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8. 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' (1997-2003)

Resurrecting his horror-meets-high-school movie as a TV show, Joss Whedon took full advantage of the serial medium, turning the silly-seeming premise of a ditz with supernatural powers into an expansive, witty, emotional, and creatively adventurous seven seasons. In addition to the humor and teen-angst-with-fangs drama, you could always find numerous sci-fi aspects popping up: an Internet-connected demon, a Frankenstein's monster of a cyborg, an evil-dad android — even a Buffybot. And like a lot of genre-based shows on this list, it kept circling back to a lot of the same big-picture issues: Specifically, what does it mean to be humanity's guardian? And what makes us worth saving, anyway? ST