Angel was the highly successful spin-off from the American television series Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Angel had a darker tone than Buffy, and it at times performed better in the U.S. Nielsen Ratings than its parent series. The series was created by Buffy creator Joss Whedon in collaboration with David Greenwalt, and first aired in October of 1999. Like Buffy, it was produced by Whedon's production company, Mutant Enemy.
The series detailed the ongoing trials of the vampire Angel, who had his human soul restored to him as a punishment after over a century of murder and torture of innocents, leaving him tormented by remorse. During the first four seasons of the show, he worked as a private detective in a fictionalized version of Los Angeles, California, where he and a variety of associates worked to "help the helpless" and to restore the faith and "save the souls" of those who had lost their way. Typically this involved doing battle with evil demons (which, on Angel, are distinguished from well-meaning, neutral and innocent demons) as well as tangling with demonically-allied humans and his own violent nature.
The original concept for the series was a dramatic modernization of the classical noir detective story, which gained popularity in large part through the works of Raymond Chandler. In much the same way as Buffy had been a recreation of classical horror films, Angel gave the same treatment to the classical Film noir. The central design and format of the series echoed classic noir films — the first episode even included a Sam Spade style voiceover. The character of Angel was developed here as a recreation of the reluctant, hard boiled Los Angeles detective who has dealings with a variety of underworld characters. In this case, the "underworld" is a more literal underworld of demons and supernatural beings. Many traditional noir stories and characters were explored in earlier episodes, including the ditzy but attractive secretary, the cagey but well informed partner, and clashes with crooked lawyers and meddlesome, too_good_for_their_own_good cops. These were usually given a modern or supernatural twist.
The style and focus of the show changed considerably over its run, and the original noir idea was mostly discarded in favor of more large scale fantasy_themed conflicts. The initial impetus for this change is often attributed to Tim Minear, who wrote many of the show's most important episodes. In later seasons, the mythology and stories became increasingly complex; in season four, one of the characters on the show itself described the story-line as "a turgid supernatural soap-opera".
The series also mirrored Buffy in attaching itself to a higher overarching theme. Where Buffy used supernatural elements as a metaphor for personal issues in adolescence, Angel employed the same kinds of metaphors to explore higher spiritual and moral issues. The central theme of the series was the protagonist's quest for redemption. Just as Buffy was intended to capture a sense of the suburban oppression experienced by many teens, Angel made much use of the feelings of loneliness, danger and callousness often attributed to the urban Los Angeles megapolis. The divisions between the ordered world of the day and the chaotic world of the night have been trademark themes of noir and by drawing a protagonist who literally has no daytime life, the series was able to explore these same themes in more dramatic metaphorical ways.
As the series progressed, some of the more personal issues on the show were set aside in favor of more high-minded, abstract ideas. Whereas the show originally dealt with the difficulty of being kind to people on a personal basis, more recently the show focused on ideas such as moral ambiguity and the cost of free will. Viewer reaction to these thematic changes over time has been mixed.
While the first 3 seasons of Buffy (the only three produced and broadcast when Angel began its run) focused on the angst of adolescence, Angel chronicled the different stages of adulthood. The show began with Angel Investigations as an idealistic shoestring operation with impoverished employees who sacrificed material comforts in order to do the right thing. As the series progressed, Angel became a single father with a steadily more successful career, who had to deal with a rebellious teenage son. Most recently he became the CEO of a billion-dollar corporation: he and his coterie of warriors "sold out" and "went Establishment."
On Valentine's Day, 2004 The WB Network "officially" announced that Angel would not be brought back for a sixth season. The one paragraph statement indicated the news, which had been reported by an Internet site the previous day, Friday the 13th, had been leaked well before the network intended to make its announcement. Joss Whedon posted a message on a popular fan site, The Bronze: Beta, in which he expressed his dismay and surprise, saying he was "heartbroken". Fan reaction was to organise letter-writing campaigns, online petitions, and attempt to lobby other networks, UPN in particular, to pick up the show. Focus for the 'blame' for the cancellation centered on Jordan Levin, the WB's Head of Entertainment, whose recent comments had strongly indicated that Angel would be renewed for a sixth season.
May 19, 2004 saw Angel´s final episode, "Not Fade Away", air on The WB.
Throughout the series there were many guest appearances of characters from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, such as Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy Summers, Seth Green as Oz, James Marsters as Spike, Alyson Hannigan as Willow Rosenberg, Eliza Dushku as Faith, Juliet Landau as Drusilla and Julie Benz as Darla, as well as small characters such as Anne (aka Chantarelle from the Buffy Season 2 episode Lie to Me and aka Lily in the Season 3 episode Anne).
On December 3, 2002, Glenn Quinn, who played Doyle in the first season, died at the age of 32.
A plot summary, which contains numerous spoilers, is available. But since a large part of Angel is its exciting plot twists and turns, you may not want to read it if you haven't watched the entire series.
- Whedonesque Public Blog (http://www.whedonesque.com)
- The Bronze: Beta, posting board (http://www.bronzebeta.com)
- Save Angel Campaign HQ (http://www.saveangel.org)
- Renew Angel/Support Angel (http://www.renewangel.com)
- City of Angel (http://www.cityofangel.com/main/index.html/)