1 9 7 6 – 1 9 8 1 (USA)
114 x 60 minute episodes
“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.”
Created by Starsky and Hutch producers Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, this series followed three female detectives routinely dispatched on crime-busting missions by Charlie, an always-unseen wealthy benefactor heard only by speakerphone (voiced by future Dynasty star John Forsythe).
The Angels were assisted every week by the millionaire’s right-hand man, John Bosley (David Doyle), as they chased criminals from beauty contests to health spas.
Nobody ever pretended it was about acting, storytelling or anything more than what goes into your average toothpaste advert.
There were TV babes before them and there were TV babes after them, but no TV babes captured the eye quite like the original trio of Charlie’s Angels.
By dispensing with superfluous law-enforcement devices like bras, Sabrina, Kelly and Jill became overnight sex symbols. When they braced themselves and did that two hands on a pistol thing, half the men in the world collapsed. It was the dawn of “jiggle TV”.
Of course, this presented a weekly opportunity for the viewing public to get an eyeful of the cleavage of the three leading ladies, who would always manage to shed some of their clothes in the name of the law.
This no doubt contributed to making Charlie’s Angels one of the top-rated prime-time shows in 1978 and 1979.
Playing the super-sophisticated Kelly Garrett, Jaclyn Smith was the only Angel who lasted the show’s entire five-year run.
By 1979, Kate Jackson (who played the intelligent Angel, Sabrina Duncan) was so unhappy with the show after producers refused to give her time off to shoot the part eventually played by Meryl Streep in Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), that she asked to be let out of her contract.
She went on to star in Scarecrow and Mrs King between 1983 and 1987.
Jackson was replaced by Shelley Hack, who, when asked how long she’d last on the show, gave a joke estimate of “another three hours”.
She lasted a little longer – one season – before Tanya Roberts was brought in to take her spot.
Farrah Fawcett (then married to Six Million Dollar Man star Lee Majors and known as “Farrah Fawcett-Majors”) became a superstar with her role as the athletic Jill Munroe, and also through her famed cheesecake shot, which quickly became the highest-selling poster of all time, with two million copies sold in less than four months.
Wanting to launch a career in films, Farrah left the series after one season and was promptly sued for breach of contract. As part of her settlement with Spelling, she agreed to make three appearances on the series each year until her original pact ran out in exchange for a raise from $5,000 per episode to at least $25,000.
Farrah’s replacement was Max Factor modelling sensation Cheryl Ladd, who also became a star playing Jill Munroe’s sister, Kris.
An interesting aside: In the episode ‘Angels in Chains’, the Angels are captured while investigating a southern prison farm. They are chained together, stripped, forced into a shower and sprayed with disinfectant.
20,000 letters poured into the ABC after that episode asking for more of the same . . . And despite predictable howls from feminists, the majority of the shows viewers were actually women.