A subdivision of ACIDEMIC

Monday, December 7, 2015

See the Way She Talks: Lou Reed, Nico, and John Cale

Before you start you're already beat.

You're #37 have a look.

I think he forgets some words which is great "I don't know.... I've decided lots of things"
Great stuff too, you need Cale's viola... I would have killed to see this stuff in 1983-5 when I was teenage punk and my outfit's designated keeper of the Lou Reed gospel.

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 III: 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, but we have to remember that in network TV, a season is over 20 episodes. The first eight to ten of them were often pretty well thought out, full of nice details and real emotions. By the last few, they were recycling old Mod Squad and Honey West plots and centering cases around singers so they could croon away the minutes. Who can blame them?

Kate Jackson left at the end, replaced for Season IV in a stunningly wrong move by high end London model Shelly Hack, with a terrible hair-do that looked like a 60s beehive had been knocked over going under a bridge. Way too skinny and posh for the mellow LA vibe, Hack (whom Cheryl Ladd resembled so closely they could be non-identical twins), even before the season ended, Hack too was gone.

But then - at the end of S4, during the last two-part finale, came the very cool and enchanting Tanya Roberts. Critics all say that if she came in on S4 instead of Hack then the show might still be running today. Roberts, man - those aquamarine purple eyes, that wry sultry crackle in her voice, those slim hips and willowy, tall shapely form-- man, that Roberts is as natural a fit for the Angels as the day is long. But really it may have been just too late. The show belonged in the 70s, like mood rings, huge medallions over black turtlenecks, and carpeted vans.

To that end, here's Season Three, episode-by-episode, in all its sporadically competent glory. This is the season wherein, even with Sabrina still in the mix, the Angels seemed to be forgetting how to do their job. Increasingly void of moxy, the girls often had to relie on convenient coincidental machinations and cross-cutting to see them through. Thanks to the wavering attention of overtaxed screenwriters like the "Selznick of Spelling"  Ernest Lakso, there's also no shortage of easy 'going nowhere slow' old hammy show biz types meandering around the edges of scenes, mugging indiscriminately for, presumably, SAG scale and the chance to get back under the studio roofs like the old times.

But there's still occasional glimmers of 70s charm and the slyly assertive feminism of the first season; Jill Monroe even comes back for a spell or two, looking dangerously thin but with one hell of an impressive tan. And today's Law and Order variations owe a rather large debt to this show and its contemporary and tawdrier later-in-the-evening ancestor, Police Woman. Tell your friends, pally.

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

Sammy Davis Jr. must have had fun working with the Angels last season and told his Rat Pack about it, because here's Dean Martin! Strolling through real Vegas locations, showing card tricks to an unimpressed Scatman Crothers, standing by various Tropicana wheels and craps tables while looking inscrutably focused (i.e. sober).  Meanwhile shifty-eyed lounge singer named Marty Cole (Bewitched's Dick Sargent) uses the casino hotel as a base for a lucrative prostitution/hidden camera/blackmail operation. Frank (Martin) won't believe any of his employees is dishonest. But he does thinks a bunch of recent 'accidents' are gaslighting tactics from a rival gambler. The last straw is the opener: a blonde dancer--bedecked in a fur coat and Trans-Am she clearly never paid for--is followed by an ominous looking truck that runs her off the road. Beep Beep! 

Yet Martin swears "Las Vegas is a clean town."

The Angels all go undercover - and poor Bosley is made a parking attendant; Kris sings with Marty Cole; Sabrina gets to be an accountant consultant; Kelly secures a spot in the Folies Bergere of 1978 (replacing the hit and run girl) and runs up against a catty rival for the top spot. Big mistake, sister! We learn that Frank (Martin) won the Tropicana in a crap game. What happened to the guy who lost it? "He is nowhere," Frank says. "He just walked through that door and shot himself right through the head." We learn Frank was in 'the Tank Corp' during the war (a reference maybe to the ill-fated Anzio?) and we also glean he's a tad mule-headed when it comes to suspecting any of his employees, nearly all of whom are stealing him blind and working all sorts of shady scams, most of whom he probably doesn't even know. Oh Frank, Sabrina says, looking deep into his eyes and seeing the good man behind all the tired gambler schtick. He tells Sabrina she's suffering from "structured thinking," and makes a pass at her because he's blessed. "I can tell you and I are going to get together," he tells her; "I might have known it before you did," she says. Hmm-mmmm -- it's pretty foxy link-up. His waxing on the poetry of dice games and coin flips proves more affecting than Sabrina presumes and their hook-up proves way more interesting than some of the other tangents in this two-parter, such as who-- other than all the shady suspects he refuses to consider--might be out to put Frank out of business.

The Angels set up a "Command Center" in Frank's suite of Tropicana penthouse apartments. Downstairs, as part of her cover, Kris sings for Marty Cole to audition 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 thinks Kris looks just like his ex-wife, Leslie, which is funny since later this same season Kris will turn out to be the Lylah Clare-style ringer for some unrelated dead 20s star. Meanwhile Sabrina drops some feminism (or women's lib as it was called then) on Frank to make him reconsider his stringent no-prisoners approach to the fairer sex, in an echo of her hook-up with Tony Mann (the Hefner-style publisher/swinger) in season one.

Pros: Surprisingly adult references to prostitution and blackmail; Kelly looks hot in dancer tights (and loves to get the chance to show her high kicks) and she gets to come 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. Martin gets some good poetry about luck and how to run a casino: "this is all very structured," he boozily tells Sabrina of the chaos. For her part she blushes ("somewhere underneath the glitz and the glamor must be a gentleman and a scholar....") It's interesting seeing these older gamblers flirting with girls who are trying to get information out of them, when it's clear they are used to young cute girls trying to get something out of them in Vegas, so it's not like the Angels have the usual clean field to wile with. In fact Vic Morrow figures it all out real fast with the help of his flunky who remembers her from the other casino (these guys never forget a face).

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. Scat, what are you thinking?! The writers of this episode clearly have no knowledge of how casinos operate if an mysterious Asian (James Hong!) can use a handheld computer right at the craps table, and play with crooked dice which Martin never thinks to swap out since he refuses to believe anyone is dishonest in this town (and earlier floated him $10K in credit when he was 90 in the hole). In real life, he wouldn't have held onto that casino for more than five minutes with that kind of permissive negligence! Earlier a guy takes some potshots from an unmarked truck right in front of the Tropicana and there's no security or cop response other than three cute girls and a portly duffer ambling into the center lane of the front drive and then giving up. Similarly he has all these guys conspiring against him from another casino--using a full spectrum of dirty tricks--and he's basically just some old guy who just hired three girls from LA to fight his battles for him, and that's it for an entire casino - no security, not even a doorman with a roll of quarters in his pocket. Going just as deep into the hole rolling craps against James Hong (!) while his rivals sneer and make cracks about him, he just seems hopefully out of his depth, refusing to believe any evidence that contradicts his naive opinion of how honest everyone around him is. Sabrina gets a perm! And the beginning includes another of those lazy sexist writer bits where the Angels all brassily announce the want to get new clothes and hairdos before heading to Vegas (including that perm) implying Townsend Agency is paying for it all. Maybe that's ok and I'm sexist just for thinking it's sexist?

Pros again (Part 2):
Surprise - the cliffhanger of Scatman's fate at the hands of Vic Morrow's injection of curari into his IV drip ends with his death! I love Scat but it's a ballsy move. Sabrina's hooks up with Dino continues: a relationship only a talented resourceful brainy actress and a boozy laureate could conjure. Her nerdy younger girl ectomorph and his thirty years-older, shoot-from-the-hipness make for an interesting, even touching, combination - as both characters and actors, the sort of actors who feel through their eyes but keep their composure and cool - i.e. they seem like they'd be a good match in a perfect world. Ladd gets to sing a second time. Bosley does a neat golf cart tumble. Kelly's buddy in the dance company is allowed to be like a whole foot or so taller, making their scenes together refreshingly awkward. Vic Morrow shares Dino's way of structuralizing his outlook ("hanging around you, a guy could lose his edge," notes Dino) around gambling this kind of philosophy of gambling "It takes a nifty piece of driving to make that look like an accident," goads Kelly to Vic, drawing him out on the idea he may not have had. Sulky Dick Seargant sulks around Frank's perimeter "he generally gets what he wants," snarls Dick, one of the more quietly Lemmon-esque complex slimeballs. Sabrina ABC steps in to introduce Dan Tana and the new show Vegas at the end, cuz when in Rome....

