Charlie’s Angels: The classic TV series from the ’70s & ’80

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Charlie's Angels - The classic TV series from the 1970s and 1980s

“Charlie’s Angels” were bright, athletic, police-trained beauties who work as private detectives in the action-adventure TV series. These young women with special abilities beyond their police skills work for a man they never see but often hear from, Charlie Townsend.

David Doyle portrays Tom Bosley, Townsend’s cost-conscious assistant who is the Angels’ personal contact. Leading the Angels is Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson), the pragmatic and analytical member of the group. Jill Monroe (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) is the sports whiz of the team — excelling as an athlete and an expert in sports trivia. Texas-born Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) has common sense developed from first-hand experience, having worked as a cocktail waitress and Las Vegas showgirl.

Cast/characters

Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe
Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan
Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett
Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe
Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles
Tanya Roberts as Julie Rogers
David Doyle as John Bosley
John Forsythe at the voice of Charles “Charlie” Townsend
1976 to 1981
# of seasons: 5
# episodes: 115

While derisively referred to as “jiggle television” during its five-season run, the classic TV series “Charlie’s Angels” was widely popular with viewers.

Beginning in 1976, the original Angels worked as private investigators solving crimes for the mysterious Charlie, whose face was never actually seen.

Originally led by Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, starting after the first season, the show had some cast changes — at various points also starring Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts.

In addition to the fresh blood, the show faced the challenge of being stuck in five different time slots over those five years, but still managed good ratings until its final season in 1981.

Living on in reruns, it eventually became a cult classic, and spawned several reboots, including a feature film starring Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu.

Vintage Charlie's Angels actresses pointing (1970s)

“Once upon a time, there were three beautiful girls who went to the police academy, and they were each assigned very hazardous duties. But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.”

‘Charlie’s Angels’ use beauty, not brawn to solve crime

Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi) September 30, 1976

They’re called “Charlie’s Angels.” And their story is one of the new television season’s most heavily budgeted and anticipated shows, as three starlet-sleek women join the ranks of the television detectives.

“Charlie’s Angels,” a regular addition to the ABC Wednesday night line-up, do the meticulous, brain-draining work of snooping for a never-seen boss named Charlie Townsend.

Calling them from their leisure pursuits of tennis, horseback riding and swimming, Charlie pinponts them for the most strenuous tasks. And every time Charlie’s deep and soothing voice is heard, a shapely woman is handing him a glass. But his own mystery and lifestyle only add to the enthusiasm and suspense of his labors.

Charlie's Angels

“Charlie’s Angels” owes much more to the grand methodology of the oldline suspense stories like “Mission Impossible” than to the superhuman rigors of “The Bionic Woman,” one of ABC’s successes last season.

This trio triumphs with mental skills and sometimes subtle feminine techniques. Thoroughly trained at the Police Academy in karate and other muscle skills, nonetheless, “Angels” prefer wits to weapons.

MORE: How to get Farrah Fawcett’s famous long feathered hairstyle from the ’70s

BEHIND the series is a team of successful police story creators. Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg, the executive producers. did the “Mod Squad” and “The Rookies.” The producer, Rick Husky, also did “The Rookies,” and is an experienced television scriptwriter.

Sabrina Duncan, an intellectual and methodical detective, played by Kate Jackson, leads the group through its complicated episodes. Jackson’s television work has included nine months of “Dark Shadows,” and a fine appearance in “Killer Bees” with Gloria Swanson.

Working with her is Jill Munroe, played by Farrah Fawcett-Majors, an experienced actress whose model-perfect face is familiar from dozens of television commercials. She’s also the wife of Lee Majors, star of “The Six-Million Dollar Man.”

Farrah Fawcett-Majors on cover of Us magazine (1976)

THE third partner is Kelly Garrett, played by Jaclyn Smith, who brings the essential know-how to true human dilemmas from various jobs as a cocktail waitress, stewardess and Las Vegas showgirl.  A seasoned model and actress, she appeared in “Bootleggers” and “The Adventurers.”

