Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Goddamn Television: A Requiem

OK, so I just finished watching the series finale of Angel, and I'm twitching-pain-in-my-upper-colon mad. So buckle up, babies: It's time to vent.

You know, for a few seasons there, I thought of Angel as Buffy the Vampire Slayers's country cousin. At first it tried too hard. So serious. Soooooooo fucking earnest. But, you know, it mostly worked. Angel was certainly appealing enough, Cordelia was a fun character (even if she was, as Karl once said, "a funny color"), and once Wes came on stage the whole thing started coming together. Granted, not in a Buffy Season 3 sort of way, but it was a damn sight better than the vast majority of stuff on TV.

And then it kinda meandered for a couple of seasons. Great stuff intermingled with the broody doom-and-gloom stuff that weighed it down all along. Then Connor came on board, and the whole thing became well-nigh unbearable. I was nearly ready to write the whole thing off.

And then, well, magic happened.

Angel Season 5. I can't remember another TV show that managed to pull off such a startling, thrilling, astonishing turnaround so long into its run. This past season of Angel has been nothing short of phenomenal. The last time I experienced a reinvention this profound and resoundingly successful was when U2 rebounded from the self-absorbed fart sniffing of "Rattle and Hum" to give violent, joyful birth to "Achtung Baby." Joss Whedon, drawing on what I can only assume was something akin to a father's bottomless love for his child, and nourished on the flesh of Firefly's corpse, took the quivering husk that was Angel season 4, chewed it up, swallowed, let it stew in his guts for a while, and somehow spit up a season of brilliance. Consistently funny. Occasionally thrilling. Sharply observed characters. The best writing he'd done in years. Truly unsettling and sad plot twists. Unexpected rehabilitations of previously assumed unfixable characters (Connor, anyone?). And a fusing of the comedic heart of Buffy with the gloomier predilections of Angel that was like a highwire act lifted straight out of Cirque de Soleil.

Monday morning quarterbacking is always a breeze. But, I mean, viewed from the EZ-chair, season 5 of Angel was jaw-dropping.

You know, this is the sort of turnaround that fans pray for. It almost never happens: Just ask anyone who suffered through the final season of Babylon 5, or to a lesser extent the Buffy fans who suffered through the astonishing lows of season 5 and made due with the slight return in the final days of season 6. It's soul-sucking and dispiriting. But hope is a crack whore, and it keeps coming back for more no matter how many times you smack it in the chops.

And why? Because when these creative resurrections occur, as they did in Angel season 5, it's like a blast of pharmaceutical grade fandom cocaine. A dazzling, mind-numbing, nipple-stiffening thrill, overstuffed with the desire for more of the same.

"How can anyone deny the brilliance of this show? See? It doesn't get any better than this! I've been right all along."

And. Well. Apparently, brilliance isn't enough. WB pulled the plug on a great show, that was finally, at long last, operating at the top of it's game. Fuck "it's" game, at the top of THE game. This was a great show. Finally, at long last, Great. Original and unusual, the sort of show that makes you think, you know, maybe there is something left to this TV thing after all.

But now it's gone.

Shocking? No. Just depressing. I wanted to be proven wrong. I wanted to be shown that TV moguls, or audiences, or both, can appreciate terrific pop art. And I wasn't. WB now has more room for reality television, and I have 1 more hour a week to read.

I won't bother going over the finale -- it was terrific. I cried about Wesley and appreciated the gravity that his death gave (a gravity that Anya's death in no way brought), and I really enjoyed the faint glimpses of humor that peeked through the obvious anger that defined this final hour.

And I was terribly angry with the conclusion, but I understand what Whedon was doing: Giving a great, big, spittle-shedding scream at the network, seizing his last chance to say "FUCK YOU" for what they did to his child. And I don't blame him a fuckin' bit.

Current Mood: angry
Current Music: Dead Can Dance, "A Passage in Time"

1 comment:

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