Cons: (Part 2):
Kris lets herself be led off away from the casino at night, without telling any of the girlfriends, which is absurdly stupid for anyone with any sort of law enforcement background. For me, I guess the key annoyance about this show is that angels' intelligence varies from writer to writer and never grows from all their experience, leading them to walk into the same traps over and over and over. I have to keep repeating "it's only the 70s, it's only the 70s" remembering how little we worried about girls going off with shady guys back then. It was a mixture of trust and naivete, and hedonistic cool, all gone with the advent of video and its memory like an elephant.

Angel Come Home

Jill returns; she's become a Formula 1 racer! Farrah does a fine guest star turn. We first see her wearing the same bathing suit she wears in that famous poster, with a flowing white skirt added, but her hair is a mess, she seems sick, and she's wearing way too much eyeliner. Seems her handsome racer fiancee Mark Carmony (Stephen Collins) is a suspect in sabotage surrounding some prototype model car created by an ambiguous but handsome character named Paul Farino (the sexy Horst Bucholtz), who's lured Jill to LA (or did he?) to talk her into driving his experimental baby in the local race. Paul lost a bunch of money betting on himself so may need to move dirty to get his own wheels in the mix, or something. Gambling - terrible habit. At least you can't go double or nothing while drunk and then wake up hungover and somehow in debt past the point of human understanding.

Jill has terrible judgment in men. Mark tries to get all bossy and argue her out of racing for Paul Farino. Why was he at Paul's 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? With that flock of teeth in that frenzied smile and all that eyeliner she seems like some stalker of Farrah's look on that poster. She'd be right at home amidst the girls in Red Line 7000. In fact there's even a scene in a wood paneled and red tablecloth-covered tavern that looks just like the one in that film!

Pros: Bill Vint is great as a hipster mechanic; Jackie Stewart cameo! 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 the bouncing around and yelping during their sororal reunion has a very nice 70s sort of vibe. Even Bosley comes off well this go-round, speaking in a gravelly voice and relaying unpleasant facts about Mark and Paul Farino with a rare genuinely detective-like air of gravitas. And there's genuine suspense and a big chase climax.

Cons: But, it's hard to believe all these zillion dollar cars would just sit around untended right next to each other at a public track.

Funny to think that --after all the brouhaha when she left,  all the fans clamoring--after this episode nobody wanted to see Farrah come back. Not only is Ladd a more engaging nuanced actress, she can work her angles and smize and she looks pretty damned fine in a low-cut black/purple evening dress at a party. Though she does seem to know how to channel it all into some palpable grief, our poor Farrah--hair a mess, eyeliner covering up a smizeless hungover stare--looks awash in tiredness that's possibly the result of anorexia, her failed film career (Saturn 3 still stalled), her failed marriage to Lee Majors, cancer, or all of the above. Hang in there baby, we want to say, it works if you work it so work you're worth it, and The Burning Bed cometh, ironically enough, to launch a whole second phase of your career as a cool, legitimately Emmy-worthy TV actress.

Angel on High

There's a great croaking-voiced hit man and once again the motive is refreshingly simple: greed and inheritances, and sins of fathers and corporations. A dumb air show stunt pilot (Michael Goodwin) is possible heir to two different fortunes but doesn't want to be tied down to either the boardroom or the mob dynasty. He only wants to fly! So noble. So dumb. What Angel could resist? By now the Angels have lost so many would-be pilot boyfriends and fiancees to either jail or airplane sabotage they should know their kisses carry steep jinx tolls. They should also learn to read cues from people's faces, and not to talk really loud in public about their secret plans, especially when they already know folks are spying on them. Even this far into the series Kris never fails to be stunned when some cute guy pulls a gun on her, as if hotness equals goodness just because the Angels themselves are both hot and good. How hard can it be? Baby, don't even go there.

Pros: The story evolves with a very clever cop show-style hook, commencing with the random second degree manslaughter hit of a church-going middle aged lady crossing the road by a distracted yokel with his girlfriend. "William Freeman brings the touch of warm nostalgia" to aviation history in his trusty bi-plane, so does--with its analog charm, measured pace, and relative lack of traumatic violence--this old chestnut of an episode. The romance between Bill Freeman and Kelly gets some weird cautionary implied-lesbian-jealousy from Sabrina! Jackson really knocks out some A-game termite bits this go-round.. By contrast, the whole dour judgmental mother thing paints a negative picture of Christian guilt (the mom wrecks the son's life because she's worried she has "bad blood" which is a bit like letting the car out of the barn after it's flown). There's a good bit with Sabrina goosing information out of a mobbed-up chairman of the board in NYC (and she even takes in stride a stray potshot or two). Even Smith does some fine acting when presented with the possibility to just fly away with a cute guy and leave her life behind --seriously --she's tempted! Her eyes soften and glisten a bit --she's really taken aback at the thought, eyes all glistening, showing that when she gets the chance, and the script treats her with some modicum of respect, Smith can bring it. Still elsewhere Kelly can come off quite stupid. It's a generally smart savvy episode so her 'but why?' refrain carries the echo of Cliff's Notes. When Freeman tells her he brought a picnic lunch she retorts "oh, that sounds nice." And she already went through the barrel rolls with the handsome biplane pilot. When she gonna learn? Sabrina worries she hasn't come down yet, and is worried she might crash and burn. "That's not the plan," Kelly answers. Kelly's the only Angel you have to remind that it "never is." But hey, I do like that at the end Freeman chooses his dumb plane over all the 'hooks' trying to get into him. Usually the Angels are doing the flying away...

Angels in Springtime

You would think the Angels would be smart enough by now to not take an easily-locked steam bath in a ritzy spa wherein they already know someone's actively trying to kill them, but there's a great Lorre-eyed dyke masseuse involved and Kelly makes a reference to a past episode wherein she was hypnotized. Is she going to be ditzy enough to  be hypnotized again and resume her squeaking about "Beamish"? Whoa! Continuity?! Kelly even wreaks some delayed payback for her past season exploitation by almost breaking the offending doctor's arm. Mercedes McCambridge is the wheelchair-bound ex-Broadway hoofer presiding over the evil and very posh spa where murder and blackmail are afoot (the first victim: Marie Windsor!) "People are killed the world over by the combination of water and electricity," notes Charlie. Windor's niece, their client, doesn't believe it's an accident, but couldn't undercover into to a place like a lady spa as she has glasses and a nerdy vibe (she can recognize a Pope quote!). But auntie's memoirs are missing! As someone who had to go to a sinister spa to collect my mom's effects after she died, I really relate. "The sooner we solve it the sooner we escape," notes Sabrina to Kris after their dreary military-style indoctrination speech ("you will be more than servants, you will become their slaves."

cuz they may be lesbians
Pros: "It's a women's spa, Bosley. No men allowed." Once again Ladd effortlessly supplies the bulk of the sex appeal in a cute pink bathing suit as the exercise coordinator, almost getting into a tussle with the evil Zora ("a pretty little neck," she snarls to snoopy Kris, "I bet it would break easy!"); all the staff are super bitchy but since there are no men it's great to see, especially with the creepy lesbian vibe going on betwixt the doctor, the butch masseuse Zora (Nancy Motel Hell Parsons), and Ingrid the "Amazonian directress." You don't have to hear the cold doctor announce she must take Kelly's luggage away "it's for your own good" while trying to turn her butch to consider this must be John Waters' favorite episode, if he ever watched. Now that the closet is seen as the sickness rather than being gay, this great surreally abstraction cloud that used to fog the issue has all but dwindled to nothing!

