A subdivision of ACIDEMIC

Thursday, September 10, 2015

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

Why am I still--for a month or so, every few years-- into Charlie's Angels? Maybe part of it is that my dad wouldn't let me stay up late to watch it during the first season, though most of my classmates always got to see it (and this was long before videotape), leaving me to consider each episode like some magic out-of-reach Tiffany's gold ring. But by Season Two the time slot changed and my parents realized all they were doing with their draconian bedtimes was making me obsessed, as only an 9-12 year-old green-blooded American boy could be. Once I could see the show every week, however, my obsession petered out to only vague interest; and when Kate Jackson left after season three, so did my last remnant of interest.

But now, all these years later, CA is like a Rosebud just waiting for the right amount of sled-ready snow... for the first seasons still can grant me--and maybe you-- a warm prepubescent jouissance echo deep in a sacred place beyond the tediously conventional realm of post-pubescent genital phase sexuality and more towards a pre-differentiated self zone where romantic or courtly chaste devotion collides with a spiritual state of grace (1). Arron Spelling knew that the trick with 'the Angels' was to never ruin the spell for us by bringing some dumbass love interest, as they did in the movies (and the reboot), which totally missed that key point. Charlie = God; Angels = nuns; we the viewers = the holy ghost. Sex kicks the nuns out of their state of grace the way sunlight robs vampires of their shadow safety.

"Jousse" is for jouissance!

Moving on, let me take you back to 1977 - I was ten years-old and still awash in love for the Angels. I was very much looking forward to this new time and season opener. And, this once, my obsessive desire and riveted attention was rewarded. This is the two-parter that still holds up best, suffused with an easy breezy feeling so 70s I can taste my parent's Tom Collins mix, the gin like a lime sting that busts my saliva glands --and all others -- to electric life.

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

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

Every so often Charlie/Spelling rewarded the girls/actresses by bringing them outside the dingy studios of LA. and off to a place like Hawaii (a great excuse for tans, toned limbs, and lithe swimwear). Most of the time they don't end up much of the footage they shot there, and once again half the scenes occur on the same dingy wood paneled sets with the same mingling wide-collared scattering of extras. But sometimes they get it right. And this time, having perhaps the whole summer to make the season open right, they really delivered. Lots of white beaches, surfing, Don Ho, a full-on luau, a yacht hijacking, a sassy massage parlor receptionist, and lots of surf-length running.

More importantly we get our first introduction to Farrah's replacement, Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe (Jill's sister). Looking adorably like she's going to her first day at my elementary school in the same 'windbreaker' (then a new term) I had at the time, she was sweet and accessible, yet sexy and sure of her skills. Completely 'getting' the weird mix of approachable innocence and hormone-triggering sexuality needed to keep multiple generations happy, she won us with her first warm, inclusive smile and aw-shucks shoulder hang. When we see her in a brown two piece bathing suit, all wet from sneaking aboard the mafia guy's yacht and hijacking it back out of international waters, we're so thoroughly agog we've forgotten all about Farrah. So hey bro! Spray some cocoanut oil under your nose, angle the couch by the window so you catch some late afternoon rays and let "Angels in Paradise" lift you to them.

Pros: A complex plot that finds Charlie kidnapped and then kidnapped from the kidnappers! First he's snatched mid-morning conference by the ice-cool surfer queen bee of a band of outlaws in Hawaii who wants the Angels to bust her easy-going surfer husband out of jail as the ransom. But then he's stolen from her by a disgraced Italian mobster trying to take over the Honolulu rackets from his yacht out on international waters. So now the Angels break out the easygoing surfer husband as a hostage, and so forth. Kelly and Kris are quite in alluring bikinis and Sabrina looks tan and relaxed. They all do.

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

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

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

But hey, know this: Arabs love ice shows. That's what's important. Maybe it's because they're from the desert and have never seen so much ice before. The rest of the "crowd" for this big Bicentennial celebration fits comfortably into a few bleachers in typical Spelling "spare all expense" approach. To compensate, some vaguely familiar old character actor drinks in the bushes and eats up the screen time with shameless mugging until you wonder if he's a friend of the producer, calling in a special favor.

