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Joss Whedon Angel episodes, why not as good

Btvs fan

Scooby
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OK So Joss has written a number of Angel episodes, yet unlike with Buffy most of them get no where near most people's Top 10. Why do you think that is and what are his best in people's views ?
List of episodes below
Angel
Season 1
Season 2
  • "Judgment" (co-writer, with David Greenwalt)
  • "Untouched" (director) (also written 95% of the episode though he's uncredited)
  • "Happy Anniversary" (co-writer, with David Greenwalt)
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
 

Priceless

Scooby
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When I see them like that it makes me think Whedon took a few years to get into Angel. The early episodes are poor to mediocre, but from Season 3's Waiting in The Wings, he'd found his Angel groove.
 
B
Btvs fan
You didnt like Sanctuary ?

Myheadsgonenumb

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I think a part of it may be because he has a clearer idea of what Buffy is as a show, he has a story to tell and knows exactly how to tell it. It's very rooted in metaphor, both with the monsters they face and the idea of high school being hell and the slayer's journey being the path to adulthood. Whereas Angel is ... just a show about a handsome man who rescues damsels in alleyways. It didn't have as clear a focus and didn't have that same hook which made it different (men doing the rescuing are ten a penny) so they had to play around with it a bit more to find out what it was.

I love Angel the series, and don't particularly care for the metaphor aspects of Buffy (high school was fine, thank you - and the last thing anyone needs is tragic people in their 30s trying to relate to the youth) but I would guess the difference in the quality of his episodes come from him having a very clear direction in one show and being a bit more experimental and take it as it goes in the other. The experimental aspect of Angel means that when it works it really works and when they miss the mark they really miss the mark - and that goes for all the writers. In many ways, as groundbreaking as Buffy is, in terms of how they do television it can feel much safer - Buffy is never broken down to the extent they break Angel, even at her lowest and she never loses to the extent that Angel does - either team members or her own path (or soul).

Having said that, even on Buffy not all Whedon episodes are created equal. Ted is a Whedon episode and it's good - but I've never heard anyone put it in their top ten. Family in season 5 is equally ... fine, but unless you're a huge Tara fan, it isn't better than most of the other season 5 episodes. People bang on about Lie to Me - but I find it to be a total snooze fest. yeah I get it, 'you have a choice - you don't have a good choice but you have a choice' is the theme of Buffy, right - that's one line, I'm asleep the other 40 minutes. And I doubt it actually makes many top ten lists because there are so many others that are so much better.

on the other hand, I bet 'smile time', 'a hole in the world', 'not fade away,', 'waiting in the wings' and maybe even 'spin the bottle' make it into quite a few people's top ten lists. In fact - that's half a top ten list right there. And I bet the Faith two parter makes a few top ten lists, so that's 'sanctuary' in there as well.
'city of' is the pilot - expected that to make a top ten list is like expecting 'welcome to the hellmouth' to be top ten. Realistically, if one of your best ten episodes ever is the very first one - you sort of have a problem.
'Judgement' is a season opener - I like it, but then I like all the Buffy season openers - plenty of people aren't wild about 'The Freshman' which is a Joss episode. A lot of people don't love the openers he writes and that would cover 'conviction' as well.

I'd say the only bad episodes he writes are 'I fall to pieces' (and that's only story by - not actually written by ... plus I like it) and 'Happy Anniversary'. Both of these are pretty straight forward procedural episodes - and his straight forward Buffy episodes aren't the best of the best. The Joss episodes people remember are the event episodes - Hush, OMWF, The Body - he doesn't start doing more experimental or event episodes of Angel himself (though others have done them) until s3 - and everything he writes from s3 onward is likely to be on people's top ten lists.

I think he's just better at the big or special episodes than he is at the normal ones - and he does more big episodes over on Buffy.

So I'd say it was a mixture of writing more Buffy episodes, him personally trying more experimental ideas on Buffy and making event episodes - he tends to leave that to others on Angel, and him being more invested in Buffy because it is a show with themes he has crafted and developed and has very precise ideas about, whereas Angel is a show he is making up on the fly.

But I would say it's unfair to categorise his later work on Angel as not being on people's top ten list - the season opener apart (and even that comes with one of his long single shots) all his s5 episodes are classics.
 
B
Btvs fan
When it comes to the writing I always thought Tim Minear was the best writer on Angel

AlphaFoxtrot

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Yeah, most of those Season 1&2 Episodes sound like Buffy Episodes. Girl Power works well in Buffy, but doesn't really port over to Angel very. It's common knowledge Joss & co could never really get Angel. That's why the scenario changed every season. So by season 3, he seems to understand he doesn't get the show, and limits himself to the high concept episodes. Plus, I don't think existentialism works very well as the moral basis of the series. I think it works well enough for High School Students who do have a lot of choices to make, but for Angel, his whole quest for redemption only works if a Higher Power plans on forgiving him, which they were always on fence about. Otherwise, he should have turned out like Spike, where he admits that he was a soulless vampire, it's kind of what he did, let me get back to trying to sleep with college aged girls. Which to be fair, is what Sartre would have approved of, and probably what Joss likes most about the philosophy as well.
 

white avenger

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I was never a big fan of the show when it was first airing. In fact, I never saw more than half a dozen episodes before it went into syndication on a local station, so maybe I'm not a really qualified judge here, but if these are the least popular shows, and Joss wants to blame it on some other writer, I see just a little ego shining through his argument.

