12 Fascinating Facts About ‘Charlie’s Angels’

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12 Fascinating Facts About 'Charlie's Angels'
12 Fascinating Facts About 'Charlie's Angels'

When ABC launched Charlie’s Angels on September 22, 1976, featuring an all-female cast for a crime drama was a groundbreaking move. In a television landscape dominated by male characters like Erik Estrada, this bold decision was practically unheard of. The question remained: would audiences embrace a show without the traditional testosterone-driven narrative?

With substantial viewership, the show quickly captivated audiences, propelling Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson, and Jaclyn Smith into stardom. From November onwards, it commanded the attention of more than half of all television viewers during its time slot. Over its five-year span, the show maintained its winning formula: stunning women entangled in intriguing private investigation cases assigned by the mysterious Charlie Townsend. As its 40th anniversary approaches, delve into fascinating details about a proposed all-male spin-off, Farrah’s unexpected departure, and the impact of the Bionic Man on their filming schedule. Get ready to uncover the untold stories behind this iconic series.

1. ABC Hated The Idea.

ABC network executives Barry Diller and Michael Eisner initially had reservations about the concept of three female leads in an hour-long action series. In fact, they went as far as declaring it “the worst idea we have ever heard” when producer Aaron Spelling and partner Leonard Goldberg presented it to them. However, due to a previous television movie arrangement, Spelling had a guaranteed $25,000 for scripting a new pilot, which led him to convince Eisner that they might as well make the most of their investment. Eisner eventually agreed, and as a result, ABC decided to commission a script. This decision marked the beginning of an intriguing journey for a series that would defy expectations and captivate audiences.

2. The Original Title Was The Alley Cats.

The 1970s marked a pivotal decade for feminism, as women successfully championed the concept of gender equality. During this time, a network faced a challenging decision regarding the title of a female-led series. Originally proposed as “The Alley Cats” by Spelling and Goldberg, Kate Jackson, the lead actress with extensive experience, advocated for a different “Star”. She suggestedHarry’s Angels,” inspired by the original moniker of their unseen benefactor. Eventually, the show settled on the iconic name “Charlie’s Angels” after changing the benefactor’s name to avoid confusion with another detective show called Harry-O. This intriguing journey of naming the series reflects the dynamic era and the impact of strong female representation.

3. The Original Charlie Got Fired For Being Drunk.

The producers came up with a unique idea for “Charlie’s Angels” – having Charlie Townsend relay the case details to the Angels through a Western Electric Speakerphone, never appearing in person. They hired experienced actor Gig Young to provide the voiceover, but there was a twist. When Young arrived to record his lines, he was drunk. In a panic, the show’s creator, Aaron Spelling, reached out to John Forsythe, known for his role in “Dynasty,” at 12:30 a.m. and pleaded with him to step in and save the day before the pilot had to be submitted to ABC executives. Forsythe, in his bedroom slippers, drove to the 20th Century Fox lot and graciously took on the role, unaware that he would end up being a part of the show for its entire five-year run.

4. Farrah Fawcett’s Contract Stipulated She Finished Shooting In Time To Cook Her Bionic Husband’s Dinner.

Farrah Fawcett, also known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors, gained recognition through her involvement in shampoo commercials and as the wife of Lee Majors, the star of “The Six Million Dollar Man.” However, her breakthrough came when she was cast in the iconic series “Angels.” While she quickly became a star in her own right, appearing on numerous magazine covers, her main focus remained on her marriage. Her contract with Spelling stipulated that she finished shooting each day at exactly 7 p.m., allowing her to make it home in time to cook dinner for Majors.

5. At The Height Of Angels Mania, Fawcett Quit.

The show became a massive success for ABC, dominating its time slot and achieving record-breaking ratings. However, unexpected challenges arose. During the first season, Fawcett-Majors, the lead actress, announced her departure. According to People, marital issues and a desire to pursue film opportunities were the reasons behind her decision. ABC, who had a verbal agreement with her, filed a lawsuit. Eventually, Fawcett-Majors was released from her contract on the condition that she made six guest appearances in the following two seasons. To fill the void, Cheryl Ladd joined the show as her character’s sister, Kris Munroe, in season two. Despite the changes, the ratings continued to soar.

