Amazing Facts You Never Knew About Charlie’s Angels
There are certain TV shows that define a generation, and this can surely be said of Charlie’s Angels. Launched in 1976, the light-hearted adventure series centred on a trio of female private investigators who specialised in going deep undercover – although this often seemed to involve being under-dressed. A huge hit at the time, Charlie’s Angels remains a cult favourite to this day – but did you know the following facts about the original series?
20. It was originally pitched as ‘The Alley Cats’
When the show that would become Charlie’s Angels was first pitched back in 1975, it was a little different. Series creators Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts entitled the show The Alley Cats, and it was about a trio of female private eyes dressed in leather, sporting whips and chains, which is quite different from the aesthetic they eventually ended up with.
Kate Jackson, the first actress cast, hated this idea, and demanded a rethink in terms of the title, the wardrobe, and the general dynamic of the show. It was at Jackson’s suggestions that the women would be instead called Angels rather than Cats; and after briefly considering the title Harry’s Angels, it finally became Charlie’s Angels.
19. Jaclyn Smith was the only Angel to remain for the entire series
The initial line-up for Charlie’s Angels consisted of Kate Jackson as Sabrina Duncan, Farrah Fawcett as Jill Munroe, and Jaclyn Smith as Kelly Garrett. However, by the end of the show’s five-season run, the line-up looked rather different, with several cast changes occurring. This left Smith as the only original Angel still on board.
Fawcett quit after one season to be replaced by Cheryl Ladd. Later, Jackson quit after season three, at which point Shelley Hack took over. Finally, Hack was fired after one season, and replaced by the sixth and final angel, Tanya Roberts. Smith’s longevity was rewarded, as she became the only original cast member to make on-camera cameo appearances in the Charlie’s Angels movies.
18. There was originally a second male lead in David Ogden Stiers
Throughout the show’s many cast changes, one important thing stays the same: the Angels take their orders from John Forsythe’s Charlie, a mysterious benefactor who is never actually seen on camera. Instead, the only recurring male character is Charlie’s second-in-command, Bosley, played by David Doyle, but this wasn’t always the plan.
In the pilot episode, Charlie also had a second male go-between named Woodville, played by David Ogden Stiers. Unfortunately for Stiers, his character was deemed unnecessary and unappealing when shown to test audiences, and so Woodville was entirely written out when the show went to series. The show felt much more streamlined as a result.
17. A lot of future Hollywood superstars appeared on the show
As well as the revolving door when it came to new women becoming one of Charlie’s Angels, every episode of Charlie’s Angels saw the three investigators get into all-new cases with all-new people. This meant there were a whole lot of guest stars over the five seasons, including some actors who went on to enjoy huge success in their own right.
The future big-name stars who made early appearances on Charlie’s Angels include but are not limited to: Timothy Dalton, Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Selleck, Dirk Benedict, Craig T. Nelson, Kim Basinger, Kim Cattrall, Robert Englund and Jamie Lee Curtis. The 2019 reboot also saw its fair share of celebrity cameos, with Laverne Cox showing up to play an explosives expert.
16. The producers sued Farrah Fawcett when she quit after one season
With her endearing screen presence, much-imitated hairstyle and famously popular pin-up poster, Farrah Fawcett became the real breakout star of Charlie’s Angels. Because of this, she decided to quit after the first season, believing success in Hollywood was inevitable. The show’s producers were furious, and allegedly took out lawsuits against Fawcett for breach of contract.
Eventually, a compromise was found, and Fawcett agreed to make six guest appearances across seasons two and three. Sadly, her risky career move didn’t pay off: beyond supporting parts in Logan’s Run and The Cannonball Run, Fawcett had little success in the movies. To this day though, Fawcett has maintained that she was never in breach of contract, calling it a “well-circulated rumour”.
15. Cheryl Ladd wore a funny T-shirt for her first day on set
When Cheryl Ladd was cast as the new Angel, Jill Munroe’s little sister Kris, there were naturally concerns that she wouldn’t have the charisma to fill in for Farrah Fawcett. Well aware of this, Ladd wore a specially printed T-shirt for her first day on set in hopes of lightening the mood, and breaking the ice amongst her new castmates.
Fawcett was professionally known as Farrah Fawcett-Majors at the time, thanks to her marriage to actor Lee Majors. In a humorous play on this, Ladd turned up to the Charlie’s Angels set in a T-shirt that read Farrah Fawcett-Minor. According to sources, the t-shirt worked its magic, with several crew members laughing when they saw it.
14. Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith had to turn down major movie roles because of their commitment to the show
While Fawcett may have been happy to break her Charlie’s Angels contract in the hopes of boosting her career, the same could not be said of her co-stars. Kate Jackson was offered the female lead in 1979 film Kramer vs. Kramer opposite Dustin Hoffman, but had to pass as it clashed with production on Charlie’s Angels season three.
This must have stung, as Meryl Streep took the role and won an Oscar for her efforts. In a similar vein, Jaclyn Smith had been the first choice for another major movie role: Dr Holly Goodhead in the James Bond movie Moonraker. She too was forced to decline because of Charlie’s Angels, and the role instead went to Lois Chiles.
13. Barbara Bach and Michelle Pfeiffer unsuccessfully auditioned to play fifth Angel Tiffany Welles
When Kate Jackson left Charlie’s Angels after the third season, the search for her replacement became a hot topic in Hollywood. The part of Tiffany Welles eventually went to former model Shelley Hack, but the auditions were long and drawn out, and several other big-name stars were also considered for the role before it went to Welles.
Among the actresses who unsuccessfully auditioned for the part were Barbara Bach, star of the 1977 Bond movie The Spy Who Loved Me, and a young unknown named Michelle Pfeiffer, who would later go on to star in Batman Returns and Grease 2, amongst other things. Who knows how her career trajectory might have changed had she actually gotten to be an angel.
12. A male-based spin-off called Toni’s Boys failed to get off the ground
In 1980, the producers of Charlie’s Angels hit upon the idea of making a spin-off show. The central idea was to simply reverse the genders, but keep the basic plot structure and tone the same. They called it Toni’s Boys, and it centred on three handsome male detectives who took orders from an unseen woman who worked as their boss.
The brand new characters, played by Stephen Shortridge, Bob Seagren, and Bruce Bauer, were introduced in a season four episode of Charlie’s Angels. The hope was that they would catch the audience’s attention and ignite interest for the spinoff. Sadly, this plan failed in its entirety, and the show didn’t go beyond its pilot episode.
11. A TV reboot starring Tea Leoni was attempted in 1988
In the years since Charlie’s Angels ended its initial run, the franchise has been revived with the 2000 movie Charlie’s Angels and its sequel Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, plus the short-lived 2011 TV reboot and most recently the 2019 movie. However, a much lesser-known Charlie’s Angels revival was attempted far earlier.
In 1988, a new series called Angels ’88 was pitched, with a cast that included future Bad Boys actress Tea Leoni. However, the show was instantly hit by behind the scenes problems, which led to it being cancelled prematurely, even before a pilot could be filmed. It would take several decades before the next reboot was attempted.
10. ABC hated the show’s initial pitch
Not only was the original Charlie’s Angels hugely successful in its own right, but the initial idea has been captivating enough to spawn several movies, a TV reboot, and another, separate movie over multiple decades. The staying power of the idea of crime-fighting angels with a mysterious, disembodied boss is undeniable, which is why its initial reception is so surprising.
When Leonard Goldberg and Aaron Spelling pitched the idea to ABC, they didn’t exactly get good feedback. Instead, they were promptly told that it was the worst idea that had ever passed through the executive’s office, and that they were only getting a green light because Spelling had a previous arrangement with ABC which guaranteed him 25,000 dollars.
9. All the angels wore the exact same make-up
If you watch the credits of Charlie’s Angels closely, you’ll notice that each of the main trio have their own hair and make-up artists, and they rarely share. However, the styling of all three women is remarkably cohesive, almost too cohesive in many seasons. In fact, for a significant portion of the show, all three women wear the exact same eye and lip colour.
Not only are the eye and lip colours the same, but they are also applied in the exact same fashion on each girl. Not only that, but the shared make-up changed over the seasons. While the seasons featuring Farrah Fawcett saw Sabrina and Jill wearing the same coffee coloured lipgloss every episode, later seasons saw every woman wearing the same orange-red blush and lipstick that was once Tanya Roberts’ signature.
8. A charm necklace links Charlie’s Angels to two other shows
Coffee coloured lipgloss, orange-toned foundation and copious amounts of hairspray weren’t the only fashion staples that set Charlie’s Angels apart. Eagle-eyed fans of the show will be familiar with Sabrina’s signature necklace; a delicate gold chain that features an enamel crescent moon, two delicate stars and an etched pendant.
Though it might seem like a totally banal choice, Sabrina’s favourite charm necklace is actually an Easter Egg, meant to subtly advertise that Charlie’s Angels is a Spelling-Goldberg Production. Detective Ken Hutchinson in Starsky and Hutch, another Spelling-Goldberg production, can be seen wearing a matching charm bracelet, with one small star and one small moon.
