A subdivision of ACIDEMIC

Friday, October 23, 2015

70s Tolkien Boom

"Roasted toadstools...."

Don't laugh at their fantasy excursions, because as I said, at the time (mid 70's) all that Dungeons and Dragons / sword and sorcery stuff was still dangerous and sexy; it hadn't been overrun by nerds, Spielberg/Reagan conservatism, the Disneyfication of Times Square, the re-chastening of AIDS and the rise of Harry Potter. Don't forget - in the real LOTR and THE HOBBIT, everyone smokes!

In fact the Ralph Bakshi animated version of LORD OF THE RINGS movie in 1978 (above, left), by way of illustration, was dark and violent; it was something older kids got high and went to see at midnight shows. Fantasy of that sort wasn't for children, but for teenage stoners - the world of HEAVY METAL, THE WALL, and Bakshi's entire oeuvre. Try to image that kind of stuff coming out today and you can't. Even then you couldn't. Those sort of movies never ran TV commercials (their soundtrack albums were enough) and there were no videotapes yet, no cable, nothing to watch at home for slumber parties. If you wanted to see LORD OF THE RINGS you didn't wait 30 years for DVDs to be invented, you snuck out when your parents were asleep, jumped in your friends' battered Mustang, got high on the way, and-- still in your pajamas and slippers--snuck in through the back door of the theater. SONG REMAINS was almost a prequel. (more)

Monday, September 28, 2015

CHARLIE'S ANGELS Season Three: Episode Guide (1978-79)

Purists say that, like some crooked boxer, Charlies Angels took a dive in the third. It definitely kind of peters off after occasional flashes of the old magic. The Angels had been around long enough now I guess they figured they could take it easy. EASY!? How else had they been taking it? Kate Jackson left afterward, replaced in a stunningly wrong move, by high end London model Shelly Hack, way too skinny and posh for the mellow LA vibe of the other two. By the end of season four she was gone, and in came the very cool and enchanting Tanya Roberts. Critics all say that if she came in on season four instead of Hack then it might still be running today. It was just too little too late.

But first there was one last hurrah--the third season--though for all its sporadic flash and even with 'smart one' Sabrina still in the mix the Angels seemed to be forgetting how to do their job, defend themselves, or think on their feet and the writers were even lazier. Regular watchers of super smart girl detective shows will have a tough time watching these pretty ladies put one and one together and come up with three, then one, then finally two and then taking another half hour to do anything about it. Thanks to the wavering attention of overtaxed screenwriters like the "Selznick of Spelling"  Ernest Lakso, there's no shortage of easy 'going nowhere slow' old hammy show biz types meandering around the edges of scenes, making odd scale ends meet between SAG pension checks. But there's still occasional glimmers of the tawdry charm and slyly assertive feminism of the first season, Jill Monroe even comes back (Saturn 3 had bombed by then) looking dangerously thin but with one hell of an impressive tan; and those Law and Order variations owe a rather large debt to this show and its contemporary and tawdrier later-in-the-evening ancestor, Police Woman.

49-50 - Angels in Vegas (Parts 1, 2) Sept. 1978

Sammy Davis Jr. must have had fun working with the minx pack last season and told his own pack about it, because here's Dean Martin strolling through real Vegas locations, showing card tricks to an unimpressed Scatman Crothers and watching--you're not ready to hear this--Bewitched Dick Sargent as a shifty-eyed lounge singer named Marty Cole. As they did for Sammy, the angels need to act as Dean's bodyguards, because one of the Tropicana's dancers-- in a fur coat and Trans Am she clearly never paid for (with money)--is followed by an ominous looking truck which runs her off the road. Beep Beep! We learn Frank (Martin) won the Tropicana in a crap game. What happened to the guy who lost it? Sabrina asks. "He is nowhere," Dino says. "He just walked through that door and shot himself right through the head." Frank notes he was in 'the Tank Corp' during the war (a reference maybe to the ill-fated Anzio?) and is kind of mule-headed in refusing the question the loyalty of his employees, nearly all of whom are stealing him blind and working all sorts of shady scams backstage.

The Angels set up a "Command Center" in Frank's suite of penthouse apartments in the Tropicana. Downstairs as part of her cover, Kris sings to audition for Marty Cole. So we hear a stanza or two from her (real) album: "Take a chance and see / love will never be / foreplanned (?)" Great lyrics, m'Ladd (did you know she did the singing voice of Melanie on Josie and the Pussycats?). Marty Cole hires her of course, and thinks she looks just like his ex-wife, Leslie Cole, which is funny since in this same season they all say Kris is a dead ringer for a dead 20s star. Meanwhile Sabrina, as usual with louche reprobate clients, gets to play the girlfriend so she can drop some feminism (or women's lib as it was called then) and make him reconsider his aloof womanizing and grow up a spell. But Frank has charm too underneath his steeliness, and his waxing on the poetry of dice games and coin flips proves more affecting than some of the other tangents in this two-parter, such as who's sabotaging his casino, other than all the shady suspects he refuses to consider might be motivated by revenge or cash instead of boozy loyalty.

Pros: Surprisingly adult references to prostitution and blackmail; Kelly comes on strong to Vic Morrow as a rival casino owner suspect, scaring him mightily. Poor Vic would be dead in just two years due to a helicopter accident on the set of the Twilight Zone movie, so savor his greatness.

Cons: Scatman Crothers forgets that the first rule when being chased by a demon truck while walking your cat: get the hell out of the center of the road. Second rule: cats don't need to be walked. The writers of this episode clearly no knowledge of how casinos operate if an Asian businessmen can use a handheld computer right at the craps table (which is of itself ridiculous), and not only that, play with crooked dice which Martin never thinks to swap out. He wouldn't have held onto that casino for more than five minutes with that kind of permissive negligence. Equally aggravating is some annoying Can-Can numbers, probably thrown in there for Jaclyn's high-kicking benefit, though most of it is just mismatched stock footage of the 'Folies Bergere of '79' a well-known (I guess) real Vegas act of the era. Good lord why is that awful dance still around now that we've moved past arresting girls for showing their ankles in public?

Pros again (Part 2):
Either way, Angels be gettin' some. Sabrina hooks up with Frank and they form a relationship only a talented resourceful brainy actress and a boozy laureate could conjure. Her nerdy younger girl ectomorphic braininess and his thirty years older shoot-from-the-hipness make for interesting even touching combination. Ladd gets to sing a second time. Bosley does a neat golf cart tumble. ABC steps in to introduce Dan Tana and the new show Vegas at the end, cuz when in Rome....

Angel Come Home

Jill returns! Farrah does a fine guest star turn; we first see her wearing the same bathing suit is that famous poster, with a flowing white skirt, though her hair is a mess and too much eyeliner. She's a Formula One racer now and her fiancee Mark Carmony (Stephen Collins) is the suspiciously suspect in sabotage surrounding some prototype model car, created by an ambiguous but handsome character named Paul Farino (Horst Bucholtz) who lures Jill to LA (or someone did) and then talks her into driving his experimental baby in the local race.

Pros: The plot's clever enough and makes good use of the racetrack milieu and Jill's presence --she gets to really act in some scenes; Kris gets to run around on the beach looking cute and their big reunion is pretty fun, all the bouncing around and yelping seems real and enthusiastic, which is a nice 70s sort of vibe - people were up! But, like all the Angels, Jill seems to have terrible judgment in men. Mark tries to get all bossy and argue her out of racing for Paul Farino. Why was he at this seedy LA racetrack anyway? Andrea Lassiter (Mrs. Dean Martin-at-the-time Dolly Read) shows up as a race track groupie who still has the hots for Mark. Who's she working for, her own G-spot aside? She'd be right at home amidst the girls in Red Line 7000! One thing's for sure, after this episode nobody wanted to see Farrah come back and replace Cheryl Ladd -- not only is Ladd a more engaging nuanced actress, she can work her angles and shmize and her body is slammin' - Poor Farrah looks wretched - hair a mess, eyeliner covering up a shmizeless hungover stare, awash in tiredness that's possibly the result of anorexia, a failed film career, or a failed marriage to Lee Majors,  or all of the above--though she does seem to know how to channel it all into some palpable grief.

Angel on High

There's a great croaking-voiced hit man, and once again the motive is, refreshingly, simple greed. A dumb air show stunt pilot (Michael Goodwin) is possible heir to two different fortunes but doesn't want to be tied down. He only wants to fly. By now the Angels have lost so many guys they're interested in they should know their kisses are always of death. They should also learn to read cues from people's faces, and not to talk really loud in the open about their plans when they know folks are spying on them unless they want the spies to pick up on false information; even this far into the series Kris is always so stunned when some cute guy pulls a gun on her, as if hotness equals goodness just because the Angels themselves are hot and good.

