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 - all through the initial run of season 1 especially - less so by season 2, when the Topps trading cards became a big thing)


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 using much of the footage they shot there, a few promo-style hotel exteriors aside, and--once again--the same dingy wood paneled sets 'filled' with the same mingling wide-collared scattering of extras pass for 'mise-en-scene.' This time, having perhaps the whole summer to make the season open right, and wanting to make us forget about the missing Fawcett as fast as possible, they really delivered. "Angels in Paradise" finally gives us what the pilot, with its high-end clients and ritzy expense accounts, had seemed to promise: expensive location shoots, white beaches, surfing, Don Ho, a full-on luau, big cast, yacht hijacking, a sassy massage parlor receptionist, and lots of beach running.

We also get our first introduction to Farrah's replacement, Cheryl Ladd as Kris Munroe (Jill's sister) and it's collective love at first sight, not just for the Angels... but for... a hopeful Nation. Looking adorably like she's going to her first day at my elementary school in the same 'windbreaker' (then a new term) we kids were all wearing at the time, she was sweet and accessible while also being drop dead sexy, confident and capable. 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, during the big mobster yacht hijacking climax, we see her in a brown bathing suit, all wet from sneaking aboard, conking the helmsmen, and steering back out of international waters, we're so thoroughly agog we've forgotten all about Farrah. So hey my indoor kid bro, want a tip?! Rub a dab of some cocoanut suntan oil under your nose, angle the couch by the window so you catch some late afternoon rays on your face, lean back and let "Angels in Paradise" lift you unto to them.

Pros: A complex plot that finds Charlie kidnapped and then kidnapped from the kidnappers! First he's snatched mid-morning phone 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 Charlie is stolen from her by a disgraced Italian mobster trying to take over the Honolulu rackets from his yacht out on international waters. So now, even though the Angels break out the easygoing surfer husband, they hold him as a hostage, and so forth. Kelly and Kris are quite in alluring bikinis and Sabrina looks tan and relaxed. They all do. Even Charlie, sipping cocktails with his kidnappers, just as the queen bee's husband knocks back beers with his (Bosley!)

Cons: Sabrina refuses one of Don Ho's specially made frozen Pina Coladas, even though they're virgin. After she watched him make it for he! Sabrina, that was very 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, even though the show comes complete with fireworks, Uncle Sam, and a 21 gun salute The answer stares her in the face for far too many minutes for us to remain impressed. Now that Spelling knows Kris is going to be a hit, why bother making her look good? That's so him.

But hey, did you know Arabs love ice shows?Maybe it's because they're from the desert and so ice never loses its novelty. But, 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, or the director didn't have the courage to make a 'let's wrap it up' gesture.

Pros: There's a great stretch where we follow Kelly, by herself, pursuing a lead. First, she hitches a ride on the back of Carlos Santana's chopper (what's he doing there? Just being Carolos, man!) to pursue a suspect, 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 then performs an awesome acrobatic escape from the women's room, 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 could make even a ten year-old kid's mind explode. "Angels on Ice" is is her two-parter --showing off her action skills, quick wit and lovely form-- just as "Angels in Paradise" was Ladd'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
B

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). Soon 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 go undercover as Hyacinth contestants, but it's already in Ms. Jackson's contract to be excused from bathing suit duty, so Kelly and Jill will share the dubious honor, and 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.

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 ambience so beloved of this show's fans and Spelling's wallet. On the podium for the 'personality' portion, Kelly says she wants to go into brain surgery, but "keep up my dancing, no matter what." Oh please do, honey.

Pros: 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 easy lovin' mellow good natured feel-good nostalgia (for I was but a child then) and not have worry about having my mellow harshed by vicious sexual assaults, pervy ugliness, misogyny, high-stakes vivid intensity and downer vibes. This episode, the first stand-alone of the season, is a pretty good example of low-risk narrative immersion as far as that goes. The two main bad guys--the big Texas goons--aren't so bad that they'd actually harm a woman; they just lock the frontrunner Hyacinth Girls (and un-bribable judges) 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
C

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. Agh! Roses! She's such a major cowerer you may root for whomever's forcing her to commit sabotage. Stop your cringing, Angela, you want to shout, and slap her silly. A black rose is a rose! But Angela prefers to be a cowering mess about it, even after seeking the Angels' support. The prime suspect: a combative Asian-American stewardess student named Mai Ling (!) and a perverted building super. Naturally it's not them. The real enemy is Angela herself. She ends up trying to freeze the Angels out when the killer starts making threats, and her nervous assures that it will all be over soon, are pathetic -- even though the mysterious tape orders her to kill the pilot, it seems like she's less afraid to commit cold-blooded murder than she is to hang up a phone.  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. Agh! I want to slap this episode!

