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This CBS drama, which ran from 1994-2003, follows the adventures of angel Monica. Under the tutelage of supervisor Tess, and with the frequent assistance of Andrew (an angel of death), she's a "caseworker" who goes from place to place to help various people overcome their problems by steering them towards God. Late in the seventh season, a fourth main character, Gloria, is introduced. As she is a newly created angel, she tags along with the others to learn how to help people.

This show has been mocked for its insistently heartwarming, tearjerking nature, but its nine year run is proof it has plenty of fans, and one can't fault its good intentions and wholesomeness. It also defied many stereotypes about religion, having episodes that declared, among other things, that God is perfectly okay with you being gay (and AIDS is most definitely not some sort of punishment), that the trappings of religion are less important than faith itself, and that you're not going to Hell for doing drugs or committing suicide.

Tropes used in Touched By an Angel include:
  • Abusive Parents: The angels had to face off against these several times, and even occasionally try to redeem them.
  • Actor Allusion: Rose's story in the season 8 episode The Bells Of Saint Peter's guest stars Doris Roberts as a older woman, who is sticking her nose in the affairs of a younger woman's (that she is related to) life sound familar?
  • An Aesop: The angels almost always reveal themselves to give the lesson and reassure everyone that God loves them, no matter how badly they've messed up or been messed up by life.
  • And Starring: With Valerie Bertinelli (last 2 seasons) and Della Reese as Tess.
  • Angel Unaware: The series was pretty much built around it.
  • Artistic License Linguistics: In "The Spirit of Liberty Moon", Jean is revealed to be Chinese when she is spotted reading a Mandarin newspaper. The problem: Mandarin is a spoken dialect, not a written one, and all Chinese dialects (in the PRC, at least) are indistinguishable in print.
  • Artistic License Physics: See Information Wants to Be Free below.
  • Armor-Piercing Question: In the season three episode The Sky Is Falling Tess gives three. First she gives to a group of people who are believing in martians. Then later she gives a second one to Monica and finally she gives one Dottie (an angel) who has come to help her (Tess) improve her manners.
  • Away in a Manger: "An Angel on the Roof".
  • Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: The angels being immortal, there are a few episodes that show them in earlier time periods, sometimes helping historical figures such as Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, and Albert Einstein. The stories are often told to present-day assignments to help them through their own problems. For instance, Einstein's struggle with guilt over how his discoveries allowed for the development of the atomic bomb and the destruction of Hiroshima is told to a scientist to dissuade her from cloning a human being. (Only one of these was, in fact, a Christian: Mark Twain was an atheist who mocked religion openly; Einstein was essentially a Deist--if that--and a non-practicing Jew. Out of the three, Lincoln was the only one who was assuredly a Christian. Of course, the angels help non-Christians on a regular basis.)
  • Cassandra Truth: Monica was once institutionalized when she claimed to be an angel, though this was part of her assignment to save another angel who'd suffered a Heroic BSOD.
  • Celebrity Star: Many Special Guest stars, whether they appear as themselves or not, have the plot configured around them and/or their talents.
  • Christmas Episode: Several, sometimes involving a Christmas Miracle. In the final two seasons, 9/11 figured into the plots of their respective Christmas episodes.
  • Clip Show: Several, the first aptly titled "Clipped Wings".
  • Creator Breakdown: Used in-universe in "Restoration", in which a silent movie director recut his happy Redemption into the grim Damnation after his pregnant wife, the lead actress, died in a botched stunt.
  • Cult: The angels save the members of a doomsday cult in one episode.
  • Deus Ex Machina: Arguably every episode ends in one, Monica reveals her nature, tells the client that God loves them and that everything will be alright. Angelic powers also meant that she, Andrew and Tess could pull pretty much any item that might be required out of their asses at any moment.
  • Disturbed Doves: (variant) A singular dove always ends each episode.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Andrew.
  • Drugs Are Bad: Though there were several anti-substance abuse episodes, they tended to avoid the idea that the substances themselves were somehow intrinsically evil... rather, that their use and abuse was often the result of some other problem that needed fixing.
  • Evil Counterpart: Kathleen, a fallen angel who faces Monica several times. She returns to the side of God at the end of "Clipped Wings".
  • Evil Twin: Monique, a Monica lookalike and "dark angel".
  • Executive Meddling: Used in-universe in "The Medium and the Message" (a Clip Show): Monica tries to pitch a show about angels to a cynical TV exec and his staff, but they want to change her ideas to something less uplifting and wholesome (for instance, they want to take the idea of an angel of death in more of an action/horror direction).
