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Charlie's Angels

Charlie's Angels

Charlie's Angels (1976–81) was a smash-hit television (see entry under 1940s—TV and Radio in volume 3) series with a surefire formula. In a nod to the feminism of the era, it featured three tough, no-nonsense women who were anything but submissive in their roles as crime-fighting detectives. Detective roles were then usually played by men on both the big and small screens. At the same time, these Angels were no women's liberation icons. They were glamorous, beautiful sex objects who frequently found themselves garbed in short shorts or bikinis as they headed off to sunny climates to complete their assignments.

Charlie's Angels, broadcast on ABC, won major stardom for its three original leads. Kate Jackson (1948–), the most experienced actress of the trio, was cast as the calm, cool, and intellectual Sabrina Duncan. Farrah Fawcett-Majors (1946–) played athletic Jill Munroe. Jaclyn Smith (1947–) was cast as street-wise Kelly Garrett. Fawcett-Majors quickly emerged as the show's most marketable commodity. America fell in love with her toothy smile and abundant blonde hair, and a poster of her garbed in a bathing suit was a hot seller. Fawcett-Majors left the show in 1977 after just one season, and was followed by Jackson two years later. Their replacements were Cheryl Ladd (1951–), playing Jill's kid sister Kris, and Shelley Hack (1952–), who left in 1980 and was replaced by Tanya Roberts (1955–). John Forsythe (1918–) was heard but not seen as the voice of Charlie Townsend, the Angels' boss, who phoned them their assignment at the start of each episode. David Doyle (1925–1997) played John Bosley, Charlie's aide, who was on hand to assist the Angels.

The Angels usually found themselves working undercover. In order to sniff out a killer, foil a kidnapping plot, or bust a drug-smuggling ring, they might masquerade as military recruits, playmate centerfolds, marathon runners, fashion models, student nurses, or convicts. The titles of quite a few episodes revealed the locales to which they would be dispatched: "Island Angels"; "Angels at Sea"; "The Mexican Connection"; "The Vegas Connection"; "Angels in Paradise." But the series' underlying lowbrow quality is best exhibited by the titles of other episodes: "Pom Pom Angels"; "Disco Angels"; "Angels on Wheels"; "Angels in Chains."

Charlie's Angels was one of dozens of vintage hit TV series to be recycled into feature films decades after the airings of their final episodes. The Charlie's Angels film (2000) featured three attractive young stars of a new generation, Drew Barrymore (1975–), Cameron Diaz (1972–), and Lucy Liu (1967–), and involved them in a scheme to foil a kidnapping plot.

—Rob Edelman

For More Information

"Charlies' Angels." Screen Gem Network. (accessed March 28, 2002).

Hofstede, David, and Jack Condon. The Charlie's Angels Casebook. Beverly Hills, CA: Pomegranate Press, 2000.

Pingel, Mike, ed. Angelic Heaven. (accessed March 28, 2002).

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