Cons: Bosley never mentions the fee unless Charlie is comping an old friend. Considering the amount of people Charlie knows, it's a wonder they make any money at all. Either way, it's annoying. By the end, the spa's flat pink and white color scheme has grown wearying, like being trapped in my mom's house over Xmas. Mercedes' old broad sass gets wearying too ("as I was saying, about sex." It's like ugh okay we get it lady, you think you're the last of the red hot Auntie Mames -sex in general, let alone with a closeted sewing circle grand dame who gave Joan such a rough time for turning straight in Johnny Guitar). But just as wearying is that Kris is too blinded by hamminess and old lady sweetness to imagine Mercedes could knife her own best friend in the back over a man or a memoir. And that even after Nora threatens to break her neck if she goes into the gym. Kris goes for a nice steam... all by herself... and later while snooping through Windsor's room, lets herself get easily surprised and overpowered and nearly murdered by hot towel wrap.

In the last bit, 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? Was Charlie wearing the head while Cagney did the singing?). And the client is saved from a life of dowdiness by Kelly's beauty treatment (she takes off her glasses and did her hair in a way that would--now--be considered a sure sign of dyke allegiance!)

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 future Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, Ray Wise, is a loner vet of the Travis Bickle variety, stalking her while someone's also taking potshots at her (just a coincidence?), and 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 greenside commentary and woos a rival lady golfer (E.J. Peaker) whom he remembers crushing on a youth. She'll do anything to win this tournament before she retires! ANYTHING! As the 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 she has some good actorly bits with Curtis - they're old friends ("Acapulco!") but a bad sign for the series she doesn't get to play. That no one ever really get to demonstrate their prowess on this show by season three is a real sign of neglect. Still maybe it's for the best "Drop out of the tournament of you'll be dead by the final round!" reads a rock thrown in the window.

Pros: Still, Curtis shows a real human warmth and accessibility that the camera picks up on like a lovesick puppy. Those huge eyes follow you around the room and her long toned arms make her a believable cool golf pro. Bosley and Peaker get some good older people moments as he tries to trick a confession out of her. Their mutual apology scene carries real actorly 70s-ness (when people could still apologize and have emotional moments without lapsing into uncool sentiment). Curtis' manger Gary Bisig is appropriately sleazy in his pick-up lines with Kelly ("that came out wrong") reminding us why the girls are effective detectives - since they get country boy-gone-slickers to boast. Bisig rocks a great hick-gone-slicker accent ( ("looks like I wandered into the chicken coop in my bare feet" he says when Kelly points out Alice Cooper's a dude - and he almost makes you believe he really talks like that, but his character is a moron: survival tip: if a pair of cheap hoods give you a gun and tells you to kill someone and you don't want to, you shouldn't threaten to go to the cops after you give the gun back. Take the gun, genius! Point it upon them.

Cons: Why wasn't this episode called "Angels in the Rough"?? Did the ABC censors nix the implication of nudity? The golf instructor teaching Charlie to putt ("sometimes you learn more just by watching" he says suggestively, to a groaning nation) is practically in the rough herself. While he fills in the exposition at the end via phone she swings away, once again showing the nation that--in grand Hefner tradition of the swingin' 70s--a man might be middle-aged, mature and still get away with snarky lewdness without being judged a monster. That those days are gone is perhaps not all bad, but it behooves us to notice what we lost in the deal, for men are reversed now--sexually sensitive but frozen in a kind of adolescent consumer miasma even into their 50s (yo!). Charlie's jokes may veer on the puerile side of the green once in awhile, but he keeps learning new trades and traits, and has no problem learning the ropes from women half his age.

 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 like ducks in the proverbial row, applauding politely, waiting for Kelly to notice the timely glint of a muzzle barrel? The elaborate resolution involving a land grab doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense if you follow the links through. So don't. Just dig the mellow groove and classic bits of skullduggery. All that's missing is the exploding golfball gag, ala Sherlock Jr.. But hey, the gator skulking in the rough makes up for it a whole bunch. And the snake is the icing on the cake! One should always keep serpents handy. WC Fields said that!

Haunted Angels

The 1970s were a hot time for ESP, telekinesis, reincarnation, and psychics. We had The Exorcist, Audrey Rose, Carrie, The Fury, TV movies like The Initiation of Sarah and ESP episodes of Wonder Woman and The Six Million Dollar Man. Ever the sponge of their zeitgeist moment, here Sabrina gets to play psychic at a cool ESP institute, but she's really just an occasionally good detective (with deductive powers of observation) and a sharp actress who knows how to whirl warmth and cool together and fake it like the best of them. But this is murder! And once again the most obvious solution is staring them dead in the face. Anyway, maybe there is such things as ghosts. A real feel for 70s supernatural trimmings makes this 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 would care? Swindlers got to eat, too. "I was very fond of Kathy... but I don't think you are ever going to find her killer.... in this world" says TV psychic Peter Russell (Peter Donat!) Eric (Joseph Hacker) is a psychic who touches Kris' arm and sees her in the Police Academy!  "and a gun!" It's a curse, really--he knows what it's like to die, and to die in Steve Gutenberg's presence. "You're right - it's no gift," realizes Kris.

Pros: The Angels and a good Bosley (low-key) all spend the dark and stormy night at the spooky mansion with some cool 70s wallpaper, cool theremin and synth figurations in the score during the creepy moments, that stock footage lightning shot/sound that Corman used in his Poe films, glass shattering; ominous nighttime exteriors, ghost voices, a priest who says "it's best not to think ill of the dead"; an old lady's shop getting rocked by an angry poltergeist, those card with the stars and wavy lines, suspect peeping out from their door cracks, the 'real' psychic warning Kris off the 'staying the night' idea with the same vague mix of genuine worry and ambiguous motivations we found in Elisha Cook Jr. in the original Hill and a really good scare from Sabrina and all that other malarkey if you want (and we do), but a real psychic is on hand to dazzle Bosley at the end... only in Hollywood, USA!

Pom-Pom Angels

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were momentarily huge, part of the whole NFL crossover prime time phenomenon, (now you're lucky to see a single female during the entire game) so here's this melange of locker room small talk, pervy suspects, high kicks, and demeaning objectification of broads. Hey, Cheerleaders are disappearing! Is it the plastic flower-sporting boxy agent (the irrepressible Fran Ryan), her horn-dog son ("kicked out of three seminaries"), a monosyllabic linebacker who talks about how Marianne was nice to him, or some unseen stalker? What about the douchebag agent who wants them to be high-kicking prostitutes when their done on the field. ("I gotta build these girls up from scratch!")

Pros: Lonny Chapman (Long John in The Witch who Came from the Sea!) is the publicity man who also follows the dykey agen't pervy son around making sure he doesn't mess with the merch. Ladd is especially fetching in her cheerleader outfit so you feel his pain; I love the anti-Christian angle, as if religious zealotry and football are the entwined double helix heart of the flyover states. Charlie has a legitimate reason for making Kris and Kelly try out for the team "Dan Abner (the client) drinks a lot and talks a lot and if he should actually break Sabrina's cover I want people on the scene that even he doesn't know about." Pretty forward thinking Charlie. I also like that Sabrina feels bad and tells the two slammin' girls who should have had their gigs to come back in a week and she'll get them the jobs. And that said girls are a wow. My love for their style of shorts is ingrained from being a child agog at the girls in my gym class.

Cons: There's a reason I never watched House of Whipcord. I hate to see loose women shorn of their hair and kept as captives, even if it's by crazed fundamentalists with no sexual agenda. It's bad enough they fell into such moral ruin, to be punished for it, like if Anna Christie's father arranged to have her shanghaied by The Magdalene Sisters. 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 affects a terrible posh accent and Kris a terrible Atlanta one,

Pros: Though she does come off pretty good trying to interrogate the pervy son of the dykey agent while avoiding being molested by him - a very delicate hat trick Ladd handles perfectly. Kelly doesn't have much to do except high licks but I like her rapport with the 7 foot tall linebacker looking for his missing girl and acting like he's taken one hit too many. Bos comes to timely aid when Kelly is intimidated by a gigantic worried boyfriend. One of the teammates has a cool scratchy voice.

