From 1976 to 1981, viewers had the incredible honor of watching the many grand adventures of a crime-fighting trio of women, and we have the show’s creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts and producer Aaron Spelling to thank for that. Of course we also have the Angels themselves to thank as they brought the epic characters to life! Now that the show has turned 40 years old, which is crazy to think about, we decided to dig deep and find some little-known facts about the iconic television series.
ABC Originally Thought The Storyline Wasn’t Worth It
When producer Aaron Spelling and his partner Leonard Goldberg presented the idea of a television show that followed female spies to ABC executives, they didn’t really get a great response. In fact, the network executives said, “[this was] the worst idea we have ever heard.” However, the only reason ABC ended up going through with it was due to the fact that Spelling already had a previous arrangement which guaranteed him $25,000 for a totally new pilot script. Win-win!
Wrap your head around this tidbit: Jaclyn Smith was in the running for the role of Kelly Garrett, but so were about a hundred other actresses. Even though Spelling and Goldberg liked Smith, they were skeptical in giving her the part as their initial idea starred a brunette, blonde, and red-head. As Smith was the only brunette to audition and had extraordinary on-screen chemistry with Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, she was eventually given the role. Good choice!
Name me one, just one person who isn’t familiar with the iconic Farrah Fawcett red swimsuit poster? Go ahead, I’ll wait. However did you know all three original actresses were approached to do a promotional poster but only Farrah Fawcett agreed? Yup! That poster, which was taken by a family friend Bruce McBloom, became one of the most famous 70’s photos of all time and even sold 12 copies before the pilot episode ever aired! Oh yeah, Farrah also did her own hair and makeup like a total boss.
Did you know that Kate Jackson was initially cast as the lovely Kelly Garrett (which ended up being Jaclyn Smith’s role in the end), but Jackson felt more drawn to the role of Sabrina Duncan, and requested to switch parts. The producers agreed and Jackson was cast as the first Angel and in the role she wanted!
The Name Game
Get this, originally Spelling and Goldberg titled the show, The Alley Cats, which in our opinion is pretty bad and quite deeming to such a feminist cast. However thanks to Kate Jackson and her creative input, she came up with the name Harry’s Angels. Harry was originally the name of their oh-so-mysterious boss but because the name was much too similar to that of Harry O, a detective show running at the time, they changed it to…Charlie’s Angels!
Quite The Wardrobe
You know the saying, “The clothes make the girl?” Well, in this case, that couldn’t be more true! In the show’s 110 episode run, the wardrobe budget was, ~ahem~, $22,000! Seriously. The reason being, each star changed numerous times per episode and only wore only the best designer brands. In fact, Farrah Fawcett broke a record when she changed into 12, we repeat 12, different outfits in just one episode!
The Voice of Charlie
Ah yes, the voice of Charlie was originally cast to Gig Young but uhh, that quickly went out the window. While shooting the pilot episode, Young turned up completely and utterly drunk, it was so bad that he wasn’t even coherent enough to complete his lines. As a result, he was immediately fired. (Which of course leads us to our next fact!)
The New Charlie
Following the whole Gia Young fiasco, Spelling was under pressure to fulfill the deadline so he phoned up his pal John Forsythe late into the night and asked, more like begged, him to read Charlie’s lines. Forsythe agreed to help out and even drove to the lot while still in his pajamas! Initially he was only meant to read the voice of Charlie for just the pilot episode but he ended up staying on for the show’s entire five year run!
With how popular Farrah Fawcett was on the show, it’s no surprise that her incredible hair style inspired a TON of envy…worldwide. Women all over the globe were seen with the “Farrah-do”, a “Farrah-flip”, or even just “Farrah hair”. Moreover, this hair style stuck around late into the 80’s even.
Kate Jackson was the first Angel selected, and if you remember she played the character Sabrina Duncan AKA “the smart one.” Due to the show’s success, Jackson became a sought after actress for countless roles, including a major film role. She was offered the lead role in the brilliant drama flick Kramer vs. Kramer alongside Dustin Hoffman, however that infamous role went to Meryl Streep instead as producer Aaron Spelling told Jackson they would not be able to rearrange the show’s shooting schedule in order to give her the necessary time off to do the film.
Just One Season
After the first season, Farrah Fawcett left the show! And after a legal battle with ABC over her contract, her role was eventually replaced with a new Angel but because she was leaving her contract four years early, she did sign a new contract which said she would make six guest appearances over a two year span. Many speculated that Fawcett’s decision to leave was fueled by marital woes while others believe it was her decision to pursue a film career. Either way, the show just wasn’t the same without Farrah!
A New Angel
Like we said, Farrah Fawcett’s role as Jill Munroe was a fan favorite, so much so that Fawcett dominated in all of the popularity polls! Which explains why ABC were fearful that Fawcett’s departure would lead to a possible rating slump. But the show must go on so ABC replaced Fawcett with actress, singer, and author Cheryl Ladd who played Kris Munroe, Jill’s younger sister.