Like many of their predecessors, the “Angels” depend on disguise. In the pilot aired twice this summer, Charlie dispatched the trio to uncover the murderer of the father of a vineyard heiress.

Two of the “Angels” pretended they were the heiress; then escaped several murder attempts and accidents and crossed up the crooks with elaborate lies. In the end, they battled in a dark swamp.

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Vintage Charlie's Angels TV show - Season 1 stars

In “Hell Ride,” the season’s kickoff, Sabrina became a racing car driver in order to solve the mysterious death of a racer.

OTHER locales will include a health spa, a roller derby, and a fashion salon.

The only other regular character is John Bosley, Charlie’s assistant, played by David Doyle, who was Bridget’s father in “Bridget Loves Bernie,” and Dick Van Dyke’s boss in “The New Dick Van Dyke Show.”

While the women are super-serious, Bosley adds the humor.

Charlie's Angels - Time magazine cover (1976)


Charlie’s Angels could soar without Charlie

By Kay Gardella in the Cincinnati Enquirer (Ohio) October 26, 1976

In the entire list of new television series that premiered this fall, ABC’s “Charlie’s Angels,” a Wednesday night series, is the only one that has remained in the top 10.

It’s generally agreed that the three fabulous female leads are the reason — Farrah Fawcett-Majors (Jill Munroe), Kate Jackson (Sabrina Duncan), and Jaclyn Smith (Kelly Garrett).

Praying Charlie's Angels - Vintage seventies TV show leads

These statuesque beauties, police-trained and skilled in the art of self-defense, take orders from an unseen Charlie — a voice over a loudspeaker — who pulls all the strings, gives all the orders, while the girls take all the risks. Charlie is represented by his assistant, John Bosley, played by David Doyle.

We have visions of this male chauvinist longing in some comfortable penthouse, taking fat fees from clients, while his attractive assistants place their trust in him and do all of his dirty work.

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There is something almost obscene about the setup. What started out to be an acceptable private eye series has deteriorated into a sex-oriented, cheap hour.

Take Wednesday night’s episode. The angels are assigned to investigate the disappearance of an inmate at a women’s prison farm in Louisiana.

“I’ve arranged for you to go to jail,” Charlie tells them over the intercom.

And dutifully, like little sheep, the girls head for the prison to locate a girl who has disappeared. The girls are arrested for speeding and hitchhiking, and are sentenced to the prison they are committed to investigate.

The original three Charlie's Angels actresses in pink evening gowns (1977)

At the farm, they encounter threats of rape and mistreatment by the guards. There are humiliating scenes in which they’re forced to strip and be sprayed for germs by a sadistic female guard, and they are hauled off to a house of prostitution where they’re expected to perform, in exchange for better treatment.

All the time TV’s angels are going through this, the question is: Where’s Charlie? Where is their alleged protector? Reaping the profits from all of this filth.

My advice to the angels is to dump Charlie fast. Get rid of him. You don’t need him. No man who would allow you to degrade yourself and place yourself in such jeopardy is worth it.

In some W. 40s blocks in New York, there is a name for men like Charlie. We don’t need him on television.

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Charlie’s Angels news conference: Meet the Angels (Well, most of them)

By Pierre Bowman, Entertainment Editor – Honolulu Star-Bulletin (Hawaii) June 14, 1977

“Are the girls late? We’re into overtime and we haven’t even started. But they’ve got more hair. If they had crewcuts, we’d probably save half-a-million a year.”

The speaker was David Doyle, fourth banana on ABC’s runaway hit “Charlie’s Angels,” the TV detective series where three toothsome beauties solve crimes weekly more on the force of sheer glamour than deductive reasoning.

Doyle was marking time at a news conference yesterday at the Sheraton-Waikiki Hotel’s Puna Room, while everyone was almost tingling in anticipation of his co-stars.

Today, cast and crew for the show began a 10-day shooting schedule for next fall’s “Angels” debut show — called, inevitably, “Angels in Paradise.” It will deal with the unseen Charlie’s kidnap while he’s on vacation in Hawaii — and the angels coming to the rescue.