Cons: To each his own -but to this alcoholic sinner (who thinks cutting off a girl's beautiful long hair against her will is a crime against God, punishable by death) it's a very dour episode, replete with date rapey touches galore, and reflected in the weary and beleaguered eyes of the abducted 'sinners' which makes the laggard detective work of the Angels all the harder to endure.

Pros: Then again, Kris springs to action when the knife of cutting hair approacheth her golden locks. "I'm not gonna bow my head to you - or anybody else in this grease pit!" Then she doth kick the asses of God's chosen!

The Angels are already in heaven, shitass!

Angels Ahoy

Angels: someone is running scams or something on this ship because people who know too much vanish overboard. The owner suspects crooks are being smuggled, via his cruises, past the Feds. There's not a lot of bathing suit action but Sabrina has fun playing a mobbed-up broad on the run with a fake identity, see? She drops her h's - as in "I traveled tree tousand miles to see you" to Sanchez (Hector Elias) hanging out in the ship-themed bar. "Honey, this is a deluxe tour," says the dude when he tells her it costs fifty tousand dollars." Maybe she's the illicit thing what needs to be smuggled this time! Bosley plays pingpong with Janice Paige as an 'older single's cruise' lady doing her "first everything" since her husband died a year ago (it's a singles' cruise Bosley, so you'll want to look sharp" says Kris). She finds pingpong 'exhilarating' like Ms. Sludge in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. For his part, Bos refers to himself as the 'Sultan of slam.' Oh, Bos, Bos, Bos... Hey, Welcome to the Southern Queen," says Kelly rocking the Julie clipboard.

Like all the best episodes it's set somewhere that's exotic with some new and different settings other than that tired paneled Italian restaurant set that seems to double as nearly any public space in cheaper episodes. 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!) And there's a masquerade party with a Bergmanesque Death and Kris as Little Bo Peep! Wait, didn't she play that part before, in some toy factory episode, and also wasn't that costume used in an adult film back in season one? It's not a complaint, Bos. I just like knowing.

Cons: Kelly walks right into an obvious trap, going to a remote boiler room in answer to an anonymous note left at the desk and arousing the curiosity of Ben Anderson (Doug Sheehan) didn't fall to her death. Why wouldn't she smell the oldest trick in the book to suss out an undercover journalist or cop? Good lord she's dumb sometimes and Kris never even thinks to send in Bos as a laggard back-up; and in the office opener she sports a godawful lavender frock and then, later, a gaudy white toreador ruffles number. There's always going to be remote boiler room stalkings in 70s detective shows, especially 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. Sabrina wears yet another unflattering clown disguise. I can't tell you my other caveat with this episode without spoilers but knowing my stance on moral highground posturing... maybe you can guess?

Pros: On the other hand, she's pretty fast-thinking and looks good in a cowboy costume. Kris-- fetching in a Bo Peep costume--saves the day, sex appeal-wise,.... again. In the best scene she almost leaves her shepherd's crook out when the bad guys come back into the room she's searching --suspense! Later she has a groovy maroon velour thing going on as she sashays around the agog lead singer/keyboardist (Peter Brown) in the lounge, making him believe he already slept with her a few years ago and forgot (easy to do, I assure you, with a musician, I can only imagine the singles cruise version). Since he "likes the sea air," it's a safe bet he enjoys having brain cells burnt away by the air's high salt content. Dude, I really relate. And Ladd is very at ease in these complex situations, she can be warm and seductive to a man without him running for the hills in terror (which can happen when a too-beautiful girl acts too-available too-soon to even the most experienced of debauched libertine cruise musicians.

Other percs: A nice tracking establishing shot of the costume party, clearly set up with some actual compositional care. That engine room looks like a real engine room - I guess this was shot on an actual boat. Sabrina rocks an awesome gum-cracking mob chick disguise and there's a nice pulpy poolside climax. A very shocking sudden appearance of a different cruise director after Kris overhears the plan to kill Kelly (but before they find and can tell her) Reasonable intelligence and consistency on the detective work seems to be back in play!

Mother Angel

Precocious youngster Samantha witnesses a murder while feeding a neighbor's venus flytrap. Jill flies in to help; Samantha found Jill's # in her aunt's black book "sandwiched between about 25 men" and Jill gets all flustered, 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 incredulous babysitter (Hermione Baddely) Mrs. McNaughton ("it's just the circumstances of her upbringing" she retorts, trying to dust the Munroe sisters off the scent). Familiar 70s TV towhead Gary Collins is Mr. Buckley, the blonde bad guy up in the penthouse, whom Samantha had a crush on, ("she was jealous of their relationship," notes the matron. "she broke in and wrote something on the bedroom mirror that no one her age should even know about!" (being an old Shropshire-born Disney regular, it takes Baddely about five wry minutes to say that line). But Samantha is right. She broke in while feeding the Venus Flytrap and witnessed the murder. Uh-oh - but does Mr. Buckley know it was her? He's bound to, soon! Sabrina goes undercover as the maid (she packs the original off to Galway Bay) and Kelly poses as an indignant horticulture society matron.

Pros: There's a good menacing (but not too menacing) scene between Buckley and Samantha (saved by the bell!). The climactic boat-to-dock escape and chase is a real keeper. The script's tight this time around, and Robert Davi (the chief villain in License to Kill) is one of the goons. Look fast for good old Mike Mazurki in the very beginning - he gets clobbered with a flower pot. Old coot John Steadman is the familiar cackling old timer at the auto yard. Samantha is played by Olivia Barash (if she looks familiar, maybe you saw her a few years later as Emilio Estevez's girlfriend/CIA torturer in Repo Man!). Sabrina keeps serving Mr. Buckley Scotches and then finishing the glasses herself (keeping them for fingertips). She also gets a great pole vault swing kick! Nice to see the Cobra of the Munroe sisters still tearin' it up.

Cons: Sabrina's Irish blarney accent is only partly successful. Sabrina and Jill both seem dangerously thin. Damn you, Hollywood! Samantha's weird braids look in the coda is kind of an ick. Jill also isn't very good at spotting a tail, even though it's the same one who chased her around earlier in the episode. Pretty slipshod protection work, Jill. Howard Hawks would demand a rewrite.

Still -that's a ten episode run of strong episodes! Good work, Angels... alas, as so often happens in these cumbersome 20+ episode seasons, they start to run out of gas about the 10-12 episode mark.

Angel on my Mind

Uh-oh, another lazily recycled amnesia walk-about where one Angel walks around and is alternately comforted, helped and menaced by eccentric bit part characters. On the other hand: Curtis Harrington directed, so there's a modicum more surreal-damaged mind interiority than we'd expect. From the start, though, we're in trouble --it's the amnesia scenario they  dumped on us in season one all over again (god knows where it's been since, or before). Once again it seems like an easy way to write one or more of the leads out of an episode so they can make a film, have a baby, or nervous breakdown. This time Kris does the honors. She wanders down the beach wondering who she is --so at least it's pretty, and rich with rolling surf, attractive volleyballers, a very sexy young Jonathan Frakes, and no kids or stock types doing their tired salt-of-the-neighborhood street vendor bits (at least not as many).

Pros:  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. In the obligatory helpful vendor role (there had to be at least one), Billy Barty hawks papers like old Angelo Rossitto used to in downtown Hollywood; Tom Spratley plays an old hobo on the beach like a slightly dimwitted cross between Mr. Rogers and the old hermit in Bride of Frankenstein, "You and I," he tells Kris, "could be friends." Yikes! 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 tree branch--even jumps down on him from the rocks at one point--but

Cons: - She never tries to take his gun. The Police Academy must teach you never to disarm your opponent once you have him at your mercy.