Pros: Sabrina finally gets some time to chill 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 in scenes like these that Jackson takes off, demonstrating her underused 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
D

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 that look about an hour old. Such a half-assed attempt to conjure a circus wouldn't be bad in itself (we're spared the sight of animals in cages) but for the one element they do keep: mimes. I'm not pathologically afraid of clowns or enraged by mimes like some people, but I am also no fan of either, nor any of the twee quirkiness they're guileless smiles hath spawned. I avoid Chaplin movies and that French farce Children of Paradise, though I'm not adverse to silents or French romances.

And Why? Simply this, monsieur: They bore me, inconsolably.

Worst pun ever: In a weirdly half-assed attempt to counter TV critics' sexism charges, the Angels accuse Charlie of having a one-track mind via a bad train reference (he's learning engineering from a female engine driver - yeah, that'll come in handy). Far more interesting is the idea that, though Charlie keeps hiring women to do all these professional jobs and services and he doesn't mind learning from them, he's decried as sexist for doing so.

part of the mime explosion of '76

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 clown nose for the ice show a few weeks ago? Thanks to a variety show that was 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 Chaplin.

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 (like Lou Reed on the cover of his 1976 album Coney Island Baby), which is a shock to her, I'm sure, as well as everyone else.

30. Angel in Love
B-

Sabrina, how could you fall in love with a shaggy D.B. Cooper clone? Ah well, Jackson takes it as a  chance to do some real acting for a change as her character struggles to not let her newfound gooey feelings cloud her keen investigatory judgement as the Angels are investigate why so many people are dying (literally) while trying to rummage around a certain cabin at "Utopia West" - a very California encounter group-style sanctuary. Turns out it's just the kind of place where a guy like Sabrina's new lover, Doug, might stash some stolen millions. That's why they're there, Sabrina, to find the killer and recover the cash, not to get emotionally involved with a suspect!

Kris goes the undercover route, teaching tai chi; Kelly drives the shuttle bus; Sabrina does her investigating journalist routine (an excuse to ask prying questions). Touching Doug's hand in a meditation exercise leads her to unexpected and unprofessional feelings!

Lucky for we smitten ten year-olds, all Angel romances end in death or arrest by the end of the episode (or the next one if it's a two-parter). 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 - and we're never jealous of him because we can't see his face, therefore he becomes, not the viewer, but not-not the viewer either (it's tricky but it works). The Angles are the nuns of His holy order, inured and open to all suffering but delivered of it also. For us prepubescent boys, terrified of sex's mystery yet drawn to it like an irresistible magnet, their chastity comes as a sweet stay of execution, like a big window right in the middle of our father's head.

Pros: It's fitting and right that Sabrina would be the one to fall 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 the actress clearly relishes the chance to work on her 'antithetical interiority.'); It's always fun seeing the Angels 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 encounter group teacher rather sweetly at the end of an exercise. 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 to pig out with in his bunk after lights out; The Angels find 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 ineffectual little girl punches. All that police academy training out the window! Two minutes later Kris is teaching tai chi! So, Kris, let me get this straight; you know tai chi--you've had extensive self defense and police training--and you couldn't have used his own force against him in an off-the-hip flip? Or at the very least stomped on his foot or kicked out his kneecap? Or was the bean counter worried that might mean hiring a stunt woman?

31. Unidentified Flying Angels
B-

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 outside the window on 'special evenings') are clearly effects process shots from Forbidden Planet. I bet you someone found the old reels in a box somewhere 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 the nerves of a jittery ectomorph cult member. The tense, interesting, weird finale wraps the culprits up in many overlapping ways. The mundanity of actual detective work gets a nod with the crew flipping a coin to see who tails who. Bosley works 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? When the writers remember to use what makes them different from other detective agencies, suddenly, the show makes sense.

