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Series / Charlie's Angels

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"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."

A 1976–81 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).

Three 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, writing parking tickets 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 series is remembered today both for being one of the first action series with strong female heroines, and for the prominent fanservice. On this wiki, it's the Trope Namer for the Angels Pose.

A shortlived revival of the television show starring Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh, and Rachael Taylor aired in 2011. The show also spawned two feature films in the early 2000s that were implied to share some continuity with the original TV series with Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore (and with Jaclyn Smith from the original series making a cameo in one), and one that premiered in November 2019 starring Naomi Scott, Kristen Stewart, and Ella Balinska as the titular trio, with Elizabeth Banks directing, producing and playing Bosley.

The original series provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: 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. In contrast, the Angels not only could hold their own in a fight, but usually didn't need any men to help them out (while Bosley provided valuable support, he often didn't take part in the actual action).
  • Actor Allusion:
    • John Bosley's name is a reference to the fact that his actor David Doyle was often mistaken for actor Tom Bosley.
    • The opening titles show Jill getting a call from Charlie while playing tennis, a nod that Farrah Fawcett was discovered and cast in Logan's Run when Michael York saw her playing tennis.
  • Alien Episode: Season two's "Unidentified Flying Angels". UFOs, mysterious disappearances and the murder of a wealthy old lady put the Angels on the trail of a killer...from another world? Sabrina acts as a pushy Bronx reporter, Bosley and Kris as a sugar daddy and his ditzy wife, and Kelly impersonates an alien.
  • Amnesia Episode: In "Angel on My Mind," the villain hits Kris with his car after she sees him committing a murder, giving her amnesia. She spends the rest of the episode wandering down the beach while the others try to track her down.
  • Angels Pose: The Trope Namer. The Angels' action scenes were choreographed for this.
  • As Himself: In "Sammy Davis, Jr. Kidnap Caper", the Angels become bodyguards for Sammy Davis Jr. to protect him from further kidnapping attempts.
  • 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. Sabrina later quips she might've let him go through with it if he was Robert Redford.
  • Bare Midriffs Are Feminine: Being an Action Girl series with a dose of Fanservice, every regular cast member got to wear at least one midriff-baring outfit, with the exception of the only recurring male character, Bosley.
  • Beauty, Brains, and Brawn: Jill would be the beauty, Sabrina the brains and Kelly the brawn.
  • Beauty Contest: "Pretty Angels All in a Row" has the title characters entering the "Miss Chrysanthemum" pageant to find out who's frightening away the contestants.
  • Berserk Button: The normally calm and docile Bosley completely loses it when he witnesses Kelly being shot in the head in the final episode of the series.
  • Blonde, Brunette, Redhead:
    • This was what they originally intended; however, Jaclyn Smith was able to change their minds during her audition. They finally got there when Tanya Roberts joined in the last season.
    • The season 1 episode "Night of the Strangler" has Smith playing a dual role; the second character is a redhead, so the producers still got what they wanted, sort of.
  • Bomb Disposal: In "Angels at Sea," the Angels have to dispose of three bombs on a cruise ship. They've had little experience with bombs, so a bomb disposal expert from L.A. gives them instructions over the phone.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy:
    • On the first season episode "The Seance", Kelly is hypnotized into believing that Jill is her childhood nemesis and tries to kill her.
    • This happens to Julie in a late fifth season episode "Attack Angels" where she becomes stuck under the trance of a hypnotist who specializes in using brainwashed young women as killers.
  • Break the Haughty: In "The Vegas Connection", while trying to infiltrate a blackmailing ring, Kelly goes to audition as a chorus girl, and constantly has to deal with a conceited, bitchy Showgirl. After learning that said Showgirl takes part in the blackmailing setup as a call girl, and will be sent to Bosley's, who is busy masquerading as a Texas High Roller, Kelly, to protect him, gives the girl a brutal thrashing leaving the Showgirl battered and bruised, and Kelly the chance to take her place.
  • Busman's Holiday:
    • In "Angels on a String," the Angels go on vacation, planning to play tennis, but instead get caught up in a plot to kidnap an anti-communist writer and replace him with a lookalike.
    • In "Angels on Vacation," the Angels and Bosley go on vacation to a small town in Arizona where Kris's uncle works as a sheriff. When they arrive, they learn that Kris's uncle and most of the women in town have been taken hostage as part of a plot to bust a criminal out of jail.
  • The Cartel: The Villain of the Week in "The Mexican Connection" is a cartel smuggler known as "Escobar", as a reference to real life cartel drug lord Pablo Escobar.
  • Chained Heat: In "Angels in Chains", Jill, Kelly, and Sabrina are chained together when they try to escape from the prison warden.
  • Chippendales Dancers: A male stripper is shown rehearsing his act in "Toni's Boys".
  • 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.
    • After Sabrina leaves the Angels sometime before season 4, her name is occasionally tossed around in "Love Boat Angels". After this, she's never brought up again.
    • Tiffany quickly becomes this after her departure back to Boston. She's quickly replaced with reformed petty criminal Julie, and is practically forgotten by the remaining Angels.
  • Circus Episode: In "Circus of Terror", a circus owned and operated by an old-fashioned thinking gypsy, has been plagued by some unexplained accidents. His son turns to Charlie for help and so the girls go undercover, Kris working for the knife thrower, Kelly as a stunt motorcycle rider, and Sabrina working for a mime.
  • Clip Show: Season three ended with "Angels Remembered", where the Angels reminisce with Bosley and Charlie about their three years of working together. This was Kate Jackson's last episode.
  • Closet Punishment: In "The Seance," Kelly is hypnotized into remembering how Beamish, the abusive orphanage matron, used to lock her in the closet. The villain takes advantage of this information to hypnotize her into thinking that Jill is Beamish so she'll kill her.
  • The Con: The girls get a compulsive gambler thief to lose his ill-gotten gains in order to force him to steal again at a time and place of the heroes' choosing, so the police would have the evidence to arrest him. Another involved conning a conman in order to recoup his victims' money.

