The second episode of Angel sucked so badly that it forced The WB to drive a stake through the then-fledgling Buffy spinoff’s production schedule, according to the the series’ co-creator.
In a just-published Entertainment Weekly cover story commemorating Angel’s 20th anniversary, exec producer David Greenwalt — who birthed the offshoot with Buffy brainchild Joss Whedon — reveals that production was shut down early into Season 1 due to creative differences with the WB. At issue? The script for Angel‘s second episode.
“[WB execs] completely freaked out, and they were right because in our effort to go dark, we went a little too dark,” Greenwalt confides to EW of an alleged scene in which David Boreanaz’s title character watches a girl die and then proceeds to lick her blood up off the ground. “If you’re gonna go that dark, you have to earn it. So, we shut down for a few weeks, revamped some things and we were off and running.”
Angel nonetheless remained dark in tone, especially compared to Buffy. “We thought, ‘Let’s do a noir thing that’s about addiction and redemption, and we’ll put them in L.A.,’” Greenwalt recalls of the show’s inception. “The stories will be darker and, more important [and Angel] will be darker.”
The series went on to air for five seasons, before the plug was abruptly pulled in what would go down as one of history’s 17 dumbest cancellation decisions. Ratings for the Buffy spinoff had actually trended up in Season 5, so Whedon aimed to head off at the pass what had become a typical, anxiety-creating, mid-May renewal decision by leaning on The WB CEO Jordan Levin in February of 2004. But pressed for an early decision, Levin opted against a Season 6.
“I guarantee that, if we waited as we normally did, by the time May had come around they would have picked up Angel,” EP David Fury said in a September 2004 interview, echoing what WB chairman Garth Ancier said months prior: “The mistake that was made… was that we didn’t wait until May, we just made the decision early based upon their request.”