  • Fluffy Cloud Heaven: One episode opened with a monologue by Monica expressing her amusement with human depictions of Heaven such as this.
  • God Was My Co-Pilot: In the two-part Grand Finale, Monica serves as a lawyer to defend a destitute man in court, accused of killing all the children in a school by way of an explosion. He turns out to be the Almighty Himself, but Monica doesn't learn this until He's convicted and she vows to protect Him in prison (it's a Secret Test of Character). He was actually at the school to take all the kids to Heaven.
  • Grand Finale
  • The Grim Reaper: Andrew, the Angel of Death. He doesn't actively reap people - and in fact in one episode he encourages his assignment to get up and keep trying to stay alive - but he does escort them in their journey, and thus his appearances usually (but not always) indicate that someone in the episode is going to die, be at risk of dying, or have to get over someone's death. For having what is probably the worst job in Heaven, he's a reasonably cheerful guy who only expresses dissatisfaction when children are involved (often commenting that he hates those assignments).
    • It's occasionally mentioned that Andrew was previously a case worker like Monica, and it's suggested that he's one of the higher-ranked angels, so on the occasions when his appearance isn't related to a death, it's explained as using his experience in the field to lend a hand.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The title of the show has inspired many "inappropriate touching" jokes (Family Guy's take might be the best known).
  • Heartwarming Orphan: Several are encountered over the course of the series.
  • Heroic BSOD: "Jacob's Ladder", an angel who's put herself into the loony bin after she thought she had failed the girl she was guardian over. Turns out God had different plans.
    • Monica had one in "Netherlands", when viewing a terrorist attack and Gloria's subsequent seeming indifference to it came extremely close to making her lose her faith, and accept a Deal with the Devil. As noted below, this episode wound up hitting a little close to home for many.
    • Gloria herself had one, in the aftermath of trying Ecstasy. The resulting "crash" compounded with feelings of guilt for lying to Tess almost led her to allowing herself and her charge to drive over a cliff.
    • Tess, even had one, after finding a black man lynched.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: In one episode, a nun (played by President Roslin) at a Catholic School uncovers a bomb plot being acted by some of her students who are in full Taking You with Me mode. She manages to talk them down and gets them out of the building, only to discover the entire student body is about to walk into the building to begin their day. The nun rushes back into the building to pull the fire alarm, turns to walk out and is face to face with the digital countdown of the bomb timer, which clicks the last two seconds away. Right as the timer hits zero the episode ends with an abrupt fade to black.
  • Hollywood Tone Deaf: Monica is revealed to be this in "Voice of an Angel". She has a hard time fulfilling her assignment to help a young singer (played by Celebrity Star Charlotte Church) because the girl's a bit of a brat yet her voice is so beautiful, making the angel jealous.
  • Holy Backlight: Whenever the angels reveal themselves, they get a spotlight shone on them.
    • They also sometimes get a light to show that they're invisible to humans. They can still subliminally influence people this way. If they're just talking about people and not interacting, there's no light; we just assume they're invisible. That or they have terrible manners.
  • Ill Girl: Several episodes have a dying kid central to the plot, including the 100th episode "Psalm 151", where little Petey is definitely Too Good for This Sinful Earth and the angels have to help him fulfill his list of last wishes, many of which are for others.
  • Information Wants to Be Free: One episode revolved around a retired engineer who developed a device that could split water into oxygen and hydrogen with only a small input of sunlight. He sold it to the president of an energy company, who promptly destroyed the prototype and all the plans so that he could keep making a killing on oil.
  • Inspirationally Disadvantaged: Assignments occasionally involve people who are physically challenged or autistic/mentally challenged. The trope really lives up to its name with Taylor, an angel with Down's Syndrome (played by Chris Burke, Corky on Life Goes On).
  • Isn't It Ironic?: Reversed! In "Netherlands", Monica has a crisis of faith and is tempted by Satan to become mortal. At one point, he promises he's there for her by way of the song "No One Is Alone", which is from Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. In the show it's performed by the humbled good guys; here, because Satan's singing it, it verges on a Villain Recruitment Song. Note that Satan here is played by Mandy Patinkin, who frequently performs in Sondheim musicals; this may be another example of Celebrity Star in action.
  • Jesus Taboo: Christians of all denominations make appearances, and a two-parter deals with the persecution of Chinese believers, but the man himself is never name-dropped until the final episode. This may be in part because the show worked to be inclusive; some episodes specifically focus on Jewish people, and "Fight the Good Fight" is built around an appearance by (Muslim) Muhammad Ali.
  • Littlest Cancer Patient: Played in one instance ("Godspeed") by Hayden Panettiere.
