PremiseThree women, the Angels (originally Kate Jackson, 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 a few episodes the viewer sees the back of his head and his arms, and he is often surrounded by beautiful women.) Charlie assigns cases to the Angels and his liaison, Bosley (David Doyle), via a speaker phone. Fawcett-Majors and Jackson left the series during its run. Fawcett was replaced by Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe, Jill's sister and a former police officer from San Francisco. Jackson was replaced by Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles, a former police officer from Boston. In the final season, Tanya Roberts replaced Hack as Julie Rogers, a former model. Jaclyn Smith was the only original female cast member to remain with the series during its entire 5-year run.
Like other American TV crime shows of the 1970s, Charlie's Angels was generally formatted in the way of a procedural drama. Most episodes followed a regular structure whereby a crime is committed, the Angels are given the case details by Charlie and Bosley at the Townsend office and the trio go undercover (usually involving something skimpy for Kelly and Jill (later Kris)). Towards the end of the episode one of them is uncovered and it is a race against time for the others to rescue their friend before they meet some horrible fate. Inevitably, the final scene would be back at the Townsend office with Charlie offering his congratulations for a job well done.
|Farrah Fawcett-Majors||Jill Munroe||1; 3 – 4||1976–1977; 1978–1980 (recurring)|
|Kate Jackson||Sabrina Duncan||1 – 3||1976–1979|
|Jaclyn Smith||Kelly Garrett||1 – 5||1976–1981|
|Cheryl Ladd||Kris Munroe||2 – 5||1977–1981|
|Shelley Hack||Tiffany Welles||4||1979–1980|
|Tanya Roberts||Julie Rogers||5||1980–1981|
|David Doyle||John Bosley||1 – 5||1976–1981|
|John Forsythe (voice)||Charles "Charlie" Townsend||1 – 5||1976–1981|
Notable guest starsCharlie's Angels played host to a number of well-known faces during its five seasons. Some of those individuals were long-established stars of film and television; others would find considerable fame and recognition many years after appearing in the program. Notable appearances of celebrities (whether famous then or later) include those of:
Rise and fallThe series proved a runaway hit in the (1976–1977) ratings, finishing at number 5 for the season and a great deal of attention was centred on the 3 leads (Jackson would later comment that this first few months was like being in the eye of a storm). Suddenly all three lead actresses were propelled into big time stardom with Fawcett proving hugely popular, so much so that she was branded a phenomenon. However, the situation off screen was not so happy. The long working hours on set, combined with numerous calls for photo shoots, wardrobe fittings, and promotional interviews, were taking their toll on the trio. Jackson was especially unhappy as she felt the quality of scripts was declining and the format was now more "cop story of the week" rather than classy undercover drama, which had been the intention with the pilot film.
Barney Rosenzweig took over as producer (he later created Cagney and Lacey) and made a conscious effort to improve the show's quality in order to escape the continued negative reviews from critics. He soon found himself up against Spelling and Goldberg, who were more interested in the viewing figures than anything else. As such, Rosenzweig resigned at the end of the season after several clashes with Goldberg.
More troubling, though, was Fawcett's sudden decision not to return for season 2 as she was concerned the punishing schedule was putting pressure on her marriage to Lee Majors. Spelling was furious and took the actress to court for breach of contract. Hollywood now had its first Angel hunt, as every aspiring model or actress tried for the role of Jill's replacement, kid sister Kris Munroe. After the likes of Kim Basinger were considered, the producers offered the role to Cheryl Ladd, who promptly turned it down when she realized that the character was exactly the same as Farrah's; after a talk with Spelling, he agreed she could play it as the rookie Angel who would be learning as she went along, thereby gaining audience sympathy. On her first day of filming the actress arrived wearing a T Shirt emblazoned with "Farrah Fawcett Minor" on it. Ladd was to prove very popular with the viewers, and by the end of the season, ratings had gone up, with it finishing overall at number 4. However Ladd and Jackson never really got on, something which Jaclyn Smith (who was friends with both) found difficult. Real life drama erupted on the set when police protection had to be called in while filming the season opener in Hawaii when details of a plot to kidnap the actresses was uncovered.
