Angels On TV And The Silver Screen
Angels - the divine ones - not their various earthbound equivalents, are very widespread pop culture icons. Blame it on two thousand years of Christianity, but angels have managed to become a major part of Western folklore and culture.
Angels have been appearing in the movies for a very long time. How can anyone forget Clarence Oddbody, the angel who's out to get his wings in Frank Capra's Christmas classic, "A Wonderful Life"? That's probably the quintessential image of the Hollywood Angel. Nice, harmless, a little dorky, with a willingness to help a fellow out. More than half-a-century of movies have presented this image of a Jiminy-Cricket style helper to the masses and everyone just loves it. Yeah, I know, it's a bit naive but everyone just likes that feel-good sensation when you see people in the pits getting a helping hand to pull them out of the mire.
This easily translated into the small screen, of course. Probably the most fondly remembered show about angels on TV was Michael Landon's classic run of "Highway to Heaven". Starting from 1984 up to 1989, Landon's Michael Smith, an angel sent down from heaven, wandered the highways of America doing the angel thing of helping people out and giving people chances at redemption, with his trusty human sidekick. Throughout the series, Smith faced everything, even the Devil himself. The series, however, ended rather abruptly when Victor French, Landon's co-star died of lung cancer.
The next angelic series that was a big hit was "Touched by an Angel". A nine-season hit, running from 1994 to 2003, the series was what literally sparked the modern fad for angels. Looking back at it, it was pretty much a formula show. People are in deep trouble or facing some sort of crossroads in their life. Here come the angels with their platitudes and life lessons, guiding people down the right path.
Thing is, that formula worked and rocketed the series into one of CBS's number one hits. Roma Downey's Monica was the perfect mix of innocence and strength that a lot of viewers fell in love with her portrayal. The main supporting cast also, composed of Della Reese, John Dyer, and Valerie Bertinelli also managed to give the show an added dramatic push that an only an ensemble can give. It's so popular that Hallmark still runs repeats regularly on their channel.
Of course, all of this schmaltz can cause a bit of a backlash. There are quite a few not-so-angelic portrayals of our winged friends running around in the media. Gregory Widen's angelic horror movie series "The Prophecy" has Christopher Walken as the archangel Gabriel, leaving a veritable swathe of bodies behind him. The mental image alone should definitely give you the idea that Walken's Gabriel isn't out to help anyone.
Another really contrasting image comes from Kevin Smith's irreverent "Dogma", where Ben Affleck and Matt Damon play fallen angels hoping to go back to Heaven - and totally not caring who gets hurt or dies along the way. A pretty far cry from the usual goofy angel image, don't you think?
Whether you prefer the dark or the light portrayals of their character, it's pretty definite that angels are an entertainment powerhouse. With the way things are going, it seems that angels are here to stay, whether on celluloid or on the tube.