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Joss Whedon Angel episodes, why not as good

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  • Joss Whedon Angel episodes, why not as good

    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 1Season 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 3Season 4Season 5

  • #2
    Joss has admitted having difficulties writing Angel, particularly his character but also the show. The character had changed from Buffy's season 3 to Angel season 1 due to the change of setting and him being the centre for the show. That was probably the reason season 1 felt a bit unfocused in tone and vibe. I think Joss himself found his footing in season 5, post Buffy and Firefly and then, you know. It got cancelled.

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    • #3
      According to IMDB Smile Time is written and directed by Edlund, Whedon is just listed as co-creator of the story. So I'm inclined to exclude that one as a Whedon episode. Which is a pity since it's one of the most creative ones.
      • City of.. is a fine first episode. It serves it's purpose. But it's hardly a masterpiece.
      • I Fall to Pieces is a creepy filler episode but nothing special.
      • Sanctuary has some great moments but the conflict with Buffy doesn't work all that well. Buffy is downright abusive in two scenes. It irks me and hurts the whole episode IMO. Plus it's not nearly as good as 5x5.
      • Judgement is again a fine episode, it links s1 to s2. But only Faith's cameo is memorable.
      • Untouched is one I might have to rewatch. I never liked that episode and how it dealed with trauma. But I might have failed to pick up on some nuances.
      • Happy Anniversary is not good and just filler.
      • Waiting in the Wings is creative and something else. But that is it's biggest pro. The episode is rather average otherwise.
      • Spin the Bottle is a fun episode, the actors are amazing. The writing is not as good though. A lot of cheap jokes, the story is a Tabula Rasa rehash and a lot of opportunities are missed.
      • Conviction is another fine but blah first episode.
      • A Hole in the World is terrible. AA and AD give their best, but the writing is just too bad. Whedon has done trauma porn before, but unlike the Body (which stuttered but stayed on track in the end) AHitW is a disaster. And even if the writing was good, it's still the episode where Fred is stuffed in the fridge. Unbelievable.
      • Not Fade Away is my favourite on this list. It's not flawless, but it does really well considering everything. It's like Whedon was out of touch for nearly the whole show but managed to make contact again just in time for the final scene. That ending is one of the best final scenes I've ever seen.



      I think it was a TWoP reviewer who described Angel as Whedon's red-headed stepchild. And it certainly seems that way. His comments about the character Angel don't help either. There was no click it seems.

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      • Josh
        Josh commented
        Editing a comment
        from the way I remember things, Whedon was supposed to write and direct Smile Time.

      • Nina
        Nina commented
        Editing a comment
        I didn't know that, thanks for the info!

    • #4
      I don't think any of those episodes are bad. (A Hole in the World is mixed. There's some beautifully poetic moments, but as Nina says there's fridging in the episode.)

      I expect Whedon was still focused mainly on Buffy and Firefly, and as Greenwalt and Minear had a natural affinity to Angel, he could leave running the show in their capable hands.

      Comment


      • #5
        I really like A Hole in the World. Yes there are issues, but I also find it pretty affecting. That moment when Illyria stands up at the end is gut wrenching. I do see the issues with Fred's death now, I didn't at the time I first saw it but chatting about the episode and Cordelia's exit too, has made me see the problems in that sense. I still find the coherent character traits that played into what happened to Fred eases the negative writing elements of her exit for me, but I do see why others dislike it a little or a lot.

        I agree that Waiting in the Wings' creativity is it's greatest asset. But I do also like the themes in it and how they link in with the season. These and Spin the Bottle are the ones that stand out to me here. I do find StB a bit repetitious to TR though too.

        I would just assume that Joss' lower connection to Angel as a character to write and the commitments he had elsewhere were probably enough to explain that he doesn't have very many top level episodes in AtS.

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        • #6
          About Sanctuary: Joss wrote the Buffy scenes as a Tim Minear request.

          My fav of the list is, by far, Waiting In The Wings.