7. The original Charlie was fired for drinking
Despite his role being uncredited and only featuring his voice, it’s difficult to imagine anyone else in the role of the titular Charlie other than John Forsythe. However, he actually wasn’t anybody’s first choice for the role, despite his popularity at the time. Instead, it was seasoned actor Gig Young who was chosen to deliver the Angels’ assignments.
Unfortunately for Young, he was fired from the role before his first voice session was even completed, as he allegedly showed up to the voice booth too drunk to coherently record his lines. He was fired unceremoniously, and the producers were left scrambling to find a brand new voice actor on incredibly short notice. Whoops.
6. John Forsythe was hired the night before the pilot was released
Gig Young was brought in to record Charlie’s mission briefings on a Friday afternoon, with the pilot all set to air the following Monday afternoon. This meant that when Young was unable to complete the work, the Spelling Goldberg team were left scrambling, with less than a day to find someone else to pick up the slack.
In a panic, John Forsythe was called to rectify the situation and make sure the show got out on time. Forsythe insisted on not being credited for the work he did, and turned in his recording late at night so that it could quickly be edited into the show. After coming to the rescue, he simply continued to play the role of the faceless Charlie, although never in person.
5. Farrah Fawcett had a contract clause to be home in time for dinner
There’s no denying that Farrah Fawcett became the rising star of Charlie’s Angels from the moment she joined the cast. Despite only appearing in the early seasons, her feather flip hair and bouncy personality have become synonymous with the show, and are maybe its most memorable part.
However, as much as Farrah Fawcett is arguably the most important part of Charlie’s Angels, the same is not true in reverse. Fawcett always put her personal life before the show, in particular prioritising her marriage to actor Lee Majors above all else. So steadfast was she in her desire to be the perfect housewife, that she even included a clause in her contract that said she would always be home for seven PM so that she could cook her husband dinner.
4. Shelley Hack was consistently sabotaged on set
Charlie’s Angels underwent several cast changes over the course of the show, but maybe the most controversial one of all was when Shelley Hack was brought on to play Tiffany. Hack made a name for herself as the classiest angel, with a sharper fashion sense and more mature look than any, and quickly won the hearts of audiences.
However, not everybody was thrilled with Hack’s presence and performance. Soon stories began to emerge about bullying from her castmates, with Cheryl Ladd, Jaclyn Smith and Ed J. Lasko being primarily responsible. The papers disagreed about whether the course of the resentment was Hack’s liberal politics or her height and beauty, but whatever the reason, she was tormented relentlessly on set.
3. John Forsythe was the highest-paid actor on the show
Charlie’s Angels titular Charlie might not physically appear in the show very often, or have very many lines at a time when he shows up, but he’s an essential cog in the structure of every episode. Without him, the Angels would never receive their mission, and so how would they be able to solve the case or save the day?
Despite his integral role, it would probably be a stretch to call Forsythe the most indispensable part of the show. After all, without the angels, there would be no show at all. Despite all this, it was Forsythe who earned the most money during the show’s original run, being paid more per appearance than any of the angels, despite his limited presence.
2. Farrah Fawcett’s iconic red bathing suit is in a museum
When you think of Charlie’s Angels, what do you think of? There’s a very good chance that the first thing to pop into your head is Farrah Fawcett with her huge, amazing feather flip hairdo, grinning in a red bathing suit. The iconic poster was released alongside one of the early seasons, and became more popular than the show itself.
The Farrah Fawcett poster went on to become one of the most popular and best-selling posters of all time, adorning the wall of countless men and boys. Both the poster and the bathing suit became so popular that they have been included in the Smithsonian’s American cultural history collection, as an integral part of America’s cultural history.
1. The angels consistently made the worst dressed lists
Like Dynasty, which started the year that Charlie’s Angels finished, a significant portion of Charlie’s Angels budget every episode went to wardrobe. A whopping $22,000 was allotted each episode to dress the three Angels, with each of them having a signature style and colours. Unfortunately, they weren’t exactly the right colours.
Famous designer Nolan Miller joined the show to consult on wardrobe in season four, and he set each woman up with signature colours that were supposed to flatter them the best. However, he gave every woman the wrong colours, placing Autumn Shelley Hack in bright colours like electric blue, and giving Jaclyn Smith and Cheryl Ladd the same dark plum colour that washed them out. As a result of this, the Angels consistently made the worst-dressed lists.