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Wings duly clipped
You’ve got to fee sorry for Joss Whedon. Seven years ago, against all logic, he transformed his cheesy 1992 script about a cheerleader who fights vampires into a critically acclaimed breakout hit for the WB. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” lasted 144 episodes, survived a network jump, and inspired legions of new shows in its ironic angst-horror mold – “Charmed,” “Smallville,” “Tarzan,” “Birds of Prey,” and some stuff that proved less successful. You could probably get away with theorizing that it influenced the way movies like “X-Men” and “Spider-Man” were scripted. Whedon’s original show produced a spinoff, “Angel,” was picked up by the BBC, syndicated in different languages, and made stupid amounts of money.

And Whedon’s reward? Three shows cancelled in two years.

Joss and [executive producer] Jeff Bell told the cast and crew today. We have no understanding of the inner workings of the corporate world, but we’ve had a long and fruitful relationship with [producing studio] 20th Century Fox and The WB, for which we are grateful. We just wish it could have gone on forever. Apparently, it’s not going to.

It’s odd that I feel sympathy for the creator of these shows, who will be drowning in cash and fans no matter what happens. But I got into these shows about 18 months ago, and what sold me was the obvious depth and craft put into them. Odds were six billion to one against “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” being any good at all, and hey, this guy was smart enough to beat the odds.

So the reason I’m not actually that sad to see “Angel” cancelled has to do with the creative team. From all the evidence, it seems like Whedon et al can really end this spinoff the way they want to. I think that’s the best any show can hope for.

Think about it. Who would argue that “M*A*S*H” would not have been better off cancelled about two years before it was, before it began its slide from comedy to perma-“very special episode” drama? And there’s an example a little bit closer to “Angel”‘s genre – who would honestly say that “The X-Files” and its fans were better off when the show lasted two extra seasons without David Duchovny? “She’s in the starlight,” anyone?

“Angel” has probably worn out its welcome already, if the deaths of popular characters are anything to go by. It’ll be best if the show is wrapped up the way its creators want it, while they still have the cast and full creative control.

UPDATE: Joss Whedon disagrees with me.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN’ SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn.

Poor guy.

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