Sunday, May 20, 2012

Classic TV: Charlie's Angels (1976)

ABC thought they might be doing something right by reviving an iconic series from the 70's last fall, but, marking its 35th anniversary, Charlie's Angels fell flat and was cancelled well before Christmas. Where did it go wrong? Well......

First, the series was set in Miami, rather than in Los Angeles and/or its surrounding environs. Second, it was airing on Thursdays, instead of Wednesdays, which was its home during the original series' run (1976-81). Third, the detectives weren't true Angels in the purest sense, as they were ex-cons instead. Finally, aside from co-executive producer Drew Barrymore, who'd starred in two feature films based on the franchise a few years prior, the only "name" was model Minka Kelly, better known for having been the armpiece of New York Yankees superstar Derek Jeter for a few years. It was a coincidence of bad timing that saw them break up just before the new Angels hit the air.

Today, the original Angels was given an all-day marathon on Cloo, spotlighting mostly season 2 episodes, but let's cover the series in general.

When it launched in 1976, Charlie's Angels was yet another crime drama from the Aaron Spelling factory. Spelling had been supplying series almost exclusively to ABC ever since he'd launched his own studio in the mid-60's after leaving Four Star. The concept had a small element of The Millionaire in that the Angels' boss, private eye Charlie Townshend, was heard but never seen (voiced by an uncredited John Forsythe, ex-Bachelor Father). As Charlie explains in the open, he'd plucked a trio of police academy graduates from menial duties with the LAPD to become his operatives, aided by on-site supervisor John Bosley (David Doyle). After the first season, pin-up icon Farrah Fawcett(-Majors), at the time married to Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors, left to pursue a movie career. Cheryl Ladd, at the time more known as one of the singing voices behind Josie & The Pussycats, was brought in. After the third season, Kate Jackson (ex-The Rookies), who'd been a Spelling standby for so long, left, replaced by Shelley Hack. Tanya Roberts took over the following---and final---season. Got all that?

Charlie's Angels came under criticism from the predictable corners (i.e. moral zealots) due to being one of the leaders of the "jiggle TV" movement of the period, which put more emphasis on the use of its female leads as sex objects. The way I look it, watching the reruns through the years, is that if you just follow the stories, and pay no mind to how the characters are dressed, there are no issues to be had.

Let's go back to the Cheryl Ladd era intro:

At the end of the day, Charlie's Angels was just another cookie-cutter crime drama of the period. Spelling would churn out a few more of those, of course.

Rating: B+.


magicdog said...

My mom, sister and I loved watching this show back in the day!

Sure the Angels were pretty and it was "jiggle TV", but the chemistry of the original cast and having women who were also trained officers balanced things out.

I laughed seeing the Angels being used as crossing guards and meter maids! In the NYC metro area in the 70s, meter maids and crossing guards were NOT cops. Perhaps in earlier times, but certainly not when I was a kid! Meter maids were a separate branch entirely and crossing guards were often volunteers (although in my hometown, they were often old ladies wearing uniforms). It is likely that female cops were often confined to the office typing reports, so the guys could walk the beat. Women were just strting to increase in number in the NYPD in the 70s so a show like Charlie's Angels was an escape to a girl powered adventure.

When Spelling's last show, "Charmed" debuted, it was often referred to as "Charlie's Angels with magic".

Did you notice that the "Police Academy" exteriors were the same ones used some years later in the next Spelling show, "TJ Hooker"??

The newer incarnation of "Angels" deserved to fail for all the reasons you stated. The most egregious IMO was that they were ex-cons rather than former cops. I know female cops today would have more to do than 35 years ago but I still would have preferred they had been on the right side of the law to begin with.

hobbyfan said...

Blame the failure of the reboot on the network not reading their audience correctly. What I think they wanted to do with inject some "Miami Vice"-style attitude, hence the Miami setting, into a franchise that didn't need tampering. Today's network programmers, by and large, are clueless anyway.

Aaron Spelling had given ABC "Hart to Hart", "Vega$", and the soap, "Dynasty", in between "Angels" & "TJ Hooker". In fact, while I don't know who was brought in to voice Charlie in the reboot, since John Forsythe had passed after "Full Throttle", but don'tcha think William Shatner would've been a clever pick?

As for "Charmed" being "Angels" with a magic twist? Uh, no. The Halliwell sisters were self-sufficicent, as I recall.