Angels Belong in Heaven

A recently released jailbird friend of Charlie phones in to let him know someone's put a hit out on one of the Angels. Soap regular Tracy Brooks Swope plays Sally Miles, a close childhood friend of Kelly; her mom died, and "all of a sudden being faced with all that money and everything," she doesn't understand why she needs to move to a hotel while the Angels sort this out. When we finally learn her advice on whether she should trust her investing broker fiancee (Don Galloway) the picture begins to sort itself out. Nice detail with some lesbian rivalry implied between Tracy and Sabrina. John Voldstadt is a Russian driver who no speaks English that Kris thinks is following her. Bosley does some good flight manifest- insurance- found address book comparisons and we get a sample of just how much waiting around by phones people had to do in the age before cell phones. Lloyd Bochner is the hit man

Cons- They Angels are smart about navigating their cop friends' assets to get info on their hitman, but are very dumb in seeing if they're being followed by some well-dressed middle-aged goomba in a rented red town car. Seriously - you know someone's out to get you; you're driving your 'houseguest' to a hotel for her own safety, but you're not bothering to see if anyone is following you, watching your every move barely a few feet away? Kelly lets the hitman walk right up on her out in front of her suburban tract home and just sits there while he questions her, as passive as a little dove. Seriously, Charlie could have put a tail on the Angels to see who else is tailing them, and this would have been a ten minute episode tops. Bos lets himself be run off the road way too easily.

Pros: But it's still a good stunt, nice and low-key if that's your bag. Now that shows all have to outdo each other with wacky car chase stunts and crime show intensity, there's something to be said for the much more 'realistic level' of the Angels, where being run off the road and down a slight incline is pretty hair-raising and we feel their slight shock/disorientation. We have to kind of forget the last 40 years of soul-deadening TV violence and tune back into a realistic zone where there's actually the sense this shit happens, and it's more about acting and embodying these situations than wild CGI crazy. You just have to deal with the alternating smarts, how sometimes they're courageous and on the beam, sometimes they're dazed and not really cognizant of the danger they face. It's kind of like life, isn't it? "Kelly," says Sally, "you're so dear to me." After watching Kelly blast the hitman right through her front window, you might feel the same way.

Angels in the Stretch

It's the old swapping the thoroughbred winner with some near-identical backstretch falterer at the race track gambit (or the reverse), as seen in the Thin Man, Charlie Chan, the Marx Brothers, and Philo Vance. It's amazing anyone doesn't check these horses more often to make sure they're themselves. Sabrina poses as a feminist trainer. Kelly disappears into the wallpaper as a writer interested in track guy David Hedison; and Kris looks great in her cowgirl duds (they're not over-showy, but very smart), sizing up the drunken dimwit stable hand (James Gammon) with a cool look that would intimidate King Kong, or getting important tidbits from character actor Al Hopson as old Fred. .

Pros: Ladd really shines this go-round, she's clearly going to do well in a few years performing duets with Waylon Jennings. Some good dialogue "the official stud book should be so thorough," notes the grieving daughter of the dead horse race gambler who noticed something unusual and was killed as a result. hmmm! Joyce Jameson makes a cameo! The climax--with Kelly in a 30s black hat--surely is meant evoke the still inexplicably popular The Sting (1973).

Cons: Sabrina is pretty stupid to confide in John David Carson (Empire of the Ants), rockin' a terrible Irish accent as a dishonest on-the-take jockey even after he goes way overboard seeming shady. There's not too many people around by the track - I mean even for Spelling-Goldberg Productions, there's just no one around. You'd think there was only one horse, and only one jockey and one gambler in the whole damn world. Terrible 'horses' mouth' pun bit at the end with Bosley.

At least there's a horse race, if that's your scene and Ladd does look to the manor born. And both Carson and Hedison get a few stray moments to be gracious in defeat as they're ushered off-track.

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 townsfolk looking out into the dusty street from behind screen doors, and in this case, a chilling Phenix City Story vibe as the mob overruns a small Arizona community to finagle a hostage swap for their recently captured boss man being brought out of the deep woods later that day. It takes the Angels half the episode to figure out that the town is being held hostage and is too terrified to talk or be cordial, instead they blithely chalk it all up to bad luck until you want to slap Bosley in the jowls. But there's a dope CB radio code bit between Kris and Jeanette Nolan "Welles' Lady Macbeth" Nolan is mayor and rocks a cool huge collared shirt ("I never saw a man couldn't handle yet" is her line before going into action). By the end you'll want to vote for her too.

Pros: WB's pre-code go-to two-bit hood-cum-Ed Wood regular, Lyle Talbot, is Tom Mills - he's almost unrecognizable with a weirdly sharpened nose and thick white beard but I'm glad he's there. It's nice to see all these old cowboy bit players getting a day's pay like the old west is rilin' up again, Charlie, though the era of TV westerns was strictly 60s. And of course the pro-old lady climax is pretty badass. Seeing a gaggle of old Arizona dames armed with sticks and stones and ready to bash in a gunsel's brains is pretty heartening. Also the coda is pretty good, and Kris rocks some great black lame slacks and their banter is unusually fluid, and even feminist in a way that makes you look back and realize just how stealthily cool this show really is. Anyone who would call it 'jiggle TV' is themselves a sexist brat who thinks any show with beautiful women with great hair who spend their days solving crimes and going undercover in an array of fields without breaking their stride must surely do so in a bikini and a blank pout. This coda lets you know just how feminist it is - though from the surface it may not seem so - that Charlie is a man who sends three pretty girls into highly dangerous and complex situations while he kicks back and collects the checks. You could say he's a kind of a pimp, or you could see that he trusts these girls to bring down big time gangsters singlehanded and never expects them to put out or bake a cake or wipe a surface. If ever you see them in an apron it's so they can get a glass with a suspect's fingerprints.

Cons:  Kris delivers a terribly fake laugh during the drive in. For detectives the Angels are terribly dense at times. Also - shouldn't they be pretty tired of roaming the Southwestern scrub after three seasons? It's pretty sad that it never occurs to them anything fishy is going on, even though it clearly is and they know full-well a big time mobster is coming to this small town jail that same day, brought down from the forest by rangers, so the town should be buzzing with press and flown-in FBI heads. Well I guess being mayor isn't easy," says Sabrina. "You're actually beginning to look stoop-shouldered from the weight of executing" Kelly teases Bos. Half episode is over and all they've done is let themselves get dopily herded around in circles. A good detective is, by nature, a little paranoid.

Counterfeit Angels

A trio of fake angels start robbing people by posing as the Angels. It's because a sleazy strip club impresario talent agent (Wynn Irwin) has a nightclub impressionist named Mickey Biggs (Mark Lonow) who can duplicate Charlie's voice really easily. "I remember him from that charity party," notes Charlie of his impression mastery "he sat at our table for awhile and was very chummy." Wow - that's all it took? 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 --is Hillary Thompson actually Jaclyn Smith but in different make-up?

Pros: It's nice to have a genuinely menacing villain (Paul Cavonis)  for a change, though his addiction to pinball and video games seems kind of juvenile. Short, with a big schnoz and glasses, Cavonis is somehow truly terrifying. The girls have to get pro-active and Sabrina goes undercover as the replacement for the imitation of herself, noting she's going to "have to continue my imitation... of me" -Brechtian existentialism in action, baby! When the detective tells Bosley "there's room for you in the trunk," after hauling off the other fake angels -- what planet are we even on?

