An occasional TV Series with Thomas Myler
Remember Charlie’s Angels, the all-girl crime series on television about three girls from the Los Angeles Police Department who are rescued from humdrum meter-reading by one Charlie Townsend, wealthy head of an investigations company, and despatched to some series crime-fighting?
The opening narration was always the same: “Once upon a time there were three girls who went to the Police Academy and were each assigned very hazardous duties, but I took them away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.”
The US series, totalling 115 episodes, ran for five seasons, from 1976 to 1981 and on this side of the Atlantic from 1977 to 1982 on the ITV network.
Producer Leonard Goldberg had the initial idea in the mid-70s for a breakthrough and escapist show about three beautiful private investigators. It would be a cross between The Avengers and Honey West, a short-lived drama from the 1960s about a female private eye.
Goldberg took the idea to writers Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts, and they suggested calling the series The Alley Cats in which the three females would reside in alleys and wear whips and chains.
Another producer, Aaron Spelling, who would make hit shows such as Hart to Hart, Starsky and Hutch and Beverly Hills 90210, was approached and liked the concept.
During the pre-production stages Kate Jackson was selected as one of the girls.
“Kate had proven popular with viewers in another police drama called and she got one of the roles,” said Spelling. “Next cast was Farrah Fawcett after we watched her performance in the movie Logan’s Run. Like Kate, Farrah did not need to audition for the part.
“It was more different to select our third girl. We auditioned hundreds before Jaclyn Smith was recommended.
“She was the only brunette who auditioned for the role and we liked the on-screen chemistry she shared with Jackson and Fawcett.”
At a meeting of the production team which Jackson attended, she announced her disapproval of the title, and since she was given semi-control over the development of the series, she encouraged producers to find a new title.
It was Jackson who decided the three women would be called Angels after seeing a picture of three angels hanging in Spelling’s office, and the series became known as Harry’s Angels. This title was dropped, however, when the ABC television network did not want to run into conflict with the series Harry O, and the title was changed to Charlie’s Angels.
John Forsythe, probably best known as the patriarch John Carrington in Dynasty, provided the voice of their boss, the unseen Charlie Townsend, who directed the crime-fighting operations of the ‘Angels’ over a speakerphone.
He recorded his lines in an audio studio at Twentieth Century Fox and was never on set. Some years later, he bumped into Farrah Fawcett at a tennis court. As he recalled, “I was coming off the court when she came up to me and said, ‘Charlie! I finally met Charlie!’”
Forsythe was offered the ‘Charlie’ role in a panicky late-night phone call from Spelling after the original choice, movie actor Gig Young, showed up too intoxicated to read his lines. “I didn’t even take my pyjamas off – I just put on my topcoat and drove over to the Fox studios,” recalled Spelling. “When it was finished, I said, ‘That’s perfect’, went home and got back into bed.”