  • Magical Negro: Tess.
  • Masquerade: Angels pose as humans when they're on assignment, and are otherwise invisible to the naked eye. Unfortunately, dark angels and Satan himself have the same abilities, and they can fool good angels.
  • Meganekko: Gloria.
  • Must Have Caffeine: A small Running Gag in the series is Monica's caffeine addiction, usually in the form of a latte. Give her some Irish coffees, however...
  • Near-Death Experience: One episode dealt with a man trying to turn his life around after a particularly terrifying NDE gave him a vision of Hell; others have near-death visions in brief.
  • New Media Are Evil: Subverted. "Pandora's Box" has a family threatened by the dangers of online pedophiles and whatnot, but Monica explains at the end that the Internet is not inherently bad and is in fact a gift from God that can and should be used for good.
    • Played straight in "Virtual Reality" where violent video games are apparently tools of hatred and of Satan that make children evil bastards with little regard for human life.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero
  • Once Per Episode: Each episode ended with a dove appearing somewhere in the area the final scene took place in, usually flying by and cooing.
  • Our Angels Are Different: None of the angels in the show have wings, and they are just about indistinguishable from humans until they drop the Masquerade. (At one point Tess was even put on time-out for having a hateful attitude towards Satan, and Monica got one for lying.)
  • Phosphor Essence: When one of the angels reveal themselves to a human, they glow to make their true nature clear.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: "Promised Land", which would lead to a 3-season series of the same name (which followed Touched on Sunday nights.)
  • Pregnant Hostage: One episode had a bank heist where the robber ordered the pregnant bank teller to go into the safe-deposit area to grab a valuable item. Then a gas leak explosion traps her in there and he orders the other hostages to help him dig her out. It turns out he's her husband and the father of her baby - they were desperate for money and planned it together.
  • Reckless Gun Usage: One character breaks just about all the rules — carelessly waving a loaded WW 2-era pistol around, pointing it straight at a friend, and then removing the magazine without clearing the chamber. After all that, how unlucky is it for said gun to get knocked off a desk, unintentionally fire, and shoot someone right in the heart?
  • Recurring Character: Several other angels. Out of the many "assignments" the angels take on, mentally challenged Joey and his brother Wayne show up multiple times after their introduction in Season One, and appear in the Grand Finale.
  • Rousseau Was Right: One of the repeated themes was that humans are born with a great capacity for love, forgiveness, mercy, and charity, and simply need to be reminded of it occasionally.
  • Satan: Several appearances, each time in a different form[1]. In the Grand Finale, he's the prosecuting lawyer at the trial, and was actually responsible for the deaths of the kids — he tricked Joey into setting the boiler in the school basement too high, and that's how the explosion occurred. Satan also appeared in the first season as the leader of a white supremacy group, the fourth season as a car repair man, the sixth season as a little boy, and the seventh season as himself (in human form) to tempt Monica after she witnesses a terrorist attack.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Firmly on the Idealistic side.
  • Spin-Off: Promised Land, the further adventures of one of the families the angels helped.
  • Spiritual Successor: Seen by many as the spiritual successor to the earlier series Highway to Heaven.
  • Springtime for Hitler: A professional basketball player attempts this in one episode, agreeing to to throw a game in return for a large sum of money from some gamblers who will win big. He takes a bunch of ridiculous shots trying to miss on purpose, but thanks to the heavenly intervention, he makes every bucket.
  • Star-Crossed Lovers: The kids of the two women that are the assignments in the ep "Last Dance". One of the kids is played by Harmony. In fact, the angels' intervention here is to subvert this trope.
  • Straw Vulcan: Gloria several times came close to being this, especially in her first full episode, as she's brand new and it's explained that her brain works like a computer. (She's the first angel created in the 21st century, and God apparently wanted to try something new.) Her flat, unemotional response to a tragedy, combined with the tragedy itself, gives Monica a Heroic BSOD, and thereafter occasionally infuriates Tess too, but that's actually part of the point... she's there to make them reexamine why they react to certain things the way they do.
  • Theme Naming: if one can call it that; there are two different episodes named "The Perfect Game". One revolves around bowling, the other revolves around baseball.
  • Too Soon: See Harsher in Hindsight on the YMMV tab.
  • The Troubles: "Life Before Death" has Monica (who was "born" in Ireland) convincing a group of Protestant and Catholic teens from Northern Ireland to foster peace between themselves and others.
  • Very Special Episode: Quite a few; most notably the Grand Finale, and when Tess gets Alzheimer's.
  • Walking the Earth
  • Woobie of the Week: Probably the best known example.
  1. Including that of Bo Duke!