My view is that the presence or lack of a budget very much determines the tone and character of BUFFY. The Season 8 story is being told differently because it lacks limits and these limits would have made a Season 8 on TV a different beast altogether. Is the quality of the story better in Season 8 than previous seasons on TV? Some people say yes and that it ranks as high as Season 2, 3, or 5. Some say absolutely-are-you-kidding-me-NO! While many others refuse to even acknowledge Season 8's existence.
Buffy the TV series was very much the little show that could. People discounted it, judged it and underestimated it. It fought uphill to make an impact. It ran the gamut of censoring and opposition to become this finished product of brilliant humor, drama, action and fantasy. It ran the trial by fire and I believe it was better for it. Like a gem polished over time by the powerful forces of nature...
These limits and the challenge of having to overcome them demanded creativity and I believe it heightened the value of the finished product.
Anyone ever seen the original film (based on the play) Twelve Angry Men with Henry Fonda where the entire story is set in the jury's deliberation room? I'm always amazed by stories set in one room that can remain riveting. BtVS was like that to me - one girl (Henry Fonda) in all the world set against incredible odds (11 angry men) who must fight (win the argument) the forces of evil (ignorance and prejudice) in her small hometown (jury room). The setting was limited and set; yet once the formula was laid out it opened up a whole new creative world to be explored.
Buffy was the fantasy series that didn't have enough money to do overblown special effects (Smallville has better effects, would anyone dare say it was a better show...) nor have exotic locales to visit. So here was the caveat - how can we use the limited space and special effects available to us to tell a story about a girl and her friends who fight the forces of evil?
They took these limitations and made an amazing show. It was amazing for how creatively they worked around the limitations and even used them to their advantage. It was not a perfect show and we Buffy experts are VERY aware of the issues in continuity and other mistakes we catch on screen. But each flaw made it better than any overblown perfect fantasy story. The flaws and limitations are embedded into the character of BtVS. Without them, the heart can't help but be changed.
Season 8 is different from Buffy the Vampire Slayer the TV series because it doesn't have the creative limitations of a budget. Is it better for this? There lies the debate. Does one find more value in a creative work that grows in adversity or a work that knows no limits?
Those who know me know I love Season 8 and am very much enjoying the continuation of the story. However I disagree with the statement that BtVS and Buffy Season 8 are exactly the same. Season 8 is the next generation of Buffy. It's different and I'm embracing it. But I won't stop comparing it to the show and no it's not always going to be as good or better. Sometimes it won't even be adequate. I'll still treasure it because in this regard it could not more closely resemble BtVS - it is flawed and it is entertaining.