As members of the production team marked time, the news that Don Ho playing himself, and Al Harrington, playing a heavy, will appear in the episode failed to dis-pel that hint of a tingle.

Vintage 70s Charlie's Angels cast - People magazine (1977)

THE ESSENTIAL and pressing question: What will the new angel look like?

“Charlie’s Angels” was more than ABC’s surprise big hit last season. It was also the springboard that catapulted angel Farrah Fawcett-Majors to national sex symbol of the ’70s, leonine tresses, galaxy of flashing teeth, skateboard and all.

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Fawcett-Majors announced in March that she’d had enough of the show, and the “Charlie” producers are now suing her.

She and her husband, Lee (“The Six-Million Dollar Man”) Majors, are reportedly on vacation in Iran and Europe, and filming for the new show is starting without her — with a new angel, if you please.

“If you will, girls,” said the honcho for the news conference. “Angels!”

The trio swept in. “Hello, hi,” said Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith, the veteran angels sweeping in behind their new colleague, 25-year-old Cheryl Ladd, who has been written into the script as Farrah’s younger sister.

Jackson — the least-nonsense of the angels, the one without curly hair — immediately confirmed that a pedicab driver had chased her through Waikiki the day before.

“He told me he was chasing me — but I got a free ride,” she said.

Vintage Charlie's Angels main cast members - late 1970s

JACKSON WORE a “Star Wars” T-shirt and denim slacks. Next to her, Smith wore sportswear and curls. And Ladd, the new angel, with perfect teeth flashing, golden tresses cascading, was dressed fit to kill in a three-piece navy gaberdine pantsuit.

Farrah’s little sister? Sure. Jackson and Smith agreed that they’re recognized everywhere — and that it’s hard to turn down cute kids waiting for autographs.

Ladd seemed dazzled by the prospect of that kind of instant recognition. “It’s big shoes to fill if she (Farrah) doesn’t come back,” she said. “But I’m sure glad to be here now.”

Members of the production team said that it is possible that there will be four angels in some of the episodes next season, if Farrah signs a contract — and that they are supplied with scripts for every possibility.

The big question with Ladd is whether she’s expected to be a new Farrah.

“She’s her own individual character,” said Smith. “In the first few shows, we’re really going to show the new kid on the block,” added Ladd.

Cheryl Ladd - Us magazine cover (1977)

“AND THAT MEANS a lot more we can play off of,” said Smith. “Each of us has a strong identity right now.” As Smith spoke, she nudged Jackson, and the two laughed, sort of a combination of with-it sorority sisters and beauty pageant contestants.

What’s it like being an angel in Hawaii? Seen any beach boys? asked a reporter.

“Yessss,” said Jackson, savoring the word. “I’d like to see more,” added Smith.

MORE: Hawaii in the ’70s: Look back at Honolulu & Waikiki

And the show. What’s its special appeal that cuts across an audience, where kids and adults — both men and women — tune in so faith-fully?

“Women like to see the clothes, the fashions, the glamour,” said Smith. “And for many years, it’s been the accepted thing that attractive women shouldn’t be friends,” said Ladd.

“There doesn’t have to be petty jealousy…” Jackson grabbed a microphone. “Shut up!” she said, her voice booming through the room.

Ladd and Smith and Jackson laughed. “Now that’s going to be the only thing anybody writes, right? Everything else is down the tubes,” said Jackson.

BUT REALLY, angels, what’s it like in Hawaii? “On the beaches, it’s a little hectic,” said Smith.

Do you wear disguises? “I had a pair of glasses with a fake nose and a mustache,” said Jackson.

With the celebrity talk going on, Ladd was out of the running again. “I’ve been working seven years,” she said. “I think I deserve this break. Hey! I have a steady job. And I’m not pounding the pavement with 1,000 other actors.”

Surely, though, Ladd could call her brother-in-law for a job nibble now and then. After all, he’s Alan Ladd Jr., president of 20th Century Fox.

