In propelling this spinoff of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," creator Joss Whedon has to tread carefully, so as not to disrupt the mythology that spawned such a loyal and devoted audience. It's a prospect that would seem to limit writing options, but a scenario has been created that gives Angel's character lots of dramatic room to navigate.

In propelling this spinoff of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” creator Joss Whedon has to tread carefully, so as not to disrupt the mythology that spawned such a loyal and devoted audience. It’s a prospect that would seem to limit writing options, but Whedon and co-hyphenate David Greenwalt have created a scenario that gives Angel’s character lots of emotional and dramatic room to navigate, while still pining over his lost love.

Breaking up a beloved TV couple is almost as tricky as bringing two TV characters together. When Whedon created the character of Angel (brought to brooding afterlife by David Boreanaz), he not only created a moral dilemma for Buffy, but a complex love story that appeals equally to the show’s action and romance fans.

As good a couple as he and Sarah Michelle Gellar made, Boreanaz was too boxed in by the “Buffy” love story. The actor, formerly tagged by some as just another pretty face, is given much more to do here and proves that he can handle the load. As long as he doesn’t try to tackle an Irish accent again, he should do just fine.

The new series’ set-up has Angel, that rare vampire with a soul, taking up residence in, naturally, the City of Angels. (The joke here is that Los Angeles is even scarier than the hell mouth of Sunnydale, his former residence.)

Still atoning for past sins, Angel figures he’ll have plenty to keep him busy, and randomly goes about helping those tormented by evil — until he meets the mysterious Doyle (Glenn Quinn).

A demon/human hybrid, Doyle is guided by an unseen force that has big plans for Angel. Through Doyle’s visions, Angel is paired with those who most need his help. On one of his quests, Angel is reunited with Cordelia Chase (Charisma Carpenter), another Sunnydale transplant whose dreams of a career in showbiz have yet to be realized.

Although they have little in common, the two are happy to have a familiar face to turn to. By the end of the pilot, this odd little trio decides to join forces and opens an otherworldly help-for-hire business.

The help-for-hire angle is a dicey set-up that’s a little too “A-Team” for such an edgy show, not to mention the disastrous results the same scenario produced for last season’s human-based but creepier “Vengeance Unlimited.”

Whedon and the producers should be aware that if Angel goes too mainstream, the series loses a great deal of the character’s mystique — not to mention the inherent complications of a day job for a sun-fearing vampire.

Still, Whedon has a gift for blending action and comedy without resorting to the “make my day” kind of mentality prevalent in shows of the same ilk. Angel, rarely a source for humor on “Buffy,” gets to lighten up a bit here, and adding Carpenter to the cast is an obvious maneuver for comic relief.

Carpenter was the least interesting of the original Buffy ensemble, and her addition at first was chided by “Buffy” fans. But she’s a nice fit here. Her character is still dense and uncouth, but Cordelia, too, is learning to be more human. Angel normally doesn’t suffer fools so gladly, but he seems to welcome the one link to his Sunnydale past.

Quinn, able to indulge in his native Irish brogue, isn’t given much to do in the pilot, but the young actor should see plenty of future story lines based on his discovering the secrets of his origins as well as the powers that drive his visions.

Christophe Beck’s music pulsates through the show while Whedon’s directing, matched by Regis Kimble’s tight editing, is in keeping with the high technical standards set on “Buffy.”

Angel

The WB; Tue. Oct. 5, 9 p.m.

Production

Filmed in Los Angeles by Mutant Enemy Inc. and Kuzui/Sandollar in association with Twentieth Century Fox Television. Executive producers, Joss Whedon, David Greenwalt, Gail Berman, Fran Rubel Kuzui, Kaz Kuzui; producers, Gareth Davies, Kelly Manners, Tim Minear, Tracey Stern; creator-director, Whedon; writers, Whedon, Greenwalt.

Crew

Editor, Regis B. Kimble; music, Christophe Beck; sound, Beau Baker; casting, Amy McIntyre Britt, Anya Colloff, Jennifer Fishman. 60 MIN.

Cast

Angel - David Boreanaz Cordelia Chase - Charisma Carpenter Doyle - Glenn Quinn
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