Pros: "William Freeman brings the touch of warm nostalgia" to aviation history in his bi-plane; and the show brings it now, with its analog charm and measured pace, it's relative lack of traumatic violence. The romance between Paul Freeman and Kelly gets some weird cautionary implied-lesbian-jealousy from Sabrina! The whole dour Christian judgmental wife/mother thing paints a nicely unpleasant picture of Christianity, at least in its American form. There's a good bit with Sabrina working information out of a mobbed up chairman of the board in NYC (and she gets a potshot taken at her). Smith does some first class acting when presented with the possibility to just fly away with a cute guy and leave her life behind: her eyes soften and glisten a bit --she's really taken aback at the thought, all there in the eyes, showing that when she gets the chance Smith can bring it.

Angels in Springtime

You would think they'd be smart enough by now to not take an easily-locked steam bath in a ritzy spa wherein they know someone's actively trying to kill them, but there's a great Rosa Krebbs-style gym coach dyke and Kelly makes a reference to a past episode wherein she was hypnotized. Whoa! Continuity?! And in her way, Kelly wreaks some delayed payback for her past exploitation. Mercedes McCambridge is the wheelchair-bound ex-Bway hoofer or something presiding over the evil and very posh spa where murder's afoot (an ex-Bway hoofer or something friend of Charlie's) and Charlie is identified as Bottom-cum-donkey, cradled in the Anita Louise's arms via a still from Max Reinhart's 1935 version of Midsummer Night's Dream (it's actually Jimmy Cagney but... are we sure?).

cuz they may be lesbians
Pros: "It's a women's spa, Bosley, no men allowed." Once again Ladd effortlessly supplies the entire sex appeal in a cute pink bathing suit as the exercise coordinator, almost getting into a tussle with the evil Zora (Nancy Parsons); all the staff are super bitchy but since there are no men it's badass--especially with the creepy lesbian vibe going on with the doctor, the dyke masseuse, and Ingrid the "Amazonian directress."

Cons: Bosley never mentions the fee unless Charlie is comping, this time because he was once onstage with the victim. Considering the amount of people Charlie knows it's a wonder they make any money at all. And after a spell the pink and white color scheme is wearying, like being trapped in my mom's house over Xmas. Mercedes' old broad sass gets wearying too ("as I was saying, about sex," ugh okay we get it lady)

Winning is for Losers

Jamie Lee Curtis as a women's golf pro, back when she was still just Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis' daughter. And the dad in TWIN PEAKS, Ray Wise is a loner vet of the Travis Bickle variety stalking her while someone's taking potshots at her, and I can't remember but there's probably a snake in her golf bag, or a bomb in the 18th hole, or a gator in the rough, or all three. Casey Casem does the commentary and woos a rival lady golfer whom he remembers crushing on a youth. She'll do anything to win this tournament before she retires. As Ultimate fan guide notes "Ladd is an expert golfer in real life. Though she doesn’t get a chance to demonstrate her prowess in this episode, Ladd participates in various pro-am tournaments to help raise money for charity, including her own Cheryl Ladd Pro AM. Good for her, and bad for the series - does anyone ever really get to demonstrate their prowess on this show anymore?

Cons: Why wasn't this episode called "Angels in the Rough"?? Seems like the censors nixed it. Also, they know a sniper's going to pop Jamie Lee, why the hell aren't they covering the high ground instead of just standing there in a row, applauding politely? The elaborate resolution involving a land grab doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense if you follow the links through

Haunted Angels

1978 was a hot time for ESP, telekinesis, reincarnation, and psychics thanks to the success of The Exorcist, Audrey Rose, Carrie, The Fury, there were TV movies The Initiation of Sarah and TV shows like The Six Million Dollar Man. Here Sabrina gets to play psychic at a cool ESP institute but she's really just a good detective, empathic sweetheart and smokin' sharp actress who knows how to whirl the three together and fake it like the best of them. I personally believe there are real psychics but just because 90% of them are phony carny types doesn't invalidate the legit 10%. And another thing, a little ballyhoo is intrinsic to spiritual contact, just ask any Indian fakir. Anyway, murder makes it more than just Bosley's bridge partner wondering if the people she's giving money to are for real or not, which is important because otherwise who cares? "I was very fond of Kathy... but I don't think you are ever going to find her killer.... in this world." Eric is a psychic who touches Kris' arm and sees her in the Police Academy! It's a curse, really--he knows what it's like to die.

The head spirit researcher's name is Peter Russell (Peter Donat--I used to have a whole series of Joseph Campbell lectures on tape that he introduced!) and he hosts a TV show, Infinity and Beyond, in a manner that clearly evokes Criswell! Can you prove he didn't happen? There's the stock footage lightning shot that Corman used in his Poe films, some glass shattering and ghost voices and all that other malarkey but a real psychic is on hand to dazzle Bosley at the end. So at least they were kind enough to shout out for the real ones.... only in California.

Pom-Pom Angels

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were momentarily huge, as I vaguely remember. So here's this, a weird mix of bullshit Christianity sleaziness and stock footage of football games and audience reactions. Cheerleaders are disappearing after games. Is it the old lady agent, her horndog son "kicked out of three seminaries", a dopey linebacker who talks about how Marianne was nice to him, etc.?

Pros: Ladd is especially fetching in her cheerleader outfit; I love the anti-Christian angle, as if religious zealotry and football are the entwined double helix heart of the flyover states, and both are terrible, but..

Cons: There's a reason I never watched House of Whipcord. I hate to see women shorn of their hair and kept as captives, even if it's by crazed fundamentalists with no sexual agenda. In fact, I turn to Charlie's Angels to get away from the very same pit in my stomach such vile subjects instill. Even worse, Kelly rocks a terrible posh accent and Ladd a terrible Atlanta accent. Good lord ladies, wake up, there's an abductor of 'sinful' women afoot! In short, it's a very tired episode, poisoned by bad vibes and reflected in the weary and beleaguered eyes of the abducted 'sinners.'

Angels Ahoy

Angels - someone is running scams or something, people who know too much vanish overboard and the ship owner suspects drugs are being smuggled. There's not a lot of bathing suit action but Bosley plays pingpong with an older single's cruise lady to snag the Love Boat connection; she finds pingpong exhilarating, he refers to himself as the sultan of slam. Oh, Bos.

Like all the best episodes it's set somewhere that's exotic with some new and different settings (other than those tired paneled Italian restaurant set. This time there's a groovy pool climax. Kris gels her hair out and woos a louche lounge singer; Kelly takes the gaffe when a crane almost drops on her (it comes nowhere near her actually, but she runs towards it so she can run away from it - what a trouper!)

Cons: It never dawns on Kelly to pack a rod when going to a remote boiler room to meet an anonymous source; and in the office opener she rocks the sort of godawful cult Christian lavender frock, and then a gaudy white toreador ruffles number. There's always going to be remote boiler room stalkings on a 70s detective thriller should it be set on an ocean liner. It's pretty bad though if you're on a ship where the boiler room can have a massive fire and it takes five minutes for any one to notice it, and no bells go off... ever. There's a real ugly bowl of shrimp at the costume party; at a costume party Sabrina wears yet another unflattering clown disguise but
Pros: Kris is fetching in a Bo Peep costume and almost leaves her crook out when the bad guys come back into the room she's searching --suspense! That engine room looks like a real engine room - I guess this was shot on an actual boat. Sabrina also rocks an awesome gum-cracking mob chick disguise, Kris has a groovy maroon velour thing going on and later sashays around as one of the singles cruisers (she owns every scene she's in); and there's a nice pulpy climax. Reasonable intelligence and consistency on the detective work. Janice Paige is 'young woman.'

Mother Angel

Precocious Samantha witnesses a murder while feeding a neighbor's venus flytrap. Jill flies in to help things; Samantha found Jill's # in her aunt's black book "sandwiched between about 25 men" and Jill gets all sexually excited, a sly adult innuendo it's easy to miss. "She's only dusting me with cookies to keep me out of the sherry" Sam says of her stern guardian. Gary Collins is the blonde bad guy up in the penthouse, whom Samantha had a crush on, and now he's the killer. He knows she broke in and witnessed the murder. Uh oh...

Pros: There's a cool climactic boat-to-dock escape and chase. The script's tight this time around, and Robert Davi (the Bond villain in License to Kill) is one of the goons. Look fast for Mike Mazurki at an auto wreck yard!  Samantha is played by Olivia Barash (if she seems familiar, she'd grow up to date Emilio Estevez in Repo Man).
Cons: Sabrina and Jill both seem anorexically thin.

