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Friday, July 13, 2012

Charlie's Angels

When I was a lot younger, I often spent a lot of time at the home of my maternal grandparents.  I still have memories of being at their house constantly.  They had this big backyard that had a swing set overlooking the creek that flowed below (which due to the fact that it was not fenced off, I had to stay away from).  And whenever I came to visit, I could always count on the fact that they would usually have some sort of treat for me to chew on while I watched television.  Nothing much...just a plate of Oreo cookies and a drink (usually Cherry 7UP or a glass of milk with Brown Cow brand chocolate syrup...remember that brand name, Canadians?).

My grandparents also seemed to have the coolest stuff possible...well, as cool as they appear in the eyes of a four year old, anyway.  They used to have a cabinet which contained a whole bunch of figurines, souvenirs, and other knick-knacks, which to me looked like neat toys.  And, I’m proud to say that despite the fact that many of the things in that cabinet were very fragile, I never broke one object.  Still, it was probably of little comfort to my grandmother, who was probably freaking out over the possibility of a four year old boy smashing up her favourite cabinet.

But aside from the cabinet of trinkets, there was something else that I enjoyed playing with and looking at.  You see, my aunts and uncles on my mother’s side were a lot younger than my mother, and a lot of their old belongings had been left behind at the home of my grandparents.  These included some old toys, books, games, and trading cards.

In particular, these trading cards.

To anyone who grew up during the 1970s, you probably know exactly what show these cards came from.  To me, I had no idea who the people in the cards were, or what the show was that they came from.  The reason being that the show aired its final episode on June 24, 1981...just one month after I was born.  It wasn’t until I grew a little older until I saw my first episode of the series, and I admit that it was definitely a show that made a huge impact in the world of pop culture for a variety of reasons.  But, we’ll get to that a little bit later.

For now, why not talk about the show that was so popular, it inspired its own set of trading cards back in 1977?

That show, of course is the ABC series “Charlie’s Angels”.  Debuting on September 22, 1976, the program survived several cast changes, as well as time slot changes, and managed to run for five years total.  And the show itself was a rather interesting concept.  The show (created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, and produced by Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg) took place in the city of Los Angeles, California, and depicted the lives of three young women who had just graduated from the police academy.  But despite the fact that feminism and women’s rights were starting to become fully established in 1976, the three women found that their service to the LAPD included preparing paperwork, handing out traffic tickets, and helping groups of fourth graders cross the street.  In short, they were working the most unfulfilling jobs in the station, and they wanted out.

Fortunately, their way out came in the form of a man named Charles Townsend (affectionately known as Charlie).  They joined his detective agency after quitting their jobs at the LAPD, and ended up becoming private investigators.  Throughout the course of the entire series, the viewers never saw Charlie’s face...the girls only spoke to him via speakerphone, and we only ever really saw Charlie with his back to the camera (although we now know that Dynasty star John Forsythe provided the voice of Charlie).  The girls liaison was a man named Bosley (David Doyle).

Over the course of the show’s run, there would be several angels who would appear on the series, due to various cast changes along the way.  In total, six women would end up becoming one of Charlie’s Angels throughout the years.  They were;

Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) – The only one of “Charlie’s Angels” to appear in all 110 episodes of the series.

Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson) – 1976-1979

Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett) 1976-1977 (credited as Farrah Fawcett-Majors)

Kris Munroe (Cheryl Ladd) – 1977-1981 (second longest running character, played the role of Jill’s sister after Farrah departed from the series)

Tiffany Welles (Shelley Hack) – 1979-1980 (replaced Kate Jackson)

Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts) – 1980-1981 (replaced Shelley Hack)

The show became a huge hit when it debuted on ABC for the 1976-1977 season.  At the end of the show’s first season, the show finished strong at #5 in the Nielsen ratings, a feat that was considered fantastic at the time.  Immediately, Jackson, Fawcett, and Smith were propelled into super-stardom, and they immediately became some of Hollywood’s most beloved stars.  Farrah Fawcett proved especially popular, with her fame likely being helped by a rather iconic poster that found its way into the bedrooms of many teenage boys.  I’m sure most of you have seen it before.  Have a look.

Of course, the series did have its downside.  Certainly, the series helped bring popularity to the main stars, but it also brought a lot of headaches.  The girls found the long working hours, and the pressure to stay grounded amongst all of the photo shoots, wardrobe fittings, and talk show interviews to be very demanding.  Fawcett’s departure from the series after one season turned out to be a huge blow to the series.  Although the show remained in the Top 5, the show ended up losing almost 800,000 viewers between the first season finale and the second season premiere, although the character of Kris Munroe was positively received by the viewing public.  But after the departure of Kate Jackson, the show plummeted to 20th place in the ratings, and following the premiere of the show’s fifth season, the show didn’t even make the Top 40, leading ABC to cancel the series at the end of the fifth season.

