Toys of the 1970's
"Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy. They were assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Charlie..."
That's the opening voice-over to one of the most successful action series ever, Charlie's Angels. Aaron Spelling's 1970's classic was simple and yet stylish drama, which mixed crime with a touch of glamour.
Tired with crime on the streets, local millionaire businessman Charlie Townsend decided to do something about it. He brought together three attractive female police officers (Jill, Kelly, and Sabrina) and formed his own detective agency.
Each week, the Angels would be briefed (or indeed debriefed) by their rather camp boss Bosley, and then Charlie himself, who would explain the rest of the case via a little intercom speaker sat on Bosley's desk. Throughout the five years the viewers never actually saw Charlie's face. The voice was of course provided by John Forsthye who later went on to play Blake Carrington in Dynasty.
The show was instantly popular, not only because of the beauty of its stars, but because, frankly, 70's television was rather dull and/or insipid. Adults and children alike took to the characters, and before long one could find store shelves stocked with such character-devoted merchandise as lunch boxes, trading cards, action figures, etc.
The cracks started to appear when Farrah Fawcett left after the first season. She was replaced by Cheryl Ladd, who played her niece Kris. No real explanation was made of Jill's sudden departure, but all was later revealed halfway through the second series when Jill returned for a few episodes. Ladd was a mild beauty who appealed to viewers, but who certainly couldn't match up to Fawcett's star power (especially after Farrah married Lee Majors, star of another top TV action show, The Six Million Dollar Man).
Next to leave was Kate Jackson in 1979; she was fed up of rather lack-lustered and sexist scripts. Jackson's Sabrina was replaced by Tiffany Welles (actress Shelley Hack), but the viewers weren't quite as happy with the new Angel and started to switch off. In the final series Tiffany was replaced by a character called Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts) but by now audience figures were in freefall, so ABC decided to cut its losses and axed the series. The final four episodes of the show were never even aired.
The show has a cult following nowadays and can still be seen across the world. Its success even prompted a big Hollywood film remake in 2000 starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu, with Bill Murray as a pratfalling Bosley. Unfortunately none of the original cast were in the film but John Forsythe did reprise his role as Charlie's voice.
A sequel was released in 2003, with host of special guests including Demi Moore, Bruce Willis, John Cleese, pop star Pink and a cameo by ex-Angel actress Jaclyn Smith. The highlight of the movie was apparently a soapy, slow-motion car wash by the main characters.
Farrah Fawcett died in 2009, prompting magazine headlines about how she was now a 'real' angel. In any case, millions of fans all over the world idolized her, or had a terrible aching crush on her (myself included), or both. The show that propelled her to fame may be remembered as the most obvious example of Aaron Spelling's 'jiggle TV,' but it nevertheless has remained popular since it first appeared to viewers decades ago.