  • Crossover:
    • 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, The San Pedro Beach Bums.
  • Dirty Harriet:
    • Many of the Angel's assignments involved going undercover as exotic dancers, masseuses, or even call girls.
    • In the first season finale, "Blue Angels", all three angels and Bosley go undercover in different places, and two of the assignments qualify as this trope: Jill impersonates a masseuse in a massage parlor (with Bosley as the manager). Sabrina goes undercover in the LAPD as a Phoenix vice detective, and is immediately ordered to impersonate a prostitute in order to infiltrate a different massage parlor.
  • 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-Installment Weirdness:
    • Early episodes featured a running gag in which Charlie would continually be shown in provocative circumstances with various women (usually accompanied by some innuendo). 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 his 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.
    • The first season featured the famous "Angel Chime" throughout the season, appearing in random places, such as when one of the angels enters the scene. This was later cut back and used only for the commercial stingers.
    • In the pilot movie, the Angels were private detectives and they did not use guns. They used their wits and brains and were masters of disguise. It was not until the series that the Angels had guns in their hands and had martial arts skills.
    • Although Seasons 2, 3, and 4 mention the Los Angeles Police Academy in the opening credits, the rundown in Season 1 does not mention a city. The clips of the original Angels engaging in "hazardous duty" show them in the uniform of the SCPD—with insignia apparently left over from Aaron Spelling's earlier series The Rookies where Kate Jackson was the female lead.
  • Easy Amnesia: Kris in "Angel in my Mind" gets amnesia after being hit by a car. Unfortunately for her, she had just witnessed a murder, and the murderer decided to silence her.
  • Eating the Eye Candy:
  • Fanservice: One of the selling points of the series. By modern standards it is fairly mild, though.
    • The Angels often wore revealing clothes or swimsuits, and they were famous for never wearing bras in a period where this was still uncommon on TV.
    • Many scenes were set in places where there were many beautiful and scantily-dressed women around, such as at a swimming pool or a beauty contest.
    • There were often men going shirtless or with Intimate Open Shirts to balance out the eye candy.
  • Fingertip Drug Analysis: In "Angel Blues," Kris tastes the contents of a packet of "laundry detergent" and says, "It's cocaine. High-grade stuff."
  • Forced Addiction: "Avenging Angel" features a heroin-addicted ex-con who was busted by Kelly before she became an Angel. After getting out of prison, he tries to get revenge on Kelly by kidnapping her and injecting her with heroin in an attempt to turn her into an addict like himself. However, the dealers the heroin came from think that they're actually working together and come after them both.
  • 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.
  • Gentleman Thief: Timothy Dalton appears in "Fallen Angel" as Damien "Ice Cat" Roth, a millionaire playboy/jewel thief, who also happens to be in love with Jill.
  • Get into Jail Free: "Angels in Chains" sees the Angels infiltrate a country prison farm in order to find a missing girl. It turns out that the authorities are partners in an extortion-prostitution scheme.
  • 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.
  • Heist Episode: In season two's "Diamond in the Rough", the Angels are hired by Freddie the Fox to help steal back a diamond and return it to its rightful owner. The Angels travel to the Caribbean and execute an elaborate jewel heist, and Kris falls for the son of the villain.
  • Grilling the Newbie: New girl Tiffany is grilled by Kelly & Kris when they learn that she's actually met Charlie.
  • Human Traffickers: Several episodes have the Angels attempt to break up human trafficking rings, most notably the Season 5 opener "Angel In Hiding." (In "Angel In Hiding," an undercover cop posing as a model is killed. It is ultimately revealed the owner of the modeling agency under investigation sells models that "don't make it" into prostitution and human trafficking. The Angels expose the owner at a lavish dinner party before his guests.)
