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February 13, 2003
by Daniel Erenberg
It should have failed miserably. It was marked from the start: a spin-off of than show with the ridiculous name. It was dark, rainy, and grim. Hell, even Cordelia was dealing with more troubles than she had had in three seasons of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. That's right. I'm talking about Angel, the best bad idea that Joss Whedon ever had.
Spin-offs, generally, aren't good. The only exceptions to the rule, perhaps, in the history of television before Angel, are The Jeffersons and Frasier. Frasier is a show that aired after the original (Cheers) was cancelled. For Frasier, the creators completely revamped the character's history (In Cheers, Frasier was an only child with a dead father). Angel was existing just as he had on Buffy, without any changes. Angel was even to do crossovers with Buffy.
Anyway, what got me thinking of Angel is that over the weekend, I pre-ordered its first season on DVD from Amazon. I don't really know what to write about it. This is my sixth article for Slayage and I came to the realization that sooner or later, I was going to have to write about Angel.
What hooked me on Angel was the same scene that I suspect hooked everyone. It was that pre-credits teaser at the beginning of the first episode, 'City Of...' You know the one I'm talking about. Angel purposefully stumbles into a gathering of vampires and proceeds to kick their butts into dust. Not only can I remember that this scene hooked me, but I can even recall the moment that hooked me.
Two vamps run towards Angel from either side. As they're about to reach him, Angel puts his arms out, stakes pop out of his sleeves, and the vampires become nothingness.
No fight on Buffy was ever as cool as that.
As the theme came up, you knew exactly what Angel would be: sad. The opening credits featured crying girls, grim faces, and foreboding violin music. This was not Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
It also wasn't Archie Bunker's Place, or Time Of Your Life (that Party of Five spin-off with Jennifer Love Hewitt. Don't remember it? You're lucky.), or The Lucy/Desi Comedy Hour. It was good. But it wasn't great. Yet.
There were some real stinkers in that first year. There was 'She', with that weird supernatural Asian chick who, I'm happy to say, never came back for a return appearance. Also, there was the Fight Club-influenced 'The Ring', which had all of Fight Club's brutality and one of its existential wonderments.
I'm being hard on the show. It also had some really brilliant episodes. There was the 'Five By Five'/'Sanctuary' two-parter that brought Faith back far better than Buffy had a few weeks previous.
Also, any Buffy fan that hasn't seen 'I Will Remember You' should be forced to hand in their fanboy badges.
But let's talk villains, shall we? Wolfram and Hart were the main villains of the first season and, by season's end, they felt tired. The ever-rotating cast of lawyers began Lindsey was at the forefront in the first season. He was an interesting character, for sure, but he never quite reached the potential that was ultimately utilized in Lilah.
Wolfram and Hart were introduced with a bang. Angel burst into a board meeting and promptly threw a guy through a window. The camera cut outside and we were able to watch this guy, hurtling to his certain death, burst into flames in mid-air.
It was a great scene in merely a good show.
I know people are going to read this article and e-mail me complaints about how stupid I am for not liking Angel. But these people would be wrong.
I love Angel. Starting from the second episode of season two, 'Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been', all the way to now, Angel has been a great show, even matching Buffy in its brilliance at points.
Angel's downfall in season two, Wesley's ongoing struggle to reintegrate himself back into the team, the massive Pylea story arc, and sweet, sweet Amy Acker are just a small portion of things that I love about Angel.
But let me backtrack for a moment, once again to the beginning of Angel. At the start, the cast was just too small. It grew over the years into a wonderfully proportionate cast of characters, but in the beginning, it was just Angel, Cordelia, and Doyle.
Angel was the title character, more brooding than ever. He'd always been a good character and, like Cordelia, grew into an even better one on the spin-off.
Speaking of Cordelia, this one-note character (okay, I'll give her two. Three tops because of Charisma Carpenter's detailed performances) became one of the most intricate and layered characters in the Buffyverse.
And Doyle was great. Gosh, what can I say about Doyle? He was only on the show for something like eleven episodes before getting killed off. The character was, essentially, a Whistler replacement. Whistler, a character introduced in season two's 'Becoming, Part One', couldn't be on the show because the actor, Max Perlich, had some prior commitments. So Joss and David had to create Doyle.
And Glenn Quinn really made the character his own. I was shocked and saddened by his very sudden and very untimely passing on the third of December. He was truly a great actor. Go back and watch 'The Bachelor Party' and 'Hero' and his spirit will live on.
On that sad note, I'll move on to Doyle's replacement. Doyle died in the aforementioned 'Hero'. His replacement was Rogue Watcher, Wesley Wyndham-Price. At first, this wasn't the best of ideas.
Currently, Wesley is my personal favorite Angel character. However, back in season one, Wesley was still the caricature that he was in the latter half of Buffy's third season.
The first glimpse of the Wesley that we know and love today came in 'Five By Five', while he was being tortured by Faith.
The other current regular that was introduced back in season one is Charles Gunn, portrayed admirably by J. August Richards. I didn't become a fan of Gunn until mid-season two when Angel fired the remainder of Angel Investigations. In season one, he was sort of one-note. He had that whole subplot with the group of friends that fought demons together, but that wasn't much. I still don't like early Gunn. Even when we got a glimpse of him in flashback in season three's 'Double Or Nothing', I was entirely bored. I like Gunn now (though I'm firmly in the Wesley camp on the issue of who should get Fred. On second though, I should get Fred. Ahh, Fred), but I never quite liked him back then.
The absolute worst aspect of the first season of Angel was Kate the Policewoman, played in a decidedly stiff manner, by Elizabeth Rohm. There isn't much more I can say about that except that I remain happy that the actress was shipped off to Law & Order.
Now, Angel is one of the best shows on television. It has many loyal fans, many who think that it has surpassed the show it spun off from. I love Angel. There's not much more I can say about it. I have strong emotional ties to the characters and I watch it with as much vigor as I do Buffy.
And my final thought is this: If Amy Acker is reading this, would she please e-mail me?
|Daniel Erenberg lives in a gothic-looking house in a suburb of Long Island shrouded by trees and darkness. His backyard is so overrun with shrubbery that he can't plant flowers in the soil. He's penned articles for numerous magazines (and a couple of websites for free). Currently, he's writing his first novel, entitled People That I've Long Since Forgotten. He's also written two plays, Little Room and Dystopia and a screenplay called Youth Or Consequence. He lives a fairly happy life alone and hankers constantly for the hour of eight P.M. to nine P.M. on Tuesday nights. You can contact Daniel on firstname.lastname@example.org.|