What do you get when you have three beautiful crime fighting ladies and a boss that is a total recluse? The most successful series of the 1970’s, Charlie’s Angels. Charlie’s Angels aired on ABC from September 1976 to June 1981, producing five seasons and 110 episodes. The series was created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts and was produced by Aaron Spelling.
It plotted the adventures of three females working in a private detective agency in Los Angeles, California, and initially starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Jaclyn Smith in the leading roles. David Doyle co-starred as a sidekick to the three women and John Forsythe played the voice of their boss. Later additions to the cast included Cheryl Ladd, who entered the series in season two, Shelley Hack, in season four, and Tanya Roberts, in season five. Despite mixed reviews from critics and a reputation for merely being “Jiggle TV,” the show enjoyed an astonishing popularity with audiences, and was a top ten hit for its first few seasons. Because later cast changes were not well-received and the public’s taste changed, the show concluded a five-year run in the spring of 1981. The series continues to have a cult and pop culture following through syndication, DVD releases, and subsequent film remakes.
Three women, the intelligent Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson), the alluring and tomboyish Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett-Majors), and the sensitive Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) graduate from the Los Angeles police academy only to be assigned duties such as handling switchboards and directing traffic. However, they were hired to work for the Charles Townsend Agency as private investigators. Their boss, Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe), who nicknames them “angels,” 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, John Bosley (David Doyle), via a speaker phone.
Fawcett-Majors and Jackson eventually left the series during its run. Fawcett-Majors was replaced by Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe, Jill’s sister and a former police officer from San Francisco in season two. Jackson was replaced by Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles, a former police officer from Boston in season four. In the fifth and 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 five-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 to wear for Kelly and Jill (later Kris). Toward 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.
Charlie’s Angels: Season One starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, David Doyle, and the voice of John Forsythe. The season aired from September 22, 1976 to May 4, 1977, with a total of 23 episodes.
Although the pilot episode featured an extra male liaison named Scott Woodville (David Ogden Stiers), he was dropped for the series as it was felt there was no need for Charlie to have two male liaisons. It was also felt that the character of Woodville was rather too severe, whereas Bosley was someone the writers could use to add humor to the episodes.
The pilot, which aired on March 21, 1976, was nearly two hours long, and the succeeding episodes were between 48 and 50 minutes in length. Viewing figures for the first season were extremely high, finishing at #5 in the Nielsen ratings. All three female leads were launched to greater heights in their career, with Fawcett-Majors proving to be the most popular of the trio. Although Jackson and Smith were overshadowed by Fawcett-Majors they have equally stood the test of time, and both have also been cited as “fan favorites.”
Charlie’s Angels: Season Two starred Kate Jackson, Jaclyn Smith and David Doyle. This season saw the introduction of Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe, the younger sister of former Angel Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett).
Season Two originally aired from September 14, 1977 to May 10, 1978, and proved just as a major success as Season One. There were doubts as to whether Ladd could fill the void left by Fawcett-Majors; however, after a few bikinis and tight clothing Kris was warmly welcomed. Co-star Jaclyn Smith said of Ladd: “she had big shoes to fill and she did it with confidence.” With Ladd being accepted as Kris, ratings finished in the #4 slot for the season.
Although not an original cast member or character, Cheryl Ladd as Kris gained fame and popularity equal to the original Angels, leading her to become a major star of the series, with several episodes centered on her.
Charlie’s Angels: Season Three starred the cast from season two (making this the only season where there was no cast change). It also saw the return of “retired” Angel Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett) for three episodes, and was the final season to feature Kate Jackson. Season Three originally ran from September 13, 1978 to May 16, 1979.
Charlie’s Angels: Season Four starred Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd, David Doyle, and introduced Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles, the newest member of the team, as a police graduate from Boston. Original Angel Farrah Fawcett also appears in three episodes. Season Four originally aired from September 12, 1979 to May 7, 1980.
It was during this season that ratings had fallen, but still remained in the top 20; some believing Shelley Hack was to blame, others are of the opinion that the change in format from team oriented episodes to episodes that focused on one angel caused the rating decline. This season also has the only episode of the entire series with no Charlie (“Avenging Angel”).
Charlie’s Angels: Season Five was the final season of Charlie’s Angels. The season starred Jaclyn Smith, Cheryl Ladd and David Doyle, and introduced Tanya Roberts as streetwise former model Julie Rogers.Season Five was broadcast from November 30, 1980 until June 24, 1981.
Since the show’s third season, ratings were falling. Producers believed replacing Shelley Hack with a new “Angel” would improve viewing figures, but with this season’s time slot being continually changed during its run, ratings continued to fall. Season 5 aired only 17 episodes, the least of all the show’s seasons, and the show was cancelled after this season concluded.