Angel on my Mind

Uh oh, another lazily recycled script by Ed Lakso. On the other hand: Curtis Harrington directed so there's a modicum more measured class than we expect. From the start, though, we're in trouble --it's the amnesia scenario Lakso dumped on us in season one all over again, this time with Kris instead of Kelly. At least she wanders down the beach wondering who she is, instead of some sleazy downtown arcade district. There's even a bunch of attractive volleyballers, and thankfully no kids. A very sexy young Jonathan Frakes is a volleyballer. Some goon doesn't know she has amnesia, and/or wants to kill her before she remembers who ran her into some boxes.

Pros: In the obligatory helpful vendor role is Billy Barty, selling papers like old Angelo Rossitto used to do in real life! Ah, Los Angeles. Tom Spratley is an old hobo on the beach, "you and I could be friends" he says, like a slightly dimwitted cross between Mr. Rogers and the old hermit in Bride of Frankenstein. Kris believably fights off three young purse snatcher beach bums in one of the better close quarters tussles of the season. But then she fights off the main bad guy with a branch and jumping down on him, among other things... and keeps leaving him with his gun. Cheryl Ladd's outpacing even Kate Jackson in the acting department this season. Jackson's almost an extra and seems to just be coasting, one eye on the door.

Angels Belong in Heaven

It's another Lakso filler job, recycling yet another endangered-Angel chestnut, the hit man "one of us is due to be killed and we don't know when, why or whom." Been there, bro. Yet another smooth goomba hitman. I never understood the whole revenge against the cop who busted you thing, it's not like it's a betrayal or something.

Pros- Soap regular Tracy Brooks Swope is visiting Kelly; her hometown pal who doesn't understand why she needs to move to a hotel. Nice detail with some lesbian rivalry implied between Tracy and Sabrina.

Cons- They Angels are smart about navigating their cop friends' assets to get info, but are very dumb in seeing if they're being followed by any well-dressed middle-aged goombas in red town cars. How they ever lived so long is a real mystery

Angels in the Stretch

It's the old swapping the thoroughbred winner named Perdition and its lame twin at the race track gambit, as seen in the Thin Man, Charlie Chan and other series. Sabrina poses as a feminist trainer, a little moronic this time around, dropping tons of hints that she's no dumb jockey.

Pros: Character actor Al Hopson is old Fred a hotel manager who gives them some lowdown; Kris looks awesome in cowboy duds -- she's clearly going to do well seducing old Waylon Jennings onstage later in some TV country specials.
Cons: Sabrina is pretty stupid to confide in John David Carson (Empire of the Ants), rockin' a terrible Irish accent as the corrupt jockey; there's not too many people around by the track --just a handful --ever. You'd think there was only one horse, and only one jockey and one gambler in the whole damn place.

Angels on Vacation

Uh oh, it's never a good sign when the Angels go to the country, as it means uppity hillbilly stereotypes, cowardly menfolk looking out into the dusty street from behind screen doors, and in this case a chilling Kansas City Story vibe. The Angels' occasional brilliance comes out ably in a big solo turn by Sabrina who verbally spars with a mobbed-up chairman in a tight little scene that makes you wish it could all be that good, and then we're off watching Kelly fly into wild bluescreen yonder with some Don Duffy-type stunt pilot, but the pot-shot taken at her reminds you why the Angels--this version--are so awesome. They're neither the hyper-competent airheads of the movies nor the sleaze-encrusted cash-entrusted kids from the newer short-lived TV version. Their guns are there because they need to ask tough questions and not back down, but they're still going to be women second and themselves first and file cabinet snoops above all.

Pros: Perennial Warner Brothers gangster patsy Lyle Talbot is the sheriff. "Those old ladies can be quite a formidable group when riled, Charlie." Ladd is again in top form as the one with the connection to the small Arizona town (her aunt [Jeanette "Welles' Lady Macbeth" Nolan is mayor; her uncle is the sheriff), she looks great in these slick lame pants at the end.
Cons: She also gives a terrible fake laugh at the end.

Counterfeit Angels

A trio of fake angels rob a rich old lady Mrs. Hatter who's too blind not to recognize the real angels from the fake; it's because a sleazy strip club impresario can duplicate Charlie's voice really easily, though god knows how he gets this show on TV in its own hermetically sealed world. "I remember him from that charity party now"--the details of their clever ruse are meticulously explained, and it's kind of creepy and off-putting to see just how much like the real Angels these girls are, especially Kelly, even more so since they have the exact same make-up.

Pros: It's nice to a genuinely menacing villain for a change, Mr. Ash a thug smaller than his patsy, still reeks of menace behind thick square glasses and a big wop shnozz. Sabrina is just going to have to "continue my imitation... of me" by posing as an actress posing as herself.   Fenton is played by a guy called Johnny Seven! Should have been reversed. And they shoot two guards, quick-thinking and not afraid to throw down!

Cons: why would he abuse his thug bodyguard's trust by cheating him at video pong? He's pretty dumb to keep playing. The evil guy the impresario owes a bundle to for impetuous bets to Mr. Ash. Kelly's dumber to not follow the suspected agent of the crooks to where they're hiding out, instead she's going shopping. Ugh. Terrible Bogey, Hepburn, and Scarlett impressions. Bosley's Sidney Greenstreet is actually the best; as is Sabrina's line that she's already been doing herself for two days.

Disco Angels

Pretty sad that the special disco episode occurs in the same damn wood panelling and shag rug basement bar everything else in the show happens in. What are ya gonna do? The show has a thick wop aura of those terrible Italian restaurants you find in midwestern towns, though they added some lights and a disco ball and a DJ shouting wop obscenities/. As usual the cast is a bunch of eternally greaseball wops in bad rugs and wide collars over their itchy-lookig leisure suits; Freddie's!
"Doing a disco feature without mentioning Freddie's is like writing about baseball without mentionig Babe RUth," he says. "I think Hank Aaron holds that record."

Pros: It's not surprising future softcore Showtime impresario Zalman (Blue Sunshine) King has a giant glossy of himself posted above his bar--he's always struck me as a Cruise-level narcissist but hey, he brings some damn funny zest to his strangling gestures, But then an abusive father shows up "you want the truth, Harry? You make me sick?" No wait, now I'm not sure what the motive is! I wish they could draw the coke abuse to the schizophrenic rageful displacement -- it's also obvious there's gonna be a scene when there' a DJ where the good guys bust in and find he's left a tape playing and bailed. Freddie thinks his wife hired the angels, and it's no problem to imagine the eventual plot twist (you won't either if you've seen as many mysteries as I have) but it works just fine. 

Uncle Harry is the coked up DJ (we never seem him do coke or sniffle but he sure seems trying to do a burlesque of someone on it--allllll riiiggght); sexy Shera Danese (the requisite kinda-like SUzanne Sommers/ Susan Anton of the era; the larger than usual amount of black dancers, Jewish shlemiels and greaseball schemers with ruffled shirts. "Marianne, will you please keep your voice down! I have a business to run!" - "Is that what you were doing at two o'clock in the morning?" Marianne screams back? He can't tell her the truth - he's out strangling! Mwahaaha! 

Cons: The faded disco music is strictly on the bogus whipped up by the resident hacks to avoid royalties - not that the shit don't all sound the same in this more enlightened day and age. It's pretty jarring when the killer has bailed on the dance party and it's daytime out -- I mean what the hell kind of disco is even open that early? Were all the night time kliegs busy this week?

65-66 Terror on Skis

Part 1 - A lot of European intrigue involved with some non-b-roll professional skiing with the angels applauding in their cute ski clothes. The bad guys are way more perceptive, sizing up the girls as armed. "I've learned that any woman who carries a gun is a matter of concern" intones the deep voiced foreigner villain (Cesare Danova). A lot of great masculine voices on the episode and some very pretty Vail Colorado scenery.

"One way or the other, they're gonna get you," says CIA guy "Chris" George, jaw set tight, romancing Kris while trying to find the murderer of his friend while trying to protect towhead VIP and avid skier (Dennis Cole) who won't be cowed by threats . There's a pretty thrilling ski chase climax and some great solar flare snow level Steadicam, if you like that sort of thing. At least the actors seem to be actually on skis in the snow instead of standing in front of a rear projection... most of the time. If the chemistry between Smith and Cole seems real, know that they married the year before (they met on the set of the "Dancer in the Dark" episode the previous season, where he played a honeytrap dance instructor).

Cons: The girls don't even occasionally look behind them to see if someone is following... The way a mysterious picture of Paolo the freestyle skiier is fought over you'd think it was the roll of film in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  If he's trying to be anonymous why the hell is he skiing professionally?

