'Angel' and Demons: Super, Naturally

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 26, 2007

Joss Whedon's "Buffyverse" included both his brilliant series "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and its spinoff, "Angel." All five seasons of the latter are packaged together and available Tuesday ($139.98) in a 30-disc collector's set featuring all 110 episodes, a letter to fans signed by creator Whedon (a copy, fans, calm down) and a collectible companion booklet. It includes all the special features (cast and crew commentaries, featurettes, deleted scenes and outtakes) from the original DVDs, at a lower price and in more efficient packaging.

Factor in "Firefly," the space cowboy series canceled by Fox in 2003, and you've got a good case for Whedon being one of television's visionaries.

David Boreanaz (seen on the Fox drama "Bones") was hunky, brooding Angel, the Gypsy-cursed vampire with a conscience, on a centuries-old mission to save lost souls. Buffy's first significant other, he eventually left the small California town of Sunnydale to take up residence -- and, after three seasons on "Buffy," pursue his own series -- in the big California city that only accidentally bore his name. There was, in fact, a shortage of angels there. Demons, devils, vampires and other dark denizens? Plenty of those.

Los Angeles proved the perfect home for Angel Investigations, a supernatural P.I. firm whose "P" was equal parts private and psychic. Like his super ex-girlfriend, Angel's job was basically to keep the world from getting destroyed by the forces of darkness. How fitting that his constant adversaries were lawyers at the demonic firm Wolfram & Hart. Mostly Angel confronted demons-of-the-week, some disturbing, others hilarious. "Angel" was a darker version of "Buffy," unlightened by high school dramas and magic shops, just often whimsical enough, as in the "Smile Time" episode in which Angel is turned into a two-foot-tall felt puppet and still tries to do his job.

The escape to L.A. was partly to get away from Buffy, who broke Angel's heart and kinda killed him once, though to her credit, it was to save the world. Still, "Angel's" first season was populated with cameos by "Buffy" characters; two of them, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Wesley Wyndam-Price (Alexis Denisof), became series regulars. Whedon and co-creator David Greenwalt added key allies, notably Amy Acker as Winifred, a geeky but gorgeous scientist; J. August Richards as the street-savvy vampire hunter/lawyer; and Andy Hallett as Lorne, a horned green demon who runs a karaoke bar and can read the auras of those who sing.

Like all Whedon worlds, "Angel" was defined by intriguing characters, eternal struggles and some of the smartest, snappiest dialogue on television. Some of the plot twists and turns went a little too far, and the introduction of Angel's son/rival, Connor, in Season Four slowed things down considerably. And in a move to goose ratings in the final season, Whedon and Greenwalt brought in Angel's longtime "Buffy" rival, sexy vampire Spike (James Marsters). Spike and Angel turned into a pretty good buddy team, sort of an undead version of Starsky and Hutch that would have played out more fully had the series continued.

Next month, IDW Publishing will introduce "Angel: After the Fall," taking up where the TV series ended, with Angel, Spike and their allies getting ready to face down a horde of monsters in a dark and rainy alley. It comes on the heels of Dark Horse Comics' phenomenally successful "Buffy the Vampire Slayer Season 8." Produced, supervised and sometimes written by Whedon, that series carries the story of the slayer forward.

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