Over the next several years, Whedon worked on TV's Parenthood and became a "script doctor," fixing other writers' screenplays, usually with an infusion of humor.He had a credited hand in Toy Story, Titan AE, and Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and did uncredited (but well-paid) work on Speed, The X-Men, Twister, and Waterworld.

And unlike Buffy, which was drained and depressing by its last year, the Angel series underwent near-constant change, and was at its strongest critically and dramatically at its end.

Producing these series, Whedon involved himself as writer or director for only a handful of episodes every year, but he proved himself an able supervisor, nurturing a staff of writers who understood the characters.

Kristy Swanson was an amiable if airheaded Buffy who seemed unsure who her character was supposed to be, and Donald Sutherland played Buffy's watcher, but made it clear backstage that he felt he was the movie's star.

The film had its moments but it was lukewarmly received, and compared to TV's Bt VS it seems to have, well, no blood.

When Firefly was released on home video with the episodes in proper order, all of the sudden the show made sense, and on the strength of strong video sales it was brought back three years later as the motion picture Serenity, which drew rave reviews but not much box office interest.

After Serenity flopped at the box office he made Dollhouse, a lukewarmly-received sci-fi series starring Eliza Dushku as a woman reprogrammed for espionage.

He wrote and directed some of each series' best episodes, including Buffy's "Hush" (the near-silent episode), "Once More, With Feeling" (the singing-and-dancing episode), and "Becoming" (the emotionally ravaging two-parter in the series' second season).

Story arcs often played out over entire years, and while the shows had their uninteresting stretches, overall the quality was high for television.

But rarely has a TV series been so savagely sabotaged by its network.

Fox ran almost no advertising for the series, and then for inexplicable reasons the episodes were broadcast in random order, instead of sequentially.

After seven years, Buffy ended in 2003, and after five years Angel was finished in 2004.