Part 2- Considering the amount of pointless snow shoot outs (snub pistols from a very long range, why even bother?) and stupidity (no one even thinks to look around for the bad guys- who are literally right behind them the whole way). The 'sort of a companion' -'you mean like girlfriend?' As usual the flashbacks to the previous week go on for like five minutes. But if you were a kid in the 70s you're now old enough that this kind of leisurely slow and steady intrigue is very relaxing in the long run.  The two old guys in the dull green ski suits, the only such guys, stand with the main suspect at every event and no one thinks to take their picture or suspect them? These people are dense, yo. But that's to be expected by this point. So there's three European guys outfoxing four detectives and an FBI guy. That doesn't make me feel safe. So why didn't the Angels think to follow Sabrina on the picnic? It's so dumb as to defy description except as foofaraw for an exciting ski chase and to get Sabrina and Paolo alone in a cabin while she talks him out of the gun. But the climax is pretty thrilling for all the incompetence of the good guys and in the end the slow pace pays off with a bunch of almost would have maybe happened relationships --- Bosley and the secretary, Paolo and Sabrina, the UN guy and Kelly, the FBI guy and Kris. The last two are the only ones who kiss goodbye on the lips, which is a nice touch and Ladd once again nails it. Bosley gets to teach the secretary to enjoy being a woman and not a automated adding machine, or whatever, cementing his place as the fifth business. Sometimes it's endearing. Not here, really. We're too busy getting mad at how sheerly dumb they are -- "except for Paolo, we don't know who they are and what they look like!" Jeezis, they've been wearing the same ski suits and Paolo's been talking to them in public the whole time. In the words of Eros in Plan Nine from Outer Space "how can anyone be so stupid?" I can forgive this show just about anything, but sometimes, man oh man...at any rate, if you can overlook the total imbecility of the plot, there's some nice incorporation of the snowmobiles, skiing and stunning alpine scenery.

Angel in a Box

Once again Kris Munroe is kidnapped and doesn't even try to stop the guy who whips out a gun slowly right by her karate hand. Once again some quirky patriarch (regular Klingon John Collins) snips at her for some imagined or real offense. He's mistaken her for sister Jill, but Kris is just way too dense to quite pick up on that 'til at least the final act. Meanwhile the Angels follow a false clue and end up snooping around some Malibu resort, and Jill flies in from Canada to help get them exactly nowhere.

If you watch this show a lot you end up feeling a little sorry for Charlie by this point, as his Angels seem to get stupider all the time, retaining zero accumulated experiential knowledge of the criminal mind. They started out really on top of things. Maybe it was all the 70s oxygen being sucked up. So here their first reaction to an attacker isn't self defense, it's confusion. Why are you doing that, like they're eloi passively letting themselves get carried off by any morlock that happens by. They even get knocked over by the old cleaning lady pushcart flying down the hallway trick. It almost seems like the bad guy here is Aaron Spelling, venting his rage against this cash cow of a formula he's perfected.

Eventually Sabrina remembers she's the 'smart' Angel. While the rest of them work on dotty accents and putter around the tennis courts, Sabrina sets up a thug for the old 'hood comes down on the head' trick, but ends up just clocking him instead.

It's always a little too tense for me when one of the girls gets kidnapped; I hate to see the Angels on the losing end, repeatedly blowing chances any sensible villain would take and do, all just so the generic plot points can click forward and the suspense ratchet to no real end. Great climax, though

Teen Angels

A trio of bitchy cool girls led by the evil pouty-lipped Donna (Audrey Landers) sling drugs at ritzy Blackmoor 'college.' A girl gets strangled for having 'stupid Victorian morality.' Man, I hear that. "I see you're a tea drinker, too!" says the sleazy handyman. The Heathers in the crew are slinging rock, yo, and a strangler freak conveniently offs anyone who threatens to rat them out. Mostly, the co-eds walk around in those hot white trimmed red 70s gym shorts. I'd do what they say... we don't want no troubles, and our kind of tea will knock you on your ass. Kelly teaches an English class; Sabrina teaches art; and Bosley a groom at the stable. What kind of college is this? "Cheer up, Bosley, maybe the strangler will turn out to be a dark horse."

Pros: "My god, Brie. Krissy's a kleptomaniac!" - we had one my freshman year - her parents had to come and get her--put it all in the doll and everything.

Cons: Donna's boorish behavior is more akin to high school bitchiness, hassling Kris about what she saw at the bus depot. Yawn, this ain't college, more like boarding school. Then again, it's a pretty dimwitted troupe working for old Townsend again, the missing box gives Bosley the genius idea that the box might be important. Of course they didn't think to look in it. The whole drugs shipment thing is awfully trite. "Two bottles of booze, one bottle of happy pills, one bottle of downers." - "It's your share, it's your commitment to me." - "We're in this together, Bo -- the three of us, all the way." - Piece of advice to a dealer: don't be a prick--it's very easy to drop a dime and screw your life up. Besides, these girls sure get a lot of drugs and booze. How much do they take in a given day? There's only five people in the whole college or so it seems. One box should be enough to put the whole campuss into a coma. Also, a bucket brigade to put out a burning barn? Doesn't the firetruck come out this far? What planet are we fucking on. Kelly accuses a killer then lets herself get

69 -Marathon Angels

You would think marathon runners would be able to outrun or fight back against a pair of slovenly dudes with a snub nose .38 which as we all know has shit aim at a range farther than 30 feet. The Angels are pretty stupid too this time A girl is abducted in a van and then another, and all the Angels can think to find them is running a marathon. Why not look in the parking lot? The fucking van with the girls is right outside! But all four are hanging around, slack-jawed at the calisthenics bar. Yep, it's one of those. I don't like the episodes where we know way more of what's going down than the Angells do and they're too dense to notice even the most obvious clues.

Pros: The hot running outfits (I have a thing for 70s-style girls' gym shorts, being of a certain age) and endless stream of babes running the race (it's an all-girl objectifying type of marathon)

Cons: The hot girls almost makes up for the horrible repeating little cartoony jingle that repeats like it's one of those terrible royalty-free Dixieland silent film scores, the same refrain over and over every time we see the runners. Kelly sees the guy in the van put on a mask but Kris is like "what kind of a mask?" and is all doubting her. I guess you don't want the chase to end too soon, unless you're me of course.

Seriously, by the end you want to track down the idiot who decided to use that infuriating flapper 20s riff over and over and slap the shit out of him (or her, let's not be sexist). Luckily it's almost redeemed by an awesome spin out driver-brake slam car whiparound gun whip from Sabrina. Almost. If not for that, and the sexy shorts, this would be an D.

70 - Angels in Waiting
Bosley is having a tantrum. He feels they Angels take him for granted and they play a game to see if they can find him, to test his skills. Right off the bat we're on a very dumb ill-conceived terrain. It's all a big to-do over who will have to do all the paperwork over a weekend. Paperwork? Seriously, isn't that the accountant's job? James B. Sikking is a giallo-type hitman... again! It's one of those slow moving episodes where you can sneak over to your desk and write about how lame it is and not miss a thing, sounds like Lakso at the helm!
Pros: it's awesome the way Sabrina whips out a gun under the boardwalk and shields herself behind a beam all in one fluid motion. No one does cop like Kate!

71 - Rosemary for Remembrance
In a riff on Legend of Lylah Care (1968), Kris is a dead ringer for Rosemary, a dead starlet loved by two once-warring bootleggers, both now old, haunted, and 'not prepared' for just how much Kris resembles the painting the old gangster stares at and which is obviously just a painted over photo of Ladd in a 30s gown. The flashback lets Cheryl Ladd adopt a nasal city knowingness to her voice, just a dash, as Rosemary. At least they don't dub her voice with some crazy European Italian Dietrich elan, though I loved that in Lylah! The flashbacks are even shot with the same fog. There's a diamond necklace involved, and 'the Syndicate' is mentioned. What makes it worthwhile is Cheryl Ladd looks amazing, and actually thinks on her feet... for once.

72. Angels Remembered
A clip show.... in all senses of the phrase. These things might not have been so bad in the era before VCRs, but now they just seem like money-savers for a show that should have been rolling in green.

