Charlie’s Angels is a household name. Even if you’re not a fan of the show, there is no question that it is a cultural landmark for women on the TV screen.
Can you imagine knowing what you know now that ABC executives were extremely skeptical that Charlie’s Angels would find any success since it only had Female Leads?
In 1976, it was still taking a major gamble to greenlight a show with only ladies taking the reigns – especially an action-packed crime drama show like how Charlie’s Angel’s script presented itself as.
Nevertheless, the network rolled the dice and sent the show into production. That proved to be a smart move as the show was met with immense popularity and spawned an entire franchise of films, reboots, spin-offs, movies, and merchandise.
The original series spanned 5 seasons and 115 episodes Despite its lengthy run and thriving fan base, the show had a recurring problem. Major cast changes happened every season. Jaclyn Smith was the only one of Charlie’s Angels to stick it through all 5 seasons of the show. As such, she has given us an excellent insightful look into some of the secrets that the show hid behind the scenes.
Facts Verse Presents: What Really Happened on the Set of Charlie’s Angels
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Stick around for the whole video to find out about the failed Charlie’s Angels all male-led spin-off and how it failed to ever achieve lift-off.
The All-Female Lead Cast Was Radical For Its Time
Audiences were used to seeing action shows being led by men. Masculine gender-based stereotypes were running super strong back in those days. To pitch a concept of an all-female action show to a network back then was certain to be met with skepticism at best and ridicule at worst.
But there was no denying that certain cultural shifts were happening in those days that were pushing norms and forcing the entertainment industry to reassess the formulas that had previously been their bread and butter. So despite being somewhat of a radical departure from previous offerings, ABC decided to give the ladies a chance to prove themselves.
Watch an episode of the Angels in action and you’ll surely notice that it was intentionally shot to accentuate and draw attention to various bits of the ladies’ physical anatomy. Just because the show was full of ladies, didn’t mean it was a feminist piece of girl empowerment – far from it.
It was crystal clear that the show was designed to be pleasing to a male audience that liked to see sexy women jumping and bouncing around the screen. That’s precisely why Paul Klein of NBC disparagingly referred to Charlie’s Angels and similar shows of the era as “Jiggle TV”.
Klein had an immense disdain for such sexually exploitative practices in the industry. He went as far as comparing the show to adult entertainment. At the time, the adult movie industry had a rather tarnished reputation and was receiving a fair bit of societal backlash, so comparing the show to that was a very intentional jab.
The Cast Had Trouble Meshing
When Farrah Fawcett left the show after season one, she left a void that needed to be filled by another sexy blonde bombshell.
Enter Cheryl Ladd, the actress who fit the bill perfectly and swooped in to fill the vacant spot. Even though she had a great screen presence, Ladd had trouble connecting with her co-star Kate Jackson. In fact, they never formulated a very good working relationship.
When asked what she thought of Kate Jackson, Ladd replied that she was “complex”.
Kate was under the impression that Cheryl lowered ratings. She resented her heavily and thus would go for days without uttering a word to her.
Farrah Had Bigger Goals Than TV
After Charlie’s Angels premiered, Farrah Fawcett quickly stole the spotlight, especially after she gained a boost of fame associated with a very famous photoshoot involving her in a red bathing suit.
As Mrs. Fawcett-Majors’ – as she was credited at the time – celebrity status grew, she felt like life on TV was too constricting for her burgeoning career. She wanted to be in the movies – and she would accomplish that dream very quickly after departing the Angels.
Aaron Spelling, the show’s executive producer was furious about her breaking her contract and even took legal action against her. The move still proved to be a smart one for Fawcett – who went on to see astronomical success in the film industry.
Sometimes, you have to take risks to succeed.
Unfair Pay Gaps Created Tensions
When Charlie’s Angels debuted, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith were basically nobodies. They had very little acting experience. The only one of the angels that really had a decent portfolio at the time was Kate Jackson.
So when contracts were drawn up, both Smith and Fawcett got the short end of the stick – only being paid 5 grand an episode as opposed to the 10 large that Jackson was being paid.
As cast members came and went, however, Jaclyn Smith would eventually be able to negotiate $40,000 per episode, seeing that she was the only original Angel to stick with the show for its entire run.
