Charly [2002]

Director: Ralph Nelson
Stars: Jeremy Elliott, Heather Beers
Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi
Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)
Runtime: 103 minutes

America's guiltiest pleasure of 1976--the inaugural season of Charlie's Angels--has returned in all its jiggly, jolly glory in this tidy boxed set. It's hard to describe just how captivated the nation's media and viewing public were with cheesemeister Aaron Spelling's ABC-TV hit, but for awhile Charlie's Angels was wildly popular appointment television at its most self-consciously banal. The first season's three (and best-remembered) belles--lioness Farrah Fawcett (then Farrah Fawcett-Majors), pin-up babe Jaclyn Smith, and Thinking Man's beauty Kate Jackson--were something like primetime Spice Girls, gracing countless magazine covers and bestselling posters. The idea (even if a fan of the show didn't happen to be a straight male) was that one was compelled to choose a favorite angel as a kind of ink-blot window onto one's subconscious life. While the 2000 Angels feature film (starring Cameron Diaz, etc.) kept faith with the original show's self-mockingly sloppy storytelling, there's nothing like seeing the old episodes for a lesson in narrative hubris. Basically, the three leading characters were bored policewomen wooed away to a private firm owned and operated by the unseen sybarite, Charlie (voiced--over speakerphone--by an uncredited John Forsythe). After a long set-up each week, the girls' investigations typically saw them going undercover: as fashion models--no great stretch--in "Night of the Strangler"; nurses in "Terror on Ward One"; roller-derby stars in "Angels on Wheels"; and vulnerable convicts (of course) in "Angels In Chains." The exploitation factor is not as bad as it might have been. The cast was so glamorous, their chemistry so perfect, Charlie's Angels never became a mere meat market. Despite such nods to modernity as Fawcett's no-bra look, the episodes were old-fashioned in their heroine-in-peril appeal, yet there was a difference: The Angels looked out for themselves and each other. --Tom Keogh

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