While Emmy's snub of Buffy the Vampire Slayer brings most critics' blood to a boil, the fact that those same reviewers often overlook the supernatural series' sublime spinoff, Angel, makes the rest of us reach for our stakes. Since its 1999 premiere, Angel has solidified into an hour of quality television that rivals — and this past season arguably even outshone — its sire. In fact, if the final WB episode of Buffy (before its fall transfer to UPN) is an "instant classic" — and, frankly, it is — then the four-episode fairy tale with which Angel rounded out the year is at least a mini-masterpiece. So, who does a blood-sucking crimefighter have to bite around here to get some respect? Executive producer David Greenwalt doesn't know. "We could do an all-nude episode," he sighs to TV Guide Online, "and we'd still get the same rating." Nonetheless, he has scared up a plan to drive a larger audience batty and, at the same time, start editors scrambling for their thesauri to select adequate superlatives. The secrets of the show's future success:

Angel will make the most of the new timeslot. The WB is now airing

Angel — which kicks off its third season Sept. 24 — after 7th Heaven on Monday nights at 9 pm/ET. "It's a weird lead-in, but a good one," Greenwalt theorizes. "It's weird because 7th Heaven is real family fare, and our stuff is a little harder-hitting. But the WB is supporting us with the most bodies that they have to offer. Besides, Buffy followed 7th Heaven at one time, and it didn't hurt Buffy."

Angel will remember Buffy. "We're not going to do crossovers, but we're not going to pretend Buffy wasn't the great love of Angel's life," Greenwalt promises. "In the first episode, everybody's waiting for the other shoe to drop about her death because they know he's got to be grief-stricken." Later, when the Slayer is resurrected on Buffy, the repercussions will be felt on Angel, too. "We won't act as if when she comes back to life, he doesn't want to see her."

Angel will leave the door open for old favorites. After all, there remains a lot of unfinished business between Angel and his exes, Darla and Drusilla. "Is there ever!" Greenwalt teases. "You'll be seeing one of them, and soon." Plus, he'd gladly welcome back budding movie stars Christian Kane as Wolfram &#038 Hart attorney Lindsey and Eliza Dushku as rogue Slayer Faith, and new Law &#038 Order prosecutor Elisabeth Rohm as cop Kate.

Angel will bring in new blood. "There's going to be a villain named Holtz," Greenwalt reveals. "He's a vampire killer who's been hunting Angel for years." In the plum part, Greenwalt has cast an alum of his lauded but short-lived Fox drama, Profit: Keith Szarabajka. "He's got a great voice... really low and smoky."

Angel will leave viewers laughing. "Our characters have been playing around, and now they have to get serious," Greenwalt suggests. "But the tone of the show is not going to be serious. I think we've stressed too much the darkness, and it's escaped people that this show is a lot like Die Hard. We have a [protagonist] who will do all the heroic things, but he's also funny and a little cheap and makes very human mistakes. That's one of my favorite things about him — he's capable of saving the wrong girl."