Cons: Sabrina's double doesn't look that much like herself. The idea a bonded detective would lie to the cops to pursue a lead by misidentifying a perp is pretty shady. Also is the idea that no one in the bad guy's side of things would suspect the actual detectives might make moves to clear their names. Why a store owner would just automatically let a trio of girls start shoplifting and mulling over cash receipts - it's a pretty dumb use of their time. Why would Mr. Big abuse his thug bodyguard's trust by cheating him at video pong?  The use of video games and of counterfeit Angels both seems a bit too second-hand. This is a huge black guy (Bubba Smith) who could put him away with a phone call or smash him through the floor. Also if Charlie and his Angels are such a household word it doesn't bode well for their undercover options. Between that and the video games it's like their popularity is a bit too on-the-nose meta. Kelly's dumb to not follow the suspected agent of the crooks to where they're hiding out; instead she goes shopping. Ugh. We get terrible Bogey, Hepburn, and Scarlett impressions.

Pros: The Angels shoot two crooked guards after they get the drop on them! Blam! So rare to see them just think fast and shoot first.  Bosley's Sidney Greenstreet is actually the best of them all; as is Sabrina's line that she's already been doing herself for two days. I bet she has.

Disco Angels

Though it's nice to hear "Disco Inferno" - the long version - over a melange of the then big craze, disco dancing - it's pretty sad that "Freddie's" (Peter MacLean) discoteque is just the same old wood panelling and shag rug Italian restaurant\ flatly-lighted basement bar everything else in the show happens in, though hey - they added some lights and a disco ball and a DJ with an incoherent, croaking coked-up DJ (Zalman King). The managers' mustached talk about what a star he is, what raw talent! Everyone knows how to disco dance, even the old dance instructor who boogies with Kris (who whirls like a dream - that hair! Her delighted genuinely-playful eyes!). Tito Vandis teaches disco to senior citizens but hates them. His son is the resident Tony Manero - who rides the bus because he's saving every penny for lawschool. Some psycho is knocking off homeless bums in giallo style (gloved hands holding a belt advancing through the night); why in hell is this something for a private detective agency? "Doing a disco feature without mentioning Freddie's is like writing about baseball without mentioning Babe Ruth," Freddie says (to an Angel posing as a journalist, but I bet you guessed that) "I think Hank Aaron holds that record." Sabrina tells Freddie's PR man straight out she's trying to tie it in with the three murders, but he's too busy babbling about the scene-setting genius of Harry Owens.

Zalman prepares his strangle-wangle magic
Pros: It's not surprising future softcore Showtime impresario and perennial doe-eyed, hawk-nosed, Sean Penn-y scowler Zalman (Blue Sunshine) King has a giant glossy of himself posted above his apartment bar. But narcissism sometimes pays off, as he pours funny/terrifying zest into his strangling gestures as the DJ. As with all King's acting work, it may be too intense and insane to be 'entertaining' but it sure is memorable. His DJ rants have the mark of real improv lunacy. I wish they would link his coke abuse to his schizophrenic rage displacement for his perennially-disappointed father, as in real life they are often closely related. We never seem him do coke or sniffle but he sure seems trying to do a burlesque of someone on it--"awwl riiiggght!" Not sure about the nerdy round glasses/natty bowtie look though --that was not hip in 1979- did the costume designer get the wrong note or was this King's own idea). It's also obvious that, anytime there's a DJ suspect in a show like this, chances are he's left a tape of his voice playing in the DJ booth so he can sneak out undetected, though in this case that effect is used more for an uncanny and unusual coda. 

Pros: Sabrina wears a groovy red shirt / black suit during one of the earlier scenes posing as a reporter deftly wrangling clues from the stressed PR guy. You gotta love sexy Shera Danese as the tall blonde Suzanne Somers/ Susan Anton mistress -secretary every disco episode demands - she gets in a groovy hair-pulling catfight with Kris! The larger than usual array of suspects and eccentrics all interacting in real time in one place, over full disco songs, make it hum like an old Thin Man sequel. There are heated exchanges like: "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?" and alibi-swapping plot machinations that evoke Blood and Black Lace. For a season 3 episode it's unusually adult, especially when swathed in laser sound effects. There's so many different suspects with weird psychological motives we may feel like we're at a pitch meeting between Hitchcock, Freud and Mario Bava - and though those maestros have their moments, few things are creepier with less frills than the encounter between King and his steely-gazed dad ("Never mind, I'll go myself!"). King is so crazy your head spins and the use of pull focus makes us feel like we're in some f---ed-up dream. We can't help but wonder if the murder rate shot way up once cocaine and disco (for they were intwined) exploded into the mainstream, bringing out all these latent psychoses.

Cons: It's pretty jarring when the killer has already bailed on the disco dance party and it's still daytime out -- I mean what the hell kind of disco is even open that early? And why would a burly middle-aged man worry about being followed in the middle of the day by a pervy nebbish like Zalman King and his lil' stranglin' belty-welt? It's like Brian Donlevy being scared of Woody Allen.

Why tracking down LA's street psychos should be the Angels business (and no one else's - the cops never even appear) is anyone's guess- probably a hack writer who's not sure there's a difference between homicide detectives and private investigators. Alll-riiigghhht! 

65-66 Terror on Skis

Part 1 - European intrigue and professional skiing have always paired well, so why not take the lift up to Vail, Colorado, for a wintry on-location two-parter? Nice idea! But wrong show, or at least the wrong writer (Ed Lakso's latter-season scripts always falter). Whether applauding in their cute ski outfits during Alpine jump competitions or being chased down mountains in a melange of stunt double action shots and blue screen, the Angels stay hopelessly outmaneuvered almost to the end. The bad guys are way more perceptive of the Angels than vice versa, alas- even sizing up the girls as armed. "I've learned that any woman who carries a gun is a matter of concern," intones one of the two deep-voiced old Italian villains (Cesare Danove and Rosanno Brazzi).  Romancing Kris while guarding a Kennedy-esque VIP who is also an avid skier (Dennis Cole, romancing Kelly) who won't be cowed by threats, FBI op Christopher George alone seems to be on the ball, not that it occurs to him either to look around or check the hotel register. Instead, though he and the Angels outnumber the two old men and the one professional skiing son who's not all bad and kind of likes Brie by about 3 to 1, they're still easily outmaneuvered. Thank god no one knows how to shoot.

Pros: A lot of great masculine voices here (this being back when everyone smoked), with gravelly Christopher George front and center as gruff CIA op (he alone seems to be on the ball), and some very pretty Vail Colorado scenery.  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). There's a pretty thrilling ski chase climax and some great solar flare snow level Steadicam ski chases. At least the actors seem to be actually on skis and actually in the snow instead of standing in front of a rear projection... most of the time anyway. It's real pretty and vaguely ominous.

Cons: There's some tacky 'ski ballet' and even 'ski mime' and some sexist commentary ("give the little lady a hand for trying!"); the girls don't even occasionally look behind them to see if someone is following, even though they know in advance people are out to get them. The way a mysterious picture of Paolo the freestyle skier 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? The opening with the dimwitted CIA op ("George Whales was my closest friend" intones 'Chris George') clumsily flopping after Cesare Danova down the 'avalanche' slope, is pretty sad. That kind clunky set-up might work back in LA on normal cases with small time punks but this situation is supposed to be 'big league' spy/terrorist/FBI kind of business. Bosley's weird dressing up the frumpy secretary to Cole ("wear something in yellow," he commands, all smoldery). Frank Benard is Paolo, the conscious-stricken Italian ski champ who freaks out when someone tries to take his picture ("one shoots guns and one collects cameras," notes Cesare Danova.) Actually, he's not very bright either, calling attention to himself when the Angels would never in a million years suspect him.

Part 2- Considering the amount of pointless snow shoot outs (snub pistols from a very long range, why even bother?) and stupidity (no one in the Angels posse even thinks to look around for the bad guys- who are literally right behind them the whole way). 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. Or should be.

So once the smoke clears, what do we got? Two old Italians and their unwilling young ski stud outfoxing a dozen detectives and FBI agents? That doesn't make me feel safe. So why didn't the Angels think to follow Sabrina on her picnic to a remote cabin with their main suspect? The bad guys certainly do, listening in via a walky-talky as she makes mistake after mistake. It's so dumb as to defy description except as foofaraw leading up to an exciting ski chase and to get Sabrina and Paolo alone in a cabin while she talks him out of the gun.

