Angel is the hit spin-off from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the hugely successful cult TV show, which is set in the fictional town of Sunnydale, California, USA. It follows the character Angel, played by David Boreanaz, to Los Angeles as he tries to start a new life after his love affair with Buffy, and redeem his soul by aiding others.
After the unexpected success of Buffy, Joss Whedon1 decided to branch the show out, with one of the show's most popular characters as the hero, and with one or two other characters in tow. So, with the help of David Greenwalt2 taking on more responsibility from his job on Buffy, Angel was born. This proved to be a fortunate move for the original show, as the doomed relationship between vampire and vampire slayer had nowhere else to go, despite the delirious yearnings of legions of fans. With Angel moving to LA, he was close enough to appear in Buffy from time to time without ending the story through overkill.
Angel himself is a character with endless possibilities, especially as he has a 240-something year history from which to generate stories.
Angel started life as Liam, an Irish layabout, who spent his time avoiding work, getting drunk, and fighting with his family, among others. One night coming out of a bar, when he was in his 20s, Angel met a woman in an alleyway. Drunk and intrigued, Angel was easily taken by the woman who turned out to be his sire, Darla. So began Angel's unlife as a vampire.
The first thing he did in his new existence was to kill his family, taking particular pleasure in ending his father's life. And so it went on, a hundred years of killing and torturing. Angel became one of the most vicious vampires in history; more than a killer, he drove his victims insane, killing their family members before taking them.
Then, one night, Angel drank from a gypsy girl Darla had brought for him. This girl turned out to be the favourite daughter of her tribe, and so they conjured the perfect torture for him: they restored Angel's soul. To have a conscience and to have done the things Angel had done, meant eternal torture.
After a hundred years of brooding and anguish, Angel was finally given a purpose by a demon named Whistler. He saw the young, shallow Buffy discovering her destiny, and resolved to help her when the time came. A year later, when the Slayer arrived in Sunnydale, he was on hand to help her. At first he was merely the mysterious stranger, but soon he developed into a regular character. In time, Buffy and Angel fell in love and, on her 17th birthday, they consummated their relationship.
Of course, this ended in tragedy. The curse had granted Angel his soul, but when he experienced a moment of true happiness the soul would be gone again, and the demon Angelus would return. The returned Angelus set about torturing Buffy, her friends and even killing her Watcher's girlfriend. Ultimately, the last remnants of humanity - passion and hatred - left Angelus. He had become a true monster, and attempted to end the world. In order to stop him, Buffy was forced to send her love to Hell. Tragically, just before his resulting damnation, Angel's soul was returned, and the two lovers shared one final kiss before the Slayer was forced to kill him.
By some quirk of fate, Angel was returned to Earth, to fulfil his destiny. After a year of fighting their desires, Angel made the decision to leave Sunnydale, so he wouldn't cause Buffy any further pain.
And so, Angel has ended up in Los Angeles, the City of Angels.
Angel in LA
In LA, Angel meets up with another Sunnydale escapee, Cordelia Chase - played by Charisma Carpenter. Cordelia was the most popular girl in high school, rich and beautiful, but because she found out the truth about demons and vampires, she became more and more involved with the Slayer and her Slayerettes. When she was in her senior year at high school, Cordelia's family lost all their money, and she left Sunnydale in order to become an actress.
At first reluctant to join Angel in his fight against evil, Cordelia becomes more and more involved. Halfway into the season, she inherits powers as a seer, receiving messages from the powers that be (PTB) and acting as a link for Angel. Because of this, she is now inextricably involved in the fight against evil, and has evolved from the shallow high school girl she once was while retaining that tactless charm she had.
However, Angel's first link to the PTB was an Irish half human, half Bracken demon, named Doyle (Glenn Quinn). He too, was reluctant to help Angel, but showed his true colours after forging a close relationship with the vampire. He also developed a crush on Cordelia, which she attempted to ignore, but was beginning to return just before tragedy struck.
An organisation named 'The Scourge', a band of demons who hated anything with the slightest bit of humanity in it, had produced a machine which would kill anything possessing humanity as soon as its light touched them. The only way to stop the machine was for a creature with humanity in it to throw itself on the light. Angel was about to sacrifice himself when Doyle threw him out of the way and went instead. Although, not before kissing Cordelia and transferring his powers as a seer to her.
Soon after Doyle's death, Wesley (Alexis Denisof) arrived on the scene. Wesley is also a Buffy character, a former Watcher turned rogue demon hunter. After aiding Angel in saving Cordelia, Wesley hung around, finally becoming one of the staff at Angel Investigations - the detective agency Angel, Cordelia and Doyle set up. His talents lie in research, although he can fight effectively when the need arises, despite his extreme 'Englishness'. He and Cordelia had a semi-relationship in Buffy, but it fizzled out and doesn't seem to have continued in the first series of Angel.
The basic premise of Angel is that the four main characters are all looking for redemption, Angel in particular. In order to do this, they help lost souls through the detective agency.
The 'Buffyverse' conditions are also continued in Angel - vampires and demons inhabit LA, as they do Sunnydale. Heavily involved in this mysticism are the PTB. These celestial forces have given Angel his purpose - to join the fight against evil. They let him know of people who need his help through the visions they send to Doyle or, latterly, to Cordelia. It seems that they were the ones who brought Angel back from Hell to achieve his destiny. His reward for fulfilling it will be to become human again.
An interesting aspect of Angel is the crossover episodes that occur with Buffy. This allows continuity between the series, and allows the writers to develop far bigger storylines and character arcs. There's also the added bonus of having guest stars appear in both shows. For the first season, these involved mainly Buffy and Angel, but as the show has been a huge success, more characters are sure to make appearances.
As with Buffy, the scoring is done by the Emmy award-winning Christophe Becke. His incidental music characterised the whole of Buffy, and provides Angel with a familiar feel, while also giving the show a darker tone.
The theme tune is performed by Darling Violetta, a band who first appeared on Buffy. The show has continued the Buffy tradition of searching out new and obscure bands and giving them an opportunity to perform. Because of this, demand for a soundtrack has already reached fever pitch.
When Buffy started, no-one knew it would be the success it was. In fact, many people thought it would flop straight away. With Angel, the expectations were higher, but even the show's creators were surprised by its success. At the end of the first season, Angel had even beaten Buffy into third place in the network ratings, taking second place. It has been recommissioned for its second season, and looks as if it will continue to run for a long time to come.