I never saw Angel himself as a really great central character for a series. The hero trying to atone for his dark past by spending his life helping the weak and innocent is one of those themes that just doesn't grab me all that well (maybe because I was always more a fan of Superman than Batman) Angel, to me, was a great supporting character, he made a good sidekick for Buffy, but he just never really felt right to me as a central figure, and it wasn't until his support cast began overdeveloping (and they got rid of the cliched drunken Irish demon, Doyle) that I thought that the show came into its own.
 

WillowFromBuffy

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"City of" is gold, though, and it makes me think that AtS could have done very well with Joss as showrunner. Fans make a big deal out of Joss saying he can't write Angel, but that is some of the best writing for Angel, certainly up to that point.
 

Btvs fan

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I was never a big fan of the show when it was first airing. In fact, I never saw more than half a dozen episodes before it went into syndication on a local station, so maybe I'm not a really qualified judge here, but if these are the least popular shows, and Joss wants to blame it on some other writer, I see just a little ego shining through his argument.

I never saw Angel himself as a really great central character for a series. The hero trying to atone for his dark past by spending his life helping the weak and innocent is one of those themes that just doesn't grab me all that well (maybe because I was always more a fan of Superman than Batman) Angel, to me, was a great supporting character, he made a good sidekick for Buffy, but he just never really felt right to me as a central figure, and it wasn't until his support cast began overdeveloping (and they got rid of the cliched drunken Irish demon, Doyle) that I thought that the show came into its own.
Its all personal preference but I always felt the best writers was Tim Minear. Episodes like AYNOHYEB and Darla have much more impact imo while episodes like Happy Anniversary just aren't good. While Waiting in the Wings felt like Joss just liked Balet and no other reason
 
Myheadsgonenumb
Myheadsgonenumb
It's not ballet he likes - it's Amy Acker. He wrote it specifically because he found out she was a ballerina. Charisma Carpenter was a ballerina ... she never got a special ballet episode to show off her skills.

Faded90

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Unpopular opinion perhaps but Sanctuary is by far the worst episode of the 4 Faith centred episodes this year. In this episode Faith is reduced to being a plot device, it’s the climax of her story where she’s finally crashed back down to Earth but we get very little insight into her motivations or feelings other than the rooftop scene with Buffy. A lot of it is just Angel’s usual redemption platitudes without any kind of real plan going forward. I’m so glad they were able to get Eliza back for S4/7 as that was the proper ending her character deserved.

Also another unpopular opinion perhaps but Buffy, Wes, Cordy and Faith are all fine in this episode and act within how we would expect their characters to react. Angel however is completely insufferable and his lack of empathy for Buffy and Wes is staggering - which I genuinely don’t believe Angel would dismiss their pain so easily

Basically I’ve just never found this a very well written episode. I don’t like the victim blaming of it and I think it kind of adds to Joss not really fully getting Angel’s character.
 

Priceless

Scooby
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Btvs fan You didnt like Sanctuary ?

I really enjoy Sanctuary, but I think Buffy being in the mix gives Whedon a base for his writing. He know's what he's doing when he's writing a Buffy/Angel or Buffy/Faith relationship.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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He does like ballet, I recall reading an interview once where directing a ballet was one of his artistic ambitions. That it would be six weeks with a cast of young, fit, and petite women is no doubt a coincidence. Besides, that episode was a favor for Summer Glau.

Re; Cordelia; Amy was younger, and may have still been in condition. Charisma was 30 by then, if she hadn't danced in ten years, or had an injury, she couldn't do it. I mean, both Amy and Summer quit professional after injuries, almost all dancers get an injury at some point. Dance is weird.
 

Btvs fan

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He does like ballet, I recall reading an interview once where directing a ballet was one of his artistic ambitions. That it would be six weeks with a cast of young, fit, and petite women is no doubt a coincidence. Besides, that episode was a favor for Summer Glau.

Re; Cordelia; Amy was younger, and may have still been in condition. Charisma was 30 by then, if she hadn't danced in ten years, or had an injury, she couldn't do it. I mean, both Amy and Summer quit professional after injuries, almost all dancers get an injury at some point. Dance is weird.
I did wonder if that got Summer Glau the role on Firefly or whether she had the role already by that point ?
 

