As 1970s television progressed, tv networks were inundated with detective shows such as Kojak, Columbo, Mannix and the Rockford files. Early 1976 saw a dramatic shift in this concept of story telling. Ivan Goff and Benn Roberts (writers of Mannix) devised a script that involved three female detectives who were assigned to the Townsend detective agency. Produced by Arron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg (Swat Starsky and Hutch), the three detectives Kate Jackson (Sabrina Duncan), Jaclyn Smith (Kelly Garrett), Farrah Fawcett Majors (Jill Munroe) were headed by Bosley (David Doyle). Each of the Angels received their assignments through a radio speaker, the voice of Charlie (John Forsyth, Dynasty). The pilot debuted on ABC television on March 21st, 1976 receiving spectacular ratings. The Charlie’s Angels phenomenon was born and the following September saw its series debut with ‘Hell ride’, immediately hitting the top ten of shows for the 1976-77 season. Worldwide success was soon to follow making stars out of each if the Angels…especially Farrah.
Angel flying the nest
With her blond hair and blue eyes and angelic face, Farrah Fawcett Majors became an over night poster sensation. It seemed as though every girl and woman wanted the ‘Farrah look’. She seemed to have the perfect life; Beautiful, blonde, wealthy and married to the Six Million Dollar Mans’, Lee Majors. The long and brutal hours on set was placing a strain on her marriage. “This family makes $55,000 a week and I make 50 of it. When I get up in the morning Farrah’s not there and when I come home Farrah is still not there”, Lee said in a 1977 interview. Not wishing to jeopardize her marriage, Farrah decided to leave the show at the end of the season.
Enter Cheryl exit Farrah
Despite the strains and disappointments of Farrah’s departure, Spelling and Goldberg chose a young Cheryl Ladd as replacement. Bright and energetic, she immediately took to the other Angels. Audiences were treated to her first performance in the opening season 2 episode ‘Angels in paradise’. It was like Farrah had never left as fans loved Cheryl’s portrait as Jill Munroes kid sister. Guest celebrities were becoming the norm as Sammy Davis Jr portrayed himself in the fan favorite ‘ The Sammy Davis jr kidnap caper’. The strength of the show continued as season 2 concluded with ‘Antique Angels’…with another change on the horizon.
Bye bye Sabrina
Season 3 opened with ‘Angels in Vegas’ with a special appearance by Dean Martin. With the success of Charlie’s Angels came the pressures and the long hours that are involved in television production. An offer to star in the up coming Kramer v Kramer movie gave Kate Jackson the opportunity to further her career but it was not meant to be as contractual obligations prevented her from doing this. Unhappy and only earning $5000 a week (equivalent to $19,848.95 in today’s money) she decided to leave the show at the end of the season.
Replacing Angels and falling ratings
As ratings began to fall, producers spelling and Goldberg introduced Tiffany Wells as Kate Jacksons replacement. Unlike Cheryl, fans did not take to Tiffanys character for the beginning of the 1979-80 season. Despite excellent episodes such as ‘Haunting Angels’ and ‘Angel on the streets’ ratings continued to plummet with top shows for that season being Archie bunkers place and Love Boat. Season 1980-81 would be the last season for Charlie’s Angels despite the inclusion of Tanya Roberts replacing Tiffany Wells. With Jaclyn Smith being the only surviving member of all 5 seasons, she was more then happy to see the series end. “I was so exhausted by the end of the last episode that I couldn’t even remember any ones name on the set,” She said.
As Charlies Angels entered ABC’s museum of classic shows, it will always be remembered as one of the most ground breaking series in the history of television.
RIP Farrah Fawcett and David Doyle.