Kate Jackson grew weary of the show’s simplistic narratives and, unfortunately, had to decline a chance to star opposite Dustin Hoffman in the acclaimed divorce drama Kramer vs. Kramer in 1979. The role ultimately went to Meryl Streep, who went on to win an Oscar. It is said that Jackson’s disappointment led to a change in her behavior on set, resulting in her departure before the start of the fourth season. Prior to Shelley Hack taking over, there were considerations for Michelle Pfeiffer to join the show. Explore the intriguing behind-the-scenes dynamics of this iconic TV series.

7. The Farrah Poster Came Before The Show Aired.

In the late 1970s, Fawcett-Majors became a household name, gracing the walls of countless bedrooms with her iconic bathing suit shoot. This legendary photo sold over 12 million copies and captured the hearts of fans worldwide. The talented photographer, Bruce McBloom, a close friend of the Majors family, was enlisted by ABC to take publicity shots during the filming of the pilot in 1976. Months later, McBloom received a call, and to his delight, Fawcett-Majors agreed to pose for a poster, insisting that he be the cameraman. The unforgettable session took place at her home, where she effortlessly switched from a bikini to the now-famous red swimsuit. This captivating image was captured six months before the television series “Angels” aired. Fast forward to 2009, when Farrah Fawcett’s iconic outfit was donated to Smithsonian, where it continues to be admired by visitors from around the world.

8. The Network Always Wanted To Show Charlie.

Throughout the series, viewers never caught a glimpse of Forsythe, the boss of the women. However, ABC was persistent in their desire for an episode where the ladies would finally have a face-to-face encounter with their mysterious superior. According to producer Leonard Goldberg, the network frequently discussed the idea of revealing Charlie’s identity, especially during sweeps. Despite the network’s eagerness, the producers ultimately remained steadfast in their decision not to unveil Charlie’s character.

9. The Clothes Budget Was $20,000 Per Episode

The show lived up to its promise of delivering glossy content, where viewers could count on the ladies not only fighting crime but also showcasing the latest in high fashion. The producers spared no expense, allocating a whopping $20,000 per episode for the wardrobe department. (Even the shoes, although rarely seen onscreen, were of high-end quality). Costumes were changed at least eight times per hour, ensuring a visually captivating experience. Notably, Fawcett-Majors set some kind of record by sporting 12 different outfits during one of her guest appearances.

10. They Visited The Love Boat.

To help draw attention to the 1979-80 season with new Jackson replacement Shelley Hack, Spelling had the team visit the dock of his highly successful series The Love Boat to investigate a $5 million stash of gold and bronze. While the network expected a ratings bump for Hack, it was not to be: the actress was written out of the show by the end of the season. She did not take it well. “A business decision was made,” she told People in 1980. “Change the time slot or bring on some new publicity. How to get publicity? A new Angel hunt. Who is the obvious person to replace? I am—the new kid on the block.” Tanya Roberts became the sixth (and final) Angel for the show’s last season.

11. An All-Male Spin-Off Was Attempted.

Charlie’s Angels creator, Aaron Spelling, seemed to miss the mark when he attempted a spin-off called “Toni’s Boys”. This backdoor pilot, featured in the show’s fourth season, followed three male operatives who went undercover under the guidance of a female Charlie named Toni Blake, portrayed by Barbara Stanwyck. Toni had a friendly rivalry with Charlie and assembled a team that included a rodeo rider and an athlete. Despite Spelling’s promise of a series if the public embraced it, “Toni’s Boys” failed to capture their attention.

12. Revival Attempts Have Rarely Been Successful.

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Previous attempts to revive the beloved ’70s-era Angel aesthetic have faced criticism from fans. While the 2000 feature produced by Drew Barrymore performed well, its 2003 sequel fell short of expectations. Even Spelling himself tried with Angels ’88, but it was victimized by a Writers Guild strike and ended up being delayed until it became Angels ’89, which unfortunately never saw the light of day. A 2011 revival only managed to produce four episodes, leaving fans wanting more. However, there’s new hope on the horizon as actress-director Elizabeth Banks, known for her work in Pitch Perfect, is set to give it another shot for Sony Pictures. Exciting times ahead for the world of Charlie’s Angels!

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