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Obsessions: Welcome back Buffy

By Stephanie Goldberg, CNN
updated 5:04 PM EDT, Fri September 16, 2011
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as twins Bridget Cafferty and Siobhan Martin in The CW's new series,
Sarah Michelle Gellar stars as twins Bridget Cafferty and Siobhan Martin in The CW's new series, "Ringer."
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gellar plays ex-stripper Bridget and her wealthy twin sister Siobhan on "Ringer"
  • A boating scene shared by both of Gellar's characters attracted negative criticism
  • "Ringer" reeled in a solid audience for The CW -- 2.7 million viewers

(CNN) -- After an eight-year hiatus, Buffy is back!

Not really, but for some fans of Sarah Michelle Gellar it's the closest they can get at this point. The actress made her highly anticipated return to TV on Tuesday night in The CW's "Ringer."

Playing ex-stripper Bridget and her wealthy twin sister Siobhan, Gellar's characters are a far cry from her days as the now-iconic vampire slayer on "Buffy." But fans of the late supernatural series agree, they'd follow the actress just about anywhere: And that includes her new film noir-type soap.

Though The CW's programming tends to skew a bit younger, "Ringer," which was originally created with CBS in mind, maintains a more adult quality. Potentially perfect for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit, many of whom have likely matured with Gellar, now 34.

"This is a good way for fans who loved 'Buffy' to sort of continue on with [Gellar]," Hollywood.com's TV editor Kelsea Stahler said. "Because they're older, I think it can appeal. We don't need vampires or werewolves or the forbidden love between her and Angel. You already love her. The drama is there."

The anticipation helps, too. Gellar went off the air on a high note after "Buffy" -- and stayed off.

Despite a TV movie, a couple of voiceovers on popular animated series and roles in two film franchises -- "The Grudge" and "Scooby-Doo" -- the actress chose to lay low while beginning a family with husband Freddie Prinze Jr. The pair welcomed their daughter Charlotte in September 2009.

"The hiatus actually worked wonders for her," Stahler added. "A lot of 'Buffy' fans were teens when 'Buffy' was first on. They grew up with her -- through 'Cruel Intentions,' 'The Grudge.' And when she went off the grid to do her family thing, people started to miss her as opposed to tossing her aside as a has-been."

Like TV bloggers and industry insiders predicted, "Ringer" reeled in a solid audience for The CW. However, its 2.7 million viewers don't quite compare to the 3 to 5 million viewers who tuned into The WB-turned-UPN to watch "Buffy" each week in the late '90s and early 2000s. But TV consumption is a different beast from when Gellar first graced the small screen. Anywhere in the 2 million viewers range is standard for programs on The CW, which spawned from the aforementioned networks.

"'Buffy' fans are incredibly loyal," Daniel Malen, the editor of tvaddict.com, said before the show's premiere, adding, "They're 100% going to watch 'Ringer.' ... I'm Sure The CW will be happy with [Tuesday's] numbers."

And Gellar's involvement isn't just appealing for viewers. Her "Ringer" co-stars are equally as thrilled to have her aboard.

"When we knew Sarah Michelle was attached, that was the biggest draw to the project -- as much as the brilliant script that we both read," Ioan Gruffudd, who plays Siobhan's husband, said at Comic-Con. "The package was just too attractive to turn down."

And as if "Buffy" fans weren't enough, throw in fans of "LOST's" Nestor Carbonell, who plays FBI agent Victor on the show.

"It's smart casting," Stahler said. "They've picked people who are really going to bring [viewers] along with them."

But, as Malen says, "It's easy to get someone to tune in, but people have to enjoy the show. Whether or not the 'Buffy' fans stick around, we'll see."

Ryan McFadden, who runs buffyfans.com, said he's sure it will take some time before he can fully separate Gellar from Buffy in her new roles, but he's thrilled to welcome her back to TV.

Of course, he adds, there is a chance it won't live up to "Buffy."

And Gellar knows it.

"You can't top 'Buffy,' " Gellar, who is also co-executive producer of her new series, told EW prior to "Ringer's" debut. "There's no reason to try. It lives in that world, so you have to do something that's interesting for both the audience and for me as an actor. And that's not necessarily the easiest thing to find after a show like that."

Get more geeky news and musings at the CNN Geek Out blog

Perhaps unsurprisingly, "Ringer" was met with mixed reviews. The Hollywood Reporter is among the many outlets to compare Gellar's characters to Buffy, noting, "[Gellar's performance] hardly lends confidence that she's capable of being the cornerstone of such a show." The consensus of most reviews being, "give it a few episodes."

A boating scene shared by both of Gellar's characters attracted a good amount of negative criticism. Stationary clouds and calm water for miles backs the scene, which New York Magazine describes as "the Sea of Bad Production Values."

"They might have gotten stuck in the Comically Phony Visual Effects trade wind and been unable to navigate the difficult waters of the Fake Backdrop Strait," the article states.

But, for "Buffy" fan Kelly Creamer, Gellar can do no wrong.

"I noticed [the green screen] a bit, but honestly, it was fine to me," she said. "I mean, it didn't look that bad. ... It didn't affect the performance."

It's just nice to spend time with Gellar again each week, Creamer added. "It feels like family -- the same kind of comfort."

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