Pros: A big of cozy ambiance in the Angels'/FBI's de facto ski lodge hotel suite (and at least Chris George has a snifter or two). And the climax is pretty thrilling, even with all the incompetence of the good guys, and in the end the slow pace pays off with a bunch of almost--and/or maybe-happened on the sly--relationships: Bosley and the secretary, Paolo and Sabrina, Dennis Cole 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. Cole and Smith get a pretty romantic dinner ("I take it as it comes," says Kelly, "and always give it my best shot") where  Bosley gets to teach the secretary to enjoy being a woman and not an "automated adding machine" and though it's a bit annoying at first, hey if everyone else is hooking up, why not the 'fifth business' as Robertson Davies would say. Sabrina gets in a good monologue talking Paolo down from the Sacco and Vincetti ledge and Bernard himself is quite good, and rather stunning. And I'm a big fan of Chris George (I love him in El Dorado!). Colw=

Cons: I'm not a huge fan of Sabrina's fur hat; if we're not too careful (check your brains at the door) we can wind up getting mad at how sheerly dumb the Angels and FBI are - even working together (totaling nine people) they routinely let a trio of Italian anarchists outfox them ("except for Paolo, we don't know who they are and what they look like!" dude why not watch Paolo and see who he talks to, like two old Italian anarchists skulking amidst the 'crowd' and hault them all in and have them all deported. I can forgive this show just about anything, but sometimes, man oh man... I mean these two don't even change their coats in between shooting at you and you still can't guess who they are when you see Paolo conversing with them right in front of you?

Pros: I shouldn't let it bother me, but I mean, a decent writer should be able to get to all the ski-chase beats via a better plot framework, but hey those beats are pretty cool: snowmobiles, skiing and stunning alpine scenery and there's nothing wrong with the Angels scoring with some worthy men, as long as they just "take it as it comes" meaning also not minding when it doesn't survive the credits. It was the 70s man, they didn't need to feel guilty.

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, after she lets herself be led into an obvious trap. Geeze it's easy to get the drop on Kris. Some rich bossy Italian-American patriarch (perpetual Klingon John Collins) snips at her for some imagined or real offense (it will happen again in season 5! Kris really seems to draw old bitter patriarchs out of the woodwork) while the Angels follow a false clue and end up snooping around some posh Malibu resort; 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, late in season three, as his Angels retain zero accumulated experiential knowledge of the criminal mind. They started out really on top of things - remember how rich and high tech they were in the pilot? (Maybe there was just more oxygen in LA back then?) but here their first reaction to an attacker isn't self defense, it's confusion. Kelly has to doubt even the most perfunctory identification ("are you sure?") as if she really isn't in the mood to gallop after another suspect if it means they might end catch the crooks too soon. They even get knocked over by the old cleaning lady pushcart flying down the hallway trick. On the other hand, the motivation behind the abduction actually uses backstory of Jill's Italian racing adventures that includes a nigh-Tennessee Williams intimation of sensitive gayness (he liked to write "poetry") that's pretty rare, and show someone was actually trying for a few follow-throughs other than the passing down of Jill's badass '76 Cobra.

Pros: Farrah gets in a pretty good monologue about Collins' son--her old friend/boyfriend who died in a race after she left him--Eventually Sabrina remembers she's the 'smart' Angel. While the rest of them work on dotty accents and putter around the tennis courts, she wises up to the scene and sets up a thug for the old 'hood comes down on the head' trick, but ends up just clocking him instead. Cool that at least Bos is able to notice a tail on Sabrina's car and follow her.

Cons; It's pretty unrealistic that she can just knock out a 7-foot tall thug with the lamest of back-of-the-neck punches, yet the Munroe twins let themselves be led all docile around the room by a pair of dime store goombas; it's always a little too tense for me when one of the girls gets kidnapped, and then to watch them repeatedly blowing chances to escape (yet being kind of passive-rude and not eating the lunch provided - Charlie was never snippy when he was kidnapped in season two); all just so the generic plot points can click forward and the suspense ratchet to no real end beyond preventing your getting up out of your chair to turn the dial. Sabrina's French accent is pretty bad though maybe it's supposed to be, and the big soapy moments

 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 cute redhead (Deborah Richter) gets strangled for having 'stupid Victorian morality' and threatening to narc Donna out to the dean. Not sure why Donna tries to force drugs down peoples' throats. Based on my experience, there is never a shortage of customers at college. "I see you're a tea drinker, too!" says the sleazy handyman (Victor Hoagland). Yo, these rich hottie girls be slangin' so much drugs and booze at this school that they get it shipped in a gigantic crate which Bos and Kris see them load onto the school van and then bicycle back to school. None of that makes any sense - especially for a school this small in the middle of nowhere (and pills are awfully easy to hide in one's backpack or bike basket). The lack of savvy about college drug dealing bespeaks the writers couldn't even deign to watch something as clueless as Go Ask Alice for research. These girls are so clueless it's inspiring. A strangler freak conveniently offs anyone who threatens to rat them out. Donna tosses her feathered hair with haughty aplomb and blackmails her 'friends' into doing her bidding. Lots of great hair in this one, though. Kelly goes undercover and teaches an English class ("I'll never cheat again" swoons Bo [Lori Lethin] sneers Donna after Kelly gives her a nice talk; "of course you will," sneers Donna); Sabrina teaches art and passively lets Donna bully Kris on the modeling dais; Bosley becomes a groom at the stable. What kind of college is this? Satan's School for Girls Annex? "Cheer up, Bosley, maybe the strangler will turn out to be a dark horse." Kill. Me. Now.

Cons: Hate to see Bosley acting like a snitch pointing out the crate to the driver; Donna's boorish behavior is more akin to high school bitchiness, and so over the top it's almost John Waters or Russ Meyer-level. Most of the episode is spent watching Donna act bitchy, hassling Kris about what she saw at the bus depot to the point anyone with half a brain would have to shut her shit down. Then again, it's a pretty dimwitted go-round with no red herring suspects to eat up the hour. And the drugs shipment inventory is awfully stupid: "two bottles of booze, one bottle of happy pills, one bottle of downers," is one of the orders for one of the girls to fill. what is this, prohibition mach zwei? Man this seems like a great school as far as staying zonked, but no dealer sells booze too. Even without the bottles, one box should be enough to put that whole campus into a coma and no self-respecting dealer would keep all their product in a public place like a barn, and then set the barn on fire! Pretty sloppy, Donna. Also, a bucket brigade to put out a burning barn? Doesn't the firetruck come out this far? Haven't the writers met a fireman either? The ease with which the killer abducts Kelly is pretty ridiculous. Though if you're feeling generous you can presume Kelly is acting cowed and weak when the killer grabs her in order to lull him into a confession.

Pros: I like that it's almost all girls in the cast. As a fan of Spelling's and Goldberg's 1973 TVM Satan's School for Girls, I'm willing to give anything like that a chance. In this case though, the one-note bitchiness from Donna takes up so much running time there's almost no room for anything else. On the other hand, the climactic motorcycle vs. jeep chase around the lake is pretty damned great, with Kris leaping off the sidecar onto the fleeing perp! That's the way you do it, Angels!

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 a few hundred feet. The Angels are pretty stupid too this time. A girl about to run a marathon is abducted in a van and then another runner is added, and all the Angels can think of to find them is running a marathon. Why not look at the dudes hanging around looking suspicious right there in the parking lot? The fucking van with the girls is right outside! But all four are hanging around indoors instead, 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 Angels do and they're too dense to notice even the most obvious clues, all just so they can hit all the marks we expect from the theme, aping whatever craze or trend was in the wind at the time ("they call it 'jogging' and everyone's getting involved!") Even the idea that a girl would run right to upscale detectives after running to the cops after almost being abducted (and no cops are anywhere around) signifies there's no semblance of good cop show writing to hand, nor is their a real understanding of marathons, police work, or even publicity stunts, making this the kind of "T&A" the show was often accused of purveying by those who hadn't actually watched it. If they happened to only watch this one episode, they'd be right.