Kate Jackson Got Pushed Out Of A Major Film Role
She had been offered the role of Joanna Kramer in the acclaimed film Kramer vs. Kramer. She would have gotten a chance to work with Dustin Hoffman and maybe even get the opportunity to earn the Academy Award that Meryl Streep won for the role, but Aaron Spelling put the kibosh on her dreams by not being willing to compromise with director Robert Benton’s request for him to work around their shooting schedule for the film
So basically Spelling cheated her out of an acting opportunity of a lifetime. She reportedly became very resentful and irritable on the Charlie’s Angels set after this ordeal. This attitude problem and animosity eventually led to her getting the boot when she was asked to leave the show 2 years later.
Farrah Fawcett Had One Strange Request
You can’t blame someone for wanting to be a good spouse, but Farrah took that rational desire to a whole new level.
At the time she was married to the Six Million Dollar Man, Lee Majors. She was very much into him and wanted to do her best to be a good domestic housewife = because that’s what was expected of women back in those days.
She made the request to the studio that she wouldn’t work any later than 7 pm on the dot, so she could make it home in time to cook her hubby dinner each and every night.
Despite her best intentions, her marriage with Majors would still eventually dissolve.
The Voice Of Charlie
So we never get a chance to see Charlie but we get to hear him every episode. You might recognize his voice as being none other than Dynasty’s own John Forsythe.
Despite being the voice we all associate with Charlie, he wasn’t the first actor to land the part.
Spelling had originally handed the part over to Gig Young, but when he showed up to the recording booth drunk as a skunk, Aaron was forced to quickly recast him.
Fortunately, he had a good rapport with Forsythe and was able to call him in on time to meet the shows deadlines.
Fawcett’s Departure Prompted Legal Action
As we already briefly touched on, Farrah left just when the show was picking up steam and she had quickly become the most popular member of the cast. So when she moved on, the producers and ABC alike were absolutely infuriated with her decision and hit her with a lawsuit.
In order to settle the dispute, Farrah agreed to guest star on 6 episodes of the show throughout the next 2 seasons – which she did, and each time, those episodes saw very high ratings.
Are The Angels Cursed?
Rumors began to spread like wildfire that maybe the ladies that played the Angels were all subject to some kind of curse. The reason being? Each of the Angel’s marriages would fall apart after the show wrapped up or as they departed.
One by one Fawcett, Smith, and Jackson all went through messy divorces.
The theory goes further when noting that each Angel went on to develop cancer in their later years, Sadly, Farrah wouldn’t survive her bout with the dreadful disease, but Smith and Jackson on the other hand would go on to make full recoveries.
Did They Peak Too Soon?
It’s always frustrating when an actress finds early success only to have their later works overshadowed by their earlier accomplishments.
That’s exactly what happened to the angels -with the exception of Farrah Fawcett of course, who went on to find quite a bit of success in the industry.
Jaclyn Smith would also eventually earn herself a Golden Globe nomination for her depiction of Jackie O Kennedy in the 80s biopic but even still she would never be able to capture the same kind of popularity as her work on Charlie’s Angels brought her.
The rest of the Angels followed suit by virtually floundering after departing the show. Maybe the curse was real?
The Writers Strike Took A Toll
It wasn’t looking good for the Angels in 1980, as ratings continued a pattern of decline. When the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists went on strike in the summer of that year, it would further make things difficult for the once-popular show that was struggling to regain its footing.
Due to the strike, the show would temporarily cease production. It never really seemed to recover from that pause, even once production resumed and cast changes had been made. It seemed that the writing was on the wall for Charlie’s Angels.
Toni’s Boys Spin-Off
Remember the Charlie’s Angels spin-off series? Nope, neither do we, because it totally tanked.
Hoping to cash in on the success of the all-female action series, ABC developed a similar show based in the same universe but instead of the three no-nonsense busty ladies at the helm, the show featured three hunky guys.
The show never made it past a backdoor pilot episode on Charlie’s Angels and after it was poorly received, future plans to develop the show were scrapped.
Hope you enjoyed taking a closer look at some of the secrets and controversies surrounding Charlie’s Angels.
Although the show has gone on to inspire films, video games, and a whole waft of merchandise, nothing will ever quite compare to the original TV series that got the ball rolling.
Now it’s time for you to let your voice be heard. What did you think about Cheryl Ladd? Do you think she lived up to the role of the blonde bombshell like her predecessor or do you think she was always overshadowed by Farrah Fawcett? Let us know what you think in the comments section.
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