Touched By An Angel: Season 4 Volume 2
A lot of people like to make fun of family programming on television. They may chide that it is not cutting edge, or that the lack of sex and violence makes for a dull story. Now if a television network dares to bring God into the story lines than some may think that this is just religious propaganda and ignore the series. Either assumption would result in missing some of the better written, acted and directed shows that have graced the tube. Series that have strong moral values and a lack of objectionable material can be great to watch. Not only do they provide a respite from the endless violence and sexual acts that many shows depend there are some extremely good dramas in this category. One of the longest lasting and best of the lot is ‘Touched by an Angel’. It is about angels, obviously, and therefore God gets several mentions in every episode. There is something more compelling as a reason to watch this show, its humanity. These are stories about regular people overwhelmed by the problems of life. Most of the characters have lost all hope and a little divine intercession is necessary. Let’s face it, just watch the news any evening and ask yourself if something a little more uplifting wouldn’t help your day just a bit. Every human being has to face moral decisions. It is refreshing to see a series that tries to give a little hope in life as well as entertain. There is a place for more cutting edge shows and the networks and cable offer many places for them. It is unfortunate that all of the more spiritually inclined series are off the air. Thankfully, Paramount owns the rights to this one and has been releasing them to DVD. Now the forth season is available and will be considered here. When you get tired of the endless stream of forensic crime dramas, night time soap operas or mindless reality shows pop in one of these DVDs, gather the family and watch. You just might find you have something to talk about as a family afterwards.
The series centers on an angel Monica (Roma Downey). She is currently a case worker who goes around the country to help people in the midst of a moral dilemma. Her direct supervisor is Tess (Della Reese) who offers guidance to Monica on how best to help her case. It seems that God runs heaven much like a CEO does a business. There are numerous departments and service levels where the angels work. Monica had a brief stint in the choir but her voice was not up to heavenly standards. From there she was moved to search and rescue, helping to find people physically lost. Three years ago she was promoted to case work directly helping and interacting with humans. Tess also has a manager over her and so on. By this forth season Monica has learned a lot from Tess in how to give the required assistance to her cases to make the right decisions. Still, she is new enough to the job that a little helpful push now and again is necessary. Monica has adapted to human form very well. Much to Tess’ chagrin she has developed a bit of a coffee habit especially a hot cup of mocha latte. What Monica lacks in experience is more than made up for in her ability to empathize with people. She is a loving, giving and persistent angel. Tess is more seasoned and is the perfect mentor for the younger angel. While not officially part of the team their paths frequently cross with Andrew (John Dye), the angel of death. Now he is not your usual presentation of this type of angel. Andrew has great sympathy and understanding. He sees his function as a necessary part of life. He guides his charges to their final destination sure of the right outcome. Because of this he greatly dislikes the media’s portrayal as grim. He understands Monica well since he was a case worker himself before being promoted to his current job. Unlike the angel in ‘Highway to Heaven’ the angels here do not have specific heavenly powers. They can request a miracle should the situation require one but they are loyal servants of God and rely on His power. When Monica is having a difficult time getting her human charge to understand she can emit a beautiful glowing light and white clothes to demonstrate that she is an angel. Being Irish myself I have to admit the heavenly light on her red hair looks great. None of the angels push any specific religion, just faith and love in God. Every episode is framed by an appearance of a dove flying through the scene.
Every episode has some aspects of serious problem in our modern world. In one, ‘the Trigger’ deals with domestic abuse and the effect of having a gun in the house. It starts simply enough with Monica trying to teach Tess how to ice skate. Tess is resistant but eventually goes along with her subordinate. The audience should have a little clue to what will happen when we see Andrew coaching some boys in hockey. One of the boys is given some extra attention, Alex Craig (Joe Pichler). Andrew skates with the boy over to his waiting family. His dad Ray (J.C. MacKenzie) and mom, Linda (Gabrielle Carteris) are proud and happy at Alex’s performance. Even little sister Michelle (Alexandra Artrip) is happy for big brother. Tess informs Monica that this family is her next assignment. Although they seem to be a perfect happy family Tess points out they are ‘skating on thin ice’. Ray gets called to the hospital, he’s a doctor, and Linda brings the kids home to get ready for a visit from her sister Holly (Elizabeth Berridge) who is in town for Linda’s graduation from law school. When Andrew returns a glove Alex left at the rink Ray almost explodes. He grounds the boy an action that gains disagreement from his sister in law. Later Holly hears a fight in Ray and Linda’s bedroom. Linda comes out with a cut on her head. The police are called but seem wary of the excuse given. Tess is called in as a family counselor but Linda is unwilling to admit Ray is violent since he lost his job. Later on Ray gets into a fight with Linda and Holly beating them with a hockey stick. Holly gets a gun and shoots Ray. Since Andrew was hanging around you know someone had to die and even though Ray is in the hospital you know what is coming. It also happens that the officer taking Holly in is Monica. Linda is angry with her sister for killing her husband until Monica reveals herself as a angel to help her over the abuse and grief.
Some may accuse the series of being corny but let’s face it worked well enough to be a top ratings grabber for nine years. This has to mean there are people willing to watch a morality play as long as it is done right. The message is always the same, you are human, you mess up but God still loves you and wants the best for you. A great thing about this series is it can open up a discussion between adults and between parents and children. There is more than just the message here; there is the presentation which is always fulfilling. I am a sucker for an Irish accent so Roma Downey is a joy to watch and listen to. She presents her heavenly character with humanity and very good acting. The format also allows the main characters to take on a variety of roles in their human guise. While most stories are a variation on the theme there is always a compelling drama behind each one.
Paramount has split the season in half with this DVD release as volume two for season four. The full frame video is okay but doesn’t pop like more recent TV season releases. The Dolby 2.0 audio is centered on the front with very little channel separation. Still, this one series not to miss and to add to your family collection.