Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy; and they were each assigned very hazardous duties.
But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.
1976-1981 ABC TV series produced by Aaron Spelling about three female private eyes, who would receive their briefings from The Voice, "Charlie". It was later remade as a short-lived 2011 series with the same theme (there was also an aborted attempt at a remake in the early 1990s, but sans Charlie).Also spawned two feature films in the early 2000's which were implied to share some continuity with the original TV series (and with Jaclyn Smith from the original series making a cameo in one).The Original SeriesThree women, the Angels (originally Kate Jackson, the late Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Jaclyn Smith), graduated from the Los Angeles police academy only to be assigned such duties as handling switchboards and directing traffic. They quit and were hired to work for the Charles Townsend Agency as private investigators. Their boss, Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe), is never seen full face (in some episodes the viewer gets to see the back of his head and his arms, talking through a phone while surrounded by beautiful women) assigning cases to the Angels and his liaison, Bosley (played by David Doyle), via a speaker phone.Charlie's Angels is episodic in nature, as opposed to serial, thus each episode shows the Angels finding themselves in new situations in which they would go undercover to investigate. The undercover aspect of the show creates much of the plot interest and tension. In the early seasons of the show, the Angels, under their assumed identities, use a combination of sexual wiles and knowledge learned for the situation in which they are being placed, but by the third and fourth seasons, the writing has a tendency to stray from the sex appeal and focus more on the case at hand. The fact that those women changed so often is purely irrelevant.The Revived SeriesBrought back to television in The New Tens, the series uses the same premise as the original, with Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor as the Angels, and Ramón Rodriguez as Bosley. With the passing of John Forsythe (Charlie), executive producer Leonard Goldberg is the only constant across all three iterations of the franchise. Where the original Angels were all frustrated policewomen, the new Angels are all convicts getting a second chance from Charlie.Cancelled after four episodes (of eight produced).
Both series provide examples of:
Action Girl: Well, that was the point. The original Angels seem pretty tame by today's standard, but in the 1970's women were still supposed to leave the fighting to the men.
Fanservice: Very prominent in both the movies and the TV shows.
A-Team Firing: Occasionally invoked. A variant - where people are shot, but rarely fatally - is also invoked frequently during the show's run (which in some respects may actually be closer to Truth in Television), which make the occasions where the trope is averted (often, surprisingly, by Kelly, the angel with the highest single body count) stand out.
Attempted Rape: In the early episode "Night of the Strangler", Sabrina comes surprisingly close to being "defiled" (as she calls it) until Kelly arrives and berates the guy for doing it. This is followed by some cringeworthy (by 2010's standards) joking around by Sabrina in which she states she might have let him go through with it if he was Robert Redford!
Bare Your Midriff: Virtually every regular cast member save for David Doyle got to do this at least once.
Beach Episode: "The Mexican Connection", "Angels in Paradise", "Angels of The Deep", "Hula Angels", "Island Angels" and "Waikiki Angels"
The Cast Showoff: Before joining the series, Cheryl Ladd was already known as a singer (she was one of the singing voices in Josie and the Pussycats and recorded an album with the group), and she used her fame on Charlie's Angels to launch a solo singing career that actually scored a few hits in the late 1970s. Not surprisingly, the series built an episode titled "Angels in the Wings" around Kris performing in a musical, allowing Ladd to sing several tunes.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the pilot movie, Bosley has a superior named Woodville (played by David Ogden Stiers, who would wind up at the 4077th MASH a year later). The character was eliminated without explanation when the series proper began.
An episode of the original series had the girls going on a Caribbean cruise and encountering the cast of The Love Boat. (Both shows were produced by Aaron Spelling.)
Dan Tanna, the hero of the Spelling detective series Vega$, appears in an episode set in Vegas.
The cast of Charlie's Angels also appeared in a cameo on another Spelling-produced show, San Pedro Beach Bums.
Dirty Harriet: Many of the Angel's assignments involved going undercover as exotic dancers, masseuses, or even call girls.
Eagle Eye Detection: All the Angels possess this ability to a degree, but in the early episode "Lady Killer," Sabrina is able to instantly realize that a bed has been hooked up to electrocute a man just by glancing at it, warning the guy in time.
Early episodes featured a running gag in which Charlie would continually be shown in provocative circumstances with various women (usually accompanied by a Getting Crap Past the Radar quip or two). Soon, it was decided that Charlie too closely resembled Hugh Hefner and this aspect was downplayed considerably.
The pilot episode saw the Angels - and Bosley - taking their orders from a Jim Phelps-like character named Woodville. He was dropped without explanation and Bosley became the boss (or, rather, the liaison to the boss).
In a carry over from the pilot, Bosley is depicted as being continually trying to ingratiate himself with Charlie and taking an "aw, shucks!" attitude whenever Charlie would deign to throw a compliment this way. This running gag faded as Series 1 progressed. Although still depicted as the occasional bumbler, Bosley would demonstrate himself to be a capable "male Angel" on more than one occasion.
It goes without saying that it's a rare episode indeed where a male character is not seen oogling one or more of the angels.
Four-Temperament Ensemble: Although the cast of angels has changed drastically, the replacement characters still fit their respective temperaments for the most part despite their personality differences. Sabrina/Tiffany/Julie are choleric, Jill/Kris are sanguine, Kelly is melancholic, and Bosley is just about as phlegmatic as they come.