Cons: Some of the above, but not all, helps compensate for the Angels' inability to fight well, or ever think to just 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
B

Someone's trying to kill a lady reporter on an all-news radio station. The Angels take over a variety of undercover jobs, including the reporter's (since the suspects only know her by voice). This leads to a nice variety of suspects, lots of deranged listeners out there! So the Angels go off on their own a lot, exploring various avenues of Southern California fringe living, 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 patriarchal bully of a Catholic priest who interrupts their sisterly support staring contest instead. There are two unusually interesting 70s-style macho dudes as suspects: Dwayne Hansen-- rabbit-huntin' hippie commune leader ("it's cosmic!"); and old Buck (Taylor Latcher), the Vietnam vet news chopper pilot who used to do the weather by himself and is now jealous they gave that plum to Sabrina (shades of Burgundy!). 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. Not, admittedly, without good reason.

Cons: Sabrina should have taken some massive revenge against the macho shit-heel (with his fake Burt Reynolds laugh) but doesn't. On the other hand, he'll tell you this, lady, "after what I saw in 'Nam, I live and I let live."

Police Quiz: Here's a question for Kelly: a perp is chasing you in his car. After lots of cop show funk and K-turns, 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) leave the gun in the car and get out and go run across the open field so he can barrel right towards you?

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 a Kojack machina. Did the writer forget she was the detective, not the client? 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 could have nabbed him right here and be done with it.

Overall, though, 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

A juvenile delinquent turned soldier--whom Kelly rehabilitated while working her old rookie beat-- gets in hot water when he goes AWOL to find out what happened to his missing girlfriend. He calls Kelly for help, and the trail leads to a mysterious rest home / clinic for unwed mothers (secretly a black market / high-end adoption agency). Sabrina goes undercover as a bitchy rich woman shopping for the right expecting mother; Kris Munroe gets a few big, great scenes as one of the undercover mothers. She shoots her very first suspect! It's one of the show's truest, best moments! I likw how the Ultimate Charlie's Angels Guide puts it:
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 says, once they're alone in their hotel room and the champagne is getting cold, '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 1990 (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
D

A 'jinxed' movie musical in rehearsal hires the Angels before anything 'worse' happens. There's a fake Julie Andrews reviving a never-finished film version of a musical she wrote years back with her ex-husband, a chronic gambler songwriter/producer who calls the idea of a musical about a formerly married couple who are still fighting, starring a formerly married couple who are still fighting, "juvenile." Don't you mean "meta," chummmmmp? It's always about 'puttin' on a show' in a life imitates art kinda way, isn't it, Lylah? Not that the rehersal is going well to begin with, but there's something strange about this one song, sung on this one staircase, that seems to trigger a half-baked Phantom of the Opera composite in the wings to strike... and again. But oh, man, does he take his time. Suspects include: the bickering couple's long-suffering son (he worries they'll kill each other if they get back together); and a loan shark out to get paid or break legs. 

Pros: The two hilarious hired legbreakers hanging around the set play things somewhere between Spats Colombo's thugs from Some Like it Hot and Lee Marvin and Clu Gallagher in The Killers. And Cheryl Ladd can actually sing.

Cons: This is one of those where the Angels don't do much. 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?), call... well, what you--or even I.... baby.... on some rainy night... if I couldn't find a hat or rubbers--could I, I mean would you, I mean, sweetheart? Yes, this is what we might call "patter" in the show business, baby. You know what patter is, don't you, baby? It's slowing your lines down, adding pauses, repeating lines in different ways, and stretching words out for as much screen time as you can grab. It's a lazy way to pad running times and turn a one-line walk-on into a bid for Oscar glory. Usually it means either the script ran way too short or the director didn't have the heart to yell cut.

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 the camera rolling during, and after, the fatal 'accident' (a real detective would think it suspect if they didn't). No matter what happens or doesn't happen, the torch ballads keep coming, with lyrics like "you plus me/ now one's a lonely number / must we be?" The Angels all dance around in spangly 20s-30s costumes and the irritable yawns come like rain upon anyone not enamored of slow-tempo show biz 'standards' scraped out of the bottom of cobwebbed filing cabinets by old timer Brill Building hacks.

35. Magic Fire
C-

A dangerous serial arsonist is striking along 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. Soo scary! She was almost nowhere near it, but I can imagine the idea would go over big when discussed at fourth grade recess (a lot of us weren't sold on the idea of the shower vs. the bath (the knobs being too high) but would have been all over the idea of Ladd, in terrible danger and a towel, looking for a brave boy to turn off a faucet).