Pros: There's a great stretch where we follow Kelly, by herself, as first she hitches a ride on the back of Carlos Santana's chopper, then disguises herself in a lime green bedlah and does a coy belly dance for some power lunching evil Arabs (one of whom is Timothy Carey!) at the local Middle Eastern eatery. If that's not enough, she performs an awesome acrobatic escape, reminding us that a lot of the show's appeal secretly comes from Jaclyn Smith--the only Angel who lasted all five seasons--whose curves make one's head spin, even at ten years-old. This is her two-parter --showing off her action skills, quick wit and lovely form-- as "Angels in Paradise" was Kris's. Now we see how all their skill sets and personas divide: Farrah's Jill was perky, athletic, fearless and quick-thinking; Kris is brave but ever cognizant of danger, warm and innocent, but no pushover; Sabrina is brainy, crafty, and a good shot; but it's Kelly, time and again, who rocks the show's demure sexual backbone. She can't convincigly belly dance but oh! Oh, that midriff.

27 -Pretty Angels all in a Row

Some good old boys from Texas are scaring away the strongest competitors at the "Miss Hyacinth Pageant" so that a rich oilman's little baton-twirlin' darlin' can win. Contestant Marki Bey gets a tarantula in her bed and freaks out (she's a long way from Sugar Hill). Now no one wants to compete, and the host's worried someone is out to attack this "national institution." The Angels flip coins to see who will have to be contestants, but it's already in Ms. Jackson's contract to be excused from bathing suit duty, so Kelly and Jill get the honors. As you remember from the past two two-parters, there's going to need to be some serious Texas-style skullduggery for one of them not to win, 'cuz they got charisma, uniqueness, nerves and talent to spare, honey.

Pros: On the podium for the 'personality' portion, Kelly says she wants to go into brain surgery, but "keep up my dancing, no matter what." The climactic televised public event is packed--as in all these episodes--with a woefully small audience of under-directed extras scattered around in front of tacky 70s wallpaper and wood panelling, i.e. the shoddy LA Italian restaurant decor and shag carpet basement porn shoot ambience so beloved of this show's fans and Spelling's wallet.  I always like it when the stakes are low since I watch these shows to calm down, to sink into the orange shag carpet womb of the 70s and not worry about unpleasant sexual assaults, general ugliness, or high stakes vivid intensity, and this here's a pretty good example of low-risk narrative immersion as far as that goes. The bad guys aren't so bad that they'd actually harm a woman; they just lock the frontrunner Hyacinth girls (and un-bribable judges, if any) in an auto garage 'til their little Texas petunia takes the prize. But of course the Angels know how to escape. As do I, it seems.

28- Angel Flight

Angela--Sabrina's college roommate--works as an instructor at a stewardess school where she's being terrorized via some black roses and mysterious phone calls. She's such a major cowerer you may root for whomever's forcing her to commit sabotage. Stop your cringing, Angela! A black rose is still a rose! Angela prefers to be a cowering mess about it, despite the Angels' support. A combative Asian-American stewardess student named Mai Ling (!) and a perverted building super are prime suspects but the real enemy is Angela herself. She ends up trying to freeze out the Angels when the killer starts making threats, and assures everyone it will all be over soon, even though the mysterious tape orders her to kill the pilot. You really just want Sabrina to slap the shit out of both Angela and--while she's at it--Angela's super snide sexist boyfriend. In short, not nearly enough slapping.

Pros: Sabrina finally gets some spotlight time, chilling out on the couch while mooning over Burt Reynolds in a (fake) Hollywood gossip magazine (there's some allusions to his then infamous bear skin 'spread' in Playgirl). Burt's not who we'd imagine Sabrina would go for, but as an Angel fan, you take what downtime moments you can get, since it's here especially where Jackson takes off, demonstrating her acting chops with neat termite art margin doodles.

Cons: Alas she undoes the good will by wearing an unflattering 80s-heralding cream colored blouse which prohibits me from posting a pic.

29. Circus of Terror

Terror? We should be so lucky. The first totally lame episode of the season, this is set at a typically threadbare backlot circus: no animals or even sawdust just suspiciously untrampled grass and some tents. Such a half-assed attempt to conjure a circus wouldn't be bad in itself (animals in cages are so sad these days) but the one element they do keep? Clowns and, worse, mimes. I'm not pathologically afraid of clowns or enraged by mimes like some people, but I am also no fan - I avoid Chaplin movies and that French farce Children of Paradise, though I'm not adverse to silents or French romances. Why? The very thought of mimes bores me inconsolably.

