They looked great in bathing suits. That's the important thing. And they often preferred to work braless. That's the other important thing. Oh, right, they also solved crimes, but 36 million viewers didn't hold that against them. They were Charlie's Angels, and from the moment they first talked to their unseen boss (John Forsythe) by phone on Sept. 22, 1976, Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson), Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett-Majors), and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) became prime time's police academy grads with the mostest: the mostest costume changes (around eight per Angel per show); the mostest hairdo imitators (the Farrah shag); and the mostest posters sold (8 million Farrah pinups).
The damnedest thing was, ABC wasn't sure the show was ''tasteful enough,'' marvels Charlie's Angels coproducer Aaron Spelling. ''People felt we had no reality base. There wasn't supposed to be a reality base. ABC was shocked when it got one of their highest shares ever. They actually reran it because they couldn't believe the results.''
The ratings were stunning, and for the first three seasons the show rarely left the top 10. But then Cheryl Ladd replaced Fawcett, Shelley Hack replaced Jackson, and Tanya Roberts replaced Hack. And eventually, on Aug. 19, 1981, Angels fell to earth. The next March, Cagney & Lacey premiered, and you could kiss crime-fighting braless babes goodbye.
These days, Spelling still misses his jiggly, perky PIs. ''When people came to Universal and asked for the Angels set,'' he says, ''the guards would tell them to just follow the hairbrushes.'' So Spelling fantasizes about an Angels reunion: ''All the girls have gone off on their own lives, and they come back after all these years because someone has murdered Charlie.'' Maybe, for a reality base, he could invite Chris Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey to the investigation. Hawwwvv! we hear Mary Beth bellowing to her husband. D'ya got some nice sweaters for the girls? They'll freeze to death in those bikini things.
August 19, 1981
Sidney Lumet's Prince of the City gave moviegoers a taste of gritty realism. On the lighter side, Simon Bond's 101 Uses for a Dead Cat and Lisa Birnbach's The Official Preppy Handbook graced the nonfiction best-seller list, while Diana Ross and Lionel Richie's duet, ''Endless Love,'' topped the pop charts.