“There’s an old thing in Hollywood called nepotism,” she responded. “It works in reverse very often.”

But never mind. Jackson and Smith both think Ladd will be an instant hit with “Angels” fans.

“Right away, they’ve accepted her,” said Jackson, talking about reaction from people on the set in California during Ladd’s first day of shooting. “Everyone was very caring, and there were wolf calls and applause.”

Charlie's Angels cast - Season 2 (1977)

“I’M NOT IN any way trying to be Farrah Fawcett,” said Ladd. “I’m trying to be me. That’s the best I can do. Kate (Jackson) and I worked together many, many years ago…”

“Not that many,” interrupted Jackson. “It was a (TV) movie of the week.”

The title? “I don’t remember,” replied Jackson. “Will you buy that?”

Uh, what’s your love-life like, asked a reporter. “I’m a married lady,” replied Ladd, who is also the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. “And it’s all taken care of.”

“I’m not (a married lady) and mine’s all taken care of,” said Jackson.

“Kate’s is always taken care of,” added Smith, who passed on the question herself.

Do angels have aspirations beyond their television series? “Very high ones,” replied Jackson. “But we’re signed to five-year contracts. And one has a contract, one has to keep it. At least one ought to keep it.”

The business about contracts was clearly a snipe at Fawcett-Majors.

What do you think — well, I don’t want to call it that — but what do you think the problem is? With Fawcett-Majors?

“You could call it that,” replied Jackson, somewhat brusquely.

WHAT ABOUT costumes for the show? asked a reporter.

“We were given our wardrobe last year,” said Jackson. “You were?” said Ladd, almost squealing with delight.

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Cheryl Ladd - McCalls magazine cover (1978)

And what’s the wardrobe for the Hawaii episode?

“We’re going to film mostly with no clothing at all,” replied Jackson, with a delightful twinkle that became more and more apparent through the news conference.

“We do some swimming,” she continued. “Of course we’ve decided to revive the 1920s style of the pantaloon bathing suit. We thought that would be very popular.”

ANOTHER MODEL: See Cheryl Tiegs’ clothing collection & swimwear at Sears in the ’80s

And what about angel stunts? “We do a lot of our own,” replied Smith. “But don’t tell them all,” advised Jackson.

“Last year we had three girls who doubled us,” said Smith. “And two are dead,” said Jackson, displaying that mischievous twinkle again.

Ladd is ready to do some stunts in her first episode, which requires her to surf.

“I GOT UP this morning nauseous (at the prospect of her first surfing lesson),” she said. “I grew up in South Dakota, and we have no water in South Dakota… The first wave came, and I stood right up and started singing ‘Gidget Goes Hawaiian.’ And we’re going to have a show with ice skating.”

“That’s the next show,” said Smith. Jackson looked a trifle grim.

It was time to wind up the news conference. The angels were taking off for an appointment with the Governor — at his request, according to the conference honcho.

Ladd got one last lick in: “Yes! I sleep in the nude. I was waiting for someone to ask that question, and nobody ever does. And yes, my husband sleeps in the nude.”

And what about Charlie?


Charlie’s Angels opening credits, season 1


Charlie’s Angels series stars in the later years

Vintage Bananas magazine with Shelley Hack of Charlie's Angels on the cover

Charlie's Angels - Smith, Hack, Ladd


The later Angels cast – including and Bosley

Farrah Fawcett eventually came back to appear as an occasional guest on the show.

L to R: Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Shelly Hack, Cheryl Ladd, David Doyle (Bosley)

Four Charlie's Angels with Bosley - Vintage TV

ALSO SEE: Blonde & blonder: How women in the ’70s got that sun-lightened hair look

Charlie's Angels TV cast


Cheryl Ladd, Jaclyn Smith & Shelley Hack

They don’t particularly seem to be enjoying wearing these tight satin vintage pants…

Charlie's Angels actresses in tight satin vintage pants


Charlie’s Angels in season 5: Tanya Roberts, Jaclyn Smith & Cheryl Ladd

Charlie's Angels TV show - Season 5 (1980)

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