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          • #7
            Originally posted by Synch View Post
            About Sanctuary: Joss wrote the Buffy scenes as a Tim Minear request.
            That makes sense since Minear never wrote Buffy before, but it's also suprising considering the way she is portrayed in this episode. You would almost assume she is written by the Ats writer who is more interested in Angel and his journey/emancipation.








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            • #8
              Originally posted by Nina View Post

              That makes sense since Minear never wrote Buffy before, but it's also suprising considering the way she is portrayed in this episode. You would almost assume she is written by the Ats writer who is more interested in Angel and his journey/emancipation.






              Yep Tim Minear confirmed it. He said he didn't feel comfortable writing Buffy so Joss did the Buffy scenes. It seems that he wanted to show how different both shows were.

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              • #9
                I'm not sure this is entirely accurate guys. Joss didn't "co write" some of these episodes.

                For instance, both David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon are listed as "Story By" for Happy Anniversary but the "teleplay" is listed as David Greenwalt. What that normally means is both writers came up with the story together but whoever is credited with the teleplay actually wrote the episode. That's different from Whedon being a "co writer" which is listed when someone actually wrote parts of the script.

                The same goes for I Fall to Pieces. David Greenwalt is once again listed under the "Teleplay" whilst Whedon and Greenwalt are both listed under "Story By." So both writers came up with the general idea of the episode together but the script is all Greenwalt.

                In BtVS the only episode I can recall this happening with was Schoolhard where both are listed under "Story By" but Greenwalt is once again listed as under "Teleplay." So both guys heavily came up with the story together but the one who wrote the script is Greenwalt.

                So we really can't say Joss wrote either of those AtS episodes. However, he did write parts of City Of, Sanctuary and Not Fade Away as he has a "co writer" credit. With I Fall to Pieces I imagine the reason Joss had a heavy role in it's conception is because it was actually originally intended to be a BtVS S4 episode and then for whatever reason they decided to use the plot idea in AtS instead. You can see the shades of where Whedon would have had influence (it's a very Whedon-y storyline to focus on a stalker/abuse/female victim trying to reclaim her power etc) but the script was clearly not his. I always suspected that if the plot had been used in BtVS as originally intended it would have revolved around a stalker on the UC Sunnydale campus terrorising a university student in the dorms etc.

                ~ Banner by Nina ~

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                • #10
                  Originally posted by vampmogs View Post
                  I'm not sure this is entirely accurate guys. Joss didn't "co write" some of these episodes.

                  For instance, both David Greenwalt and Joss Whedon are listed as "Story By" for Happy Anniversary but the "teleplay" is listed as David Greenwalt. What that normally means is both writers came up with the story together but whoever is credited with the teleplay actually wrote the episode. That's different from Whedon being a "co writer" which is listed when someone actually wrote parts of the script.

                  The same goes for I Fall to Pieces. David Greenwalt is once again listed under the "Teleplay" whilst Whedon and Greenwalt are both listed under "Story By." So both writers came up with the general idea of the episode together but the script is all Greenwalt.

                  In BtVS the only episode I can recall this happening with was Schoolhard where both are listed under "Story By" but Greenwalt is once again listed as under "Teleplay." So both guys heavily came up with the story together but the one who wrote the script is Greenwalt.

                  So we really can't say Joss wrote either of those AtS episodes. However, he did write parts of City Of, Sanctuary and Not Fade Away as he has a "co writer" credit. With I Fall to Pieces I imagine the reason Joss had a heavy role in it's conception is because it was actually originally intended to be a BtVS S4 episode and then for whatever reason they decided to use the plot idea in AtS instead. You can see the shades of where Whedon would have had influence (it's a very Whedon-y storyline to focus on a stalker/abuse/female victim trying to reclaim her power etc) but the script was clearly not his. I always suspected that if the plot had been used in BtVS as originally intended it would have revolved around a stalker on the UC Sunnydale campus terrorising a university student in the dorms etc.
                  Its off Buffy Wiki though I added the brackets bit about Untouched.
                  Joss is often uncredited for episodes anyway. Mere Smith herself admitted he'd pretty much rewritten 95% of the Untouched and only a Lilah scene survived (forget which one) of her script.