Pros: Kris is pretty on the ball this time around, using her intentionally lame mind-reading act as an excuse for reading some shady audience member's driver's license; 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 it always does. Sabrina uses a terrible French accent in her fashion designer disguise --a new low. Bosley poses as a magician and he, too, clowns without pity. Kelly pretends to know some mystical Paradol chamber secret and people buy into it waayy too easily. The concept underlying the big crime trick (how the arsonist can start fires when not even in the same town) 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 no one would call them on it for weeks or days until you're safely away with an alibi, and that no fire investigato would come ever to investigate any strange freak blaze after it happened ever 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. So the writers had a prescient idea, they just didn't deign to think it through, as usual.

36. Sammy Davis Jr. Kidnap Caper
C+

A kidnapper pretends to be drunk so he can spill water on Sammy. Sammy splits to the men's room to dab himself down. It's a trap! Masked thugs attack Sammy! A real drunk 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! And she proves pretty conclusively she's also incompetent. Not to mention all three of them together are pretty ineffectual against a van full of gigantic black men. Why not try some mace or something, ladies? Just this once? It's either guns --which they don't use-- or dumb luck, when it comes to protecting clients. What confidence they must instill!

Pros: "98 pounds of police-trained dynamite," notes Sammy of Kelly, though she doesn't exactly earn that description. Whatever training she had, she must have passed just because she's so hot her instructor just mindlessly gave her an A. There's no real need for anything on the kidnappers' part, they're just there cuz a bad guy is needed, but one must applaud their idea of repeating their attempt. "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 there are security people, waste 'em." Tough talk makes it extra worrisome the Angels are so unarmed and incompetent. Meanwhile there's a cat named Brubaker, a professional Sammy lookalike (played by Mr. Davis Jr.) way more interesting than the original. Brubaker 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 acting style that seems to play up his natural confusion when not onstage before a devoted crowd. There's about a minute of dead air in the amount of empty beats between his sentences. His 'cocoa-brown beauty' of a wife (real life wife Altovese) seems to appear largely to stress her non-whiteness (and reminds us that Davis was briefly kidnapped by Sammy Cohn to scare him off his dating Kim Novak- an allusion that hangs like a fetid cloth over the proceedings). 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? Don't say it's never been done neither!

37. Angels on Horseback
B

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
B+

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
B-

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
D-

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 traipsing around the gorgeous Riviera, the Angels head to 'the Caribbean' to steal a big gem from a rich Arab. I hear "'the Caribbean' is great this time of year." Better hurry! The blackjack dealer and hot water cop from "The Big Tap-Out" are after Freddy (they think he has the gem--he doesn't - so the Angels need to steal it to prove it, or something).

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

Cons: Sabrina's pathetic attempt to pass undercover as a snob involves donning a terrible satin bow-tie blouse and speaking in a horribly fake posh accent (when she remembers). Bosley too seems like he's just hamming it up hoping to wear us down, hoping we change the channel so 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.

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 not matter in the writer's pool, but neither does art direction for the producer. 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 lame backyard LA smog. 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 due to her sister Jill which would be good writing (did the writers even see earlier seasons?).

41-Angels in the Backfield
C+

This is the one with the female football teams. I remember seeing it during it's original airing, way back when I was too young (11-12) to be judgmental. The 'Ducks' hire the Angels because, though they totally suck, someone is trying to sabotage the team. But why? Why is the better team cheating eight ways to Sunday when they're so superior? 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 still 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 in the shins while 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. 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 idea of an exhibition game for female football played at 'the Coliseum' is kind of dopey, especially since once inside said coliseum (we see its exterior) it's just that same high school track field. And it doesn't help the cause of women's lib that this 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 Dan Jarvis, 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. "These girls ought to be spending their time in the kitchen," he declares. 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, maybe even the last.

42 - Sandcastle Murders
B

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 back in her rookie cop days. 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. Alan Feinstein is back from playing a corrupt D.A. last season, this time he's Dave, the cop on patrol (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? 

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! What she needs is a dog. Living on the beach is frickin' no day at the... frickin'... circus. 

43. Angel Blues 
A

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. This time 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!). 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. Even weirder, 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 even better. She's 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. She's at peace.

To think the angels 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, when next week they'd be dressing up like Mother Goose characters -- is to want to weep.


44. Mother Goose is Running for His Life
B+

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
D

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
C+

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
C
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 a lady played by Laura Cantrell. They abduct the driver because I guess their package went missing. How dare you not have the package we tossed in the back of your cab!? 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. At least it's nowhere near as bad as this next one... the last in the season. God almighty... 


48. Antique Angels
F
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)
or
BACKWARDS to SEASON 1 (1976-7)



1. NOTES
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.

    ReplyDelete