Pilot: Angel

Alrighty, so we looked at cult-classic and all round fan favourite, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, last week, so I thought we would carry on the theme and this week look at Angel, the darker and apparently more adult, Buffy spin-off.

For those of you playing at home, you’ll remember that after Buffy and Angel consummated their relationship in season two of the Buffy series (I believe it was her birthday – if only we had all been so luck when we turned 17…), he experienced a ‘moment of true happiness’ and as a result, lost the soul which he been cursed with and which made him the darkly brooding vampire boyfriend that we all knew and loved. Buffy spent the rest of season two fighting it out with the now evil Angelus, before his soul was finally restored in the dying moments of the season two finale. It’s all a little too late though, and Buffy is forced to send Angel to Hell in order to save the world from the dark evil which Angelus was trying to unleash. I remember it fondly. We all cried.

Angel is freed from Hell in season three and returns to Sunnydale, where Buffy nurses him back to health, but alas, their relationship/dark love affair can never really be the same (since there can be no more hot sex). While they do share some hand holding, secret kisses and pretty sexy dreams, ultimately, Angel realises he has no where to go and thus, up and leaves Sunnydale (but manages to squeeze in a dance at the Prom on his way out – bless).

Oakie dokie, so that pretty much brings us up to speed, and so, without further ado, let’s revisit the dark and dirty night-time city of Los Angeles, where Angel premiers with the episode ‘City of…’

Angel S1 Cast
(It’s all very serious on the mean streets of L.A – lots of velvet, leather, black clothes and dark eye make-up)

Well it’s still clearly a bad time for fashion and acting and opening titles, but then again, it’s still the late 90’s, so we ought not expect miracles. The make-up is very different now that Angel is in LA, that’s for certain, the vampires here seem to have a lot more puff going on around the eyes.

Angel is still running around, with his broad shoulders, in baggy jumpers and long coasts (dusters I believe they were called) and he still has that highly gelled hair-do (which Spike will pick on mercilessly when he shows up for his cross-over cameo in a few episodes), and he’s still brooding like it’s 1999 (oh wait, but it is!). Despite helping out the needy, Angel is apart from the society he is trying to protect and thus, it is only a matter of time before the forces that be send in some help…

(Doyle has a wardrobe reminiscent of Whistler (from the Buffy series two finale), maybe Whistler would have been a better choice, even if they recast Quinn in the role).

The first new cast member we meet, is Doyle – he’s some kind of future seeing, spiky faced demon… a good one though… and is played by the very Irish Glenn Quinn.

I love Glenn Quinn, but that could be more to do with my childhood and adult fondness for Roseanne (on which Quinn played the perennial bad bay, Mark), I’ve always felt a similar affection for Johnny Galecki, (who played David) although it’s never been enough to turn me into a hard core watcher of the Big Bang Theory. I was very sad when Quinn left the cast at the end of season one (heroine addiction I read) and then died a very short time later (heroin overdose, I read).

(some serious facial issues – maybe that explains the outfit, he’s trying to draw focus)

Next cab off the rank isn’t a new cast member as such, but a character that’s made the jump from one series to another – Cordelia. I never cared much for her after she became the less than bitchy bitch on Buffy, so when she showed up on Angel I was not enthused. She begins in the pilot as the usual, vacuous Cordelia we all recall from Buffy, but is humbled by the harsh realities of Hollywood and the fact that she only has one frock, and the threat of being killed, after which time she goes to work for Angel and entrenched herself into the principal cast.

That pretty much wraps it up for primary characters. Others do come along in the course of the season, but for the premier, they were keeping it simple and look, that was a good move because there is a whole hell of a lot of drama already going on for the brief 45 minute time slot.

I’ve always been interested in television shows that feature a very good looking, young cast, like Angel does, and then talk about how bad Hollywood is, how it is filled with monsters and bad people. It’s a very confused message that the teen audience is getting.  It kind of makes me sad that the bad guy in this episode, who is so reminiscent of all the Hollywood horror villains that exist in real life, is actually a monster, it kind of undercuts the message that is being expressed in the first half of the episode, which is that there are a lot of bad things waiting for silly young girls who run off the big city with dreams of stardom. (Let’s be real, unless your name is Cordelia chase, the odds are that no sexy brooding vampire is going to come and save you from either the world or yourself).

I do appreciate that Angel doesn’t save the day in this first episode, at least not for Tina (the ring in guest character) and I love it that he gives her a dish towel on which to dry her tears (give her a hug for Heaven’s sake!) after putting her mind at ease by confirming that he isn’t going to try and put the hard word on her (seriously, I’m sure she’s had worse). There’s an odd parody to Angel, something that I guess also features in Buffy but this time it’s far more overt, it kind of takes me back to the Buffy film. At times, this interrupts the tension that the writers have tried so hard to build, but, what can you do?

Loneliness and connection are popular concepts throughout the first episode and the entire first season, as Angel uses the larger social dystopia of LA as a backdrop for his own loneliness and longing for connection after the heartbreak of losing Buffy.

(sorry Angel, I’m just not buying your dark, wounded soul any more)

I remember watching at least the first two seasons of this show when it was first on television and even then, I wanted to love it, but I just couldn’t, not the way I loved Buffy. Nearly 20 years later, not a whole lot has changed. I don’t get the same distinct nostalgia when I rewatch the early episodes (thank goodness, because look, last week with the whole Buffy thing just about killed me, I don’t think I’ve got it in me two weeks in a row). Maybe I am outgrowing the whole ‘dark, brooding, wounded hero’ thing? (No way! But we’ll get back to that at another time) In any case, I just didn’t love this show on the re-watch. The script, the characters, the setting, they just feel wrong to me. If you were a hardcore Angel fan or a hardcore Buffy fan, then by all means, maybe drag this one out and have a trip down memory lane. If you’re identifying as the above, maybe let it live on, unchanged, in your memory.


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