Even more odd: a weirdly half-assed attempt to counter TV critics' sexism charges: the Angels accuse Charlie of having a one-track mind in a bad train reference (he's learning engineering from a female engine driver). You can call it sexism, but it's interesting that Charlie keeps hiring women to do all these professional jobs and services and he doesn't mind learning from them.

Cons: Sabrina says she's wanted to be a clown since she was a little girl! Skeevy! Why didn't she say anything about it when poor Kris had to put on that dumb nose for the ice show a few weeks ago? Thanks to a variety show then very big (my whole family loved it) called Shields and Yarnell, mime was having a slight resurgence in the US. Naturally Sabrina learns the ropes from a "master" mime, who exhibits enough grandiose sentimentality to nauseate a dozen Chaplins.

Pros.  Kelly poses as an uppity motorcycle daredevil and looks smashing in a sexy olive green jumpsuit (above); Kris has knives thrown at her by a mad gypsy (used in the credit montage)Sabrina does end up looking kind of CBGBs cool in her mime finery, which is a shock to her, I'm sure, as well as everyone else.

30. Angel in Love

Sabrina! How could you fall in love with a D.B. Cooper clone? Well, it gives Jackson a chance to do some real acting for a change as she struggles to not let her newfound gooey feelings cloud her detective judgement. By now you've guessed this one goes down at a remote woodsy ranch, the kind of place Doug (the Cooper clone) might stash his stolen millions.  The Angels are investigating why so many of the suspects are dying to get in and rummage around this one cabin at "Utopia West" - a very California encounter group-style sanctuary. Hmmm! The Angels need to blend, so Kris goes undercover teaching tai chi; Kelly drives the shuttle bus; Sabrina does her investigating journalist bit. Touching Doug's hand in a meditation exercise leads her to unexpected and unprofessional feelings!

Lucky for smitten 11 year-olds like myself, all Angel romances inevitably end in arrest. That's one of the key things Spelling does right (but the films and reboot do wrong): our Angels may love no man but Charlie, at least not for more than a single episode (or two-parter). They are the nuns of His holy order, inured and open to all suffering but delivered of it also. For us boys terrified of sex's mystery yet drawn to it like an irresistible magnet, this chastity comes as a sweet stay of execution.

Pros: It's fitting and right that Sabrina would be the one to lose her head in love and resist the sketchy truth; the brainy are often neophytes when it comes to love. It's clear she is making a concerted effort to maintain her objectivity in the case, though, and Jackson relishes the chance to work on her 'antithetical interiority'; It's always fun seeing the Angels also get into some then-relatively unknown California trends like meditation and yoga; the 70s encounter group stuff isn't presented in too much of a satiric context ("It's all right to touch, after all, isn't it?" notes the teacher rather sweetly. It might be the mantra of the entire decade).

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

31. Unidentified Flying Angels

Ross "The Fake Oscar Levant" Martin (Wild Wild West) is Dr. Perine, a bunco UFO cult leader who's supposed to have spirited a rich old lady away to Venus. He really killed her because she dared point out it's too hot on Venus for a saucer to land. Jeeze, are all rich people so dumb that it's a killable offense to mention facts straight off the back of Quisp box? The UFOs (they show up out the window) seem like projected outtakes from Forbidden Planet. I bet you someone found the old animation cells and quietly stole them. TV guest shot mainstay Dennis Cole is a corrupted astronaut with a checkered past. Dr. Perine uses him as a paid spokesperson and sometimes henchman. Kelly falls for him - in real life they ended up getting married! Here, of course, he ends up arrested.

Pros: Kelly gets a real chance to shine, literally, as a silver-suited Venusian, in order to play havoc with a jittery ectomorph cult member. The tense, interesting, weird finale wraps the culprits up in many overlapping ways. The mundanity of detective work gets a work-out with flipping a coin to see who tails who. Bosley does two cons in one day. "Am I still in banking?" No, Kris answers with a kiss, "sugar-daddy." I always like it when the Angels use their seductive beauty to throw men off their game (guys naturally want to impress them, so talk big, and let slip shit they shouldn't), why else do they need to be so hot?

