Monday, June 8, 2009

Salute to David Boreanaz

Photo From RavenU at Flickr

I feel incredibly guilty about not writing more about David Boreanaz' performances as the title character of Angel. Part of the problem is my personal style of writing, in which I like to key in on some relatively minor event and blow it up out of proportion. I don't take the same joy in taking a large event and reducing it into an easy-to-digest summary.

Unfortunately, talking about David Boreanaz falls into my "taking a large event" category, since his character is the entire series! Sometimes it just seems overwhelming to talk about some of his most identifiable story arcs. These story arcs are so profound, like falling into darkness in Season 2, losing Connor in Season 3, his long battle against The Beast in Season 4, and his decision to take on Wolfram & Hart in Season 5, I just don't feel like I can do justice to these complicated themes.

Actors who star in their own series', like Boreanaz, have the difficult task of being everything to everyone, and acting as the connecting thread between the scenes in order to keep the narrative on track. These people are the steadying influences whom we tend to take for granted. Boreanaz, in essence, plays the "normal" character, and he doesn't have the luxury of being able to concentrate on quirky eccentricities. For example, Stephanie Romanov can be bitchy and evil, Charisma Carpenter can be bitchy and bubbly, J. August Richards can be the wise-cracking street punk, Alexis Denisof and Amy Acker can be the eccentric geniuses, etc.

An analogy I can bring is that in classical ballet, some of the greatest ballets feature the star ballerina (like the title character in Giselle, and Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty), plus supporting roles that feature equally talented ballerinas (like, Myrtha in Giselle, and the Lilac Fairy in Sleeping Beauty). These supporting stars can come on stage, do a few dazzling solos, and will often steal the show, leaving us to feel sorry for the main title character. We're blessed that Angel is a series that featured so many wonderful supporting actors, but sometimes David Boreanaz and his Angel character got a bit lost in the shuffle.

I've mentioned several times in my previous posts that David Boreanaz is a great actor. I might be overstating his talents a bit, but I say "great" because I think he does a "great" job performing in scenes that play to his strengths. His strengths include playing the dark, brooding vampire, the heroic champion in battles, and the strong inspirational leader.

I also think Boreanaz has a deft comic touch. Some of my favorite scenes involve Angel as the put-upon character having to deal with being brought down a peg or two in size. One of my favorite episodes was "Couplet", in which Angel was playing second fiddle to the Groosalug in Cordy's affections.

The highlight for me was when Groo ordered Angel to stand off to the side and protect the "paranormal prophylactic" (that Groo needed in order to have sex with Cordelia) while Groo went into battle against the tree creature who was about to squeeze Fred and Gunn to death.

In that scene, and in so many scenes in that episode, Angel looked absolutely adorable as he tried to keep his jealousy under control. In reality, Angel couldn't act out his frustrations without looking like a real jerk, because Groo was so kind-hearted, noble and brave.

Angel had a reputation for roaming the dark streets and back alleyways looking to protect innocent victims from being attacked by vampires and demons. I always loved those scenes, but they just didn't happen often enough to satisfy me. I think those scenes were most prevalent in Season 1. What I also loved about Season 1 was how Angel would gaze out over the spectacular Los Angeles nighttime skyline, looking thoughtful and brooding. Boreanaz seemed equally at ease in his quiet, pensive moments as he was in his action sequences. As a matter of fact, in Season 1, I would often get mad at Cordelia for trying to goad Angel into being more sociable. I liked Angel just as he was!

One thing that struck me about those spectacular Los Angeles skylines is that I don't recall too many TV series, or even many movies, that paid such great tribute to Los Angeles as a whole, similar to how Woody Allen's cameras seemed to adore New York City. Most TV series, and a lot of movies, are filmed in Los Angeles, but the location is usually incidental to the story. At times, in Angel, Los Angeles seems to be a valuable vital character in its own right.

Another thing I think of when I see Angel looking down at the nighttime city from his rooftop perch is that the creators could have chosen to take somewhat of a psychological Naked City approach to the series, where the story of the week took center stage. Angel could have been a bit more on the periphery, and swooped in when he sensed danger in order to save the day.

Indeed, I've read that Season 1 did act on the "travails of the guest star of the week" model until the creators decided to focus more attention on the main characters themselves. I've even been struck by how, in a lot of episodes, the victims are practically faceless. Angel and his crew would strike quickly to defeat the demons, then disappear almost as quickly. Most of the interactions with the victims involved a simple shouted warning to run!

For reasons I cannot fathom, I did not fall in love with David Boreanaz the first time I saw him. (Although I wouldn't leave him out in the cold if he showed up on my doorstep in a blinding snow storm.) Good grief, the guy is tall, attractive, funny and has a great body. What else can he do to make himself more perfect? It's just one of those mysteries in life, on why certain people are attracted to other certain people. Alexis Denisof, as Wesley Wyndam-Pryce, just hit the right chord for me the first time I saw him, and I apparently didn't have room for anyone else. I will admit that, the longer I watch the series, the more I'm appreciating David Boreanaz' looks. I think I liked him best in Season 1, when he still had that lost, angst-ridden anti-hero look about him.

I'm lucky in that I enjoy favorite Boreanaz moments at the beginning of every episode during the opening credits. Doesn't he look great, smashing through windows and striding through dark alleys in his long black jacket? In fact, I can't think of any other series that has better theme music and a more thrilling intro than Angel. My family is amazed that I take the time to watch the intro at the beginning of every episode as opposed to just scanning through it.

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