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AngelBiting stories and characters give ’Angel’ longevity
By Mark Dawidziak
Monday 9 February 2004, by Webmaster
Biting stories and characters give ’Angel’ longevity
Mark Dawidziak Plain Dealer Television Critic
Angel is celebrating his 100th. No, not his birthday. The brooding title character of the WB’s supernatural series long ago passed that milestone.
Let’s see, he was turned into a vampire in 1753. He was 26 at the time. For those of you keeping score at home, that means ol’ Angel isn’t a day under 276.
The landmark at stake here is the show’s 100th episode, which will air at 9 tonight on WBNX Channel 55. It will be a charismatic event, to be sure, because it reunites series star David Boreanaz with former regular Charisma Carpenter, who returns for a guest-star appearance as Cordelia Chase.
Cordelia lapsed into a coma at the end of last season. In tonight’s centennial episode, titled "You’re Welcome," she mysteriously awakens to find that Angel and his team are no longer battling the evil law firm of Wolfram & Hart. They are running it.
Believing that Angel, a vampire cursed with a conscience and a soul, has lost his desire to be a hero, Cordelia tries to get him flying back in the right direction. None too soon, it seems, for Lindsay (guest star Christian Kane) is plotting Angel’s downfall.
Cordelia, though, need not worry about Angel’s flight pattern in the ratings. In the middle of its fifth season, "Angel" remains one of the WB’s most popular shows with young adults.
Building on last year’s strong fourth season, the paranormal program also is soaring in terms of quality. Executive producer Joss Whedon gave the already healthy show a transfusion of fresh blood by adding James Marsters’ Spike character to the mix - as if the series needed more bite, with its sly mix of urban drama, horror, suspense, action and fang-in-cheek humor.
Marsters had been a regular on Whedon’s "Buffy the Vampire Slayer." But when that UPN series called it quits last year, Spike was asked to drag his coffin over to the "Buffy" spinoff, "Angel."
The results have been, well, bloody good. Why?
"The writing, it’s always the writing," Marsters told a group of TV critics in Hollywood. "And it’s really good this year."
Yes, it is. This may be the best season yet for "Angel," which premiered in October 1999.
"I do feel like there’s a new energy this year," said Whedon, who created the series with David Greenwalt. "You know, obviously, bringing James in and shaking up the cast a little bit and just having the mission statement of making the show accessible to people who haven’t seen it before, sort of really kept us on our toes.
"We were in that very, very dark place last year, and I love last year’s show very much, but it was this one dark kind of thing. . . . Everything was just very sort of Gothic, and it weighs on you when you’re working on it. . . . If you’re making comedy, you do laugh occasionally, so there’s kind of a lighter spirit this year."
Boreanaz believes that, as good as the show has been in the past, this is the season the characters have come into their own.
"I think each character is identified," he said. "As every season’s gone on, we’ve each identified with where our point of view is coming from. I mean, this year, being in the law offices of Wolfram & Hart has changed our perspective, how we relate to each other. And I think that each character now can really stand on its own and deliver a great story. So I think we . . . are taking that into a new level."
So what could be wrong in the "Angel" world? For one thing, there’s some question about whether there will be a sixth season. It’s a heart-stopping notion for fans of the vampire heartthrob.
The WB wants it back, but Whedon is not saying for certain he will return. Some believe the writer-producer is smarting over the network’s reported doubts about picking up his show for a fifth season.
"Last year, there was some doubt as to whether we were coming back," Whedon said. "This doubt was not something that I was actually informed about. . . . That was a bit of an eye-opener. I do think this has been a strong year for us . . . so it feels to me like the new energy could propel us into more seasons. And I very much hope it does."
Perhaps hedging its bets in the realm of the undead, the WB has greenlighted a pilot from "The West Wing" producer John Wells for another vampire series. Wells is working with "Dark Shadows" creator Dan Curtis on casting choices for another prime-time remake of the supernatural soap opera about the original vampire with a conscience, Barnabas Collins.
Whedon says he is unaware of the possibility that there will be a new vampire on the WB block.
"Clearly, I’m the 97th guy to use the vampire metaphor to tell stories," he said. "I have no problem with there being a 98th. . . . It does not strike terror in my heart."