I have some more trivia about Charlie’s Angels as well, and I think that I would like to share some of that trivia with all of you here.  This trivia comes courtesy of the Internet Movie Database.

1 – Did you know that Kate Jackson was the first actress cast in “Charlie’s Angels”?  And did you also know that Jackson didn’t even have to audition for the show at all?  She was selected for a role during the pre-production stages of the show, mainly because producers noted how popular she was on another television series, “The Rookies”.

2 – Kate Jackson was originally cast as Kelly Garrett before Jaclyn Smith was hired for the part.  This suited Jackson just fine, as she really wanted the part of Sabrina Duncan anyway.

3 – Kate Jackson ended up having a lot of influence in how the show was created, including partially coming up with the title of the show.  Initially, the show was to be called “The Alley Cats”, but Jackson didn’t like the name, and suggested to producers that she thought the girls should be named “angels” instead.  They agreed.  And, Jackson also came up with the idea of having Charlie be unseen to the audience.  With all the ideas she came up with, its a wonder her name wasn’t added right next to Spelling’s and Goldberg’s!

4 – The show was almost called “Harry’s Angels”, but changed it to Charlie to avoid confusion with another television program, “Harry O”.

5 – The Charlie’s Angels telephone number was 555-0267.

6 – John Forsythe was never seen on the soundstage of Charlie’s Angels at all...his voice was pre-recorded and dubbed in during production.

7 – Five of the six “Angels” had started off their careers in law enforcement.  The only one who didn’t have such a background was Julie, who previously worked as a model.

8 – Sabrina Duncan was the only “Angel” who had been previously married.

9 – Although Farrah left the series after season one, she made a few guest appearances during seasons three and four.  Whenever she appeared, the ratings would temporarily spike upward.

10 – There were lots of famous faces who auditioned for roles on Charlie’s Angels, but did not get cast.  Could you imagine Kathie Lee Gifford, Shari Belafonte, Priscilla Presley, Michelle Pfeiffer, or Kim Basinger as one of “Charlie’s Angels”?

11 – The idea of how Bosley was named was based on an inside joke.  At the time, the actor playing Bosley – David Doyle – was often misidentified as Tom Bosley.

12 – Many of the actresses (Kate Jackson in particular) were complaining about the quality of the scripts diminishing as the show continued, leading to a revolving door of writers being hired and fired at a fast pace.

13 – Kate Jackson was the only “Angel” to be nominated for an Emmy Award, but did not win.

14 – When Cheryl Ladd was hired to replace Farrah Fawcett, she reportedly wore a T-shirt on her first day that read “Farrah Fawcett Minor."

15 - Farrah Fawcett's departure from the series was quite controversial.  It caused a lawsuit to be filed by the producers of the series after they accused her of contract breach.  Part of the reason why Farrah agreed to do extra episodes in later season was because it was part of the settlement she reached with the producers in exchange for the lawsuits being dropped.

16 - Drew Barrymore has a couple of connections to the Charlie's Angels brand.  First, she starred in two Charlie's Angels feature films in 2000 and 2003 with Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz...and secondly, she actually holds the screen rights to the series itself.

17 - The last time that the three original Charlie's Angels would appear together on stage was back in 2006, when they appeared on stage at the Emmy Awards to pay a tribute to Aaron Spelling.

18 - Jackson and Smith also appeared in the 2009 documentary "Farrah's Story", where they both visited her while she was battling cancer.  Just a few months later, Farrah Fawcett would pass away on June 25, 2009.

19 - A reboot of the series was attempted in the fall of 2011 on ABC, but it was cancelled after just four episodes.

20 - In 2004, a TV movie aired entitled "Behind The Scenes: The Unauthorized Story of Charlie's Angels" aired on NBC.

So, that is our tale of the television series "Charlie's Angels".  I hope you all enjoyed this look back on this classic television series, and hopefully, you've learned some facts about the show that you might not have known before.

But while it was fun to look back on the show, I admit that the show sort of reminds me of my grandmother, and how she brought out those cards for me to play with and admire.  I now have most of those cards in my possession, and I plan on keeping them as long as possible.  I know it sounds strange, but keeping those cards sort of keeps my grandmother close to me too, since having them reminds me of all those afternoons spent at her house.  If she were still alive, she would be 87 years old today...and part of me wonders if she's up there hanging out with Farrah Fawcett right now.  I think she'd probably get a hoot out of it, and I'm sure that Farrah would offer my aunt her forgiveness for crossing out her face on each card she appeared in with a blue ball-point pen.

I'm guessing that my aunts didn't care for the blonde one.  

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