What is television really? It’s vicarious escapism. The never-changing narrative with TV is that you’ve had a hard day at work/home/school, and you want to relax and de-stress. Anything that engages and allows the viewer to live out their deepest fantasies becomes a ratings & cultural hit. These shows define the times, because everyone watches them– and is thus affected.
The biggest television phenomenon EVER, happened in 1976, when ABC’s Charlie’s Angels piloted. Here it is, and everyone from that era has seen it.
Charlie’s Angel’s were the Beatles of television– breaking rules & changing everything with their presence & charisma. This was the first prime-time network show that featured all women as the leads. There were no men (only Bosley) to save them, so they saved each other, which was an important motif. It liberated women, in that this show wasn’t about the writing or the message in the script– this was about women owning it.
Charlie’s Angels was billed as three women police officers, hired to be a detective firm for the rich & eccentric “Charlie,” who is only heard and voiced by John Forsythe. Note that there is never any real danger of them getting hurt or shot. You just don’t do that to Charlie’s Angels, and that was another message to the bad guys, which the audience liked.
Farrah Fawcett-Majors was (and still is) the first Angel everyone talks about. To put it simply: she had charisma like no other bombshell you’ll ever see. Her smile was radiant & irresistible, plus she liked to have fun. It wasn’t difficult to write for her, because she easily did everything a female star needs to do. She instantly turned on all the men, which means all the other women had to up their games. That got everyone’s attention, and Charlie’s Angels instantly became the #1 show of the 1976 season, opening up new frontiers in television.
This was America’s bicentennial, when a peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter (D) was elected US President, ending 8 years of Nixon-Kissinger-Ford corruption & war criminality. Vietnam was finally over, and Charlie’s Angels was the perfect show for its time, as it radiated optimism.
Basic cable completely penetrated America by the early-mid 1980’s. It’s basic channels in most markets were: MTV, CNN, WGN, TBS, TNT, ESPN, USA, A&E & Lifetime. In many ways Charlie’s Angels was a prequel to cable channels such as MTV and Lifetime. Many of the early made-for-television movies on Lifetime featured ex-Angels in leading roles. Music videos had to look good and have beautiful women to appeal to kids. That was Charlie’s Angels, and there was nothing like it before them.
This one-hour “action” phenomenon ran five seasons (1976-81)– 110 episodes. The only Angel who stayed the entire series was Jaclyn Smith, who personified feminine elegance & sophistication. She dressed impeccably, looking stunning in everything from formal wear to a bikini. Smith had done commercials & modeling before Charlie’s Angels, so she was a limited actress at the time, but she made up for her lack of chops with guile & charm. This series is unthinkable without Jaclyn Smith’s presence, and (again) that tells you what this is all about– the women.
Example: one early episode has Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garret, going undercover to get a part in a casting. Her pitch to the local Hollywood director, who is ridiculously dressed as a South Pacific native (this is what they did to men) is as follows:
Kelly Garrett: I acted some in high school, and in college… and I never get parking tickets.
Director: What does parking tickets have to do with this?
Kelly Garrett: Well, whenever the police pull me over, I begin crying.
[end of scene]
The second-longest running Angel was Cheryl Ladd, who replaced Farrah Fawcett after season 1, and stayed to the end. Farrah Fawcett wanted to do movies, and she had the clout to get out of her TV deal with ABC. Ladd was introduced to the audience as Farrah’s sister at the beginning of season 2, and she did well enough in her role.
Cheryl Ladd was put in an impossible situation of replacing an icon, and to her credit didn’t try, but instead was herself. Ladd is beautiful & looked fantastic in a bikini, which was often her featured part, as she lacked acting skills. Cheryl Ladd was a model & disco dancer, also billed as a singer, although she couldn’t sing a note. She made several disco albums in the late 1970’s during her time with Charlie’s Angels, and they all stiffed.
On Charlie’s Angel’s, Ladd’s sometimes questionable fashion sense clashed with Jaclyn Smith, who always had an intuitive sense of style & good taste. In contrast, Cheryl Ladd often wore disco-dated sequins and the rest of that garb. I’ve been a little rough on this Angel, and I really don’t mean to be; Cheryl Ladd was (by far) the best replacement Angel, and she did her part to keep the series going.
The last original Angel (and most people mention them in this order) was Kate Jackson, who was billed as the “smart one,” who could act. This came through very clearly, as many of the best episodes of this series featured her carrying the plot with her versatility & humanity. In Charlie’s Angels, Kate Jackson personified the intelligent & understated form of feminine beauty. She wore turtleneck sweaters & tailored slacks, while Farrah & Jaclyn dazzled with cutting edge blouses & bathing suits.
There’s an instinctive male ritual that goes with this show (and it was from the start), which is that you have to pick your favorite Angel. I always qualify this by stating that I could never say “no” to any of them, but as a one-woman-at-a-time kind of guy, I’ve always preferred Kate Jackson. Every guy does this, and they’re always serious in their answer. There’s a tip for all the women readers: ask the “favorite Angel” question to measure his preferences. If he’s straight, he won’t lie.
Kate Jackson left after season 3, which was the correct time for her to go. The producers & casting directors for Charlie’s Angels could never replace Kate Jackson, as the last two seasons are mostly unwatchable. But for three seasons, Charlie’s Angels was a mesmerizing mixture, in that it empowered women and awestruck men. Boys/men wanted them, and girls/women wanted to be able to do that to boys & men. There is nothing else, and that’s why Charlie’s Angel’s owned it back then, and still does today. No new TV show, or movie remake, can ever re-capture all that primal magic.
Charlie’s Angels was (and still is) distorted & misrepresented to fit a particular Hollywood agenda, which today is #MeToo. Back then it was slammed as Jiggle TV or TNA– tits-n-ass. As discussed and shown above in the videos, it was much more than that– yet this unfair label still stuck. Why? It’s because this show was hated by a segment of the political spectrum known as feminists. These haters fumed when Farrah Fawcett walked in front of the camera with her blouse jiggling, obviously not wearing a bra. This was liberating for many girls & women at the time, and the boys & guys certainly didn’t protest; yet much of this was (and still is) represented as degenerate & degrading to women.
Note that it was Farrah’s idea to do stuff like this. She smiled & liked it, and viewers loved her. Everyone bought “the poster,” or at least got a peek at it from a friend. She got paid and no one was hurt, so what was all the fuss? The only demographic that was actually offended were older women, who felt unattractive & left behind by this fantasy TV fare.
The truth was (and always will be), beautiful younger women are ALWAYS more attractive to men than older women. Charlie’s Angels proved this as an undeniable fact to everyone who watched. As a boy who watched back in the day, my feelings were similar then to how I feel today, in that women need to take care of their men, otherwise they will get left behind. The message to boys & men was and still is: these are the most beautiful women, desired by all, so they will be doing the choosing. The only way you can get a woman of this quality, is if you are just as desirable as a man. All this is natural & instinctive, so why do feminists label it as sexist & unfair to women?