And that's it, basically. I can't get into the Shelly Hack season though her leaving and the arrival of Tanya Roberts in the final two-parter is pretty great. And the first few episodes of the fifth season show Roberts could have elevated the show back up to a cool realm if Smith and Ladd weren't so visibly worn out and bored, and the fashions not turned so vulgar with tons of 80s chintz. Roberts looked so slamming in a bathing suit they smartly moved the show to Hawaii, but even so, the show died after only a half a season. Alas, but Roberts has done well for herself with a bunch of B-movies, a Bond girl gig and eventually That 70s Show, so hey...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

CHARLIE'S ANGELS Season TWO: Episode Guide (1977-1978)

Why am I still--every few years for about a month or so-- into Charlie's Angels? Maybe you should ask why Roberto Rodriguez shows Starsky and Hutch or Miami Vice reruns on El Rey! Maybe part of it is that my dad wouldn't let me stay up late to watch it, though all my friends got to see it (and this was long before videotape). But by Season Two I was old enough and the time slot changed and my parents realized all they were doing with their draconian bedtimes was making me asocial and dangerously obsessed, as only an 9-12 year old green-blooded Amerikanische Jugend could be. Once I could see the show every week, my obsession petered out to only vague interest and when Kate Jackson left after season three, so did I. Finally I made some friends, got a super 8mm camera and started shooting war films.

But now, all these years later, CA is like a Rosebud just waiting for the right amount of sled-ready snow... for the first seasons still can grant me--and maybe you-- a warm prepubescent jouissance echo deep in a sacred place beyond the tediously conventional realm of post-pubescent genital phase sexuality and more towards a pre-differentiated self zone where romantic or courtly chaste devotion collides with a spiritual state of grace--i.e. 'the Angels' will never ruin the spell for us by bringing some dumbass dude around, as they did in the movie, which totally missed that key point. Charlie = God; Angels = Mary; we the viewers = the holy ghost. Sex boots Mary out of the trinity, the way sunlight robs vampires of their shadow safety.

Moving on, let me take you back to 1977 - I was ten years-old and still awash in love for the Angels. And now, in my professional judgment I find it has the best two-parter of the series and the one most perfect for snowy Rosebud nights.

(special thanks to Charlie'sAngels76-81.com, from whom I've borrowed many of these images - hey at least I'm not ripping them out of Teen Beat while the 7-11 camera is looking the other way, but man I used to)

Eps. 23-24: Angels in Paradise
Grade: A

Every so often Charlie (or Aaron) rewards the girls by bringing them outside the dingy studios of LA. Most of the time they don't end up using any of the footage they shot there, and just having half the scenes on the usual wood paneled sets but this time the Hawaiian stuff is all over the joint. You got Don Ho. You got a luau; a sassy massage parlor receptionist; our first introduction to Kris Munroe, Jill's sister, in her first episode/s--looking adorably like she's going to her first day at my elementary school in a 'windbreaker' (then a new term); and there's a big yacht raid finale in which, among other things, she storms the engine room in a hot brown two piece bathing suit. We were agog and thoroughly convinced, shortness be damned. If you see only one episode/s, make it these two, with some coco de oro in the air. You will be transported.

Pros: A complex plot that finds Charlie kidnapped twice, first by the ice-cool surfer queen bee of a band of outlaws in Hawaii who wants the Angels to bust her easy-going surfer husband out of jail as the ransom. But then a disgraced Italian mobster, trying to take over the rackets from his yacht out on international waters, grabs Charlie for himself, so now the Angels hold the surfer as a hostage, and so forth. It all leads to lots of lovely shots of Hawaii and Kelly and Kris in alluring bikinis and Sabrina looking tan and relaxed.

Cons: Sabrina refuses one of Don Ho's specially made frozen Pina Coladas, even though they're virgin. I mean, how rude!

Ep. 25-26 Angels on Ice
Grade: B-

Kris was pretty impressive in the previous 2-parter, but that was in Hawaii in a cute brown bathing suit. This shit's on ice, and she's buried inside clown make-up and a goofball red nose. Not only that, she can't figure out how an assassination of a McGuffin bunch of high profile Arabs is about to go down... at the ice show celebrating the Bicentennial. The answer stares her in the face for far too many minutes for us to remain impressed, but that's show biz. Now that Aaron knows Kris is going to be a hit, why bother making her look good?

But hey, know this: Arabs love ice shows and don't forget it. That's what's important. Maybe it's because they're from the desert and have never seen so much ice before. The rest of the "crowd" for this big Bicentennial celebration fits comfortably into a few bleachers, so that, at least, is accurate. Meanwhile some vaguely familiar old character actor drinks in the bushes and eats up the screen time until you wonder if he's the director's father-in-law. But hey, this two-parter has a really great sequence involving Kelly alone, where she first hitches a ride on the back of Carlos Santana's chopper, then disguises herself in a lime green bedlah and does a coy belly dance for some power lunching evil Arabs (one of whom is Timothy Carey!), and then performs a really awesome acrobatic escape, in I think the same sexy outfit, reminding us that a lot of the show's sex appeal really comes from Jaclyn Smith: Jill was perky, athletic and quick-thinking, Sabrina was brainy, crafty and a good shot, but it's Kelly, time and again, who rocks the show's demure sex backbone and I could think about that midriff for days.

27 -Pretty Angels all in a Row

A pretty good example of low risk management, as some good old boys from Texas start scaring away the competition (including Marki Bey, who gets a tarantula in her bed) at the "Miss Hyacinth Pageant" so that a rich oilman's little baton-twirler can win. Now no one wants to compete, because the host's worried someone's out to attack this "national institution." The Angels flip coins to see who will have to be contestants, but it's already in Ms. Jackson's contract that she's excused, so Kelly and Jill get the honors.

Pros: On the podium for the 'personality' portion, Kelly says she wants to go into brain surgery, but "keep up my dancing, no matter what." This climactic televised public event is packed--as in all these episodes--with a woefully small audience of under-directed extras, in a banquet room with tacky 70s wallpaper and wood panelling, the combination super shoddy LA Italian restaurant decor and shag carpet basement porn shoot ambience so beloved of this show's fans. But I always like it when the stakes are low since I watch these to calm down, to sink into the womb of the 70s, and not worry about unpleasant sexual assaults or ugliness. The bad guys aren't so bad that they'd actually harm a woman, so they just lock the rival Hyacinths (and disagreeable judges) in a garage til its all over. But of course the Angels know how to escape. As do I, it seems.

28- Angel Flight

Angela--Sabrina's college roommate--works as an instructor at a stewardess school where she's being terrorized by black roses and mysterious phone calls. She's a major cowerer so you almost root for the evildoer who is convincing her to commit sabotage on an experimental new plane. A combative Asian-American stewardess, Mai Ling, is a suspect; a perverted super is another. The real enemy is Angela, though --she ends up trying to freeze out the Angels when the killer starts making threats, and assures everyone it will all be over soon, though the mysterious tape orders her to kill the pilot. You really just want Sabrina to slap the shit out of her. She's as bad as the mom in Bigger than Life.

It all comes together rather lacklusterly, mainly an excuse for snide sexism from Angela's ex boyfriend, who wears some really wide collars. For awhile it's cool though, as Sabrina gets some spotlight time, and there's even contemporaneous pop culture reference with Sabrina passing out on the couch while mooning over Burt Reynolds in a (fake) Hollywood gossip magazine (there's some allusions to his infamous bear skin 'spread' in Playgirl). As an Angel fan, you take what down time moments you can get, since it's here especially where Jackson takes off, showing off her acting chops with neat margin doodles. Alas she undoes the good will by wearing an unflattering 80s-heralding cream colored blouse which prohibits me from posting a pic.

29. Circus of Terror

They WISH there was terror! Instead this first totally lame episode of the season is set at a typically threadbare backlot circus, with no animals and suspiciously untrampled grass. Since when has there been freshly mowed grass at the circus? If the grass is this green it's clear no one either works at or goes to this circus, it's enough to put your teeth on edge. In a weird attempt to counter TV critics' sexism charges, the Angels accuse Charlie of having a one-track mind in a bad train reference, as Charlie's learning engineering from a female engine driver. You can call it sexism, but it's interesting that Charlie keeps hiring women to do all these jobs and services.

Cons: Sabrina says she's wanted to be a clown since she was a little girl! Skeevy! Why didn't she say anything about it when poor Kris had to put on that dumb nose for the ice show? Thanks to a variety show called Shields and Yarnell, mime was having a slight resurgence in the US and it has not aged well. Naturally Sabrina learns the ropes from a "master" mime as full of grandiose sentimentality as a dozen Chaplins. Faring better is Kelly as an uppity motorcycle daredevil in a sexy olive green jumpsuit. Kris ends up being the girl who has knives thrown at her by a mad gypsy (as seen in the season two opening credits). Ugh. Sabrina does end up looking kind of CBGBs cool in her mimery, which is a shock to her, I'm sure, as well as everyone else.

