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5.0 out of 5 stars Beginning the critical investigation of "Angel", 18 Nov 2005
By 
Lawrance M. Bernabo (The Zenith City, Duluth, Minnesota) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME REVIEWER)    (VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul (Paperback)
"Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off With a Soul" is a collection of essays by academics from mostly the U.K. edited by Stacey Abbott, a Lecturer in Film and Television Studies at Roehampton University. Abbott does the introductory essay, "Kicking Ass and Singing 'Mandy': A Vampire in LA," that covers a lot of ground in touching on the moral ambiguity of Angel/Angelus, the elements of contradiction and self-parody, and the generic hybridity and Angel's visual style. That certainly gives you a sense of the scope of topic covered in these essays. More importantly, if you are not an academic, you should still be able to look at those topics and figure out what most of them are going to be about. After all, you do not need advanced degrees to recognize things like moral ambiguity and self-parody on "Angel," although generic hybridity might take some thought. On balance, fans of the late lamented WB series will find insights of interest in most of these chapters, although be forewarned there are some points where these academics dive into the deep end and start throwing names and theories around fast and furious.
Part One, "It Was a Seminal Show Cancelled by the Idiot Networks": Narrative and Style on "Angel": (1) "'Angel': Redefinition and Justification through Faith" by Phil Colvin looks at the character of Faith as being paradigmatic of the show and the character's mission statement; (2) "'Ubi Caritas'?: Music as Narrative Agent in 'Angel'" by Matthew Mills is a cursory look at the pivotal role music played in the show; (3) "Transitions and Time: The Cinematic Language of 'Angel'" by Tammy A. Kinsey looks at the visual transitions, prophetic visions and other cinematic experimentations, proving that there were was logic and significance to all those high speed montages; and (4) "A Sense of the Ending: Schrodinger's 'Angel'" by Roz Kaveney looks at senses of ending provided by the final season and episode, taking into consideration the possibility of a sixth season or future television movies.
Part Two: "The Big Wacky Variety Show We Call Los Angeles": The City of "Angel": (5) "Los Angelus: The City of Angel" by Benjamin Jacob details how elements of the real L.A. are combined with those from film noir, ; (6) "Outing Lorne: Performance for the Performers" by Stan Beeler examines the character as the microcosm to the macrocosm of the L.A. entertainment industry as well as high camp, and (7) "'LA's got it all': Hybridity and Otherness in "Angel"'s Postmodern City" by Sara Upstone considers the city as representing the Other, which makes it ideal for the a vampire with a soul.
Part Three: "Hell Incorporated": Wolfram & Hart's Big Bad: (8) "Gender Politics in 'Angel': Traditional vs. Non-Traditional Corporate Climates" by Janine R. Harrison contrasts how Lilah Morgan and Kate Lockley function in traditional corporate climates while Cordelia Chase and Fred Burkle become actualized in non-traditional corporate climates; (9) "The Rule of Prophecy: Source of Law in the City of 'Angel'" by Sharon Sutherland and Sarah Swan considers the show as riffing on the law genre and then links it to the rule of prophecy, which is not an obvious way to go but certainly interesting.
Part Four: "Trapped in What I Can Only Describe as a Turgid Supernatural Soap Opera": Issues of Genre and Masculinity in "Angel": (10) "The Dark Avenger: Angel and the Cinematic Superhero" by Janet K. Halfyard compares Angel to Superman and Batman, as well as recent cinematic vampires; (11) "'And Her Tears Flowed Like Wine': Wesley/Lilah and the Complicated(?) Role of the Female Agent on 'Angel': by Jennifer Stoy focus on the couple as the unlikely source of redemption and renewal in season four; (12) "From Rogue in the 'Hood to Suave in a Suit: Black Masculinity and the Transformation of Charles Gunn" by Michaela D. E. Meyer argues that Gunn's transformation questions the idea of black masculinity; (13) "'Nobody Scream...or Touch My Arms': The Comic Stylings of Wesley Wyndam-Pryce" by Stacey Abbott makes an interesting comparison between Angel and Wesley with Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, developing both the importance of Wesley's comic relief in the early seasons and his ultimate transformation into something more; and (14) "'Angel''s Monstrous Monsters and Vampires with Souls: Investigating the Abject in 'Television Horror'" by Matt Hills and Rebecca Williams looks at how the show achieved horror despite violating generic categories.
Part Five: "Let's Go to Work": The Afterlife of the Spin-off with a Soul: (15) "Afterword: The Depth of 'Angel" and the Birth of 'Angel' Studies" by Rhonda V. Wilcox and David Lavery looks at how academics are starting to write about the show more now that it is over, although not nearly as much as they do about "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," and (16) "'We'll Follow "Angel" to Hell...or Another Network": The Fan Response to the End of 'Angel'" is a brief look at the effort to save the show.
The back of the book has a list of "Angel" episodes, and a list of articles and convention papers for Further Reading, some of which will be accessible only to academics who attended the "Slayage" Conference on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but others of which are available online and several of which are already in various "BtVS" criticism books sitting up on my shelf. The idea is that this collection constitutes a start to further critical explorations of the vampire with a soul and the Fang Gang (sorry, that just does not have the same cache as the Scoobies on "BtVS") and I already have ideas for a couple of essays.
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Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul
Reading Angel: The TV Spin-off with a Soul by Stacey Abbott (Paperback - 27 May 2005)
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