I was utterly drawn in by the angst. Beautiful, delicious, ripping angst. I ended up watching all the reruns that summer, and becoming hooked. So, when Angel spun off, it was sort of obvious that I start watching it at the beginning.
Some time ago, it slowly dawned on me that many of the people watching Angel were only doing so as a sort of courtesy to Buffy. Or something. In any case, that they thought it wasn't as good a show. Others scorned Angel altogether, in some sort of misguided loyalty to the slayer's heartbreak. Or something.
From Angel's very beginnings, I've preferred it to Buffy. I've silenced parties in full conversational swing by noting that, given a choice of only one of them, I'd choose Angel.
Don't misunderstand...Buffy is an excellent, and often blindingly brilliant show. The self-references circle magically around, show after show. Bits you saw in season 1 continue to be relevant is season 7 (albeit sometimes in very obscure ways). It's beautiful, and clever and witty.
Angel isn't necessarily so clever, or witty. Or smug with itself. Instead it's been consistently dark. Gritty. Grim in a way that few Buffy episodes have been (I must admit that Conversations With Dead People and some of the Spuffy arcs have come close). It's has been, in my mind, more stunning and shocking. More powerful. The apocalypse actually seems possible, on Angel.
I am deeply amused by all the surprised buzz about last night's episode. It was excellent, yes. But to some of us, not at all surprising.