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. I was into comic books and war by then.

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 my attention was rewarded. It still holds up with an easy breezy feeling so 70s I can taste my parent's Tom Collins every time.

(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 some sunny clime like Hawaii (a great excuse for swimwear). Most of the time they don't end up using any 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 this time, having perhaps the summer to make the season open right, they really delivered on the atmosphere --lots of white beaches and natives. You got Don Ho--then a variety show staple, the very image of Hawaii. You get a big full-on luau, a sassy massage parlor receptionist, a yacht kidnapping, and lots of beach and wave running.

More importantly we get our first introduction to Jill's (Farrah Fawcett-Majors') replacement, Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe, Jill's sister. Looking adorably like she's going to her first day at my elementary school in a 'windbreaker' (then a new term) similar to mine (left, I had the same one!); she was sweet and accessible, completely 'getting' the weird mix of approachable innocence and hormone-triggering sexuality needed to keep multiple generations happy.

The big climax is a big yacht raid finale in which, among other things,Kris storms the engine room in a hot brown two piece bathing suit (couldn't find a pic to do it justice, you'll just have to see it). We were agog and thoroughly convinced, her diminutive size be damned. If you see only one episode/s of Charlie's Angels, make it this two-parter. Spray some coco de oro under your nose, and angle the couch by the window so you catch some late afternoon rays. You will be transported.

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 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. I mean, how rude!

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

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

But hey, know this: Arabs love ice shows and don't forget it. That's what's important. Maybe it's because they're from the desert and have never seen so much ice before. The rest of the "crowd" for this big Bicentennial celebration fits comfortably into a few bleachers, so that, at least, is accurate. Meanwhile some vaguely familiar old character actor drinks in the bushes and eats up the screen time until you wonder if he's the director's father-in-law.

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!), and then performs a really awesome acrobatic escape, reminding us that a lot of the show's sex appeal really comes from Jaclyn Smith. This is her two-parter as Hawaii was Kris's. Farrah's Jill was perky, athletic and quick-thinking, Sabrina was brainy, crafty and a decent shot, but it's Kelly, time and again, who rocks the show's demure sexual backbone. She can't bellydance but oh! Oh, that midriff.

27 -Pretty Angels all in a Row

Some good old boys from Texas are scaring away the competition at the "Miss Hyacinth Pageant" (Marki Bey gets a tarantula in her bed) so that a rich oilman's little baton-twirlin' darlin' can win. Now no one wants to compete, and the host's worried someone is out to attack his "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, so Kelly and Jill get the honors. As you remember from the past two two-parters, there's going to need to be serious Texas-style skullduggery for one of them not to win.

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." Good for you, girl. This 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. It don't bother me. I always like it when the stakes are low since I watch these to calm down, to sink into the womb of the 70s, and not worry about unpleasant sexual assaults or ugliness or high stakes vivid intensity, and this here's a pretty good example of low-risk time management as far as that goes. The bad guys aren't so bad that they'd actually harm a woman, so they just lock the rival Hyacinth girls (and honest judges, if any) in an auto garage 'til its all over. But of course the Angels know how to escape. As do I, it seems.

28- Angel Flight

Angela--Sabrina's college roommate--works as an instructor at a stewardess school where she's being terrorized by some black roses and mysterious phone calls. She's such a major cowerer you may root for whomever's forcing her to commit sabotage. A combative Asian-American stewardess named Mai Ling (!) and a perverted building super are prime suspects. The real enemy is Angela, though, who ends up trying to freeze out the Angels when the killer starts making threats, and assures everyone it will all be over soon, though the mysterious tape orders her to kill the pilot. You really just want Sabrina to slap the shit out of her, and her snide sexist boyfriend while she's at it.

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 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. The half-assed attempt to conjure a circus wouldn't be bad in itself, but the one element they do keep? Clowns. There's also 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, as Charlie's learning engineering from a female engine driver. You can call it sexism, but it's interesting that Charlie keeps hiring women to do all these professional jobs and services.

Cons: Sabrina says she's wanted to be a clown since she was a little girl! Skeevy! Why didn't she say anything about it when poor Kris had to put on that dumb nose for the ice show? Thanks to a variety show then very big called Shields and Yarnell, mime was having a slight resurgence in the US. It didn't last. Naturally Sabrina learns the ropes from a "master" mime with enough grandiose sentimentality as a dozen Chaplins.
Pros.  Kelly poses as an uppity motorcycle daredevil in a sexy olive green jumpsuit. Kris has knives thrown at her by a mad gypsySabrina does end up looking kind of CBGBs cool in her mimery, which is a shock to her, I'm sure, as well as everyone else.

30. Angel in Love

Sabrina! How could you fall in love with a D.B. Cooper clone? Well, it gives 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... could the loot be there? Kris goes undercover teaching tai chi to find out; Kelly drives the shuttle bus, and Sabrina plays an investigating journalist. 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, 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.

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 play some genuine antithetical interiority. It's always fun seeing the Angels also get into some then relatively unknown California trends like meditation and yoga and the 70s encounter group stuff isn't presented in too much of a satiric context ("It's all right to touch, after all, isn't it?" notes the teacher rather sweetly. It might be the mantra of the entire decade).

