Fans are still bitter about The WB canceling Angel in its prime almost a decade ago. But did you know it was (kinda) Joss Whedon’s fault to begin with?
With Buffy the Vampire Slayer officially wrapped, the full weight of the Buffy-verse shifted to Angel with fantastic effect in the series’ fifth season. The writers took a creative gamble by putting the gang in charge of Wolfram & Hart and bringing in Spike (James Marsters), and it paid off in spades.
The series was rolling with a great new direction, and the ratings were actually up (which is rare for a series that far into its run). So Whedon decided to push for an early renewal to allow his team to map out the end of the season and feed the story into season six.
Apparently that was a big mistake.
It turns out The WB was prepping a lot of new shows (most of which crashed and burned) and didn’t want to lock in an older, more expensive series for another full season. So, when forced to make a decision early, the network decided to pull the plug. But had Whedon not asked for the early renewal, producer David Fury believes the show was all but “guaranteed” a sixth season if the execs could’ve waited to make the call.
Here’s how Fury explained it via a 2004 interview with Mike Jozic:
"The only reason that Angel didn't come back…it's a very simple thing. Because our ratings were up, because of our critical attention, Joss specifically asked Jordan Levin, who was the head of The WB at the time, to give us an early pick-up because every year they [would] wait so long to give Angel a pick-up [and] a lot of us [would] turn down jobs hoping that Angel will continue - he didn't want that to happen. So, he was feeling very confidant and he just asked Jordan, "Like, make your decision now whether you're going to pick us up or not," and Jordan, sort of with his hands tied, with his back up against the wall, called hims the next day and said, ‘Okay, we're canceling you.’ Jordan's no longer there and The WB has since recognized…I believe Garth Ancier at The WB said that it was a big mistake to cancel Angel. There was a power play that happened that just didn't fall out the way they wanted it to. We wanted to get an early pick-up, we didn't. In fact we forced them to make a decision, and with his hand forced he made the decision to cancel us.
I think, in retrospect, with their developments not doing very well - they were trying to develop other genre shows, like Dark Shadows with John Wells and Lost in Space with John Woo - they would have loved to haveAngel on for another year. It was just an unfortunate thing that they made the decision so soon. I guarantee that, if we waited as we normally did, by the time May had come around they would have picked up Angel. I can guarantee that."
It’s sad to think we could’ve had a whole ‘nother season had Whedon not pushed for an early decision, but you can’t blame the guy for trying to lock it in for planning purposes. In hindsight, we’re thinking The WB execs would also agree it was a dumb move.
(Via Mike Jovic)