Angels and demons and monsters, oh my!
Not even the death of Buffy could stop this popular show from coming back for a third season. This time around, Angel must find melodrama in new and interesting places, and luckily for fans of the show, he succeeds admirably. In fact, I feel that the death of Buffy was a good thing, as it forced the writers to push this show into its own territory, and helped to give the whole production a voice and an identity all its own.
Newcomers to the show (like myself)…may find themselves completely lost as to what is going on in the first few episodes. Luckily, my wife knew enough of the back story to fill me in on the plot lines, but it was still quite a learning curve. (The addition of a brief “Previously, on Angel” segment would be most welcome on future DVD seasons.) The good news is, the episodes fit together nicely, and once you watch a few, it becomes easier and easier to discern what is going on with this odd band of characters.
This is a decent program, but it is certainly not one of the greats. This show, along with sister program Buffy the Vampire Slayer, sticks fiercely to its tried and true formula of a teen action soap-opera, virtually refusing to branch out into any new ground, for fear of being the target of fan backlash. One of Buffy’s best traits is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. With Angel, however, everything is all-too-serious, and the show takes many leaps of faith as a result. Am I honestly supposed to take a green, red horned, zoot-suit-wearing metrosexual lounge singer seriously? Can someone comment on the extreme absurdity of this, please? Surely I am not the only one that finds this amusing.
People love this show, and I certainly can’t fault them for that. If you dig it, that’s great; you’ll probably love this release. However, while I have been very impressed with some of Joss Whedon’s other projects, this is one that, personally, I just don’t get.
The soundtrack provided with these episodes is simply tragic. Audio is presented in Dolby Stereo, but it is very muddy, with bass tones that sound like they have been recorded under water. Dialog is especially bad, making many lines quite difficult to discern even at moderate volume levels. The narrow sound field presented across the front speakers doesn’t help matters much, either.
Music and sound effects sound decent, but without the support of dialog, the message of the show is lost. Television programs that are mixed for broadcast should always be re-mastered before they are released on DVD. It seems that nobody took the time to complete this all-important step on Angel. I sincerely hope that this problem is corrected in the future.
Luckily, the superb video quality goes a long way to redeem the poorly-presented audio track. Nary a blemish is to be found on the entire six-disc set. Even most summer blockbusters have an occasional flaw on the DVD master, but this transfer is absolutely perfect. The image is crystal clear, and the action looks fantastic. Fox deserves some major accolades for this transfer.
From a technical standpoint, the lighting is also excellent in these episodes. Exterior nighttime scenes look great, with objects at a distance illuminated as well as those directly in front of the camera. At the same time, however, the shots retain their dark feel, and avoid that 1960’s, “filtered daylight” look. For a weekly series, somebody has really taken their time to make sure this series is lit just right.
The addition of decent camera work and nice framing insure that this series looks better on disc than many modern feature films.
Here’s an insider secret… sometimes, the products that a studio will send out for review aren’t exactly the same as the final versions that are made available to consumers. In this case, I was only sent discs 1 and 6 of this six-disc set. Usually, that wouldn’t be a problem, except that many of the special features are on discs 2-5. These include commentaries on three episodes, deleted scenes with commentary on two episodes, and season three outtakes from the show. One of the three featurettes (“Darla: Deliver Us From Evil”) is also included on one of these “lost discs”. Unfortunately, as a result of the welcome practice of spreading the extras out across the discs, I am only able to review those extras that were made available to me.
What’s worse, the special features that were provided to me are not all that great. The still gallery is a basic collection of promotional photographs, with no candid behind the scenes shots. Two screen tests are also included, one for Amy Acker and one for Vincent Kartheiser. While these are mildly interesting scenes, they really add nothing but poor video quality to the set. Audition tapes would have been much more fun and entertaining.
Two more featurettes are on disc six. The first is a fairly lengthy “Season 3 Overview”, that is completely unnecessary if you have already watched season three. The whole piece basically consists of a synopsis of each episode from the third season, along with extensive scenes from each episode. The other is a “Page to Screen” segment, which walks viewers through the process of making the show, from brainstorming the script though post production. I typically really enjoy this sort of thing, but this one is boring. Very, very boring. It’s actually so dull that sitting through a full production meeting would prove to be more entertaining.
Maybe there are some great commentaries and deleted scenes on the discs that I didn’t receive to review; I can’t say. What I can tell you is that the extras included on disc six are seriously lacking. Then again, extras are not the primary reason consumers purchase TV on DVD product.
If you are a fan or a collector of this show, then you will surely want to add this set to your collection. Aside from the questionable audio, this is a nice set with some great visuals that is worth the price.
Newcomers to the WB’s brand of teen fantasy and sci-fi, however, may want to check out creator Joss Whedon’s true masterpiece, Firefly, now available in its entirety on DVD (and reviewed on this site). For my money, that series towers head and shoulders above this one.
Special Features List
- Commentary on selected episodes
- Deleted scenes with commentary
- Three featurettes
- Screen tests
- Still gallery