The original "Charlie’s Angels" was a 1970s classic: three gorgeous women who went on dangerous missions for a detective agency headed by a smooth-talking guy, Charlie, whom you never saw. Although the show had an original concept – women in high-octane action roles, avenging victims of crime – it’s fair to say that what most people remember about “Charlie’s” Angels is a kind of spin-off: Farrah Fawcett’s red-swimsuit poster with its infamously obvious nipple.
Even without any subsequent posters, the Angels franchise has proven surprisingly durable, spawning two movies and now, an ABC series, premiering tonight. The 2011 angels – private investigators who manage to repeatedly get themselves into some really scary situations – are played by Rachael Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh and Minka Kelly. Of the three, Kelly is the best-known, both for her role in the hit series “Friday Night Lights” and for her recent breakup with Derek Jeter, the perennial New York Yankees heartthrob. (Ramon Rodriguez plays the often-ignored male Angel Bosley, and Charlie was first voiced by Robert Wagner, who had to cancel because of scheduling conflicts.)
But the girls have different names than the first Angels and, in a move from their original Los Angeles location, they’re hanging out in Miami’s trendy South Beach.That area wasn’t exactly on the radar back in the 1970s. And Taylor, who plays “Park Avenue princess” Abbyl talks about drinking Cosmos, a drink that was unknown pre-“Sex and the City.”
“I loved the original series,” Ilonzeh told an interviewer. “There’s so much to love. It’s being a woman and super-powerful and being fun, sexy and flirty.” Getting to that point, though, involved more than just hair-tossing and sexy strutting, although there’s a lot of that, too.
“There was a lot of training and preparation,” Kelly says. “I had to do a lot of martial-arts training, a lot of weapons training. My favorite was the driving, though.” (The frequent car chases in the series are reminiscent of the 70s, although now there’s no wah-wah music accompanying them, and the cars are much smaller.)
It’s an open question how long the series will last; television critics who have seen previews have given it mixed reviews. But executive producer Drew Barrymore – who starred in the 2000 and 2003 Angels movies – is in the midst of an aggressive publicity campaign, even getting the Angels onstage at the Emmys earlier this month.
The original series lasted five seasons, from 1976-1981. And though Farrah Fawcett is the most memorable actress in the series, she actually appeared in only 29 episodes. Jaclyn Smith, on the other hand, appeared in all 110 episodes. All the 1970s Angels, including Cheryl Ladd and then Shelley Hack, had great post-series careers, including modeling, acting, and for Jaclyn Smith, a Kmart empire of clothing and home furnishings.
That’s all the more remarkable considering that the series was a prime example of what was then known as “Jiggle TV.” Said Fawcett, “When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra.”
Looks like some things never change!