"Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the police academy. They were assigned very hazardous duties. But it took them away from all that, and now they work for me." And if you're a TV buff and old enough to remember those opening words, you will certainly recall the final final phrase is "My name is... Charlie."
While languishing at home as I recuperated from my recent cold, I turned the dial to one of the local independent TV stations here in SoCal - a fairly low rent outfit that airs plenty of infomercials - and airs a many of the more memorable crime dramas from TVs past including KOJAK, QUINCY, HAWAII FIVE-O, and yes, CHARLIE'S ANGELS. The seminal late 1970s series that officially ushered in the era of jiggle television (dubbed so by critics because the series often featured its stars in skimpy attire allowing viewers to see them "jiggle" as the moved about).
Though I recall enjoying CHARLIE'S ANGELS back in the day, it was never appointment television for me. Besides, as precocious as I may have been, I was still only in elementary school when the show premiered, so I am not ever sure if the stories resonated with me at all. Time passed and I basically forgot about the show. But now, 30 years later, I have renewed interest and I find the show quite engaging.
Of course at the height of it popularity, CHARLIE'S ANGELS was assailed by critics for its overt sex appeal (one of the more memorable episodes had the Angels go undercover at a women's prison that was forcing inmates to work as prostitutes), but also achieved immediate ratings success and contributed to ABC's dominance in primetime during that period. The show was also influential because it gave producer-king Aaron Spelling, the force behind such shows as THE MOD SQUAD, THE ROOKIES and STARSKY and HUTCH even more prominence and would allow him free reign to produce future hits such as THE LOVE BOAT, FANTASY ISLAND, BEVERLY HILLS 90210, and MELROSE PLACE.
Though the storylines seem somewhat campy now, and instances of the Angels arriving just in time to help on another out of a possible life threatening jam a tad unbelievable, it is still good television even if doesn't have the depth of NYPD BLUE, the pacing of ER in its heyday, or the complexity or suspense of a 24 or GREY'S ANATOMY. And while I particularly enjoy episodes with Kris (Cheryl Ladd), Kelly (Jacklyn Smith), and Sabrina (Kate Jackson) (and don't forget perhaps THE most asexual character in television history, Bosley, played by David Doyle), I found there was another set of "stars" that should not go without mentioning: the cars.
Like other Spelling productions of the time, Ford Motor Company cars were prominently featured. Practically every character drove a Ford, Lincoln or Mercury. In fact I was really surprised that in the very special two-hour episode (with guest stars Dean Martin, Scatman Crothers, and Dick Sargeant), that one of the bad guys actually drove a 1976 Cadillac Eldorado convertible.
To be honest, as implausible as many of the episodes were, I think find it hardest to believe that the beautiful and sophisticated Kelly Garret (Smith), would actually drive around Los Angeles in an orange Ford Pinto. Come on, even then the Pinto was not highly regarded and next to the AMC Pacer and Gremlin, was a perfect example of the junk Detroit insisted on flinging on American car buyers. About the only saving grace was that at least Kris (Ladd) and her sister before her, Jill (Farrah Fawcett) both drove sport Mustang Mach II's.
But in some ways, maybe CHARLIE'S ANGELS and Pinto have more in common than we might think. Both may have been considered cheesy or mediocre in their time, but seeing them now 30 years later, I'll swear they're classics.
Well, I gotta scoot.