (with Sarah Michelle Gellar taking over for Kristy Swanson) and met the core members of our beloved Scooby gang, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan).
And as with all television shows, Buffy began its life as as a pilot. This unaired show was only a half hour long, and had much of the same storyline as “Hellmouth.” We meet Darla, there’s a dead guy in a locker room, and Buffy rescues Willow from a vampire.
Only in the pilot, below, she’s rescuing Willow, as played by Riff Regan.
There are other changes, too, but minor ones. Production quality is obviously lower. The characters go to Berryman High, not Sunnydale, and Principal Flutie is played by Stephen Tobolowsky, not Ken Lerner. Buffy is a brunette here, too. But it’s the absence of Hannigan, and the presence of Regan, that really makes you question your sanity.
Seriously, some moments here are exactly the same as in "Hellmouth." Only it’s an alternate reality where Hannigan doesn’t exist.
Regan, who is a plus-sized woman, was not an unusual casting choice for Joss. After all, he offered positive, girl-power messages throughout the series, and hiring her was a signal to Hollywood that size doesn’t matter, but acting chops do.
That said, Regan’s acting choices were flat compared to Hannigan's. Hannigan's Willow had wide-eyed innocence, while Regan’s version was more flustered and uncomfortable in her skin. Hannigan’s face is also far more animated. That said, it could have been fun to see Regan’s Willow evolve.
I don’t love the pilot. But it makes me love “Welcome to the Hellmouth” even more.
Don’t take my word for it, though. See for yourselves. And let us know in the comments how mind-warping this viewing experience is for you.