Cons: Some of the above, but not all, helps compensate for the Angels' inability to fight well, or ever think to shoot a perp in the leg if said perp lunges for their gun. Like her sister, Kris has a soft spot for dweeby guys. Kelly gets to fly in a Red Baron-type biplane with the astronaut, and be dined over cocktails... until he realizes who she is and tries to drop her out of her seat in a mid-flight loop-de-loop (the old cut seat belt trick). If it all seems like a lot of work and expense when a simple dog walk could have solved the case in five minutes, well, that's show biz. And to reiterate: the idea of killing a wealthy member for having Astronomy 101 facts at her fingertips is also really stupid... even for this show.

32. Angels on the Air

Someone's trying to kill a lady reporter on an all-news radio station. The Angels take over a variety of jobs, including her (since she's leads to a nice variety of suspects, so the Angels go off on their own a lot, and it leads to a pretty solid climax.

Pros: Kelly gets ready to give a nice slapdown to "that wife-beater Quinlan"--who threatened the reporter in the past-- but he's already dead; she should slap down the hulking priest who all but breaks up their sisterly support staring contest instead. There are two unusually interesting dudes as suspects: Dwayne Hansen, a rabbit-huntin' hippie commune leader ("it's cosmic!"); and old Buck (Taylor Latcher), the Vietnam vet chopper pilot who used to do the weather and is jealous they gave the job to Sabrina, and now he just flies the plane while she talks (he drives crazily and tries to make her throw up - a less fatal version of a similar ride taken by Kelly last episode). Whatever happened to shit-heels like ole Buck? There used to be so many. Now the street poles look like Stretch Armstrong crucifixions.

Cons: Kelly's so dumb she keeps saying "do you read me!" into her car phone halfway through a Highway 17 South tunnel. Luckily the cop show funk score bails her out and the car chase even has some off-road K-turns. Kelly does some really lame defensive driving though, she's so passive, it's disconcerting - is she an armed detective or a simpering victim? Why take the place of an endangered reporter if you're not even going defend yourself from attack? Even though she does chase down the perp in the end via a cross-track field race, she lets him get away in the car chase.

Here's a question for any Police Academy quiz: A perp is chasing you in his car. Your car smashes up in the middle of a field. His car is still coming at you. Do you a) lean out the window and shoot at him? b) stay in the car and phone for back-up? c) get out of the car and run, gun still in your purse or wherever, across the open field? Guess what Kelly does? It's as if the writers don't know how to write scenes where women rescue themselves instead of praying for Starsky or Kojack. Sabrina should have taken some massive revenge against the macho shit-heel (with his fake Burt Reynolds laugh). On the other hand, he'll tell you this, lady, "after what I saw in 'Nam, I live and I let live."

Overall, strong stuff, especially with two of the male suspects being such male chauvinist shitheels. As the pilot, Latcher's pretty good, like he's angling for the TV B-version of Burt Reynolds and Paul Newman (about 50/50). And Kris has got a recipe for rabbit stew that would curl Dwayne Hansen's toes ("I'm a blood-boilin' man and yer settin' my karma on fire!") After one of his jealous main babes unmasks her, though, he shouts: "you're a big disappointment, Matilda, or whatever your name is! That hog yer ridin' is rented! RENTED!"

33. Angel Baby

A juvenile delinquent turned soldier--whom Kelly rehabilitated while working a beat as a rookie-- gets in hot water when he goes AWOL to find out what happened to his missing girlfriend. He calls Kelly for help and so she goes undercover as an unwed mother, though that would be an easy thing, presumably, to check out with a simple physical. Kris Munroe gets a few big, great scenes at a home for unwed mothers / illegal adoption service. She shoots her very first suspect! It's one of the show's truest, best moments! As the Ultimate Charlie's Angels Guide notes:
Rookie Kris faces her first “line of fire” situation: a dramatic shootout with a cold-blooded killer. Though Kris wins the showdown, the shock of realizing she had to shoot someone to do her job overwhelms her, to the point where she has to be comforted by Sabrina. It’s a sensitive moment very well done, and made all the more effective by the element of surprise. “Instead of making it a light, Angel moment, they made it a real moment” said Cheryl Ladd. 
I also like the line where she's meant to breed with a stud Nordic swinger (to produce blonde babies, which have a higher resale value), and he asks 'it's not like I should feel cheap. If I just met you, I'd be up here for free, right?" and Kris gives him a very confident look and says, "Don't you believe it." It's beautifully said, a line that could mean many things but with Ladd's unyielding stare it's obvious she's sized this guy up as a good guy easily confused by the need for money and the impetus of 70s 'swinging'. Oh if I'd have only understood what she meant, or seen this episode, before I went on my own unpaid one-night stand rampage back in 90 (and then again in '09). Even Tommy (Edward Winter) gives a nice performance, and Jean Allison is subtly devastating as a previous pregnant victim's grieving mom.

