Nerd Deity Joss Whedon, creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, writer/director of The Avengers, and the forthcoming spinoff series, Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. revealed to Entertainment Weekly how an often overlooked episode of BTVS provided inspiration for his new show:
This is basically a TV series of ‘The Zeppo’, which was a very deliberate deconstruction of a Buffy episode in order to star the person who mattered the least. The people who are ignored are the people I’ve been writing as my heroes from day one. There’s a world of superheroes and superstars, they’re celebrities, and that’s a complicated world — particularly complicated for people who don’t have the superpowers, the disenfranchised. Now obviously there’s going to be hijinks and hilarity and sex and gadgets and all the things that made people buy the comics. But that’s what the show really is about to me, and that’s what Clark Gregg (Agent Phil Coulson) embodies: the Everyman.
If you’ll recall, “The Zeppo” was a rare Xander-focused episode of Buffy. As the only member of the Scooby gang without supernatural abilities, Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) was often relegated to the background–providing support rather than fighting on the front lines. In “The Zeppo”, while the rest of the gang was off saving the world again, Xander had to deal with a zombie infestation all on his lonesome.
Essentially, Whedon’s taking the concept of how “normal” people deal with living in a “paranormal” world, and stretching it into a series. These agents are remarkably talented, painstakingly trained, and incredibly well-equipped–but in the end, they’re just people like you and me. This gives them certain handicaps when fighting superhuman threats, of course, but it also makes them much more relatable…
And this relatability is what I believe will make Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. stand out as a series.