Charlie’s Angels

Charlies Angels

When Aaron Spelling first introduced the ground-breaking television series Charlie’s Angels in 1976, it was a radical concept. No longer were women relegated to the role of helpless victim or happy homemaker. For the first time, they were gun-wielding crime fighters, perfectly capable of putting their male adversaries in their place. It was brave new territory, and it proved enormously successful.

Chock-full of glamour and action, Charlie’s Angels followed the lives of three foxy and fearsome private detectives who were determined to take a bite out of crime. Jill was athletic, Kelly was full of street savvy, and Sabrina was the smart one. While each carried a concealed weapon that they weren’t afraid to use, they often used their beautiful looks to disarm their adversaries.

Each was a graduate of the Los Angeles Police Academy who chose to place each of them in some insignificant role, be it a meter maid, crossing guard or office assistant. Feeling a bit under-appreciated and under-utilized, they jumped at the chance to work as private investigators for the Townsend Agency instead, owned by one Charles Townsend – “Charlie” to those who knew him.

Though the women (nor us, for that matter) ever saw Charlie’s face – he preferred to communicate through a small speaker on a desk – the could always turn to his associate, the mild-mannered John Bosley, for advice and instruction. They roamed the streets of LA, working undercover as they staked out every disco, roller derby, and Hollywood haunt that might harbor a dangerous criminal.

No longer trapped in the typical meter maid attire, these women preferred the stylish tube tops and designer jeans of the day. And woe be unto anyone who mistook their femininity for frailty. Not only did they cleverly conceal firearms in those skin tight satin pants, but they could kick in a door just as effectively as their male counterparts. The criminals never knew what hit them.

Charlie’s Angels was a hit right of the gate, and ran for five seasons on ABC, though not always with the same Angels. Farrah Fawcett was the first to depart, after the first season actually, although she would make a number of contractually-required guest appearances. She was replaced by Cheryl Ladd in season two, would would stick around for the remainder of the show’s run. Kate Jackson left after season three, to be replaced by Shelley Hack in season four, who was then replaced by Tanya Roberts in the final season. Kelly, played by Jaclyn Smith, was the only angel to appear in the entire series.

Critics often weren’t kind to the series, labeling it as nothing more that “jiggle TV,” but that sells Charlie’s Angels a bit short. Not only did it redefine the traditional roles of women on television, but it also gave female viewers a trio of women that they could look up to, not as fashion models, but as role models who were strong, intelligent and capable of doing what had previously been considered men’s work. Charlie’s Angels was a catalyst for change and the television world would never be the same.

If you tuned in regularly to watch Charlie’s Angels in the 70s, we’d love to hear some of your recollections in our comments section below, as we tip our Retroland hat to this groundbreaking series.

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