Wednesday, May 4, 2011

TV – Angel (1999 - 2004)

Angel was a spin-off series from the show Buffy the Vampire Slayer (aka BtVS.)  After the third season of that show ended, Joss Whedon transplanted the characters of Angel, played by David Boreanaz (Bones) and Cordelia, played by Charisma Carpenter, to Los Angeles.  Where BtVS was about fighting evil, this show was primarily about redemption.

Its concept was that Angel, Cordelia, and another character set up an agency where people could come when they had non-human issues that needed to be dealt with.  By helping these people Angel could continue his redemption for all the wrong he had done in his life.

When the show debuted it was shown right after episodes of BtVS, so it was easy to have continuity between the two.  Characters from both shows appeared on the other, especially in the first season of Angel.  Once they reached the sixth season of BtVS (and Angel’s third) the crossovers ceased because BtVS was now being shown on a different network from Angel.  Whedon got the two networks to bend the rules when BtVS was coming to the end of its run, though.

The show Angel was very good at times, especially in its first two seasons.  The third season was a bit of a step down in quality, but still very watchable.  The fourth season was not very good at all.  Whedon and Charisma Carpenter had had a falling out over her pregnancy.  It made him change his plans for the season in order to accommodate it.  In addition, Whedon was dealing with the stress of the final season of BtVS, and the launch and quick cancellation of his third show Firefly.  All of these things affected the quality of the show.  He seemed to take his frustration out on Carpenter’s character of Cordelia by sending her in a direction that most fans didn’t like.  By the time the season ended I actually didn’t care if the show got renewed or not.

To the surprise of many, the network did bring it back.  They insisted that Whedon bring over a popular character from BtVS now that that show was over.  With renewed life, and without other shows to distract him, the fifth and final season of Angel enjoyed a resurrection of sorts as its shows got better again and its ratings went up.

It was at this point that Whedon made a major tactical error.  Flush with the renewed success of the show, and tired that the network kept making him wait until the end of each season before renewing it (which meant his people had to decline good job offers) he put the network president on the spot and asked for an early decision on renewal or cancellation.  The network decided to cancel it.  David Greenwalt, the co-creator of the show with Joss Whedon, said that if they had waited until the end of the season as usual that he was absolutely certain that they would have been renewed for a sixth season.

Like on BtVS, Whedon’s characters on this show went through a great deal of change, except for the character of Angel for some reason.  Cordelia went from being a spoiled brat who mostly thought about herself, to a truly selfless character.  It was her journey that I enjoyed the most on the show and she was my favorite character.  That’s why when Whedon basically ruined her character in season 4 it bothered me so much.

The show Angel brought over a supporting comic relief character from BtVS (Wesley Wyndham-Price, played by Alexis Denisof) and he blossomed into a fully developed character on this show – someone you could really respect.  New characters of Charles Gunn (J. August Richards), Lorne (Andy Hallett), and Fred (Amy Acker) were added by the second season and the cast gelled.

You could watch this show without ever having watched BtVS, and you would understand what was going on, but you would not understand some of the character interactions or references.  If you have watched BtVS, though, then I definitely recommend this show.  You really should watch at least the first two seasons, since that was when the show was at its best.

One note – the final episode ends with a cliffhanger, even though before it was ever written Whedon knew the show was cancelled.  I’m not sure why he did this, other than as a middle finger to the network.  Unfortunately, the fans of the show were the ones caught by the fallout.  It’s my understanding that he has written a set of comics that officially continued the Angel storyline from where the show left off, much like he has been writing an official Buffy Season 8 in comic form.  I have not read the Angel stories, so I cannot say if I would recommend them or not. 

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

        Season 1             Complete Series

No comments:

Post a Comment