Judge Neil Dorsett's tight sweaters and hiphuggers will never be the same.
Our reviews of Charlie's Angels (published March 27th, 2001), Charlie's Angels: Superbit Deluxe Edition (published July 24th, 2003), Charlie's Angels: The Complete First Season (published June 23rd, 2003), Charlie's Angels: The Complete Third Season (published June 28th, 2006), and Charlie's Angels: The Complete Fourth Season (published July 27th, 2009) are also available.
"Once upon a time, three little girls went to the police academy. Two in Los Angeles, the other in San Francisco. They were given…less than compelling duty. I took them away from all that."
Twenty-four diabolical plots. Seven great boobs. And one more chance to get it right.
Charlie's Angels is about two things. Breasts and padding. A ha, you might say. A natural combination; or if not natural exactly, one that many of us as humans have some experience with, on some level or another. However, it is safe to say that the only thing not padded on this show are the brassieres. Do I sound a bit condescending toward Charlie's Angels? Well, that's only appropriate, since Angels is itself fairly condescending. Toward its leading ladies, toward its guest characters, toward its comedy relief, and toward its audience.
Angels is one of the brainchildren of Aaron Spelling, and one from which his infamous reputation is largely derived. The prolific executive producer has also provided the world with Beverly Hills 90210, Hart to Hart, Life With Lucy, Fantasy Island, and many others. The series casts three beautiful women as undercover private investigators (under the male supervision of the clownish Bosley (David Doyle) and the disembodied Charlie (the voice of John Forsythe)). Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) and Sabrina (Kate Jackson) are joined abruptly at the head of this season by Kris Monroe, played by Cheryl Ladd. Kris essentially just walks in the door at the start of the season's kickoff two-parter and says, "Hey, don'cha recognize me? Jill's little sister?" Jill being the character played by Farrah Fawcett on the first season. Fawcett apparently felt her star was rising and that this show was now beneath her. Kris hops on just in time for a pretty sweet gig—the Angels are just about to leave for Hawaii. Hawaii was a popular choice for travel among TV shows of the 1970s and early '80s, leading one to the conclusion that the islands were rife with crime. As Don Ho says in the two-part opener, "I steer clear of that stuff."
Here's how things go on an episode of Charlie's Angels. The Angels lounge in their living room/office area (only Bosley seems to have a desk) while Charlie informs them of their mission for the week. Kelly furrows her brow, various questions are asked, and a plan is formed: the angels will go undercover. Typically this means that Kris and Kelly go undercover in some sort of role demanding females of physical appeal, while Bosley and Sabrina pair off as a more typical pair of television detectives. A male who will be revealed as either the central villain or the central villain's hapless tool will attempt, with varying levels of success, to involve himself with one of the Angels. One or more of the Angels will be imprisoned, tied up, or detained at gunpoint. Finally, the Angels overcome their primarily male opponents and bring them to justice in time to exchange a brief bon mot with Charlie just before the distinctive silhouette logo moves in vertically and a bell tinkles to signal the onset of 1977 eight o'clock programming. Sound kinda short? It is. Each episode of Charlie's Angels is less than thirty minutes of script stretched out to fill nearly fifty minutes of screen time. And episodes there are aplenty. No short 23 episodes here (although it seems like the opening two-part show is actually a two-hour season premiere, and in this package we get the chopped-in-half syndication version). Twenty-six full-length shows fill out this sizey box set. The episode titles alone will suffice to describe each storyline almost in full. You get:
• "Angels in Paradise" (parts 1 and 2) (Hawaii
A quick run down that list will reveal what Charlie's Angels is really about. Ostensibly these characters are detectives, but they spend most of their time posing in what were at the time fairly stereotypical women's jobs, primarily to provide a showcase for the camera to point at a smiling beautiful young woman. There's nothing wrong with pointing a camera at a smiling beautiful young woman, of course. However, it seems like this show would do more to point a girl of 1977 at tennis or beauty contests than private detection. But hey, the theme is catchy and there's three great babes, and they had a really bitchin' logo happening with that red silhouette and the explosions behind it. You know what though? A lot of kids' shows have that.
There. I said it. Charlie's Angels is a kids' show. A kids' show with adult performers and a modicum of sex interest in the form of pretty stars. Just like Knight Rider and Wonder Woman. So as kids', or more properly I suppose young adults' entertainment, how is it? Well, it's not much. The show is relentlessly slow as described above, the role models are highly questionable (think Mystery Date in flairs), and the packaging—the only real content of the show—wears thin quickly. The only real remaining factors once you get past the three pretty girls and the cool logo are the string score, which is omnipresent and actually has a very pleasant quality, and the fashions, which of course had useful Vogue-like showcase appeal in their day, but now are only a time capsule. A bitter time capsule, when you consider that Jaclyn Smith has been working for K-Mart for the past twenty-odd years. But not so bitter after all that, because women's fashions were sort of flattering in the '70s, even for all their '70s-ness, and these three women are great for showing them off. The bustier pair sport all manner of sun dress and bathing suit (Kris is also rather attached to a jogging suit, complete with hat, which matches perfectly with her blue eyes), while Sabrina demonstrates much flair in the way of slacks and sweaters. It's something of a novelty to look back on the real '70s and find women actually making use of their waistline! However, upon reflection, I think I like things better today in our Mark II version of the '70s, where hip-huggers are the rule. That's what they call progress.
These ladies are beautiful, and well-employed, and they're snappy dressers, well-spoken to boot, and not only that, but they're capable of catching criminals. I always find myself wondering why their personal lives are so lousy that they wind up falling for the bad guys over and over again. Ah, well, such is life. I also wonder from time to time how private detectives always wind up dealing with criminal cases. Perhaps I wonder too much. Perhaps Charlie's Angels is just a television staple that I should relax about and let it fill up time with pleasant music and imagery, the way it always has. Perhaps there are worse things it could be doing.
Charlie's Angels: The Complete Second Season is presented in its original television aspect ratio of 1.33:1. The video is nothing special; in my estimation, these are the same transfers used by TV Land and the traditional syndication package. A 3:2 pulldown (time correction from film to video, unnecessary to include on a DVD) is present on the transfers, which not only marks them as old, but wastes bitrate as always—as well as causing a stuttery playback effect on PC software players. The prints look a bit beaten and the image has very low contrast. It's perhaps not necessary to remaster Charlie's Angels, but removing pulldown from a transfer is something that even a casual amateur encoder can do. Surely Columbia can handle it. Since the discs are crowded anyway, wasting 20% more bitrate on duplicate fields seems rather silly. Audio is the same tinny monaural mix as always, and no extras whatsoever are included.
Charlie's Angels: The Complete Second Season is found guilty of extreme filler and sentenced to be recognized as incredibly dull in this modern world. The onscreen participants are acquitted individually, since they probably had no idea anyone would still be trying to sell this show in 2004. Columbia is found guilty of disregard of DVD bonus features, which would have helped to fill this package out a bit from its simple stacking of very similar episodic shows.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Review content copyright © 2004 Neil Dorsett; Site design and review layout copyright © 2015 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.