34. Angels in the Wings

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

Pros: two hilarious thugs know the correct tone to play amusing thug duos in shows like this, i.e. "it was a Ribbicinosa" an echo of "We was with you, boss, at Rigoletto's!" from Some Like it Hot mixed with the cool deadpan of Lee Marvin and Clu Gallagher in The Killers. Cheryl Ladd can actually sing (yet I'd wager she had to fight to not be dubbed, like The Monkees before her).

Cons: One of those where the Angels don't do much, as vast stretches of time are eaten up with tacky songs and interminable stretches of what we in the Vaudeville trade (and this is before your time, sweetheart), what we in the Vaudeville trade (and we've been in the trade such a very long time, you and I, haven't we, sweetheart?), what you--or even I, on some rainy night if I couldn't find a hat or rubbers--what we might call "patter," you know what that is, baby? It's slowing down, repeating and stretching out your tiny moment for as much screen time as you can, a way to pad running times and hog spotlights the world over.

Con-Cons: Showing how dumb she can be about the screen trade, especially for someone who supposedly lives and works in LA--Kelly thinks it's genuinely macabre that the cinematographer kept filming the scene after the accident (what do you call a cameraman who would stop filming during and right after an accident? An accomplice); no matter what happens or doesn't happen, the torch ballads they keep singing ("you plus me/ now one's a lonely number / must we be?") are truly terrible --maybe the worst ever written. The Angels all dance around in 20s-30s costumes and the yawns come like rain upon anyone not enamored of slow-tempo show biz 'standards' scraped out of the bottom of old file cabinets by Brill Building hacks. 

35. Magic Fire

A freakin' firebug is traveling the same theatrical circuit as a couple of magicians, one of whom uses fire tricks in his act. What are the odds? Kris is menaced (as above) with a fiery shower to put her off the case. Soo scary! She was almost nowhere near it, but I can imagine the effect would go over big when discussed at fourth grade recess (a lot of us weren't sold on the shower yet as a viable replacement for baths).

Pros: Kris is pretty on the ball eyeballing a thug's driver's license as part of an intentionally lame mind-reading act; Sabrina snoops effectively (but then lets herself get tied up too easy just so she can have a hair-raising Peril of Pauline rescue); Kelly uses her wiles to solicit trade secrets from a terrible magician with an even worse toupee. There's some footage shot at LA's premiere conjuring spot, The Magic Castle.

Cons: The rest of the action occurs on the same lame half-finished wood paneled sets as usual. Sabrina uses a terrible French accent in her fashion designer disguise --a new low; Bosley becomes a magician and he, too, mugs without pity; Kelly pretends to know some mystical pressure chamber secret and people buy into it way too easily. And the concept underlying the big crime trick relies on a lot of wild assumptions, like that you could break in and swap someone's phone out of their office and they wouldn't notice, and then all you'd need is for no one calls their number for weeks or days until you're safely away with an alibi, and that no fireman would come ever to investigate any strange blaze after it happened, because if he did he'd notice within seconds where the fire originated and how it was triggered. The funny thing is, it's not dissimilar to how Iraq insurgents use cell phones to activate bombs today (as in Hurt Locker) only reverse direction. They just didn't deign to think it through, as usual.

36. Sammy Davis Jr. Kidnap Caper

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

Naturally the Angels prove ineffectual against gigantic black men. Why not try some mace or something, ladies? It's either guns --which they don't use-- or dumb luck. What confidence they must instill!