                  IFTP felt very much like an Xfiles style episode and that was a huge influence at the time. Not least many writers and cast worked on it. I'm guessing he probably felt that Ats darker tone would handle that story better though besides the dated goofiness of the evil false teeth , I think Angel himself invalidated the message since it was him the victim of the week (can't remember the character name she was that forgettable) not her

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                  • #11
                    Originally posted by BtVS fan View Post
                    Its off Buffy Wiki though I added the brackets bit about Untouched.
                    To be honest, Buffy Wiki can be unreliable. At the end of the day anybody can go on there and write/edit whatever they like so sometimes I would recommend taking what's on there with a grain of salt. I can't count the amount of times I've seen canonical 'facts' on there that are clearly made up or pulled from non canon comics etc.

                    I'm going purely by how the credits are listed on the episodes themselves and they list Greenwalt as "Teleplay" for all 3 episodes I mentioned (I Fall to Pieces, Happy Anniversary and Schoolhard). That term is only ever used if it's accompanied with a "Story By" whereas other episodes different people are listed as "Co Writers" on them if they all penned parts of the script.

                    But yes, there's plenty of episodes where Whedon isn't credited at all in a writers capacity but he had a significant part in rewriting huge chunks of the script. That's most certainly true of BtVS and it could occasionally be true with AtS too. For instance, I am almost positive that Whedon actually wrote Angel's famous "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do" speech at the end of Epiphany despite having no writers credit on the episode. He also apparently wrote all of the Illyria/Wesley scenes throughout AtS S5. He also never listed as a "Co writer" on CWDP even though he wrote all the Buffy/Holden scenes (they explain why in the commentary but I can't recall off the top of my head the logistics of it).




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                    • TimeTravellingBunny
                      TimeTravellingBunny commented
                      Editing a comment
                      It was something about writing credits and payment that they couldn't have more than 2 people listed as co-writers, so Joss and Marti -as exec.producers - left the credits to just Jane and Drew so they'd get the payment,

                  • #12
                    Writer credits aren't very clear thanks to some bizarre rules set up by the Writers Guild. You can't really go by the writers' credit about who wrote what. We know Joss had substantial involvement in creating the episodes even if he wasn't necessarily the one who made the laps around the keyboard. That goes for all the writers. You have to nail what exactly "Written By" means, what percentage of a story warrants a credit? That's how they do it. The whole idea of Darla getting pregnant was Joss, but he didn't put pen to paper, so no credit. The whole teaser of Superstar was Joss's idea. Portions of Billy were written by Joss so Minear could come over and do Shakespeare. Joss came up with large parts of Selfless. These are just things we know from anecdotes dropped by the writers are varying times, but there's enough there to make an assessment he contributed a lot to Angel. It always seems to me like people try to downplay Joss's involvement on AtS as a way to try to differentiate it from Buffy, usually as to why they can claim it's better or worse. As for the lack of standout episodes, well, Angel as a whole has a lack of standout episodes. It's not as if every Joss ep of Buffy was a homerun, either. Lots of people say the season premieres aren't great, though I would disagree.

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by vampmogs View Post

                      To be honest, Buffy Wiki can be unreliable. At the end of the day anybody can go on there and write/edit whatever they like so sometimes I would recommend taking what's on there with a grain of salt. I can't count the amount of times I've seen canonical 'facts' on there that are clearly made up or pulled from non canon comics etc.

                      I'm going purely by how the credits are listed on the episodes themselves and they list Greenwalt as "Teleplay" for all 3 episodes I mentioned (I Fall to Pieces, Happy Anniversary and Schoolhard). That term is only ever used if it's accompanied with a "Story By" whereas other episodes different people are listed as "Co Writers" on them if they all penned parts of the script.

                      But yes, there's plenty of episodes where Whedon isn't credited at all in a writers capacity but he had a significant part in rewriting huge chunks of the script. That's most certainly true of BtVS and it could occasionally be true with AtS too. For instance, I am almost positive that Whedon actually wrote Angel's famous "If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do" speech at the end of Epiphany despite having no writers credit on the episode. He also apparently wrote all of the Illyria/Wesley scenes throughout AtS S5. He also never listed as a "Co writer" on CWDP even though he wrote all the Buffy/Holden scenes (they explain why in the commentary but I can't recall off the top of my head the logistics of it).


