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August 15, 2005
by Daniel Erenberg
Twice In A Lifetime
I've got this friend called Christine. She used to take the piss out of me all the time for being into Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Angel. I was constantly being called geeky and tasteless. That is until I decided to try a little something. I brought her over to my humble abode and screened for her a personal favorite Buffy episode of mine called "The Body". As she watched, I choked back tears like I always do, but I really fought them back this time. I mean, I'm called geeky enough to know that this would really push me over the edge. But, to my surprise, as I fought back tears, I caught her failing to do the same. They rolled down her face. When the episode closed, Dawn reaching her hand out to almost touch her dead mother's face as we suddenly blackout, Christine cried out, "That can't be it!" But it was. And that, I suppose, was the point.
It's a year later now. Christine has finished watching the entire series. In fact she even owns the box set of her very favorite season, year six. (What can I say? She has a thing for darkness.) She was aware of there being a spin-off called Angel because she voiced her confusion about the Gem of Amara disappearing after its appearance in "The Harsh Light Of Day", and Angel's pissed off performance in "The Yoko Factor" later that season (four) must have confused her even further. When I questioned her about it, she appeared to have written off Angel as just a dumb spin-off. I was there to point out to her how wrong she had been about Buffy. I was there. Five Angel box sets in hand.
My initial impulse was to race her through season one, only showing the episodes that I considered very good. This would quickly get us to season two where, in my opinion, the show really found itself and became the great show we all now know it is. This was a good impulse on my part because after showing her the first three episodes of season one ("City Of", "Lonely Hearts", and "In The Dark") in order, Christine was quite underwhelmed. Angel and Cordelia were possibly her two least favorite characters in the first three seasons of Buffy and they continued to not quite thrill her on the new show. Christine enjoyed Glenn Quinn's Doyle, but was soon disappointed by "Hero", when he was killed off only to be replaced by Wesley, another former Buffy character she wasn't too fond of.
My new experiment was slowly falling apart, but she agreed to at least get up to "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been", an episode I touted with such adjectives as "brilliant" and "amazing" and "thought-provoking". I also explained to her that she has no idea who any of these characters are yet. She hasn't met the Cordelia who sacrifices her entire life, or the Wesley who is forced to decapitate the corpse of the woman he loves, or even the Angel who signs away the Shanshu prophecy in order to take down the Circle of the Black Thorn in the series finale.
She dug "Five By Five". How could you not? The newly dark Wesley carrying out a knife to kill Faith after she has tortured him and finding his boss clutching onto Faith's crying, pleading form as rain streams down punishingly from the dark sky. It was with "Five By Five" that I began to show her every episode. I couldn‚t see a way around it. The next episode, "Sanctuary", is the conclusion of the two-parter. With "War Zone", we meet the very important character of Gunn. "Blind Date" is a big Lindsay episode and Christine had already developed a fondness for him. And then we get "To Shanshu In L.A.", the big season finale.
Darla returns. Christine is excited. We've watched the first three episodes of season two and, while she's not quite hooked, she's continued watching. We've passed "Are You Now Or Have You Ever Been", the big cut-off point, and she's kept going.
I don't know what it is about season one of Angel that turns off so many first time viewers. I distinctly remember giving myself five episodes of Angel's second season to decide whether I was going to continue watching the show. I really dig watching season one with Christine, but that's only in hindsight. A lot of people cite Policewoman Kate Lockley (played fine enough by Law and Order's Elisabeth Rohm) as the thing they hate most about the season, but I don't think she's even in half of the episodes. Plus, she returns in season two and works really well in every episode she's in.
It could be the formula. Joss Whedon is not known for being a formulaic writer. He doesn‚t create anything that has any kind of formula. I mean, what the hell is the formula of Firefly? There is no answer, which might be why that enchanting show failed to gain viewers throughout its original eleven episode run. But Angel Season One has a formula. Doyle (and later Cordelia) gets a vision. Angel tries to figure it out. The death count rises. Angel takes in a distressed female. The female distrusts Angel. But Angel saves the day (except for in "City Of" where the formula is betrayed slightly by having the female die; but he still saves Cordelia at the end!).
I hate formula. I think that's where Tim Minear's newest show The Inside suffered. I was so interested in the characters and the set-up of their team that I was often somewhat distracted by the formulaic investigation plotlines. While the show was better, in my opinion, than something with no characters of interest whatsoever (CSI: Miami anyone?), it still failed to evoke more interest than casual viewership for this reason.
So Christine and I are into season two now and I'm realizing how fun it's going to be to show her what is coming. Angel letting the lawyers die in "Reunion". Darla killing herself to save her child in "Lullaby". Angel killing himself to save his son's life in "Home". Wesley asking Illyria to lie to him in "Not Fade Away". Man, is she in for a treat.
In many ways, I wish it was me seeing the show for the first time. But, no. I am the seasoned expert and she the excited virgin. I haven't been excited by something as important as Buffy, Angel, or Firefly in a long time. The season sets that I've been buying lately are mostly sitcoms like Seinfeld, That 70's Show, and Friends, or animated series like Family Guy or South Park. Every show that has truly excited me in the past few years like Firefly or Wonderfalls has been given a quick cancellation. I was even starting to really enjoy Marti Noxon's Point Pleasant.
Right now the only hour-long on TV that I look forward to each week is the wonderful Lost. But I can't see myself ever writing a weekly column about that. I used to think a show like that created by a man like Joss Whedon, can only come along once in a lifetime. Then I saw Angel.
Note to the Readers: You'll notice I used the word "weekly" to describe this column. And I understand that it hasn't been "weekly" in a really long time. Well, I'm here to tell you that from now to the foreseeable future, it will be. If you have any interest at all in my opinions on Joss Whedon's shows, I'll be here every week. I hope you will be too.
|Daniel Erenberg (AKA: Dan)(AKA: Nighthawk) is fairly happy with the life he lives in his house in the Yorkshire section of Lynbrook, New York. He's got a band called The Doldrums which he alternately thinks are brilliant and awful. He writes almost as often as he watches television, which any reader of his Slayage column knows is saying a lot. Beautiful girls and other types of Buffy fans can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.