Pros: Danuta Wesley (left) is startlingly fetching as wavy blonde hair Germanic jaw mode as a ladies' gym owner. The hot running outfits (love the blue trim) and an endless stream of babes running the race + the fetishized bondage shots of the girls posed coquettishly while handcuffed and gagged makes it all pretty good as far as 'that' is concerned. There's also a female news correspondent covering the race to point out how sexist it all is, in case you haven't studied enough French media theory to know recognize recuperation in action.

Cons: One of those terrible royalty-free Dixieland silent film rags plays over and over and over every time we cut to the race in progress. Kelly sees the guy in an unmarked van put on a mask but Kris dismisses her out of hand: "was it a Halloween mask?" Kelly points out the green van with two shady men in it, Kris still refuses to believe there's anything out of the ordinary ("a race like this attracts all kinds of guys"), so they don't start tailing it as immediately as they should. I guess you don't want the chase to end too soon, unless you're me of course, or this is a half-hour Honey West episode, and, frankly, it's not good enough to be.

Seriously, by the end you want to track down the idiot who decided to use that infuriating ragtime riff over and over (ragtime was 'in' during the late 70s, thanks to the inexplicable popularity of 1973's The Sting) 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 at the end. Almost.

70 - Angels in Waiting

Bosley is having a tantrum. He feels they Angels take him for granted, so they play a game to see if they can find him, to test his hiding and their finding skills. What? Right off the bat we're on a very ill-conceived terrain. It's all a big fuss over who will have to do all the paperwork over a weekend. Paperwork? Seriously? Shouldn't Townsend Agency have an actual accountant considering all this money coming in? And it just happens James B. Sikking is playing hitman... again! This time - target: Bosley. I think? Mostly he just hangs around a restaurant with an unbearably loud accordion player. It's one of those contrived episodes where you can sneak over to your desk and write about how lame it is and not miss a thing. All hands off deck - Lakso at the helm!

Cons:  Most of the episode is spent cringing while watching Bosley wile the day away with smiling middle-aged-ish lady (Pat Crowley) while the loud accordion player irritates all concerned almost as much as the heavy, icky dialogue. We really don't want to hear Bosley have a midlife crisis, let alone see it. "All I know is that before I came here, something happened to me that was very pleasant - and suddenly I want to pursue it" he tells the girls after he first has to leave the restaurant. "And leave us here with three days paperwork?" says Sabrina indignantly. Jeeze, who gets bent out of shape over eye contact at a restaurant to the point they throw hissy fits. "It really would be a shame if you had to all the paperwork," Charlie consoles the Angels. Meanwhile Bos and the lady friend are off at the Santa Monica Pier, that old reliable for when the show doesn't have much of  a script and one or more of the cast is off on vacation (I presume)."Someone took a few potshots at me," claims Bosley. "Bosley, what are you saying?" says the usual reliable Sabrina. Jeeze. It's hard to tell which is worse, Bosley's idiocy (that he's so naive and has such a breakdown so fast- you wonder if someone slipped him a roofie. You could be killing everyone he knows right in front of him and he'd still just be ga-ga and goo-goo over this girl he just met. "Bosley has developed an extreme case of self-reliance, Charlie," says Kelly - the episode's one good line.

Pros: And then when you're about to scream, someone does slip him a roofie. Thank goodness. Let this be a lesson to him. I do like the scenes of him staggering around the carousel like a drunk tripping lunatic. 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, when she's finally allowed.

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, one of whom Jake Garfield (Ramon Bieri) has just gotten out of prison, a broken man, haunted, and 'not prepared' for just how much Kris resembles her (the painting the old gangster stares at is obviously just a painted over photo of Ladd in a 30s gown with short hair). While Kris snoops around his mansion by day and night, Kelly and Sabrina each get a scene interviewing suspect/witnesses. 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 lady's (though I loved that in Lylah!) The flashbacks are even shot with the same fog employed by Aldrich. There's a diamond necklace, a handsome chauffeur, and 'the Syndicate' is mentioned. "What's the matter with the drink?" he asks. "Too much soda? You always liked it..." he trails off, realizing he's getting confused between the two of them. He wants everything to be "exactly the way it was" that fateful night in 1935. You won't have to be a detective to see how this all winds up during the climactic denouement. You'll only have to know the plot of a certain 1941 Monogram Lugosi movie.

On the other hand there are some good elements: Cheryl Ladd looks amazing. Once again she does the bulk of the work, but she's not suffering from amnesia or being taken hostage. Coming back out of the flashback with her short 30s hair, when we see her gorgeous  70s hair in a new kind of way and it's like damn - what a juxtaposition! You'd be forgiven for swooming. She also actually thinks on her feet, knocking out the bad guy with a single swing of her purse, and looks good slinking around the mansion storage in sleek black-brown lame slacks.

Pros: Bosley is almost entirely different than he's been in the last two seasons. Is this a case of continuity since his little midlife crisis last episode has made him more of a gravitas badass and less of of clown. The script actually trusts us to understand what's implied when the diamond necklace shows up at the end of the third act rather than having to spell it out in big underlined italics. And there's a twist at the climax and some deadpan funny lines scattered around ("I was paid $5000, well--- it was a lot of money in those days!") to make it all kind of worthwhile.

72. Angels Remembered
F (or N/A)

A clip show.. 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. But that's the flaw in the genius of Spelling and Goldberg: the more money the show makes, the less they spend. On the other hand, if you look at how many episodes in a season (this is the 24th) you don't blame them for needing to put their feet up on the Townsend couch and the night before they go on their summer vacations by celebrating their three-year anniversary. Shooting the shit, sipping champagne and remembering the sexier (Kelly's belly dance for the 'bad' Arabs in the ice show episode, Kris' hot bikini in the Hawaii opener) and the more action-packed moments, usually from two-parters (where seen out of context, the Angels nonchalant courage seems extra impressive, far more for being 'real' than the blue screen wirework of something like the McG movies). The main drag part being the ham-fisted way these clips are explained, via forced dialogue like "Sabrina, remember? You took him out on a picnic to cool him down and things got even hotter?" and "long as I live I'll always remember that look on Frank's face.." And Charlie handling the especially hackneyed dialogue like "Kelly, someone must have been looking out for you when you noticed that seatbelt had been cut." and "As tough as it's been sometimes you have to admit that some of the covers you used were interesting, to say the least." In addition to some of the best they also include clips from the worst, such as "Antique Angels," "Circus of Terror" and "Angel on my Mind.?" and some terribly unflattering close-ups from the one where Sabrina falls for that D.W. Cooper clone. We sure have had a lot of adventures, haven't we, Angels? And here's to many many more!

Pros: At the mention of the sky cult one from season two, Sabrina stick up for the UFO community ("I'm not so sure there aren't").

And that's it, basically. Jackson left after this season and I never watched the Shelly Hack season, I was too burned up that they'd replace Kate with someone way too similar physically and stylistically to Cheryl Ladd (with Lauren Hutton airs), though the arrival of Tanya Roberts in the final two-parter is pretty great. Those crystal blue eyes, that crackly voice, that willowy slim-hipped but hardly unshapely shape, that hair, that height! The way her character starts out all NYC street-smart Deuce-savvy and ends up being formally asked to stay showed the show could still mix feminine warmth and genuine badassery with the finesse of an ace bartender. And if the first few episodes of the fifth season show were any indication, Roberts could have elevated the show back up to a cool realm. But Smith and Ladd started to seem worn out and bored, and the fashions vulgar (the show always followed the trends, even over the cliff of tacky chintz, spandex, and 80s perms). 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. A few bathing suit and sunshine episodes in, they bounced back to LA and the same old hack plots (even the old hypnotism gag, above) but hey - maybe one day my love of this show will get so intense I'll venture into season four at long last. Watch this space!

Meanwhile - we can always Go back ack ack ck c k ...