                      Happy Anniversary with the whole Time freeze nonsense and nerd whose girlfriend is breaking up with him, (so he tries to freeze her while having sex with her) and who we are meant to feel sympathy for because of his manpain feels very a Whedon story as opposed to Greenwalt to me.

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                      • #14
                        About the "story by"... If we take the usual creation structure (premise + break story + outline by the credited writer + notes by showrunner + script + notes by Joss + shooting draft (with additional revisions: blue, yellow, pink etc) it makes no sense the story by is only about the idea or premise. I guess is more than that: maybe the whole concept, even the outline.

                        I mean... Joss came up often with the ideas or arcs and, according to David Greenwalt, he pitched the whole Pylea idea but he hadn't a story by credit in those episodes.




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                        • #15
                          Yep, Mere Smith confirmed about Untouched and Joss rewrote:
                          https://anchor.fm/thedebatablepodcas...4ro7m/a-ak88gv (podcast from 2013, min 8)

                          About the 'If nothing we do matters, all that matters is what we do', from 2017, David Greenwalt:

                          https://paleymatters.org/angel-vampi...r-e4eacd39dc4a


                          PC: OK, so let me test your memory on something: Who came up with the line: "If nothing that we do matters, all that matters is what we do"?

                          DG: Oh, that's got to be Joss. That's 100 percent Joss.

                          PC: Angel says that to Kate at one point, when she's ready to give up. To me that line is pure existentialism.

                          DG: Yeah, that's pure Joss, which is, "Yes, there's nothing to believe in, yes, it's all meaningless; still, we must make meaning and purpose of our own."

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                          • PuckRobin
                            PuckRobin commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I was going to point to that line as a Joss Whedon contribution to Angel. It just seemed so much like Whedon's philosophy. And of course, one of the very best lines in all of Angel.

                          • flow
                            flow commented
                            Editing a comment
                            Thanks for posting the link to that interview!

                        • #16
                          Originally posted by Synch View Post
                          About the "story by"... If we take the usual creation structure (premise + break story + outline by the credited writer + notes by showrunner + script + notes by Joss + shooting draft (with additional revisions: blue, yellow, pink etc) it makes no sense the story by is only about the idea or premise. I guess is more than that: maybe the whole concept, even the outline.

                          I mean... Joss came up often with the ideas or arcs and, according to David Greenwalt, he pitched the whole Pylea idea but he hadn't a story by credit in those episodes.



                          I'm quoting myself but, according to David Greenwalt in an interview between Angel S2 and S3, the story by probably means that an individual writer, or two, did break the story instead of the usual group process:

                          How did the initial idea to do Angel come about?

                          For the first three years of Buffy I was full time and then the end of year three Joss came to me and said "What do you think about spinning Angel off into its own show?"

                          I said "I think it's a fabulous idea and I think we should bring young Charisma Carpenter who plays Cordelia Chase with us, because I think she will be a great foil for Angel, a great other side of that dark coin, that big bright girl."

                          Then we sat down and broke - which means figured out - the story. Breaking the story is almost harder than writing the stories. We broke the story, wrote the pilot and Joss directed it.

                          I was very excited, although the idea of doing two shows just seemed crazy because Joss worked so hard on Buffy. I would come in to our Buffy sets in Santa Monica, California, and he'd be here at seven in the morning, having spent the night [there], having gotten two hours of sleep.

                          He was just doing everything in those first few years and I thought "how on earth are we ever going to do two shows?" as it seemed so hard to do one. Particularly with an aim for quality - we want to do good work. Joss seems to have the energy of four men. I've the energy of maybe 1.2 men.

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                          • bespangeled
                            bespangeled commented
                            Editing a comment
                            I understand CC was an issue,. Joss didn't want her on the show but Greenwalt decided. She's been open about her difficulty remembering lines, etc. It gives context for what happened in season 4 when Greenwalt was no longer there to take her part.

