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Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the Police Academy; and they were each assigned very hazardous duties.
But I took them away from all that, and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.
Three women, the Angels (originally Kate Jackson, the late Farrah Fawcett-Majors, and Jaclyn Smith), graduated from the Los Angeles police academy only to be assigned such duties as handling switchboards and directing traffic. They quit and were hired to work for the Charles Townsend Agency as private investigators. Their boss, Charlie (voiced by John Forsythe), is never seen full face (in some episodes the viewer gets to see the back of his head and his arms, talking through a phone while surrounded by beautiful women) assigning cases to the Angels and his liaison, Bosley (played by David Doyle), via a speaker phone.
Charlie's Angels is episodic in nature, as opposed to serial, thus each episode shows the Angels finding themselves in new situations in which they would go undercover to investigate. The undercover aspect of the show creates much of the plot interest and tension. In the early seasons of the show, the Angels, under their assumed identities, use a combination of sexual wiles and knowledge learned for the situation in which they are being placed, but by the third and fourth seasons, the writing has a tendency to stray from the sex appeal and focus more on the case at hand. The fact that those women changed so often is purely irrelevant.
Revived in the 2000's as a pair of theatrical films, set several years after the series, with a new set of Angels. It is worth noting that the movie series is not a Continuity Reboot of the series, but a continuation. These movies star Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore as the angels, with John Forsythe returning as the voice of Charlie. The first movie opened in the United States on October 22 2000. It grossed more than $125 million at the U.S. box office and grossed over $260 million worldwide. The sequel Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle opened in the United States on June 27, 2003, and was number one at the box office for that weekend and made a worldwide total of more than $259 million.
Movie now has a character sheet
The Series (again)
Brought back to television in The New Tens, the series uses the same premise as the original, with Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly, and Rachael Taylor as the Angels, and Ramón Rodriguez as Bosley. With the passing of John Forsythe (Charlie), executive producer Leonard Goldberg is the only constant across all three iterations of the franchise. Where the original Angels were all frustrated policewomen, the new Angels are all convicts getting a second chance from Charlie.
Cancelled after four episodes (of eight produced).
The various permutations provide examples of:
- Action Girl: Well, obviously.
- Amazon Brigade
- Fan Service: Most prominently with the movies, but the TV shows got it going on too.
- Fetish: The Thin Man is a very enthusiastic hair fetishist.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Most episodes have "angel" in some form in their names.
- I'll Kill You!
- Jiggle Show
- Mysterious Employer: Charlie. Pretty much the premise.
- Obstacle Exposition
- Power Trio
- Pre-Ass-Kicking One-Liner
- Pretty in Mink: A few episodes
- Slow Motion: Baywatch style.
- Undercover Model: The Angels seem to get a lot of these jobs.
- The Voice: Charlie.
- Willing Suspension of Disbelief
- Absentee Actor: Charlie may not be seen (except for the Series Finale), but "Avenging Angel" is the only episode in which he also isn't heard.
- Angels Pose: Trope Namer
- All Women Are Lustful: Kris Munroe
- Bare Your Midriff: Kris Munroe and Julie Rogers.
- Beach Episode: "The Mexican Connection", "Angels in Paradise", "Angels of The Deep", "Hula Angels", "Island Angels" and "Waikiki Angels"
- Beauty Contest: "Pretty Angels All in a Row"
- Chippendales Dancers: "Toni's Boys"
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: In the pilot movie, Bosley has an assistant named Woodville (played by David Ogden Stiers, who would wind up at the 4077th MASH a year later). The character was eliminated without explanation when the series proper began.
- Cleavage Window: Kris
- Crossover: An episode of the original series had the girls going on a Caribbean cruise and encountering the cast of The Love Boat. (Both shows were produced by Aaron Spelling.)
- An episode of another Spelling show, Fantasy Island, had three secretaries arriving on the island wanting to become, well, Charlie's Angels.
- Eating the Eye Candy: In the "Toni's Boys" episode Kris watches male Angel Bob Sorenson take his shirt off and then watches a male stripper rehearse.
- Girls Behind Bars: "Angels in Chains" and "Caged Angel". "Angels in Chains" also featured Chained Heat, with the three angels chained together while trying to escape from the prison warden.
- Grilling the Newbie: New girl Tiffany is grilled by Kelly & Kris when they learn that she's actually met Charlie.
- Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: "Hunted Angels"
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: Many, many episodes have "Angels" in the title.
- Knife-Throwing Act: "Circus of Terror"
- Multiple Demographic Appeal: Depending on who you ask, the show was either a landmark step forward for feminism by showing smart, tough women defying the traditional roles of wife/secretary/housekeeper, or a slightly sexist Jiggle Show which consisted solely of hot women running around in bathing suits. They're kinda both right. (Even Farrah Fawcett once said that when the show reached #3 in the ratings, she thought it was because of their acting ability. When it reached #1, she admitted it was probably because they didn't wear bras.)
- Obfuscating Disability: "Angels in Springtime"
- Opening Credits Cast Party
- Pilot Movie
- Poorly-Disguised Pilot: "Toni's Boys," featuring three hunky guys working for a female mastermind (Barbara Stanwyck, no less) - who, unlike Charlie, actually shows up on screen.