30. Angel in Love

Sabrina! How could you fall in love with a D.B. Cooper clone? Well, it gives Ms. Jackson a chance to do some real acting for a change as she must wrestle with naturally arising conflicts between her newfound gooey feelings and her job. The Angels are investigating why so many of the suspects are dying to get in and rummage around their cabin at "Utopia West" a very California encounter group-style sanctuary where the Cooper clone stashed the loot. Kris goes undercover teaching tai chi; Kelly drives the bus, and Sabrina plays an investigating journalist, but touching Doug's hand in a meditation exercise leads her to unexpected and unprofessional feeling. By now though she should know though that all Angel romances, or even flirtations, end in arrest. That's one of the key things Spelling does right (but the films and reboot do wrong): our Angels may love no man but Charlie. They are the nuns of His holy order, inured and open to all suffering but delivered of it also.

Pros: It's fitting and right that Sabrina would be the one to lose her head in love and resist the sketchy truth; the brainy are often neophytes when it comes to love. It's clear she is making a concerted effort to maintain her objectivity in the case, and she succeeds. The other Angels also get into some eastern practices, like meditation and yoga and the 70s encounter group stuff isn't presented in too much of a satiric context ("It's all right to touch, after all, isn't it?" notes the teacher rather sweetly. It might be the mantra of the entire decade).

Cons: Bosely's stuck at fat kid camp, and ends up sneaking in all sorts of meats and other gross things. The Angels try to fight a masked creep hiding in their closet, but they fight him like kids would play fight their dad. Kris jumps on his back and Kelly swings like a chump. All that police academy training out the window. Two minutes later Kris is teaching tai chi! So, Kris, you know tai chi, you've had extensive self defense training and you couldn't have at least stomped on his foot or kicked out his kneecap or something?

31. Unidentified Flying Angels

This is the one where Jaclyn Smith falls for an astronaut, but his last last marriage lasted only three years. Did it end in arrest? Only Venus can say. This one has Ross "The Fake Oscar Levant" Martin (Wild Wild West) as Dr. Perine, a bunco UFO cult leader who's supposed to have spirited a rich old lady away to Venus but really killed her because she dared point out it's too hot on Venus for a saucer to land. Jeeze, are all rich people so dumb that it's a killable offense to mention facts straight off the back of Quisp box? The UFOs which come from Venus seem like projected outtakes from Forbidden Planet. TV guest shot mainstay Dennis Cole is a corrupted astronaut with a checkered past. Dr. Perine uses him as a paid spokesperson and sometimes henchman.

Pros: Kelly gets a real chance to shine dressing in a silver go-go suit as a Venusian space girl in order to play havoc with a jittery ectomorph cult member. There's a tense, interesting, weird, finale that wraps the culprits up in many overlapping ways. The mundanity of detective work gets a work-out with flipping a coin to see who tails who. Bosley does two cons in one day, "Am I still in banking?" No, "Sugar-daddy" Kris says with a kiss. I always like it when the Angels use their seductive beauty to throw men off their game, as huys naturally want to impress them so talk big, and let slip shit they shouldn't. That helps compensate for the Angels' inability to fight well, or ever think to shoot a perp in the leg if said perp lunges for their gun. Like her sister, Kris is nice to and likes the dweeby guys. Kelly gets to fly in a red baron type biplane with an astronaut, and be dined over cocktails... until he tries, you know, to drop her out.

Cons: It all seems like a lot of work and expense when a simple dog walk could have solved the case in five minutes. The idea of killing a wealthy member for having Astronomy 101 facts at her fingertips is also really stupid... even for this show.

32. Angels on the Air

Someone's trying to kill a lady reporter on an all-news radio station. This leads to a nice variety of suspects, so the Angels go off on their own a lot, and it leads to a pretty solid climax.

Pros: Kelly gets ready to give a nice slap down to "that wife-beater Quinlan" but he's already dead; Kelly poses as the harassed reporter, in one scene she reports from Compton. There are to unusually interesting dudes as suspects: Dwayne Hansen (Larry Golden), a rabbit-huntin' hippie commune leader ("it's cosmic!"); and Buck (Taylor Latcher), a Vietnam vet chopper pilot who used to do the weather (he takes Sabrina up in the chopper and tries to make her throw up).

Cons: The Angels seem to wince over some of the cornier dialogue, which I guess is to be expected. Kelly does some really lame defensive driving during a car chase --wasn't she fucking armed? She's so passive it's disconcerting, even though she does chase down the perp in the end via a cross-track field race. Why substitute for an endangered reporter if you're not even going defend yourself? Here's a question for any Police Academy quiz: A perp is chasing you in his car. Your car smashes up in the middle of a field. Do you a) shoot at him? b) stay in the car and phone for back-up? c) get out of the car and run, gun still in your purse or wherever, across the open field, you know, so he can run you over more effectively?

33. Angel Baby

A juvenile delinquent turned soldier--whom Kelly rehabilitated while working a beat as a rookie-- gets in hot water when he goes AWOL to find out what happened to his girl. He calls her for help and so Kelly goes undercover as an unwed mother, though that would be an easy thing, presumably, to check out with a simple physical. Kris Munroe gets a few big, great scenes at a home for unwed mothers / illegal adoption service. She shoots her first suspect! It's one of the show's truest, best moments! As the Ultimate Charlie's Angels Guide notes:
Rookie Kris faces her first “line of fire” situation: a dramatic shootout with a cold-blooded killer. Though Kris wins the showdown, the shock of realizing she had to shoot someone to do her job overwhelms her, to the point where she has to be comforted by Sabrina. It’s a sensitive moment very well done, and made all the more effective by the element of surprise. “Instead of making it a light, Angel moment, they made it a real moment” said Cheryl Ladd. 
I also like the line where she's meant to breed with stud Nordic swinger (to produce blonde babies, which have a higher resale value), and he asks 'it's not like I should feel cheap. It's a one night stand, something I would do anyway, for free, right?" and Kris gives him a look and says "Don't you believe it." It's beautifully said, a line that could mean many things but with Ladd's sexy look it's obvious she's sized this guy up as a good guy easily taken for a ride by a slick agent like herself. Oh if I'd have only understood what she meant, or seen this episode, before I went on my own unpaid blonde one night stand rampage. Even Tommy (Edward Winter) gives a nice performance, and Jean Allison is subtly devastating as a previous pregnant victim's grieving mom

34. Angels in the Wings

Soooo tacky. A 'jinxed' musical with a fake Julie Andrews reviving a never-finished film version of a musical she wrote with her ex-husband, a chronic gambler who calls the idea of a musical about a married couple who are fighting starring a married couple who are fighting, "juvenile." Don't you mean "meta," chump? It's always about 'puttin' on a show' in a life imitates art kinda way. Something about this one song or staircase seems to trigger a half-baked Phantom of the Opera composite and man does he take his time with his all psychotic break 'trigger' schtick. Suspects include: the bickering couple's long-suffering son who worries they'll kill each other if they get back together; and a loan shark out to get paid or break legs. 

Pros: two hilarious thugs ("it was a Ribbicinosa") who know the correct tone to play amusing thug duos in shows like this, i.e. like "We was with you, boss, at Rigoletto's!" from Some Like it Hot. 

Cons: One of those where the Angels don't have to do much, as vast stretches of time are eaten up with tacky songs, which Cheryl Ladd can sing (she had an album I almost bought). So they sing, dance around in 20s-30s costumes, and the yawns come fast and furious if you're not enamored of show biz 'classics' written by coasting Brill building hacks. 

35. Magic Fire

A freakin' firebug is operating the same circuit as a couple of magicians, one of whom uses fire tricks in his act. Kris is menaced (as above) with a fiery shower. Ooh, scary! She was almost nowhere near it. "They packed the shower water with sodium" so when the water hits it, bam bam. They really do film some scenes at LA's premiere conjuring spot, The Magic Castle; the rest of the action occurs on the same lame half-finished sets as usual.

Pros: Kris is pretty on the ball eyeballing a thug's driver's license as part of an intentionally lame mind-reading act. Sabrina snoops effectively, then lets herself get tied up too easy just so she can have a hair-raising Peril of Pauline rescue. Kelly uses her wiles to solicit trade secrets from a terrible magician with an even worse toupee.

Cons: Sabrina assumes a terrible half-assed French accent in her fashion designer disguise; Bosley becomes a magician to go under cover and hams it up as usual; Kelly pretends to know some mystical pressure chamber secret and people buy it way too easy. And the concept underlying it all relies on a lot of wild assumptions, like that you could break in and swap someone's phone out of their office, and then no one calls it for weeks or days until you're safely away with an alibi or that no fireman would come ever to investigate. Because if he did he'd notice within seconds where the fire originated and how it was triggered.

36. Sammy Davis Jr. Kidnap Caper

A kidnapper pretends to be drunk to spill water on Sammy. Sammy splits to the men's room and right into a trap. A drunk from the scene thinks Sammy's Flip Wilson, and doesn't notice the kidnappers but shoos them away anyway. Sammy's there for the 'hospital fund" because they "need all the help they can get." He thinks having Kris as a bodyguard is "groovy, man." Yeah, but she's barely taller than you are Sammy!

