A trio of angels Monica (Roma Downey), Tess (Della Reese), and Andrew (John Dye) are dispatched from heaven with a special mission: to inspire people facing sometimes unseen crossroads in their lives. Monica, an angel who at times still needs some guidance with her earthly assignments, reports to Tess, her tough, wise and always loving supervisor. Also on hand is Andrew, who, in addition to his duties as the Angel of Death, now helps out as a caseworker on carious assignments. Gloria, an angel for the 21st century, continues to seek guidance from Monica performing her angelic duties. While the angels may not bring solutions to every problem, they always deliver a message of hope.
Though Touched by an Angel
's basic formula remains unchanged, the second half of the fourth season features some refreshing experiments in storytelling. Nothing too radical, mind you--every episode still features Monica (Roma Downey, as fresh-faced and benevolent as ever), Tess (cantankerous Della Reese), and Andrew (bland but sturdy John Dye) solving mortal problems with angelic advice and divine power. But an episode about a feuding comedy duo is told through flashbacks narrated by a quartet of comedians at a diner (a clear homage to Woody Allen's Broadway Danny Rose
). In another episode, Monica gets amnesia and spends almost the entire hour stuck in a wintry bus station. While the scenario of an angel bumping her head and losing her memory may be preposterous, the confined setting gave the story a different flavor, and the culmination was surprisingly powerful (in large part thanks to the performance of Michael Moriarty of Law & Order
). In another episode, Tess goes in for a driving test (because although the Lord can give them all kinds of jobs and clothes, He won't forge a driver's license) and ends up hijacked by her instructor...who turns out to be, of course, her new assignment. It's a modest variation on the show's usual "Here we are and here's this week's problem" set-up, but such little touches provide some freshness in a TV show's fourth season. Regrettably, other stories feel contrived and awkward--a slumlord is sentenced to live in his own run-down tenement; the Devil himself fosters hate crimes in a small town. But regardless of how forced the writing may be, the show's message is consistent: God loves you and looks after you. If this message of compassion isn't always delivered as gracefully as it could be, the show's fans are forgiving. As ever, Touched by an Angel
draws in a a wide array of guest stars, including Michael Chiklis, Jerry Stiller, Lainie Kazan, Victoria Jackson, Adrian Pasdar, Bai Ling, Haley Joel Osment, and Edward James Olmos, among others. --Bret Fetzer