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: In "Angel Hunt", the Angels are lured to Diablo Island by an old enemy of Charlie's, who plans to hunt them down and kill them in order to avenge himself on their boss.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Many, many episodes have "Angels" in the title.
  • The Infiltration: Many episodes feature this kind of plot, as many of Charlie's plans have the Angels and Bosley going undercover and working for the bad guys to take them down from the inside.
  • Is Nothing Sacred?; The episode "Night of the Strangler"
    Jill Munroe: Do you know when Trigger died, they stuffed him! [laughs] Is nothing sacred anymore?
  • It's Not You, It's My Enemies: In "Target: Angels", Tom Selleck plays Kelly's boyfriend whom she pushes away for his own safety when the Angels are targeted by an assassin.
  • Jiggle Show: The original and canonical example. Women running without bras tend to jiggle, and the show made a point of playing this for Fanservice (though not as much as you might think — fans have selective memories).
  • 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 didn't wear lingerie under their clothes, they sometimes went undercover as underwear models, which resulted in many scenes with them wearing only lingerie.
    • There are quite a few scenes with the Angels in rather skimpy nightgowns or pajamas. In the pilot movie, Kelly is, somewhat unusually, actually shown sleeping (or, at least, pretending to sleep) in the sleepwear.
  • Match Cut: In "Night of the Strangler," Jill looks at a medal her dinner date gave her as her date goes off to make a phone call. The image dissolves from the medal to a pocketwatch as Jill wonders what's taking him so long.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • In "Angel Baby," Kris shoots a bad guy and there is an unexpected These Hands Have Killed 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.
  • Novelization: The pilot film was adapted as a novel.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The villain in "Angels in Springtime" pretends to be confined to a wheelchair; getting up to run away when she is exposed at the end of the episode.
  • Opening Credits Cast Party: The opening included Jill, Sabrina, and Kelly walking together toward the camera partway through the credits. When Jill was replaced by Kris, this was reshot with Sabrina and Kelly walking together, and Kris coming in from the side to join them. And so on.
  • Personal Arcade: The episode "Homes, $weet, Homes" had a pinball machine in the house of a wealthy real estate agent.
  • Phony Psychic: In the first-season episode "The Seance" the Angels encounter one of these. The psychic's assistant not only fakes spirit activity during the seances, but hypnotizes their clients into revealing personal information (which is used in the seances) and into giving him valuable jewelry - which is then reported stolen since the victim doesn't remember doing this. After hypnotizing Kelly and finding out that she's an undercover detective, he makes her believe Jill is her childhood nemesis and that she should kill Jill.
  • Pilot Movie: Titled after the show, it had the Angels prove that a missing vineyard owner, Vince le Maire, was murdered by his second wife and his foreman. They set up a sophisticated caper in which Kelly and Sabrina pose as the wealthy heiress and Jill as a dowdy secretary and backwoods gunslinger.
  • Poorly Disguised Pilot: "Toni's Boys," featuring three hunky guys working for a female mastermind (Barbara Stanwyck, no less) - who, unlike Charlie, actually shows up on screen.
  • Pretty in Mink: A few episodes involve the angels modeling furs.
  • Punk in the Trunk: In "Pretty Angels All in a Row," Sabrina hides in the trunk of two goons who kidnapped a woman. When they reach the Abandoned Warehouse, one of them says that he knows his car and can tell when it's 110 pounds too heavy, so they open the trunk, find Sabrina, and tie her up alongside their previous victim.
  • Put on a Bus: Happened numerous times on the original show.
    • Jill Munroe leaves at the end of season 1 to pursue a career in auto racing. She would return for several guest appearances in later seasons, however.
    • Sabrina Duncan leaves to get married after the third season.
    • Tiffany Welles leaves after the fourth season, said to have returned home to Boston.
  • Real Fake Wedding: The Angels did this in a Con the Conman scenario. The conman was targeting a mousy, shy woman. The Angels convinced him he could fleece her with a fake marriage. They had Bosley pretend to be the minister so the conman could get the "real" one out of the way. The real minister performed the ceremony and the Angels already knew something the conman didn't. The bride's father was a noted underworld figure who would ensure his new son-in-law made his daughter happy.