Cons: Bosely 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 play fight their dad. Kris jumps on his back and Kelly swings like a chump. All that police academy training out the window. Two minutes later Kris is teaching tai chi! So, Kris, you know tai chi, you've had extensive self defense training and you couldn't have at least stomped on his foot or kicked out his kneecap or something?

31. Unidentified Flying Angels

This is the one where Jaclyn Smith falls for an astronaut, but his last last marriage lasted only three years. Did it end in arrest? Only Venus can say. This one has Ross "The Fake Oscar Levant" Martin (Wild Wild West) as Dr. Perine, a bunco UFO cult leader who's supposed to have spirited a rich old lady away to Venus. 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, which come from Venus, seem like projected outtakes from Forbidden Planet. TV guest shot mainstay Dennis Cole is a corrupted astronaut with a checkered past. Dr. Perine uses him as a paid spokesperson and sometimes henchman.

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

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

32. Angels on the Air

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

Pros: Kelly gets ready to give a nice slap down to "that wife-beater Quinlan" but he's already dead; She should slap down the hulking priest who all but breaks up their sisterly support staring contest. Posing as the harassed reporter, in a later scene she even reports from Compton! There are two unusually interesting dudes as suspects: Dwayne Hansen (one of my favorite contemporary sculptors), a rabbit-huntin' hippie commune leader ("it's cosmic!"); and Buck (Taylor Latcher), a Vietnam vet chopper pilot who used to do the weather (he takes Sabrina up in the chopper and tries to make her throw up). Whatever happened to shit-heels like ole Buck? The streetpoles 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 bails them out on the score and the car chase even has some off-road K-turns. Kelly does some really lame defensive driving during a car chase --wasn't she armed? She's so passive it's disconcerting, even though she does chase down the perp in the end via a cross-track field race. Why take the place of an endangered reporter if you're not even going defend yourself from attack? Here's a question for any Police Academy quiz: A perp is chasing you in his car. Your car smashes up in the middle of a field. Do you a) shoot at him? b) stay in the car and phone for back-up? c) get out of the car and run, gun still in your purse or wherever, across the open field, you know, so he can run you over more effectively? Sabrina should have taken some massive revenge against macho shit-heel (with his fake Burt Reynolds laugh), Buck. On the other hand, he'll tell you this lady, "after what I saw in 'nam, I live and I let live." He's pretty good, like he ordered half Burt and half Paul Newman at the Driver's Ed of 70s B-list hunk reincarnation. Man, I ordered that, too. And Kris has got a recipe for rabbit stew that would curl Dwayne Hansen's toes. He says "I'm a blood-boilin' man and yer settin' my karma on fire!" As Dwayne says, "you're a big disappointment, Matilda, or whatever your name is, that hog your ridin' in 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 girl. He calls her for help and so Kelly goes undercover as an unwed mother, though that would be an easy thing, presumably, to check out with a simple physical. Kris Munroe gets a few big, great scenes at a home for unwed mothers / illegal adoption service. She shoots her 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 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 confidentr 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 turned against his own best interest. Oh if I'd have only understood what she meant, or seen this episode, before I went on my own unpaid blonde one-night stand rampage. Even Tommy (Edward Winter) gives a nice performance, and Jean Allison is subtly devastating as a previous pregnant victim's grieving mom

34. Angels in the Wings

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, Lylah Clare?  Something about this one song or staircase seems to trigger a half-baked Phantom of the Opera composite and man does he take his time 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 ("it was a Ribbicinosa") who know the correct tone to play amusing thug duos in shows like this, i.e. like "We was with you, boss, at Rigoletto's!" from Some Like it Hot or Lee Marvin and Clu Gallagher in The Killers.

Cons: One of those where the Angels don't have to do much, as vast stretches of time are eaten up with tacky songs and belabored minutes of what we in the Vaudeville trade might call "bits of business." Cheryl Ladd can actually sing --I'd wager she had to fight to not be dubbed, like goddamned Mike Nesmith's guitar; Kelly thinks it's macabre that the cinematographer kept filming after the accident (what do you call a cameraman who would stop filming during an accident? Unemployed and deserving of his ceaseless derision. The torchy ballads they keep singing ("you plus me/ now one's a lonely number / must we be?") are terrible. They sing, dance around in 20s-30s costumes, and let the yawns come like rain upon anyone not enamored of slow-tempo Julie Andrews-ish show biz 'standards' written by coasting Brill building hacks. 

35. Magic Fire

A freakin' firebug is operating the same circuit as a couple of magicians, one of whom uses fire tricks in his act. What are the odds? Kris is menaced (as above) with a fiery shower. Soo scary --she was almost nowhere near it. There's some footage shot at LA's premiere conjuring spot, The Magic Castle; the rest of the action occurs on the same lame half-finished sets as usual.