Getting Crap Past the Radar: Charlie himself sets a high bar in the first regular episode by working not one but two plain-as-day references to erections (while getting a massage from a sexy woman, yet!) into his initial mission briefing to the angels.
Although much of the alleged explicitness of "Angels in Chains" comes downs to people's memories cheating, there are still a few racy moments (not to mention a blatantly lesbian prison guard) that might have been challenging to get on US network TV in the 1980s, never mind 1976.
Girls Behind Bars: "Angels in Chains" and "Caged Angel". "Angels in Chains" also featured Chained Heat, with the three angels chained together while trying to escape from the prison warden.
Grilling the Newbie: New girl Tiffany is grilled by Kelly & Kris when they learn that she's actually met Charlie.
Knife-Throwing Act: "Circus of Terror" (with footage from this recycled for Cheryl Ladd's part of the opening credits thereafter)
Lingerie Scene: Although the Angels never wore lingerie under their clothes, they sometimes went undercover as underwear models, which resulted in many scenes with them wearing only lingerie.
Kelly is seen wearing rather skimpy lingerie in the pilot movie. Unusually, she's actually shown sleeping (or, at least, pretending to sleep) in the sleepwear.
Mood Whiplash: Two examples involving rare uses of deadly force by the heroines:
In "Angel Baby," Kris shoots a bad guy and there is an unexpected With These Hands moment afterwards. Unfortunately the writers or producers got cold feet about this because in the very next scene this dramatic moment is undermined when Charlie states that the guy Kris shot will recover.
"Angels on Vacation" plays out like a standard "city girls meet country bumpkins" storyline, rather lighthearted, until two men attempt to kill the Angels. In the ensuing gunbattle, Kelly shoots the two men to death (unlike Kris, she displays no remorse suggesting It Gets Easier is in play) and the episode takes a sharp turn from there.
"To Kill an Angel" followed a string of typically light-hearted episodes with a dead serious episode about Kelly being accidentally shot by an autistic boy and the subsequent search for the kid. Sabrina breaks down in anger, Jill avoids making any jokes whatsoever, and pretty much the only time anyone cracks a smile is when the bad guy gets caught (granted, in a somewhat silly manner) at the end. Sometimes cited as an episode to show people who think "Angels in Chains" is all the show is about.
Multiple Demographic Appeal: Depending on who you ask, the show was either a landmark step forward for feminism by showing smart, tough women defying the traditional roles of wife/secretary/housekeeper, or a slightly sexist Jiggle Show which consisted solely of hot women running around in bathing suits. They're kinda both right. (Even Farrah Fawcett once said that when the show reached #3 in the ratings, she thought it was because of their acting ability. When it reached #1, she admitted it was probably because they didn't wear bras.)
Neck Snap: in the 1970s the "grab the head and twist" type of neck-breaking was rarely shown on network TV. But a murder victim gets "the twist" by a bad guy at the start of "Angels on Wheels", though the editing downplays it as much as possible.
The series is quite a period pieces, with lots of 70's fashions, designs, hairstyles and sets that may seem either cool or cheesy today.
Several episodes also display the rampant discrimination against women that was still common in the era (usually in a lampshading manner as the Angels soon prove how outdated those viewpoints are).
It's perhaps telling that the series didn't survive very long into the 1980s.
Shirtless Scene: "Angels On Wheels", "Lady Killer", "Love Boat Angels", "Toni's Boys" and "Mr Galaxy".
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: All the "replacement" Angels on the original show, but Kris Munroe (Jill's kid sister) in particular (at least at first, but Kris soon developed her own unique personality).
The Voice: Charlie makes a point of never showing himself in person to the Angels, though his motivation for this is never explained (it all makes very little sense in-universe). The audience, though, tends to get to see him in a short scene in many episodes, but even then his face is never shown.
Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The TV movie that served as a pilot has a different opening, as well as different bumpers showing the three Angels standing side by side. The closing credits also end with a still photo of the Angels (the same one used at the top of this article) as they say "Call us if you need us."
Vapor Wear: The Angels' trademark. Averted by Sabrina, who not only tended to wear less Stripperific clothing than her colleagues, but actually even wore a bra sometimes.
The revived series provides examples of:
Adaptational Attractiveness: Some reviewers wondered if this might not lead to a major plot hole. In the original series, where Bosley was older and out of shape, it made sense for him to stay at headquarters and let the Angels to the work, but when the new series made Bosley young, buff, and handsome, it would look odd. Eventually averted as Bosley did do a lot of work in the field this time around. (As it happens, this was a misplaced trope as the original Bosley was often in the field and even shot a few bad guys to save the Angels.)
The Alcatraz: The prison in "Angels in Chains". Oddly for this trope, the Angels don't actually manage to escape and are instead caught during their escape attempt.
Bilingual Dialogue: In "Angels in Chains" when Bosley in disguise talks in English to a Cuban National Revolutionary Police Force (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria) officer, who replied to the former in Spanish.
California Doubling: While the series is shot in Florida, there were some places (e.g. Cuba, some of the islands near Florida) that were shot in the state.