The big news in the third season (1978–1979) was the return of Farrah in three episodes, a situation she was forced into after losing her court battle (she did another three episodes the following year). Still a big success, the show had its most significant loss when Jackson quit at the end of the season (sources vary but one popular claim is that her continued difficult behavior resulted in Spelling simply not asking her back). Jackson had been unhappy for some time and was especially upset when she was refused a revised working schedule so as to release her to work on the movie "Kramer vs Kramer" at weekends. Whatever the reason, "Charlie's Angels" never really recovered from her loss.
Again an Angel Hunt was initiated, and seriously considered was a young Michelle Pfeiffer. Initially, it was rumored that ex-Bond Girl Barbara Bach was cast, but nervous studio execs were concerned that she looked too similar to Jaclyn Smith in long shots when they were shown test footage. Model, actress and sportscaster Jayne Kennedy was also considered, a move that would have created the first multi-racial trio of Angels. Finally, model-turned-actress Shelley Hack was cast as university graduate turned cop Tiffany Welles. Hack was most famous as the Charlie girl for Revlon's Charlie perfume, which Spelling felt would prove a good promotional gimmick for her arrival. Hack was never given much to do in her early adventures while often episodes would focus on one angel, a change from the team stories of previous seasons partially decided so as to allow the actresses more time off. Despite her introductory episode debuting at number one, viewers were soon switching off, and Hack was widely blamed for the ratings decline. Even further appearances from Farrah failed to make any impact.
ABC ordered a fifth season (1980–1981), with Tanya Roberts replacing the departing Hack. The new Angel was streetwise Julie Rogers, who encountered the Angels while working as a model but was soon given a trainee detective's license. The action then moved to Hawaii for several episodes, with the Angels taking over the Townsend office there. Naturally, this allowed ample opportunity for the leads to get their bikinis out. Despite early episodes debuting respectably within the Top 10, viewers again started to lose interest; ABC changed the show's time slot several times, but this saw ratings only sink lower. Eventually, the axe fell in early 1981, and with only four episodes remaining, they were eventually screened in June of that year. Smith, Ladd, and Doyle were quietly relieved, having gotten very bored in the final few months. Even if a sixth season had been ordered, Smith would have been out of her contract and had made it very clear that she was not going to return.
Spin-offABC attempted to create a spin-off for Charlie's Angels in 1980 called Toni's Boys. The show was essentially a gender reversal of Charlie's Angels and starred Barbara Stanwyck as Antonia "Toni" Blake, a wealthy widow and friend of Charlie's who ran a detective agency. The agency was staffed by three good looking male detectives who took direction from Toni, and solved crimes in a manner similar to the Angels. The show aired as a backdoor pilot during the fourth season of Charlie's Angels, but was not picked up as a regular series for the following season.
Although there was a crossover with Vega$, a pilot episode had already aired, so it was not strictly a spin-off.
2011 RebootIn November 2009, ABC announced that it was considering a television revival of Charlie's Angels, with Josh Friedman handling both writing and executive producing duties, and Drew Barrymore and Leonard Goldberg sharing co-production duties. The remake, originally speculated as a candidate for the 2010-2011 U.S. television season, was reportedly to be produced by Sony Pictures Television.
On May 25, 2010, ABC announced that the Charlie's Angels project was among the 5 shows that could be on the lists as a possible 2010-2011 midseason entry, with writers Al Gough and Miles Millar of TV's Smallville and film's Spider-Man 2 newly on board to craft the pilot.
The pilot began production in February 2011. The setting for the new series will move from Los Angeles to Miami. On May 13, ABC announced that it had taken Charlie's Angels to series with a thirteen episode order.
Robert Wagner will take over the role of Charlie for the new series, while Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor will co-star as Angels, "Kate", "Eve", and "Abby" respectively, with "Kate" being the first African-American Angel.