  • Sauna of Death: In "Angels in Springtime," the Angels investigate a murder at a creepy exclusive spa. At one point, a villain padlocks Kris into a sauna and turns the heat way up. Kelly goes back for her forgotten watch, realizes Kris is trapped inside, and breaks in with a fire hydrant.
  • Serial Killings, Specific Target: "The Sandcastle Murders", in which a man who wants to kill his wife for the inheritance kills several women of similar appearance (at one point targeting Kris) to throw suspicion off himself.
  • Sexy Silhouette: In "Mexican Connection", Jill has a Shower Scene but only her silhouette behind the frosted glass door can be seen, and when she finishes she wraps herself in a Modesty Towel before opening the door and stepping out.
  • Sexy Surfacing Shot:
    • "Mexican Connection" has Kelly take part in a swimming competition to attract the attention of the Villain of the Week. After she wins, there's a deliberate close-up shot of Kelly climbing out of the swimming pool in her swimsuit.
    • At the end of "Night of the Strangler", Charlie finishes his phone call with the Angels in a hurry because "something came up". Cut to Charlie relaxing in a hot tub while a Fanservice Extra in a tiny bikini climbs out of the pool to join him in the hot tub.
  • Sexy Sweater Girl: Both Kelley and Kris often wear tight sweaters which emphasize their braless breasts.
  • Special Guest: Among those who made guest appearances were Sonny Bono, Scatman Crothers, Timothy Dalton, Sammy Davis Jr., David Hedison (twice), Louis Jourdan, Casey Kasem, Christopher Lee, Robert Loggia, Ida Lupino, Dean Martin, Ray Milland, Vic Morrow (twice), Cesar Romero, Phil Silvers, Barbara Stanwyck and David Ogden Stiers.
  • Surfer Dude: Kris Munroe is a skilled surfer and she's seen surfing in "Angels in Paradise" and "Angel Hunt".
  • 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).
  • 'Tis Only a Bullet in the Brain: Happens to Kelly twice...and she survives both times.
  • Token Wholesome: Sabrina usually dresses far more conservatively than her colleagues. Even when she wears more revealing clothes, they don't reveal very much, and in a few scenes you can even tell that she is wearing a bra under her shirt (which the Angels otherwise were famous for never doing).
  • 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.
    • With the exception of Sabrina, the Angels more often than not wear tops that make it very obvious that they are not wearing bras.
    • Averted by Sabrina, who not only tends to wear less Stripperific clothing than her colleagues, but sometimes obviously is wearing a bra.
    • Farrah Fawcett once said that when the show hit number three in the ratings, she figured it was down to the stars' acting. When the show hit number one, she figured it was because none of them wore bras.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: Season one's "The Vegas Connection". Cass Harper assures young girls of a lucrative job in a Las Vegas nightclub chorus line, in exchange for sideline prostitution. Since many chorus girls end up marrying wealthy gamblers, his con scheme works extremely well at both ends. When any of his showgirl-prostitutes marry into wealth, Harper blackmails them with photographs of their past exploits. That is, until one of his blackmail victims hire the Angels to put a stop to his setup. Jill and Kelly become aspiring showgirls for the investigation and Bosley poses as a high-rolling spender looking for a good time.
  • 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. He appears in the series finale as one of the doctors tending to save Kelly's life, although he is wearing a surgical mask, and then only Bosley and Kelly see him.
  • Wakeup Makeup: An extreme example in "Nicks and Tucks." A plastic surgery patient spends most of the episode with her head wrapped in bandages. When the bandages come off, she's wearing makeup and her hair has been brushed and blow-dried.
  • Weak Boss, Strong Underlings: Charlie Townsend is an elderly Retired Badass who runs a private detective agency. At least, going from the fact that he fought in World War II (the show is set during the late 70s). Meanwhile, the trio of young women he employs to work as his field agents is made of Action Girls who can hold themselves in a fight and know how to make good use of guns.


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