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

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

37. Angels on Horseback

Bosley on horseback is the comedy aspect (he mugs horrendously - a major low in the series) and we learn how far the Angels have fallen when Charlie gives Bosley shit for expensing an $85 rolfing session after getting rider's cramps ("I told you to get a soft horse!" declares Charlie). Not only that but Charlie stops them from being about to go on a beach vacation--they're in their bathing suits and everything--to send them to some middle-of-nowhere dude ranch. How you get to this swanky tourist spot? First you fly in to a dinky airport and then its an all-night drive to the ranch. What the hell? Where is this place, Patagonia?

Pros: Cheryl Ladd is on her A-game, and seems alive to the limitless potential of her face: gazing at Bosley with a beaming motherly glow; gazing at her quarry with the unstoppable momentum of an Atlantic City call girl coming onto a sloshed high roller; and gazing at the bad guys with an inflexible 'hear-no-bullshit' kind of tough love. Perennial sniper James B. Sikking is a mysterious figure around whom much intrigue goeth; Kelly rocks a sexually liberated woman schtick but no one's buying it---not this time--and we learn why when her inner prude comes out, making sure a key mob moll witness knows she's "no lady," Most of all, the Angels get to ride, boldly ride....

Cons: It's disheartening that bad guys get the drop on Sabrina again, and she doesn't exactly seize any of her chances to escape. As my dad never tired of telling me while watching westerns, it's nearly impossible to hit your target from atop a galloping horse, so just ride off in a different direction and be free. Bosley's mugging (it's like he's trying to do bad so they don't use the footage) is terrifyingly broad --cross-eyed, tongue-out, the works.

...  Otherwise, it's a diverting mix of fad (country and western must have been 'in' at the moment) and sleuthing,  where they cut through acres of potential crap dialogue by just leveling with their suspects early on, and where even a remote dude ranch looks identical to everywhere else the Angels visit in their 'travels' -- a divine fusion of LA desert scrub, stables, wood-paneled bungalows, and a parking lot. Who wouldn't fly to a remote airport and then drive all night to be at a place like this?

I would not change it.

38. Game, Set, Death

The game: women's tennis. The death: caused maybe by a Bobby Riggs-type mad at a Billie Jean King type (thanks to the at-the-time notorious battle of the sexes tennis match - this show kept its finger on the pop culture pulse!). In high California style, the crowds at the prestigious 'Hermosa Cup' tournament range anywhere from five to seven extras milling around in collapsable bleachers. For the #1 show in America, Spelling spared no expense... as in none of the expenses associated with a real show -- sparing Spelling's wallet. And the same goes for Bosley, who's too cheap with the Angels' budget to even buy Kelly a decent tennis racket, even going on and on about how everything has to be returned. Oh Bos, that's sooo fun. Still, she and Kris both look damn good in those high-riding lame gym shorts, the type all the girls wore at the time at the gym in the 70s, accentuating their pubic crest and turning boys into men with every jump shot.

Pros: The celestial Tiffany Bolling shows up as a spiritual yogi/feminist on the circuit (she'd have made a dynamite Angel! If only...) who advises Kelly about being 'off-pose' and that the key to promoting your inner self is 'the asanas' (it may be a lesbian come on). She's a suspect until she gets a rattlesnake in her bag, but still blames the Angels for the bad vibes. It's funny that meditation and yoga were still 'fringe' and 'eccentric' back then, especially in LA. But at least it's being mentioned and shown to have effective medical value. It illuminates the way that most new things are first held up to open ridicule, then as signs of flakiness, then healthy holistic alternative, then medical fact, and finally enforced by law. That last part is still decades away, until yoga and meditation are mandatory class subjects in high school, and mushrooms ubiquitous in hospices. I can't wait. Good tense final talk down work from Sabrina. Gotta love there's finally a balding suspects who doesn't wear a toupee (he's got that long fringe), a sign of things to come. The 'female jock' motif is always welcome, showing a real reason for the Angels to exist in the first place and to examine changes in the country and its media as women's lib runs headlong into the craze for cheerleaders and 'Monday Night Football.' There's also some extempore banter re: Bosley's date with an ugly-sexy singles suspect, jettisoned during the initial investigation but not forgotten!

39. Hours of Desperation

Sabrina wears a high explosive belt that a sleazy guy will set off if Kris and Kelly don't recover his stolen loot. Wait, why? Suspenseful in a tradition I don't particularly care for, I still respect it as an interesting 'one-off' in a kind of Suddenly key.