 So yeah, nothing happens. None of them can believably even hold their own against gigantic kidnappers. Why not try some mace or something, ladies? It's either guns which they don't use, or dumb luck.

Pros: "98 pounds of police-trained dynamite," notes Sammy of Kelly. Though she doesn't exactly earn that description. They might try for some real bodyguards. There's no real need for anything "No one in their right mind would expect anyone to bungle a kidnapping so bad and then try again," says the ringleader. And adds "if they're security people, waste 'em." Tough talk, and so it's worrisome the Angels are so incompetent. Meanwhile Brubaker, a Sammy lookalike way more interesting than the original comes to drive one of Sammy's cars: "I don't need no Irish person to help me drive this car."

Cons: Sammy Davis Jr. has a drawn out weird style that seems to play up his natural confusion. There's about a minute of dead air in the amount of empty beats between his sentences. His 'cocoa-brown beauty' of a wife seems almost Yoko-ish compared to that Swedish white wife (?) of his, like he has to emphasize her non-whiteness constantly, like he's trying to get Ray Cohn off his ass. Bosley is a certified idiot here as the chauffeur, completely unaware there's a double Sammy around, at a lookalike contest no less. As I say, it's a lot of contrivance to make a dopey idea work. Why not start with a good idea and make that work? Hmmm. Don't say it's never been done neither!

37. Angels on Horseback

Bosley on horseback is the comedy aspect and we learn how far the Angels have fallen and/or the economy when Charlie gives him shit for expensing an $85 rolfing session after getting rider's cramps. Not only that but Charlie stops them from being about to go on a beach vacation, they're in their bathing suits and everything, to send them to some middle-of-nowhere dude ranch. First you fly in to a dinky airport to get there, and from there its an all-night drive to the ranch. What the hell? Where is this place, Patagonia?

Pros: Cheryl Ladd is on her A-game, and seems genuinely caring, her face both gorgeous and compassionate, gazing at Bos with affection, and at her quarry with the unstoppable momentum of an Atlantic City call girl coming into a sloshed high roller, or at the bad guys with a compassionate but inflexible 'hear-no-bullshit' tough love. James B. Sikking is a mysterious figure at the ranch around whom much intrigue goeth. Most of all, the Angels all get to ride boldly ride....

Cons: It's disheartening that bad guys get the drop on Sabrina, and she doesn't exactly seize her chances to escape. As my dad never tired of telling me while watching westerns, it's nearly impossible to hit your target from atop a galloping horse. Otherwise, it's a surprising fast sleuthing where they cut through acres of crap by just leveling with their suspects to trip them up.

38. Game, Set, Death

The game is women's tennis, the death caused maybe by a Bobby Riggs type mad at all the Billie Jean King types (thanks to the at-the-time notorious battle of the sexes tennis match which Bobby lost). In high California style the crowds at the prestigious 'Hermosa Cup' tournament range anywhere from 19-25 extras in the usual high school-style bleachers. For the #1 show in America, Spelling spared no expense... as in the expenses of a real show were spared having to be spent on things like the actual mise-èn-scene. And the same goes for Bosley, who's too cheap with the Angels' budget to even buy Kelly a decent tennis racket so she can compete.

Pros: The celestial Tiffany Bolling shows up as a spiritual yogi/feminist on the circuit (she'd have made a dynamite Angel) who advises Kelly about being 'off-pose' and that the key to promoting your inner self is 'the asanas' (it may be a lesbian come on). She's a suspect until she gets a rattlesnake in her bag, but still blames the Angels for the bad vibes that startle it into rattling. It's funny that meditation and yoga were still 'fringe' and 'eccentric' back then, especially in LA. But at least it's being mentioned, 'broke' to mainstream America the way most new things are, first held up to open ridicule, then as signs of flakiness, then healthy holistic alternative, then medical fact, and finally enforced by law. That last part is still decades away, until yoga and meditation are mandatory class subjects in high school, and mushrooms ubiquitous in hospices. I can't wait. Good tense final talk down work from Sabrina.

39. Hours of Desperation
Sabrina wears a high explosive belt that a sleazy guy will set off if Kris and Kelly don't recover his stolen loot.

Pros - some good twisty synthesizer suspense music in addition to the usual echo-driven flutes and oboe sustains.  

Cons- The home invasion thing is pretty cliche and the opposite of what I come to the show for, i.e. to calm down and rest my jets with groovy clothes, childhood crushes, and a complete absence of real tension or sexual abuse; the idea that a hospital would just admit a guy who was shot in the back and not alert the police, then allow him to escape without even seeing his I.D. is offensive.

40 - Diamond in the Rough

Dan O'Herlihy (the druid mask designer in Halloween III) is Freddy the Fox, a dapper jewel thief trying to go straight ala Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, but instead of Monte Carlo the Angels go to 'the Caribbean' to steal a big gem from a rich Arab. The blackjack dealer and hot water cop from "The Big Tap-Out" are after Freddy as they think he has it.

Pros: Sid Haig!

Cons: Sabrina wears a terrible satin bow tie blouse and her horribly fake posh accent comes and goes and is way too broadly. Bosley too seems like he's just hamming it up. They all seem like bad actors playing characters who think they're able to assume all sorts of disguises but can't even play themselves. O'Herlihy is up for the challenge but his Freddy the Fox makes lame jokes like "they didn't call me Freddy the Fox because of my fox-trot." Kill me, please. The angels make some dumb, dumb, dumb blunders like trusting him, and giving up their real identity because Kris likes some boy (in a plot twist as regular on ABC as could be, having been on the Bionic Woman over and over), and wearing all black when stealing a jewel, in broad daylight! To save on money for flood lights probably. You might as well wear striped pajamas and a black eye mask. Once again there's the idea that not only are there no one with any actual real life experience in the writer pool, but none of the money is onscreen, except in the Ferrari dept. This supposedly rich Arab's pad is just a backyard and a garage under that same LA smog-sun so perfect for consistent shooting of sickly grey-ish white light. These rich Arabs don't even have a fucking pool.

41-Angels in the Backfield
This the one with the female football teams. The team that hires the Angels totally sucks, so why is the better team cheating eight ways to Sunday anyway? Is there gambling going on? Heaven forfend.

Pros - Kelly busts "judo" on some dyke fullback named Grinelda. "Julia Smith, with a Y" (Patch Mackenzie) is a hot lesbian rival captain (and in the "same sorority" as Grinelda) who makes a thinly veiled come-on to Sabrina in the form of paying her triple to switch to the Panthers. Sabrina may have 'switched' awhile ago, according to my favorite new piece on the subliminal lesbian relationship between Kelly and Sabrina. "She's a tough lady," notes Gary Wood, the hobbled ex-player.

Cons - Some pretty stupid stuff going on, not least of which is Kelly letting herself get intimidated by two idiots trying to kick her by racing past on motorcycles with their legs sticking out.  It's about the easiest thing in the world to dodge a motorcycle, just turn around, and or kick the wheel out. Instead one of the players just rolls in front of it like a moron. The dad thinks the Ducks don't have a prayer of winning. Dan's an ex pro-fullback. "These girls ought to be spending their time in the kitchen." He seems like a real suspect, out of sheer embarrassment. And the idea of an exhibition game for female football played at 'the Coliseum' is kind of dopey, especially since once inside said coliseum it's just that same high school track field. Kelly jumps up on a car and shakes back her tresses like she's ready to drop kick, but then doesn't do shit. The women's football team is totally ridiculous - why do they bother having a girl named Pokey, ultra clumsy and dyslexic as she is, as a halfback? Is this second string junior varsity or what?

L.Q. Jones is the older ex-NFL guy with ever-present beer as token of his masculinity who treats his daughter with sighs of embarrassment, playing the same character he played in "Bullseye" last season. It's groaningly cliche, even for Spelling. That said, at least the Angels seem to have things under control. "Mr. Jarvis you don't need any help making a fool of yourself," Sabrina notes. There's a shred too much tough love, feeding obvious psychological answers to damaged types but that was the 70s, after all. People were in touch with their feelings for the first time, maybe ever, or ever again.

