A subdivision of ACIDEMIC

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, one guesses, they figured they could take 'er easy. EASY!? How else had they been taking it? Old plot lines from old Spelling cop shows began to resurfaceKate Jackson left at the end, replaced for season four in a stunningly wrong move by high end London model Shelly Hack. Way too skinny and posh for the mellow LA vibe of the Ladd and Smith, by the end of season four, Hack too was gone. And in the end of season four, the last two-part finale, 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. Roberts, man - those aquamarine purple eyes --is a cool hip goddess as natural a fit for the Angels as the day is long. But it was just too late.

But first, season three, episode by episode, in all their 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. No longer able to defend themselves, or think on their feet, they fell victim to lazy writing, Old plots were borrowed from Spelling's Honey West, a half-hour, quick-moving series; at an hour, they felt really stretched and empty. Allergic to guns, void of moxy, the girls depended on time and again 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 looking enigmatically important, and trusting too much in Bewitched's Dick Sargent playing a shifty-eyed lounge singer named Marty Cole. As they did for Sammy, the Angels need to act as Dean's bodyguards, this time because one of the Tropicana's dancers-- 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! We learn that 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 was in 'the Tank Corp' during the war (a reference maybe to the ill-fated Anzio?) and is kind of mule-headed in refusing to question the loyalty of his employees, nearly all of whom are stealing him blind and working all sorts of shady scams. It's Vegas, after all, and he didn't exactly get the casino by being a girl scout. Beep Beep! 

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. 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 a dead Lylah Clare-style 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 stringent no-prisoners approach to the fairer sex. But Frank's waxing on the poetry of dice games and coin flips proves more affecting than Sabrina presumes, and 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 get him.

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.

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 have no knowledge of how casinos operate if an Asian businessmen can use a handheld computer right at the craps table, 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. 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 ectomorph and his thirty years-older, shoot-from-the-hipness make for an 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; 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 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 (Horst Bucholtz), who's lured Jill to LA (or did he?) and then talks her into driving his experimental baby in the local race. Angels, assemble!

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? She'd be right at home amidst the girls in Red Line 7000.

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 the bouncing around and yelping during their sororal reunion has a very nice 70s sort of vibe.

Cons: But, 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 smize and her body is slammin.' 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 a-stalled), her failed marriage to Lee Majors, some other ailment, or all of the above. Hang in there baby, we want to say, 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. 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! So noble. So dumb. What Angel could resist? By now the Angels have lost so many would-be pilot boyfriends 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: "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 a 70s TV show to this tired post-century. The romance between Paul Freeman and Kelly gets some weird cautionary implied-lesbian-jealousy from Sabrina! By contrast, the whole dour judgmental wife/mother thing paints a nicely unpleasant picture of heartland Christianity. 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). 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, all there in the eyes, showing that when she gets the chance, and the script treats her with some modicum of respect, Smith can bring it.

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 Rosa Krebbs-style gym coach dyke named Zora (Nancy Parsons) involved and Kelly makes a reference to a past episode wherein she was hypnotized. Whoa! Continuity?! That never happens! Kelly even wreaks some delayed payback for her past season exploitation. Mercedes McCambridge is the wheelchair-bound ex-Broadway hoofer presiding over the evil and very posh spa where murder's afoot (the first victim: a different ex-Broadway hoofer 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? Was Charlie wearing the head while Cagney did the singing?).

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; 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, and Ingrid the "Amazonian directress."

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 - but sex with Mercedes was the last thing we wanted to think about, even when she was young and all sewing circled up).

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 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! 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, 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.

Pros: Still, Leigh 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.

Cons: Why wasn't this episode called "Angels in the Rough"?? The censors nixed the implication of nudity? 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? 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.

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 a good detective (with deductive powers of observation) and an empathic sweetheart played by a sharp actress who knows how to whirl warmth and cool together and fake it like the best of them. But this is murder! It 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 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." 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, and to die in Steve Gutenberg's presence.

The head spirit researcher's name is Peter Russell (Peter Donat!) and he hosts a TV show, Infinity and Beyond, in a manner that clearly evokes Criswell! Someone out in Hollywoodland USA surely saw his old TV broadcasts. Can you prove he didn't happen? Add the stock footage lightning shot that Corman used in his Poe films, glass shattering, ghost voices 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 California.

Pom-Pom Angels

The Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders were momentarily huge, part of the whole NFL crossover prime time phenomenon, so here's this dislikable mix of broad Christian-critique sleaziness and stock footage of football games and audience reactions. Cheerleaders are disappearing! Is it the old lady agent, 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?

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.

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 affects a terrible posh accent and Ladd a terrible Atlanta one. 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 on this ship because people who know too much vanish overboard; the owner suspects drugs are being smuggled, via his cruises, past customs. 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' like Ms. Sludge in You Can't Cheat an Honest Man. He refers to himself as the 'Sultan of slam.' Oh, Bos, Bos, Bos...

