The ruckus could have raised the dead. When The WB preempted the May 25 season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the network thought it was acting responsibly. Tensions about violence in entertainment had been running high, and the episode featured Sarah Michelle Gellar and gang at a high school graduation fighting a 60-foot serpent to the death. Says Brad Turell, The WB's senior VP of publicity, ''If anything [violent] had happened at any graduation anywhere, every news organization would've run Buffy clips.''
But beware the wrath of Buffy fans. Several protest websites sprang up. Petitions were sent to The WB. One online group, Stand Up for Buffy, collected over $3,000 to place editorial ads in a trade magazine. Even Elvis Costello riffed, at a June 2 concert in L.A., about God searching in vain for ''the lost Buffy.'' (He then sarcastically praised The WB for keeping teens safe from unholy demons.) What's more, fans also circulated bootleg copies of the show, made from a Canadian broadcast. While The WB condemned the tapes, series creator Joss Whedon told USA Today that fans should ''bootleg the puppy.'' (Whedon wasn't available for comment.)
The WB downplays the flap, saying the finale will air, either in July or before next season's premiere. Says a glass-is-half-full Turell: ''At least we won't be up against the final episode of Home Improvement.''