Angel Season 1 DVD Set
Starring:
David Boreanaz, Charisma Carpenter
Directed By:
Joss Whedon, etc.
Grade
A-

Spin-offs of popular television series rarely do well. In fact, most don't last a season before being pulled. When Angel broke off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, creator Joss Whedon and producer David Greenwalt took a risk. Luckily, their risk paid off in a series that is not only popular, but arguably holds its own against the show that spawned it. Instead of being based on a more personal, intimate setting of a small town with close friends nearby, Angel takes place in Los Angeles, where the everyday demon sighting doesn't seem so unreal, and even a bit metaphoric.

But, then again, Whedon's (and staff) writing has always dealt with metaphor. With Buffy, events that she had to deal with were often metaphors of being a teen. In Angel, the metaphors may not come so often, but they deal with subjects like trying to fit in, premarital and unwanted pregnancy and telling the truth to your friends.

David Boreanaz seems right at home in his role of Angel, a vampire who deals with his personal conflict everyday. Due to a gypsy curse, he has a human soul, which makes him an anomaly. Because of this soul, he fights to help mankind as penance for his crimes. In Buffy, he was merely a back-up character, playing romantic foil and an occasional villain as a device to create tension, but now as the main character, he gains a lot more depth. Boreanaz is a strong focus by which the rest of the series is built around.

To go with Boreanaz is a strong cast of regulars and guest spots. Before watching season one, if anyone had told you that both Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) and Wesley (Alexis Denisof) were going to be major players, you might have written the show off. Both were barely more than one dimensional in Buffy, but once they take major roles on Angel, you see them evolve and develop into people that grow a relationship and connection with Angel. And, the character Doyle (Glenn Quinn) provides a wonderfully humorous counter to the more dark and serious Angel. Once Doyle is gone, Wesley manages to take over that role well.

While there is not a major story arc, except to setup the characters and the conflict between Angel and Wolfram & Hart, the way the episodes are linked together lends towards a lot of character development. One of the strengths of the show is that no matter how grim things get, there's always a moment or two for a good laugh to balance everything out. And, while not every episode tends to hit the mark, for the most part, the first season of the series is well done. My only complaint with the first season was that there was still that umbilical cord to Buffy, where scenes and episodes were still "cross-overed" and didn't allow for the show to grow independent (which has become more the case when Buffy left the WB).

I wish that the first season was formatted in widescreen like later seasons, but it really makes no major difference. The video transfer on the DVD set is clear, if only above TV transmission standards. Audio is well handled and the 6 disc set does include commentary for the episodes.

Considering Angel hasn't gone into syndication like Buffy did when Season One came out for that series, this set is a must buy for fans. The first season of Angel was a wonderful success when it came out, so getting a DVD set so early is like a fine bonus. Those uninitiated to the series might want to watch some of the episodes on TV before investing, but I find the first season of Angel to be one of the better offerings in some time.

- - Kinderfeld

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