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!)

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 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. At that rate of response they wouldn't even realize they were sinking until they were already drowned - it doesn't bode well for future faith in passenger ship travel. There's a really unflatteringly-photographed bowl of shrimp at the costume party, to which Sabrina wears yet another unflattering clown disguise.

Pros: 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 male in the lounge, owning every scene she's in. 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. Reasonable intelligence and consistency on the detective work seems to be back in play. Janice Paige is 'young woman.'

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 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: 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 at an 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!).

Cons: Sabrina and Jill both seem dangerously thin. Damn you, Hollywood!

Angel on my Mind

Uh-oh, another lazily recycled Ed Lakso special. On the other hand: Curtis Harrington directed, so there's a modicum more measured class than we'd normally (by this point) expect. From the start, though, we're in trouble --it's the amnesia scenario Lakso 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

It's another Lakso filler job, recycling yet another endangered-solo Angel chestnut-- the "one of us is due to be killed and we don't know when, why, or whom" plot the Spelling machinery had been dusting off every other year for at least two decades.  Not to give away the end, but I never understood the whole 'revenge against the cop who busted you' thing, it's not like it's a betrayal or something. You hunt down the guy who betrayed your team, the rat, not the guys on the other team. That's why you shake hands at the end, to remind yourself it's not personal. What do you do in Little League, hunt down the other team after the game and kill their families? Reprisal against cops who arrested you fair and square is like hunting down the enemy soldiers who killed your father in a big WW2 battle. It's just not done, Ed. Betrayal warrants revenge, not straightforward opposition.

Pros- Soap regular Tracy Brooks Swope is visiting Kelly; her hometown pal 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 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.

Angels in the Stretch

It's the old swapping the thoroughbred winner with its lame identical twin at the race track gambit, as seen in the Thin Man, Charlie Chan, Philo Vance, and god knows where else. Sabrina poses as a feminist trainer. She's a little moronic this time around, dropping tons of hints that she's no dumb jockey. No sireee.

Pros: Character actor Al Hopson is old Fred, a hotel manager who gives them the lowdown; Ladd looks awesome in cowboy duds. She's clearly going to do well in a few years performing duets with Waylon Jennings.

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 - 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. Even some stock footage might have helped.

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. 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 handsome stunt pilot, but the pot-shot taken at her reminds you why the Angels are so awesome. They're neither the hyper-competent airheads of the movies nor the sleaze-encrusted sex workers from the newer short-lived TV remake. Their guns are there because they need to ask tough questions and not back down from a shootout, but they're still going to be women second and themselves first and file cabinet snoops above all. Their mix of fearless brio and genuine sisterly warmth has seldom been tried, let alone duplicated, ever.

Pros: WB's pre-code go-to two-bit hood-cum-Ed Wood regular, 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), and she looks great in slick lamé pants. And I generally dislike slick lamé, so that tells you something.

Cons: Alas, Kris also gives a terrible fake laugh at the end. I mean, really bad.

Counterfeit Angels

A trio of fake angels rob rich old lady Mrs. Hatter who's too blind to distinguish the real angels from the fake; it's because a sleazy strip club impresario can duplicate Charlie's voice really easily. "I remember him from that charity party," notes Charlie of his impression mastery. 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 have a genuinely menacing villain for a change, Short, with a big schnoz and glasses, Mr. Big 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! Fenton is played by a guy called Johnny Seven! And they shoot two guards.

Cons: Why would Mr. Big abuse his thug bodyguard's trust by cheating him at video pong?  This is a guy who could put him away with a phone call (it's always wise to curry loyalty from those watching your back). Kelly's dumb to not follow the suspected agent of the crooks to where they're hiding out; instead she goes shopping. Ugh. Fenton delivers truly terrible Bogey, Hepburn, and Scarlett impressions (was Frank Gorshin maybe signed on but fell through - or was Rich Little just very 'in' at the moment?). 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

Pretty sad that the special disco episode occurs in the same damn wood panelling and shag rug Italian restaurant-ish flatly-lighted basement bar everything else in the show happens in, though hey - they added some lights and a disco ball and a DJ shouting obscenities. As usual when a 'club' is involved, the denizens are a bunch of leisure-suited greaseballs in bad rugs and wide collars. The disco is called Freddie's! "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."

Zalman tries to adjust Kelly's eyes so he can check his hair
Pros: It's not surprising future softcore Showtime impresario and perennial doe-eyed scowler Zalman (Blue Sunshine) King has a giant glossy of himself posted above his bar--he's always struck me as a major narcissist, but hey, he brings some damn funny zest to his strangling gestures as the DJ. His abusive father shows up "you want the truth, Harry? You make me sick!" I wish they would link his coke abuse to his schizophrenic rage displacement as they're so closely related. It's also obvious that, anytime there's a DJ suspect, he's left a tape of his voice playing in the DJ booth so he can sneak out undetected. 

