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Surely you must know the score by now? Vampire with a soul acts as the guardian of Los Angeles; protecting the general public from demons, ghouls and rather nasty lawyers. His name is Angel and he and his companions are all that stand in the way of some rather pesky apocalypses. Unimaginative critics refer to Angel as ‘fang-tastic’ or a ‘show with bite’ but um, I won’t be doing that. Honest.

This Anthology collection from Twentieth Century Fox celebrates the best episodes from Angel where the focus is on the supporting characters rather than the pale-faced anti-hero. The last in the set concerns Fred who was introduced to viewers at the end of season two.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Fred
The Episodes
Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Fred consists of the following four episodes…

Over the Rainbow
Trapped in an alternate dimension, Cordelia (Charisma Carpenter) meets the decidedly jittery Winifred Burkle (Amy Acker).

Fredless
Fred’s parents arrive at Angel Investigations, curious as to why their daughter has not been in touch since her arrival in LA.

Supersymmetry
Fred discovers the real reason she was sent to an alternate dimension when she meets up with her old physics teacher.

Shiny Happy People
Fred sees through a mystery woman that has won the trust of Angel Investigations.

If you've been keeping track of these Anthology releases, the inclusion of Over the Rainbow is a welcome addition since it fills in some of the back-story to There’s No Place Like Plrtz Glrb which was included on Cordelia's 'best of' disc. This is not to say it's a particularly strong episode; pulling the ensemble away from their regular habitat of LA and into a world more familiar to Xena: Warrior Princess would seem to indicate that the producers had run out of ideas as the second season drew to a close. Considering that the show improved with each successive season shows that this is not the case; but this arc is still a misjudged step in the wrong direction.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Fred
Fredless is a more enjoyable episode which plays on the audience's knowledge of Buffyverse characters; namely that they are all isolated from their parents who do not understand the ‘darker’ aspects of the world in which we live. Ten minutes in and it appears that we will be treated to a retread of the Buffy episode Family, although, fortunately, the writers have a few surprises in store when Fred’s parents reveal their true motives.

Supersymmetry is easily the weakest episode on the disc as all of our characters undergo severe personality changes in an attempt to contrive a rather tired story of revenge and a springboard for developments later in season four . The most dramatic change is that of Fred, who becomes an unconvincing psychopath, hell-bent on sending her old professor to another dimension. This goes against the grain of—not just the other three episodes on this disc—but every other episode in which she appears. Considering it’s accompanied by the continuation of an, initially slow, season four arc in which Cordelia has lost her memory, you have a rather disappointing forty minutes.  

In a curious move, Fox have declined to feature any episodes from season five in this anthology collection. In fact, Fred's compilation is the only disc to feature episodes from season four. Shiny Happy People therefore represents an opportunity for newcomers to see how Angel was shaping up as it approached its final season. Unfortunately, this episode comes directly after the major arc of season four when Angel’s soul went walkabout. Watching this entry without the preceding chunk of episodes, gives the impression that we're a little late for the party.  
 
Fred’s a likeable character, by the way. Or at least she grew into one because, as with many of the characters in this show, her development over the third season alone was really quite incredible. Her first appearance in Over the Rainbow showcases a nervy, isolated and, dare I say it, irritating character who babbles incoherently and swiftly develops a schoolgirl crush on Angel (David Boreanaz). Fortunately, this doesn’t last too long and, after a few false-starts (namely in That Old Gang of Mine, featured on Gunn’s disc in this collection) she becomes the resourceful member of the team that we see from Fredless onwards.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Fred
Video
The previous discs in this Anthology all contained episodes from the first season (filmed in 1.33:1 full frame) giving a lack of consistency when compared to episodes from seasons two-four (filmed in 1.78:1 widescreen). Fred’s disc contains no such variation as all of her episodes come from a time in the show’s history when they’d clearly settled on an aspect ratio.

The show looks sharp enough, although the usual problem of those pesky shadows hasn’t left the building. One recommendation is to turn off the lights and draw the curtains when watching this show; allowing you to more clearly differentiate between the good guys and the bad boys in the numerous fight scenes set in dark abandoned warehouses. It might also give you a good idea of what it’s like to be a Vampire. Maybe.

Audio
Although the difference between watching Angel on DVD and as broadcast is negligible, there are a few benefits to the Dolby Digital 2.0 track, not least the soundtrack which sounds crisp and clear when belted through speakers at top volume. Dialogue is also sharp but, aside from that, there’s nothing to get too excited about.

Extras
The sole extra on The Vampire Anthology: Fred is a character featurette, acting as the sole incentive for long-time fans of the show to add this pointless exercise to their DVD collection. The format of the featurette is identical to those found on the other discs in the Anthology although, since Fred has a smaller number of episodes to discuss compared to Cordelia, Wesley and Gunn, the sound-bytes are even shorter and the padding more drawn out.

Angel: The Vampire Anthology - Fred
Overall
The Vampire Anthology draws to a close with this disc, and what have we learnt? Well, not much really. Sixteen barely related episodes strung together under the impression that this will create, rather than alienate, potential fans. Angel is a show which rewards you for paying attention but it’s rather hard to pay attention when characters disappear and plots flash-forward with each episode selected.

With a few exceptions, the episodes chosen are all rather pedestrian examples of this groundbreaking show. Sure, they focus on the supporting characters, but being inhibited by this protocol means you’re depriving the newcomers from episodes that focus on the characters as a group ( Provider from season three or the wonderful Spin the Bottle from season four to name just two). Let’s face it; if you’re smart enough to ‘get’ this show, you should also be smart enough to wait for the multi-season boxed set.


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