Pros - some nicly twisty synthesizer suspense music in addition to the usual echo-driven flutes and oboe sustains. An interesting climax with Sabrina diving into a cold pond and then--as she has in the past--getting lots of attention from the other Angels as she sit with her feet in a hot tub by the office fireplace. I must wonder if it's her tendency towards this kind of covert lesbian attention-mongering that made me so enamored of sick days?

Cons- The home invasion thing is pretty cliche and the opposite of what I come to the show for, i.e. to calm down and rest my jets with groovy clothes, childhood '70s babysitter fixation' crushes, and a complete absence of real tension or sexual abuse; the idea that a hospital would just admit a guy who was shot in the back and not alert the police, then allow him to escape without even seeing his I.D. is offensive.

40 - Diamond in the Rough

Dan O'Herlihy (the druid mask designer in Halloween III) is Freddy the Fox, a dapper jewel thief trying to go straight ala Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief but, instead of Monte Carlo, the Angels go to 'the Caribbean' to steal a big gem from a rich Arab. I hear "'the Caribbean' is great this time of year." The blackjack dealer and hot water cop from "The Big Tap-Out" are after Freddy (they think he has the gem--he doesn't).

Pros: Sid Haig! There's actually a black character, a maid; Bosley (posing as a butler) dines with her to share recipes and slyly solicit gossip.

Cons: Sabrina wears a terrible satin bow-tie blouse and her horribly fake posh accent comes and goes and is way too broad even at its most subtle. Bosley too seems like he's just hamming it up hoping to wear us down so we change the channel and he can trundle off to bed; his posh accent is amongst the worst in small screen herstory. They all seem like bad actors playing characters who think they're able to assume all sorts of disguises but can't even play themselves with anything but cocktail conviction. O'Herlihy is up for the challenge but his Freddy the Fox makes lame jokes like "they didn't call me Freddy the Fox because of my fox-trot." Kill me, please.

The angels make some dumb, dumb, dumb blunders like giving up their real identity because Kris likes some boy (in a plot twist as regular on ABC as could be, having been used on the Bionic Woman over and over), and wearing all black when stealing a jewel in broad daylight! You might as well wear striped pajamas and a black eye mask. Once again there's the idea that not only does real life experience suffer in the writer's pool, but so does art direction. It was a hit show but none of the money is onscreen, except in the Ferrari dept, which I suspect is the kind of thing Spelling and Goldberg were buying for themselves with advertising revenue, and then ordering the writers to factor them into the show so they could get a tax deduction. The rest of the time, as in the supposedly rich Arab's pad, everything is just the same backyard LA smog, so perfect for consistent shooting of sickly grey-ish white light.

These rich Arabs don't even have a fucking pool. "He's not exactly handsome," notes Kris of their Arab suspect "you can even say he's ugly." She doesn't mention she knows about race cars cuzza her sister Jill which would be good writing (did the writers even see earlier seasons?).

41-Angels in the Backfield

This is the one with the female football teams. The 'Ducks' hire the Angels and totally suck, so why is the better team cheating eight ways to Sunday anyway? Is there gambling going on? Heaven forfend.

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

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

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

42 - Sandcastle Murders

A beachside strangler stalks women around the beach where Kris lives (Jill's old apartment). Our old friend Steve "Col. Kane smashed my hand at the bar in Ninth Configuration" Sandor is a muscled guy with binoculars who peeps at hotties on the beach. "I thought you were gonna come by and sell me those cosmetics," says Kris to Betsy (Melody Thomas Scott), a shaky ex-junkie Kris helped go straight when she used to be on the force. A cross-eyed towhead lifeguard sends Kris and Kelly up the beach to a swanky high rise. The victims, all pretty blondes, show up on the beach in the morning buried, as you may guess, under castles made of sand. Dave, the beat cop (Alan Feinstein) is back from playing a corrupt D.A. last season. His boss, the condescending sheriff, hates Charlie Townsend for his success (they used to work a beat together) but there's a catch with him seducing Kris; he can't stop lamenting how little cash he earns being a beach security officer. He has to live above a merry-go-round, for god's sake! The indignity! The cosmetic's line the woman suspect runs is a success, but the inventor's boyfriend, Larry Fallon (Jason Ever) is a sleazy suspect. Call it "angel instinct," Charlie, but he's not the guy. Oh No? Angels, The clock is ticking.