42 - Sandcastle Murders

A beachside strangler stalks women around the beach where Kris lives (Jill's old apartment). Our old friend Steve "Col. Kane smashed my hand at the bar in Ninth Configuration" Sandor is a muscled guy with binoculars who peeps at hotties on the beach. "I thought you were gonna come by and sell me those cosmetics," says Kris to Betsy (Melody Thomas Scott), a shaky ex-junkie or whatever she helped go straight or whatever. A cross-eyed towhead lifeguard sends Kris and Kelly up the beach to a swanky high rise. The victims, all pretty blondes, show up on the beach in the morning buried, as you may guess, under castles made of sand. Dave, the beat cop (Alan Feinstein) is back from playing a corrupt D.A. last season. His boss, the condescending sheriff, hates Charlie Townsend for his success (they used to work a beat together) but there's a catch with him seducing Kris; he can't stop lamenting how little cash he earns being a beach security officer. He has to live above a merry-go-round, for god's sake. The cosmetic's line the woman suspect runs is a success, but the inventor's boyfriend, Larry Fallon (Jason Ever) is a sleazy suspect. Call it "angel instinct," Charlie.  The clock is ticking, Angels! 

Pros: Sabrina disguises herself as a limping homeless lady to case the merry-go-round.

Cons: The sickeningly jovial merry-go-round coda. Why do the Angels feel slighted for not getting police protection for Kris? She's supposed to be a detective. She's got a gun, for god's sake. She needs a dog is what she needs. Living on the LA beach is frickin' no day at the... frickin'... circus. 

43. Angel Blues 

I know right? So much crap this season. But then episodes like this come along which remind me why I started this rough guide in the first place. The angels move briskly in an elaborate taxi tail that leads them to all the shady cokeheads that an Amy Winehouse-Janet Joplin-but-country-rock type (or thereabouts) visited the night she was killed--just feet away from her waiting intervention--via the old 'hot shot'. The bad guys are sleazy--"any guy with some coke or smack who tells her what she wants to hear, `and she picked up tabs for a lot of guys like me, know what I mean?" There's wood panelling and lots of cool 70s cars (peep the 'Sambo's' sign!). And not only does Kelly notice her tail, a rarity in the lamer episodes, she does some aggressive driving and gets behind him, and changes cars and everything! Like real detectives. Damn, why can't every episode be this badass?

The best aspect is the short time period: the whole thing goes down in one long afternoon of tailing, being tailed, getting shot at and pulling weird scams to get the truth out of sleazy cokeheads and Syndicate-connected music publishing rights stealers. Amy's song is called "Tripping to the Morning" and it's funny they pretend to love it while condemning the drugs no doubt used to deliver it, but dig the hand-painted Amy picture her manager has. It looks like it's still wet! Script by Edward Lakso, showing he could still deliver if he was in the mood. "What a waste," notes Kelly of Amy's death. They only have on real song of hers, but whatever "she really only used cocaine, Charlie, not heroin."

Cons: It's hard to believe Charlie would be that big of a fan of one lame ersatz country song that was her entire oeuvre. The grieving dad does some good acting but Bess Gatewood as Amy is almost too good. She brings so much teary, beat-up pain so fast in the mix that you're like wait, this isn't fun! Then she's dead, though, so it's okay.

And to think the next week they might be running around dressed like Mother Goose characters when they could still be this adult, sophisticated, smart, cool, and able to best dudes in hand to hand combat, then make them lie down face first in the mud, while ordering them around and sampling their stash to identify if its heroin, coke, or laundry detergent, is to want to weep

44. Mother Goose is Running for His Life

The crazy toy company sabotage plot is an old hat trick of the British series The Avengers, and Spelling's old show Honey West but whatever, if it ain't broke, regift it to some new needy youngster.

Pros: I like that "Mother" Goose is a guy, though he's not called that because he's a den mother to a family of drag queens--too bad, but still it's pretty cool, as is the presence of a crazy toy designer who wants to make tiny guillotines and a game where kids run over pedestrians for points; "They actually get rid of their little aggressions this way." (And to think we'd waste so many decades for Grand Theft Auto). A funny mobster and his Brit wiretapper steal the show prettily handily and have a scene that looks like it was filmed in a real English pub as opposed to the usual wood panelling and tawdry chairs. "Don't bandy names around, Luv." Sabrina has a cute sweater poncho and a sexy slit-skirt silver silk dress. She's supposed to be a Hong Kong heiress. Kris gets to play mannequin as a Pippi Longstocking frozen in place at night to watch the goings-on.

In other words it's a relaxing go-round, the Angel's safety and competence are never in doubt.  It's a nice touch that they bug the bugger. That's Bobbie Jordan not Marg Helgenberger as the girl who makes trouble for Kelly, though you coulda fooled me.

45- Little Angels of the Night

The girls all move into a single women-only apartment complex occupied mostly by prostitutes; a little guido pizza guy Freddie harasses them when he makes deliveries (isn't there any place else they can call?) while at the same time a strangler of prostitutes is loose in the area, including two in the sae building. Coincidence? Someone in the writing department certainly was asleep, or awake, either way - it's pretty adult for a series that was by now veering all over the place as far as those themes were concerned (Mother Goose one week, strangled hookers the next). Going undercover and moving into the building provides challenges, as the Angels are unduly sexy, and it's funny to hear them come up with excuses why they can't service clients, "darn, it's a shame [they] have to miss it." The whole pizza guy thing is a little too porn movie on-the-nose to not cause a little R-ratings nervousness. "Relax, I ain't gonna bite you," Freddie says. Right.

Cons: So what gives? Ed Lakso coasting again? The pizza restaurant guy has a terrible toupee, and the whole goombah thing leaves a bad taste --pizza photographs terribly under 70s analog TV lighting. The Angels are in the building as security, but with Lakso on the job, no woman is safe. Kelly's armed but holds her gun like it's a condom she found on the beach and cowers in the corner at the first sign of trouble. It's not hard to trip up a guy running past you on the stairs, but instead Kelly just cowers in the corner. A shrink comes to the pool and offers 'misplaced aggression' as a possible motive. "Is there any chance this killer might get tired of killing and quit?" they ask. I'm as feminist as they come but even I want to reach in an bitch slap the three of them with lines like that.

And then they talk one of the girls, Bonnie, into staying in the building, as if she'd be safe with under their protection. Why? Because no killer can survive all your cowering? More idiocy: The flimsiest of excuses brings Kris--looking mad gorgeous in an orange bikini--out to a yacht bobbing around in the dock... the best Sabrina can do is put two and two together. They don't even believe obvious clues because they just don't want to believe them. In short, unless you're a stone cold idiot you're way too stupid to have a clue why there seems to be only one restaurant in all of Los Angeles, so even an ex-lover has no choice but to bring her dates there. Or why these dopey girls keep ordering pizza from these schmucky little delivery guy and then being surprised when he keeps bringing the rapey vibe. Or why the Angels keep letting him get away without lifting a finger to stop him. It's kind of embarrassing how helpless they've gotten, how paltry the budget - there's like three different sets in the whole thing not counting the pool. The show is still #1 but it seems to be going bankrupt--now there's something that should be investigated. And their occasionally strong police work is in the crapper. The Angels don't operate as a team, just run around in a pack in a strictly re-active way. Damn you Lasko! They left you in charge and you fucked it all up. "That profession can be more dangerous than this one."

Pros: Kris is very fond of those super sexy runner's shorts so popular in the 70s, which show off her dynamite, um, tan, and she's the first of the angels to be totally stacked, which helps compensate for her diminutive size and total inability to fight or think straight whenever a cute boy is in the room, too bad the paltriness of the sets and ugliness of the pizza give it all a dime store porno vibe that makes the objectification of her nubile body almost aggressively tawdry.

46. The Jade Trap

Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) returns (he was a corrupt vice cop in season one) as a gigolo who romances a rich middle-aged widow, and when she tries to dump him (he promised her a boat!), he shoots her. A jewel thief in the next room overhears the shot and the killer frames the thief for the murder. It all goes down at the Seabreeze, a rich coastside hotel, which--if you can't guess--looks a lot like all the other dumpy Italian restaurant-meets-porn shag basement sets, though with an older set of character actors and extras traipse.

47. Angels on the Run
Ed Lasko and his wife wrote this. Lasko's uneven, often overextended, but not always a hack. Is this one of those times. Mmmm. No. This time he's basing things off his wife's story about a diner waitress who sees shady guy throw a package into the back of a truck. The truck driver is the husband of a country singer, Laura Cantrell. They abduct him because I guess their package went missing.

Cons; It can't be a good sign when the "Lasko Trio" is playing at the cocktail lounge. A lot of logic gets lost. Why would the cops let a guy step out of his car with a package if they're stopping everyone looking for a package? 

48. Antique Angels
Ugh... an excuse for a the studio's stock of antique cars to get a dusting, and to hear some lame royalty-free Dixieland. Include me out. They'd have been better wrapping up with a 'clips' episode.

Oh... why Tanya.. did they wait until season 5 to bring you in?