Swing the Sickle Television Reviews: Actively Engage
Reviews, no frills. The Swing the Sickle Television Reviews website is about one thing: reviews of your favorite television series. The art of channel surfing doesn't have to be a passive sport. Take it to the next level by actively engaging the themes and messages being thrown at you by Hollywood.
All Shows > Buffy the Vampire Slayer > Season 4

Buffy the Vampire Slayer - 4x05 - Beer Bad

Synopsis: What happens you when you mix beer and cavemen? You get the worst episode of Buffy ever.

Review: Beer Bad is generally considered by fans to be the worst episode of Buffy ever. BBC viewers voted this episode as the worst ever. Wikipedia and TV.com both make mention of this being the worst episode ever. It was directed by an established Buffy director who went on to direct for Firefly. It was written by a writer who wrote several other episodes this season. It had the same cast we all know and love. What went wrong?

Tracing the history of went wrong in Beer Bad takes us all the way back to 1997 while Buffy the Vampire Slayer was still in her infancy as a television series. Congress approved of $1 billion being spent on buying anti-drug television commercials, but the government decided they wanted to stretch the value of their money and attempt to get $2 billion worth of commercials. They offered the major networks a deal where they promised to buy a certain number of ads if the networks would only charge them half-price. The networks did not bite. As you can imagine, they would rather fill their precious advertising slots with big corporations willing to pay full price.

The government rethought its approach and offered the networks a much sweeter deal: they would award a television series a grant if they created an episode with an anti-drug message. This way the networks would be getting money from the government on top of the money they made off of regular advertising. The amount of money awarded was based on the popularity of the show, but most shows were awarded somewhere between $500,000 and $750,000. ER, Beverly Hills 90210, The Drew Carey Show, and 7th Heaven took the government up on the deal. Beer Bad was Buffy's attempt at winning some of this money. Ironically, the government refused to pay Buffy for this abysmal episode on the grounds that although "Drugs were an issue, but it wasn't on-strategy. It was otherworldly nonsense, very abstract and not like real-life kids taking drugs."

Since I have spent a majority of my review focusing on the government and Buffy's cooperation to include an anti-drug message in this episode, you may have inferred that I am against overt messages in television episodes. That is not the case. I believe television producer's have an unique position to send valuable messages to kids that kids will actually listen to. Some of Buffy's best episodes like Beauty and the Beasts and Earshot have had extremely valuable messages. One of my major problems with this episode (which I have many) is the same argument the government used when denying Buffy grant money: the bad effects were not caused by beer but by a spell cast on the beer. That makes this episode no different than Band Candy, and I am sure no one would make the argument that kids should not eat chocolate (although too much chocolate might ruin their supper).

Cavemen are a hard thing to pull off, but I am sure a creative writer and director could pull it off. We were led to believe that the cursed beer made the college students revert to early man. We were never led to believe that there was another aspect of the curse that simultaneously made them stupid. Early man was not stupid. God created early man exactly like you and I with the same capacity for intelligence. The fact that we have fancy electronics today is not a sign that people were stupid 1,000 years ago. It is a sign that since people were smart enough to write down what they learned 1,000 years ago, we have had the opportunity to build on that knowledge for a 1,000 years. The make-up department did not even do a good job making Buffy look like a caveman--I mean, cavewoman. She looked like Christina Aguilera...having a good hair day.

I often try to swim against the flow, but in this case, I agree with the majority of other reviewers: Beer Bad is the worst episode of Buffy ever. A muddled message. Ridiculous cavemen. Crude humor. Even unbearable exposition from the professor, Riley, and Willow (the one aspect some reviewers mentioned liking). I could not find one redeemable aspect about this episode. Beer Bad goes down in history as the first episode of Buffy I rated 0 out of 10.

Objectionable Content: Willow and Xander each make a penis joke near the beginning of the episode. A misunderstanding between Willow and Buffy where Willow believes Buffy had group sex with four college guys is played up for laughs. Parker advocates casual sex. Of course, there was underage drinking, but the purpose of this episode was to discourage that...I think.

Rating: 0 out of 10 (Reviewed by: Matthew Miller)

Discuss this review in the Swing the Sickle TV Reviews Forum!

Did you agree with this review?

Why or why not?


I wonder if it's a coincidence that Buffy gets drunk in the fifth episode of every even numbered season.
--Matt Pickle (Agrees: yes)

You have been watching way too much Buffy to notice something like that.
--Matthew Miller (Agrees: yes)

Actually I read it somewhere, but yes, I am forever lost to the great abyss.
--Matt Pickle (Agrees: yes)

The first time I saw this episode, I hated it intensely, but after watching it again, my opinion has changed somewhat. There is a lot of very funny dialogue and interesting foreshadowing of both Willow's and Oz's future. Also, I find CaveBuffy very amusing, especially when she calmly knocks Parker out with a tree branch.

I think two things are responsible for this episode's downfall. The first is the ridiculousness of the caveman costumes. If they had just acted like cavemen, and not actually turned into cavemen, the episode would have been much more bearable. Also, the blatant, insanely heavy-handed message detracted a lot from the story. I'm very disappointed in their use of cliched propaganda, especially since it wasn't even effective cliched propaganda.
--Matt Pickle (Agrees: yes)

While I agree that Beer Bad was not the finest example of Buffy, I think you were a little hard on it. For one, beer abuse was not the only thing discouraged in the episode. Casual sex, as was mentioned toward the end of the review was being advocated, was not advocated. The episode, speaks against casual sex, and connects it with the id. The id is the real theme of the episode, with the men in the pub being reduced to their basic forms, without the ego and the superego. The id is always searching for pleasure: food, drink, sex. This is exhibited by the "cavemen," Parker, and Oz's primal attraction to Veruca. In essence, Parker was as much a caveman as the men in the pub, because he always wanted pleasure, never any higher level things. This is the connection to casual sex. Casual sex and beer are compared in this episode, and are in fact both deemed bad. Among other things good about the episode, the scene where Giles and Xander confront CaveBuffy in her dorm perfectly recalls Professor Walsh's speech earlier in the episode, with Buffy being the id, wanting beer, Giles being the ego, telling her she can't have it, and Xander being the superego, telling her she shouldn't want it. It then illustrates what often happens when the id can't get what it wants. It breaks loose, as Buffy does when she attacks Giles and runs off.
--Your Name (Agrees: no)