Trouble in Paradise
Sadly Cheryl Ladd (Angel Kris Munroe) and Kate Jackson (Angel Sabrina Duncan) did not get along, which caused quite a bit of tension on set. Moreover it was clear that this new trio weren’t as tight as the original three.
Welp, Kate Jackson carried a bit of resentment after not being able to star in the film Kramer vs. Kramer so after the end of season three, she left the show and pursued a film career. Jackson summed up her reason to leave as, “I served it well and it served me well, now it’s time to go.”
Another New Angel
Now that Kate Jackson has left the building, the producers had plenty of new Angels to choose from to fill her shoes. Actresses like Barbara Bach, Shari Belafonte, Melanie Griffith, Connie Sellecca, and Michelle Pfeiffer all tried out for the replacement role. However the producers chose Shelley Hack, a model, actress, and producer, who is currently a political and media advisor. In Charlie’s Angels, Hack played Tiffany Welles and while she was liked enough, the show saw ratings drop and after just 26 episodes, she was let go.
At the time that Charlie’s Angels was suffering from a ratings decline, the show did a crossover episode with the highly popular ABC show The Love Boat. As such, producers hoped the crossover of its season four premiere would bring more viewers to the Angels side. Although it didn’t seem to do much in the end.
That’s Right – Another New Angel
Tanya Roberts was selected from some a pool of about 2,000 candidates to replace Angel Shelley Hack in its fifth and final season. Producers were extremely hopeful that Roberts’ presence would rejuvenate the show’s rating slump! Just before the season aired, Roberts was even featured on the magazine cover of People with a clear headline asking if Tanya Roberts had what it took to save the show. (The answer? Nope.)
For the show’s entire five seasons and 110 episodes, there was only ONE Angel that remained from start to finish, Jaclyn Smith. Smith was a part of the original Angels and by the time the very last episode aired, she appeared in every single episode. Not bad!
Charlie’s Angels Off Air
Ahem, we can’t say that there weren’t numerous attempts to save the show when there were! However once the network switched the time slot for Charlie’s Angels three times, viewership really suffered. Moreover, there was even an actors’ strike which affected many shows in that time, including Charlie’s Angels.
Remember how we said that Jaclyn Smith appeared in all 110 episodes? Well, there was only one other actor who also appeared in 110 episodes, David Doyle AKA John Bosley. Furthermore, John Forsythe, the voice of Charlie, “appeared” in just 109 episodes.
Speaking of Charlie, he was THE highest paid actor on television at the time! Even though he never made an actual appearance on the show, just his voice was used, it goes to speak volumes of how unfair Hollywood can be sometimes.
Remember how we said ABC felt that a show about three female detectives was a bit, well stupid? Ahem, after Charlie’s Angels was off air, they produced a spinoff show called Toni’s Boys which is about three male detectives lead by a female boss. Needless to say, the show wasn’t even picked up after its pilot episode aired.
Turns out that Toni’s Boys wasn’t the only spinoff of Charlie’s Angels! Once upon a time there was a Spanish Telemundo telenovela version, Ángeles, and also a German version, Wilde Engel. However most of us are familiar with the 2009 film starring Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu, fun fact: John Forsythe (Charlie) even did the voice for all three movies!
A New Reboot
Just this year, a new reboot of the films has been running around! Sony Pictures Entertainment is in talks with the lovely Elizabeth Banks, they’ve asked her to direct the anticipated franchise. Fingers crossed!
Guest Stars A-Plenty
Charlie’s Angels had a host of well-known faces during its entire five seasons, some already well known while others saw their careers blossom after the fact. Some guest stars include: Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Selleck, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Kim Basinger.
Uhh, how do we put this lightly? Charlie’s Angels was known to many critics as “Jiggle TV” and “T&A TV” (or “Tits & A$$ Television”) because they were under the impression the show had no substance and only depicted the Angels as sensational roller derby girls, beauty pageant contestants, female prisoners, or just bikini-clad. Farrah Fawcett even said once that the show’s success was due to: “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.”
The Award Goes To…
How many times do we need to say that the late, great Farrah Fawcett is perfect? Her role in Charlie’s Angels went on to earn her very first Golden Globe nomination.
What An Honor
Remember Cheryl Ladd? She replaced the original “Angel” Farrah Fawcett in season two. Well, get this! Ladd appeared in 87 episodes which makes her the second longest serving “angel” in the series, right after Jaclyn Smith. Crazy.
March 21, 1976 is when the 90-minute pilot film first aired, although the storyline was much different than the heart of the show, and the ratings were phenomenal! Although ABC didn’t believe in the story and they also didn’t believe the high ratings so they re-played the pilot all over again a week later to see if the ratings would match. And so they did!
Honey, I’m Home!
Farrah Fawcett was married to The Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors, and their relationship was her first priority. In Fawcett’s contract, she apparently ensured that she could promptly leave filming at 7PM every day in order to go home to her husband, as such, the executives agreed and Fawcett made it home every night!