Once one of CBS’ most popular shows, it’s been nearly a decade since Touched by an Angel went off the air and more than that since its short-lived spin-off, Promised Land, was cancelled. This DVD release is a surprisingly stand-alone outing of the series and easy to recommend for even the most novice viewer.
Earthly-bound angel Monica (Roma Downey, The Division) helps lost souls reconnect with God, assisted by motherly angel Tess (Della Reese, Harlem Nights) and Andrew, the Angel of Death (John Dye, Campus Man). Season Six of the long-running series offers 26 episodes on 7 discs.
What kept people coming back to Touched by an Angel for nine seasons is the same thing which compels filmmakers to keep remaking Charles Dickens’ short story A Christmas Carol. We enjoy watching a flawed Everyman — more like us than we care to admit — earn a second chance at redemption.
Each episode follows the same pattern: The angels meet up and (invisibly) watch the “assignment” of the week as they go about their day. Then the assignment meets the angel(s) who have assumed roles in their everyday life, as we watch them struggle with their particular burden.
Each of the angels has their own overall mission and personality. Monica (Downey) is still learning what it means to be a human and her gentle persuasion grounds the team. Andrew (Dye) is a very solid presence in whatever role he assumes. I appreciate that his inclusion this season wasn’t merely relegated to the Angel of Death duties, taking on a variety of integral functions within the human world. Rounding out our heavenly trio is Tess, the mother figure blessed with foresight. She always knows why the angels have been given specific assignments. She acts not only as a mother to angels, but their earthly charges as well.
Season Six finds the angels helping humans with problems ranging from suicide to divorce, though the message is often the same — God loves you no matter what. This season we had the angels struggle with lessons of their own, always relating to the human being helped but still a welcome complexity.
Roman Downey, John Dye, and Della Reese work very well together and this season solidifies that cohesion. Downey is the star of the show and taps into some truly emotional places, in order to perfectly convey an imperfect angel whose desire to help guide humanity makes her eminently likable and relatable. As the lone man in the cast, Dye has the ability to connect with his co-stars without needing to resort to any snark or machismo. His is a gentle presence and always consistent. Reese was a legend before she appeared on Touched by an Angel and I appreciate what she brings to Tess. She could have easily been a sassy woman who never hesitates to give some attitude when needed. Instead Reese plays Tess as a maternal figure who never holds back on the tough love, but always finding the joy wherever they are.
Compared to hourlong series today Touched by an Angel is drama-light. But it wasn’t made to be an intense thriller or a “will-they-or-won’t-they” investment. This is the perfect feel-good series. Yes, it is a faith-based, but also refreshing. In the landscape of gossip television, I enjoyed the chance to immerse myself in a world whose message is consistently simple and accessible to those who want to hear it: there is someone out there who loves you no matter what. It doesn’t necessarily fit within today’s politically and religiously divided world, but it’s just what I needed to help decompress from the day-to-day workday intensity.
Presented in standard def 1.33:1 full frame, the stories are the focus here rather than the small amount of special effects employed. There’s a desaturation to the palette which serves to provide a sense of realism as well as to enhance the “halo effect” that appears whenever the angels reveal themselves. The simple Dolby 2.0 Stereo mix also serves the production well, but there are enough musical numbers that I wouldn’t have minded an upgraded 5.1 track. Like most TV on DVD releases, there are no bonus features.
While the softness of Touched by an Angel may be somewhat outdated, it carries a message which will resonate with viewers willing to accept its religious overtones.