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5 TV Guardian Angels That Walk, Talk, Smite, Smoke, and Save like a Human Being

By Brad Pike

At a certain age, people realize that in order to get through their days sanely, they’ve adopted some belief system, a personal mantra, or at the very least taken up a convenient vice. As Woody Allen put it, “whatever works.”

Maybe it should come as no surprise then that a recent Associated Press poll found 77% of Americans believe in angels and 55% of these folks think they have a guardian angel personally watching over them.

This insight into our country’s core beliefs is music to the ears of blocked TV writers across Hollywood, as characters routinely challenged to save lives make for potent story fodder. Take the ER doctor or inner city detective; one need look no further than the current primetime network lineup to watch these heroes at work. Only with angels, the stakes are higher and the spectacle louder because they’ve got superpowers, baby.

KoldCast TV’s subversive series Passenger will have you rethinking where the halo on your TV angel typecast should go. This smart, supernatural ITV thriller follows Michael, a hitman for G-d here on Earth who’d swig a beer or strum a guitar just as easily as striking down a demon.

You are watching Episode 1 of Passenger

Redemption in a deserted bar.
Episode 2 of Passenger

Michael’s job is to track down angel-killing Slayers and off them with a very, very big sword. As he carries out his mission over the course of the series, Michael realizes he’s the centerpiece in an apocalyptic war raging between heaven and hell.

Passenger gives us an angel in Michael who’s not merely living in the stratosphere, but grounded, relatable. He even picks up a stranded hitchhiker proving angels don’t necessarily need superpowers to be helpful. It’s unnerving, imaginative, and in good company. TV has had a long history of winged wonders that were loved because they were distinctly, well, human.

Monica – Touched by an Angel (1994-2003)

Throughout its nine-season run, Monica, a recently promoted angel from the “search and rescue division”, helps hundreds of people navigate difficult moral quandaries while also learning a little bit herself along the way.

With each episode, she and her supervisor Tess would drive to a new town in their red Cadillac convertible and dispense messages from G-d, guiding people through a hard decision or spiritual crisis. Though Monica never had to fight demons, Satan popped up from time to time to cause trouble in the guise of a human.

Monica’s schmaltzy messages, delivered in her Irish brogue, made the show a ratings bonanza for CBS. At its height, Touched by an Angel was viewed by 15% of the television market. That’s a lot of touching.

Marty – Teen Angel (1997)

Oh TGIF, we millennials miss you dearly. Teen Angel was created by a couple of Simpsons writer-producers for ABC’s Friday night lineup and followed a wisecracking high school kid, Marty, who died and became an angel after eating a six month old burger on a dare.

Following Marty’s death, his friend Steve fell into depression, left by his dad and losing his best friend. G-d’s cousin Rod, who appears as a disembodied head, assigned Marty to be Steve’s guardian angel to help him pass tests, build confidence with girls, and of course, learn important life lessons.

Marty’s attempts to help always backfired, resulting in hilarity and horrifying awkwardness. A memorable example of this was when Marty, in order to save Steve from rejection, shape-shifted into his crush and went out on a date with him. Lasting only 17 episodes, Teen Angel is best remembered for its refreshingly flippant treatment of death, the afterlife, and spirituality in general.

Leo Wyatt – Charmed (1998-2006)

Leo is not precisely an angel but a “whitelighter”, the Charmed universe’s version of angels. For his good deeds, Leo was made a whitelighter by the Elders and imbued with powers such as levitation, teleportation, healing, telepathy, shape shifting, and general invulnerability. His job was to safeguard charmed witches Phoebe, Paige, and Piper, but unlike Passenger’s Michael, never, ever through violence. Leo’s healing power proved particularly helpful, often (perhaps too often) saving the girls from horrifying wounds, even on the verge of death. But near the end of the show, Leo finally gave up his powers to marry Piper.

Aaron Corbett – Fallen (2006)

This ABC Family miniseries combined the teen angst of high school with the epic spiritual crises of Paradise Lost. On Aaron Corbett’s 18th birthday, he began displaying strange powers, the strangest among them being his ability to talk to his dog, Gabe. Soon, Aaron discovers he’s actually a Nephilim, or angel-human hybrid.

Though he can fly and magically redeem fallen ones, Aaron’s also hunted by “Powers”, warrior angels sent to Earth to eliminate his race, which they perceive as abominations. Fallen, as with Passenger, treats angels with some moral ambiguity. By the end of the miniseries, Aaron discovers his father isn’t just any angel, but Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness himself. Dear old dad wants his son to redeem him so he can take over Heaven’s throne. Don’t worry, though, this is ABC Family! It can’t possibly end with G-d’s death and Satan’s ascension to rule all of existence… right?

Earl – Saving Grace (2007-2010)

After a night of heavy drinking, Detective Grace Hanadarko accidentally hits and kills a pedestrian with her car. In desperation she calls out for G-d’s help and right on cue there’s Earl, wings unfurled, just in case she didn’t recognize his awesome divinity.

Earl was a harsh, no-nonsense type who wore flannel shirts, chewed tobacco and drank beer much like Michael from Passenger. From time to time he even swore, but he was the perfect angel for Grace, who lived a hard, fast life in which she frequently had one-night-stands, drank heavily, and made terrible choices.

Earl acted as Grace’s de facto therapist, guiding her through moral and spiritually foggy dilemmas. With a TV name like Grace, she was virtually guaranteed a guardian angel – Running Wilde, Raising Hope, Tru Calling — these shows tell the entire story in their titles alone.

Whether your angel comes in beer guzzling, sword swinging form like Michael from Passenger, or they’re a compassionate, loving adviser like Touched by an Angel’s Monica, one thing is for certain: they’re a hell of a lot more fun to watch when they step off that cloud and start acting like a regular Joe.

Click to watch Episode 3 of Passenger

Treason begins after death.
Episode 4 of Passenger

Brad Pike is a writer and standup in Chicago. He also writes for Thought Catalog.
Twitter: brad_pike; Blog: ieatfoundthings.blogspot.com

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Must Reads 8/28/2014