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

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

43. Angel Blues 

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

The best aspect is the short time period: the whole thing goes down in one long afternoon of tailing, being tailed, getting shot at and pulling weird scams to get the truth out of sleazy cokeheads and Syndicate-connected music publishing rights stealers. Amy's song is called "Tripping to the Morning" and it's funny the Angels pretend to love it while condemning the drugs no doubt used to deliver it, but dig the hand-painted record cover her manager has. It looks like it's still wet! The script by Edward Lakso shows he could still deliver if he was in the mood. "What a waste," notes Kelly of Amy's death. They only have on real song of hers to listen to, but whatever: "she really only used cocaine, Charlie, not heroin." So 70s to think that's somehow better.

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

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

44. Mother Goose is Running for His Life

The inside job 'crazy toy company sabotage' plot is an old hat trick of the British series The Avengers, and Spelling's old show Honey West but whatever, if it ain't broke, re-gift it to some new needy youngster. Shh - toyz-iss like ze peeple!!!1

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

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

45- Little Angels of the Night

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

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

And then they talk one of the girls, Bonnie, into staying in the building, as if she'd be safer under their protection. Why? Because no killer can survive all your cowering, Kelly? More idiocy: The flimsiest of excuses brings Kris--looking mad gorgeous in an orange bikini--out to a yacht bobbing around in the dock, alone... the best Sabrina can do is put two and two together. They don't even believe obvious clues because they just don't want to believe them. In short, unless you're a stone cold idiot you're way too stupid to have a clue why there seems to be only one restaurant in all of Los Angeles, so even an ex-lover of the owner has no choice but to bring her dates there. Or why these dopey girls keep ordering pizza from these schmucky little rapist delivery guy and then being surprised when he keeps bringing the rapey vibe. Or why the Angels keep letting him get away without lifting a finger to stop him. It's kind of embarrassing how helpless they've gotten, how paltry the budget - there's like three different sets in the whole thing not counting the pool.

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

46. The Jade Trap

Dirk Benedict (Starbuck from Battlestar Galactica) returns (he was a corrupt vice cop shaking down massage parlors in season one)! This time he's a gigolo romancing a rich middle-aged widow. When she tries to dump him, he shoots her (she promised him a boat!). A dapper jewel thief in the next room overhears the shot. Dirk frames him for the murder. His mom needs the Angels to clear him as he's no killer, just a harmless jewel thief who only targets rich, insured old ladies his mom scopes out in advance. It all goes down at the Seabreeze, a rich coast-side hotel, which--if you can't guess--looks a lot like all the other dumpy sets in the series, though this go round there are more flowers, wicker chairs, nautical accents.  and an older class of traipsing extras.

Pros:  Speaking of accents: Kris's Swedish one is pretty sterling at least on the first night at the Breeze; and the idea of a debauched mom pimping her eye candy son ("would you consider me too Freudian, dragging my son away?") really helps convey the Tennessee Williams rent boy decadence of it all.

Cons: Speaking of accents, Kelly's using a terrible southern one; Kris's Swedish the second night is even worse. Kris, what happened in between?

47. Angels on the Run
Ed Lasko and his wife wrote this, and by now you know I think of Lasko as uneven, overextended, but not always a hack. When his name's attached to something that's actually good, though, you have to wonder if he's just recycling some old Mod Squad script of his, you know, from when he gave a damn?  This time he's basing things off his wife's story about a diner waitress who sees shady guy throw a package into the back of a truck. The truck's driver is the husband of country singer, Laura Cantrell. They abduct him because I guess their package went missing. Lots of McGuffin nonsense--suspenseful enough but not memorable--as everyone scrambles after that box.

Cons; It can't be a good sign when the "Lasko Trio" is playing at the cocktail lounge. A lot of logic gets lost. Why would the cops let a guy step out of his car with a package under his arm if they're stopping everyone's car while looking for a package? Don't think twice, it's all right. I mean it's nowhere near as bad as this next one... the last in the season. God almighty... 

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

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

ONWARDS to SEASON 3 (1978-9)
BACKWARDS to SEASON 1 (1976-7)

PS - Rereading this years later I realized this descripton could match California itself (The CA initial threw me).

1 comment:

  1. The theme music was like a drug, decades later I still hear it.