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

Cons: Sabrina assumes a terrible French accent in her fashion designer disguise --a new low; Bosley becomes a magician and mugs without pity; Kelly pretends to know some mystical pressure chamber secret and people buy into it way too easy. And the concept underlying it all relies on a lot of wild assumptions, like that you could break in and swap someone's phone out of their office, and then hope no one calls it for weeks or days until you're safely away with an alibi or that no fireman would come ever to investigate any strange blaze, because if he did he'd notice within seconds where the fire originated and how it was triggered. It seems like someone had the idea it would be freaky to show fire coming out of a shower instead of water, and the whole script was retrofitted to contextualize it, with everyone doing the retrofitting thinking it's a dumb idea so passive-aggressively sabotaging it.
I read into things too much.

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.

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

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

37. Angels on Horseback

Bosley on horseback is the comedy aspect (he mugs horrendously - a major low in the series) and we learn how far the Angels have fallen and/or the economy 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 genuinely caring, her face both gorgeous and compassionate, gazing at Bosley with affection; 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 a compassionate but inflexible 'hear-no-bullshit' tough love. James B. Sikking is a mysterious figure at the ranch around whom much intrigue goeth. Kelly rocks a divorcee sexually liberated schtick but no one's buying it, 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 all get to ride, boldly ride....

Cons: It's disheartening that bad guys get the drop on Sabrina, and she doesn't exactly seize her chances to escape. As my dad never tired of telling me while watching westerns, it's nearly impossible to hit your target from atop a galloping horse. Bosley's mugging on the horse (it's like he's trying to do bad so they don't use the footag) is terrifyingly broad. Otherwise, it's a diverting mix of fad (country) and sleuthing where they cut through acres of crap by just leveling with their suspects and even a remote dude ranch looks identical to everywhere else the Angels visit in the 'travels,' a divine fusion of LA desert scrub, stables, wood-paneled bungalows, and a parking lot. I would not change it.

38. Game, Set, Death

The game is women's tennis, the death caused maybe by a Bobby Riggs-type mad at all the Billie Jean King type (thanks to the at-the-time notorious battle of the sexes tennis match which Bobby lost). In high California style the crowds at the prestigious 'Hermosa Cup' tournament range anywhere from five to seven extras in the usual high school-style bleachers. For the #1 show in America, Spelling spared no expense... as in none of the expenses associated with a real show incurred, 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. She and Kris both look damn good in those high-riding lame gym shorts all the girls wore at the time, accentuating their pubic crest.

Pros: The celestial Tiffany Bolling shows up as a spiritual yogi/feminist on the circuit (she'd have made a dynamite Angel) who advises Kelly about being 'off-pose' and that the key to promoting your inner self is 'the asanas' (it may be a lesbian come on). She's a suspect until she gets a rattlesnake in her bag, but still blames the Angels for the bad vibes. 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 crazy for 'Monday Night Football.' There's also some extempore banter re: Bosley's date with an ugly-sexy singles suspect, jettisoned during 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' into a kind of Suddenly zone.

Pros - some good 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 it --he doesn't).

Pros: Sid Haig! There's actually a black character, a maid with whom 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--his posh accent is amongst the worse 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 drunken stranger 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! To save on money for flood lights probably. You might as well wear striped pajamas and a black eye mask. Once again there's the idea that, not only 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 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-sunk, 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 the one with the female football teams. The team that hires the Angels totally sucks, so why is the better team cheating eight ways to Sunday anyway? Is there gambling going on? Heaven forfend.

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

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

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

42 - Sandcastle Murders

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

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

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

43. Angel Blues 

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

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

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

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

44. Mother Goose is Running for His Life

The 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 it's cool, man. The presence of a crazy toy designer who wants to make tiny guillotines and a game where kids run over pedestrians for points ("They actually get rid of their little aggressions this way." - hilarity). Many decades (for Grand Theft Auto), when funny mobster and his Brit wiretapper otherwise steal the show prettily handily and have a scene that looks like it was filmed in a real English pub as opposed to the usual wood panelling and tawdry chairs. "Don't bandy names around, Luv." Sabrina has a cute sweater poncho and a sexy slit-skirt silver silk dress. She's supposed to be a Hong Kong heiress. Kris gets to play mannequin as a Pippi Longstocking frozen in place at night to watch the goings-on.

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

45- Little Angels of the Night

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

Cons: So what gives? Ed Lakso coasting again? The pizza restaurant guy has a terrible toupee, and the whole goombah thing leaves a bad taste --pizza photographs terribly under 70s analog TV lighting. The Angels are in the building as security, but with Lakso on the job, no woman is safe. Kelly's armed but holds her gun like it's a 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 lines like that.

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

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 in season one) as a gigolo who romances a rich middle-aged widow, and when she tries to dump him (he promised her a boat!), he shoots her. A jewel thief in the next room overhears the shot and the killer frames him for the murder. Look he may steal, but from dames with insurance, and he's no killer! 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 Italian restaurant-meets-porn shag basement sets in the series, through with an older set of character actors and extras traipse.

Pros: Accents have been weak all season, but Kris's Swedish accent is pretty sterling, the first night. The idea of a debauched mom pimping her eye candy son ("would you consider me too Freudian, dragging my son away."

Cons: Speaking of bad accents, Kelly's got a southern one which is terrible enough, but Kris's Swedish one night #2 is even worse.

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

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

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

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

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.