                        • #17
                          Originally posted by Synch View Post

                          I'm quoting myself but, according to David Greenwalt in an interview between Angel S2 and S3, the story by probably means that an individual writer, or two, did break the story instead of the usual group process:

                          How did the initial idea to do Angel come about?

                          For the first three years of Buffy I was full time and then the end of year three Joss came to me and said "What do you think about spinning Angel off into its own show?"

                          I said "I think it's a fabulous idea and I think we should bring young Charisma Carpenter who plays Cordelia Chase with us, because I think she will be a great foil for Angel, a great other side of that dark coin, that big bright girl."

                          Then we sat down and broke - which means figured out - the story. Breaking the story is almost harder than writing the stories. We broke the story, wrote the pilot and Joss directed it.

                          I was very excited, although the idea of doing two shows just seemed crazy because Joss worked so hard on Buffy. I would come in to our Buffy sets in Santa Monica, California, and he'd be here at seven in the morning, having spent the night [there], having gotten two hours of sleep.

                          He was just doing everything in those first few years and I thought "how on earth are we ever going to do two shows?" as it seemed so hard to do one. Particularly with an aim for quality - we want to do good work. Joss seems to have the energy of four men. I've the energy of maybe 1.2 men.
                          Joss on the S1 DVD Overview does say its only with Eternity that he got it . That they weren't making anthologies anymore and that it was about the characters themselves.

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                          • #18
                            Once they did get the idea to focus on the characters, Angel started to really work. They had a good set of characters and actors. The ultimate villains of a demon law firm was also clever -- especially with Lindsey and Lilah (and Holland Manners overseeing them).

                            The thing that never quite worked for me in the whole "help the helpless" phase of early season one was that the helpless of LA seemed to be good-looking, well-educated and usually white. Maybe that's a holdover from film noir, because I know they were going for a film noir vibe. But it wasn't set in the past like say, Chinatown, was. And certainly as an audience member I was very well aware than most of the ones in LA that Angel should help wouldn't be rich, beautiful blondes.

                            And the real masterstroke was resurrecting Darla to screw with Angel. Darla was such a minor part on Angel, and so it's lucky they cast an actress like Julie Benz who could grow with the part -- just as David Boreanaz himself had grown.

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                            • #19
                              PuckRobin I agree with your criticisms of how the 'helpless' were usually good-looking, well-educated and white. That's definitely a problem and a valid critique of early AtS. It also annoyed me that so many of them happened to be women as well as it felt quite redundant and almost as if Whedon was deliberating trying to undo any progress he'd made with BtVS.

                              However, I must admit that nowadays I much prefer the earlier tone of AtS S1-S2 when "helping the helpless" was still at the forefront of the series. Some of the 'case of the week' episodes were fairly weak but I did really like the series overall mission statement. It felt genuinely heroic and it really set the series apart not just from BtVS but other TV in general that there was such a strong undercurrent of helping people in need (and not just by battling monsters) and of Angel finding redemption in helping people through their own. I liked that he would really form a connection with the person he was trying to save as opposed to them just being random, voiceless victims.

                              The series really lost that in S3-S4 and I think it's a bit of a shame. The characters became very self-involved and caught up in their own petty dramas and bullsh*t. The focus shifted away from helping people and became more about the office love triangles and internal conflicts. I definitely think you need to develop the main cast and flesh them out but I wish they hadn't lost sight of what Angel's mission was meant to be. I thought the series developed quite a genuinely unpleasant tone during that period (especially with some of the uglier plot developments like Cordy/Connor) and Angel himself didn't seem awfully concerned about helping save people or redeem himself. Even Cordy's visions, when she did occasionally still have them, stopped being about helping innocents and became more about grandiose arcs and foreshadowing etc.

                              S5 actually shifted the focus back more to "helping the helpless" but more in the sense to contrast on how much the gang had lost their way whilst working at W&H. But I liked at least that the writers remembered what the original mission statement was even if it was to comment on how far we were away from it.

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                              • #20
                                Giving how Joss mishanded Angel in Buffy Season 8 it's clear that Joss doesn't completely understand Angel.

                                Tim Minear was the best Angel writer in my opinion.
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