Myheadsgonenumb

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I remember Amy Acker talking about it in an interview - she was laughing because he found out she was a dancer and went off to write a dance episode without ever asking her when she was a dancer. She hadn't danced in years. She got into acting once she quit dancing.

I'm not saying Charisma needed a ballet episode - she didn't - I'm just saying he'd known her for six years at this point and it had never once crossed his mind to incorporate her skill. He's known Amy Acker six months and he builds an entire episode around a dream sequence of her dancing which ultimately has to end up on the cutting room floor because it had no bearing on the rest of the story.

It wasn't the ballet he wanted to write about.
 

Btvs fan

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I remember Amy Acker talking about it in an interview - she was laughing because he found out she was a dancer and went off to write a dance episode without ever asking her when she was a dancer. She hadn't danced in years. She got into acting once she quit dancing.

I'm not saying Charisma needed a ballet episode - she didn't - I'm just saying he'd known her for six years at this point and it had never once crossed his mind to incorporate her skill. He's known Amy Acker six months and he builds an entire episode around a dream sequence of her dancing which ultimately has to end up on the cutting room floor because it had no bearing on the rest of the story.

It wasn't the ballet he wanted to write about.
He hadn't even wanted her on the show. It was Greenwalt (Greenie as Charisma calls him) who pushed for her and when he left Ats at the end of S3, the writing was on the wall for Cordy.
She says she was promised she'd have a job back on Buffy if the spin off failed but for the life of me I'm not sure how the High school bitch trope works out of high school and she was developed so much on Ats its noticable when they regress her in Crossover scenes "I thought she was a great big lesbo" 😬
Plus you had Spike and then Anya filling that style of role already on Buffy.
Then on top of all that her fractious relationship with SMG whose the lead and I'm not sure how it would've worked or if should've done.
 

AlphaFoxtrot

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Well, that's ballet. Come for the pretty girls, stay for the exquisite art of the human body in motion. Stay further for the nicotine laced salacious gossip.

Re: Return of Cordie; eh, I don't think that was an unconditional guarantee. Like, if the show fails within the initial run of 13 episodes, they would some way to return her to the series, same probably went with D.B. I doubt anyone thought Angel would be cancelled, not with Buffy as a lead in.

Re: City of; That's because he didn't try to outsmart anyone. Angel is now Batman, he solves a human trafficking case, then fights a guy from "Dallas." However, the pilot is always the series the network wants, not what the writers want it to be.
 

Fuffy Baith

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Sineya
Angel
Season 1
Season 2
  • "Judgment" (co-writer, with David Greenwalt)
  • "Untouched" (director) (also written 95% of the episode though he's uncredited)
  • "Happy Anniversary" (co-writer, with David Greenwalt)
What I notice here is that 4 of these are co-written by David Greenwalt. I think Joss and Greenwalt had different visions for the direction of Angel. I love Sanctuary, I like Judgment, I even like Untouched. Happy Anniversary is not good.

Season 3
Lots of people love Waiting in the Wings, I think it's a good episode but I don't love it, I think it's a good concept though.
Season 4
This feels like a Joss episode, I like Spin the Bottle, but there's some stuff that is gross and sexist that wouldn't fly today.
Season 5
These are all good episodes, most people love Smile Time and A Hole in the World, and I like Not Fade Away. So, I think by season 5 Joss figured out what he was doing with Angel. I personally loved the detective noir element that Greenwalt really wanted in the first two seasons. Season 4 we don't talk about, but season 5 was an improvement.
 
B
Btvs fan
I would argue Happy Anniversary (which is awful) story about a guy's manpain because his girlfriend is going to break up with him, is very Joss Whedon

Faded90

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I can't believe he wrote Happy Anniversary which along with Provider is one of two least favorite episodes of the entire series. His other episodes are all decent if not great. I can't believe he didn't write more episodes though.
Happy Anniversary is awful. Like it was actually really twisted what that guy was doing but he’s just treat as a sad sack because he’s a bit of a geek and they have beers with him
 

Btvs fan

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Happy Anniversary is awful. Like it was actually really twisted what that guy was doing but he’s just treat as a sad sack because he’s a bit of a geek and they have beers with him
Yep he was basically imprisoning that girl forever with somone she is going to break up with yet its his pain we as an audience are meant to sympathise with. Angel and Lorne even take him for a beer :confused:
 
Fuffy Baith
Fuffy Baith
Yes, Happy Anniversary does feel like Joss, and not everything Joss does is great, and this is not.

WillowFromBuffy

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I can't believe he wrote Happy Anniversary which along with Provider is one of two least favorite episodes of the entire series. His other episodes are all decent if not great. I can't believe he didn't write more episodes though.
I like both of those.
 

Faded90

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Yep he was basically imprisoning that girl forever with somone she is going to break up with yet its his pain we as an audience are meant to sympathise with. Angel and Lorne even take him for a beer :confused:
Yep, he’s essentially killing her because her life would be over - trapped in some kind of time freeze where she is having sex with him forever
 
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