Pros: 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); gotta love sexy Shera Danese as the requisite kinda-like Suzanne Sommers/ Susan Anton every disco episode demands (such a hot look at the moment - healthy, vaguely Nordic, stacked, tall, kind of blank but super sweet); the larger than usual amount of black dancers and schemers and shlemiels in ruffled shirts make it all work like muddy clock pieces, thanks to 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?" He can't tell her the truth - he's out strangling! Mwahaaha! 

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

65-66 Terror on Skis

Part 1 - European intrigue and professional skiing have always paired well, so why not actually go to the slopes for a wintry on-location two-parter? Soon the Angels are applauding in their cute ski clothes from the side during Alpine jump competitions. The bad guys are way more perceptive of the Angels than vice versa, even 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 - who else?). A lot of great masculine voices here (this being back when everyone smoked) and some very pretty Vail Colorado scenery.

"One way or the other, they're gonna get you," says CIA guy Christopher George, his jaw set tight, romancing Kris while guarding a Kennedy-esque 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 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. 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 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?

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), the 'sort of a companion' / 'you mean like girlfriend?' stuff seems pretty shoddy and underwritten. The two main bad guys are in these dull green ski suits as if they brought them over from Minsk, they stick out like sore thumbs, the only ones who seem old and/or menacing and/or foreign. They're the ones who stand with the main suspect at every event and no one thinks to take their picture or suspect them? Man, how does poor Dennis Cole stand a chance? But that's to be expected by this point. 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.

So once the smoke clears, what do we got? Three Eastern Europeans 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 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; But 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, the 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.  Bosley gets to teach the secretary to enjoy being a woman and not an "automated adding machine." Wait, Bos said that? It's redundant but still....

Cons; Sometimes that shit's endearing. Not here, really. We're too busy getting mad at how sheerly dumb the Angels and FBI guy are -- "except for Paolo, we don't know who they are and what they look like!" Jeezis, they've been wearing the same sad 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. For some of us, that's enough. Sometimes.

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 two more commercial breaks. Meanwhile the Angels follow a false clue and end up snooping around some 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 seem to get stupider all the time, retaining 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. 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.

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

Cons; 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 all just so the generic plot points can click forward, the ka-ching of commercials can accumulate, and the suspense ratchet to no real end beyond preventing your getting up out of your chair to turn the dial.

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. Yo, these rich hottie girls be slangin' rock, yo, and a strangler freak conveniently offs anyone who threatens to rat them out. Mostly, to all our delight, 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. Besides, our kind of tea will knock you on your ass.

Kelly goes undercover and teaches an English class; Sabrina teaches art; and Bosley becomes 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." Kill. Me. Now.

Pros: "My god, Brie. Krissy's a kleptomaniac!" - we had one my freshman year too (in real life) - 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 trying to pass as public. Then again, it's a pretty dimwitted troupe this go-round; 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 drugs shipment inventory is awfully stupid: "Two bottles of booze, one bottle of happy pills, one bottle of downers." / what is this, Amazon? No dealer sells all that at once. Booze is separate. Booze is easy. Lame dialogue lets you know not one writer knows a single thing about the topic: "It's your share, it's your commitment to me." - "We're in this together, Bo -- the three of us, all the way."

One thing any dealer knows: don't be a prick--it's very easy for someone to drop a dime and screw your life up. Besides, these girls sure go through a lot of drugs and booze. How much do they take in a given day? One box should be enough to put the whole campus into a coma. 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? Have they ever even seen a lighter? Kelly accuses a killer then lets herself get followed by him (or her) moments later. That would be fine if it was a trap to get the killer to play their hand, but it's just lazy writing and character incompetence. Can you hear it, children, the show's slow circling down down down the drain!?

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 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.

Pros: The hot running outfits (I have a thing for 70s-style girls' gym shorts, being of a certain age at the time, my 12 year-old hormones carbonizing in the gym class heat) and an endless stream of babes running the race (it's an all-girl objectifying type of marathon), telling us that this was the year of the Olympics, the jogging craze and the at-the-time much-hyped (but then bombed) Susan Anton vehicle Goldengirl. 

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 the van put on a mask but Kris is like "what kind of a mask?" and is all doubting her so they don't check it out. 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 ragtime 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 at the end. Almost. If not for that, and the sexy shorts, this would be an F.

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. 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. All hands off deck - 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, 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, both now old, 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). 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 employed by Aldrich. There's a diamond necklace involved, and 'the Syndicate' is mentioned.

All that 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 word. 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 - the more money the show makes, the less he spends.

And that's it, basically. I can't bear the Shelly Hack season, though 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, Sheena, a Bond girl gig and eventually That 70s Show, so hey...

Go back? ack? ack? ck? c k ? ?


No comments:

Post a Comment