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Buffy the Vampire Slayer's spin-off is darker stuff, visually and in tone, than its Sunnydale sire. That's what happens when your hero can't see daylight without bursting into flames. Recovering bloodsucker Angel (David Boreanaz) has retreated to the sleazy side of L.A. to nurse a broken heart and protect humans, ideally without snacking on them. Besides its hulking, gloomy lead and self-absorbed-as-ever foil Cordelia, Angel also borrows Buffy's stylish thrills and its flashes of humor, sharp and surprising as teeth on your neck in a dark alley. Here's hoping it ultimately infuses more originality into the dynastic bloodline as well.

--By James Poniewozik