- Put on a Bus: Happened numerous times on the original show.
- Jill Munroe leaves at the end of season 1 to pursue a career in auto racing. She would return for several guest appearances in later seasons, however.
- Sabrina Duncan leaves to get married after the third season.
- Tiffany Welles leaves after the third season, said to have returned home to Boston.
- Shirtless Scene: "Angels On Wheels", "Lady Killer", "Love Boat Angels", "Toni's Boys" and "Mr Galaxy".
- Suspiciously Similar Substitute: All the "replacement" Angels on the original show, but Kris Munroe (Jill's kid sister) in particular.
- Unique Pilot Title Sequence: The TV movie that served as a pilot has a different opening, as well as different bumpers showing the three Angels standing side by side.
- What Could Have Been: Reportedly it was Ayn Rand's favourite show and Farrah Fawcett was her top choice for the role of Dagny Taggart if Atlas Shrugged was ever turned into a movie.
- Absolute Cleavage: Some of Natalie's outfits.
- Actor Allusion: When Dylan uses a flamethrower in Full Throttle, the song "Firestarter" plays, as a reference to Drew Barrymore's role in the film Firestarter.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: It is somewhat of a Running Gag throughout the movies that Dylan always falls for the bad guy. Example: Eric Knox (who she sleeps with, although this is before she knows that he's the Big Bad) and the Thin Man (who was originally going to kiss Alex, according to the filmmakers, but they changed it to Dylan, in keeping with her lust for bad boys). In the second film, she also lusts after one of the villainous henchmen, and it is later revealed that, in her past, she was in a relationship with Seamus O'Grady.
- Asskicking Pose: the second film is the Trope Namer.
- Big Bad: Eric Knox in the first movie, and Madison Lee in the second movie.
- Big No
- Blonde, Brunette, Redhead
- Bullet Time
- The Cameo: In the second movie, rapper Eve and The Olsen Twins make cameo appearances (presumably as themselves) in Dylan's imagination (in which she imagines a future with an ever-changing Angel line-up). Other celebrities, playing different characters, also pop up for cameo appearances.
- Car Skiing: The first movie shows a flashback in which Natalie pulls one off during her driving exam.
- Continuity Nod: Kelly Garrett from the original series appears in the second movie, still being played by Jaclyn Smith.
- Dark Action Girl: Madison Lee
- Disney Villain Death
- The Ditz: Natalie from the movie series has her moments.
- Don't Sneak Up On Me Like That: This happens a lot to Jason.
- Double Entendre: Natalie loves these (although she seems to make them unintentionally).
- The Dragon: The Thin Man is this for Eric Knox in the first movie.
- Dramatic Shattering: When Dylan encounters Seamus again for the first time in years, she drops the champagne bottle she's holding in shock and fear, causing it to shatter to pieces.
- Embarrassing First Name: Well, sort of -- more like the entire name is embarrassing: in the second movie, it is revealed that Dylan Sanders used to be named Helen Zass (just say it out loud...), but had to change it after being placed in the Witness Protection Program.
- Face Heel Turn: Madison Lee in the second movie.
- Fetish: The Thin Man has one for hair.
- Foot Focus: Alex, posing as a masseuse, gives Corwin a rather violent massage with her feet. She then uses one of her feet to render him unconscious.
- Guns Akimbo: Taken up to downright ridiculous amounts in the second movie with Madison dual-wielding Desert Eagles (.50 Action Express for sure) and the Mongolian with two machine guns (not assault rifles or SMGs but one PKM and one MG42). See also Law of Inverse Recoil.
- Hair Flip: Used very often and very intentionally, to the point of parody.
- Heel Face Turn: The Thin Man in the second movie.
- Hollywood Skydiving: The opening action scene of the first film.
- Hot Chick in a Badass Suit: The leather business suit that Alex wears in the first movie. Complete with sexy specs.
- Lean and Mean: The Thin Man, hence the name.
- Lethal Chef: Alex. Her blueberry muffins are so rock hard that one of them ends up embedded in a door.
- Made of Explodium: Every bike that gets shot or falls over in the second film's dirt bike race scene.
- Male Gaze: The movies never shy away from booty focus. So much that the cast actually spoofed it in this video.
- Naked on Arrival: The Angels in Full Throttle.
- Never Bring a Knife to A Fist Fight
- No Name Given: The Thin Man is only ever referred to as this (either that, or "Creepy Thin Man") for the first movie - the second movie, however, reveals that his real name is Anthony (his surname is not given, however).
- On a Soundstage All Along: Parodied. "CURSE YOU, SALAZAAAAAAAR!!"
- Pac-Man Fever: A particularly miserable case in the first movie, with a scene where two kids are playing Final Fantasy VIII, a single-player Role Playing Game, simultaneously, by mashing buttons on their controllers.
- Plot Based Photograph Obfuscation: The photograph in the first movie.
- Rare Guns: Handguns in both movies are Desert Eagles rather than not, including one that Bosley carves from a block of soap with his teeth in the first movie (never mind the Desert Eagle being more than twice as large as any piece of soap out there). Oh, and Madison has got two gold-plated ones.
- Redemption Equals Death: The Thin Man in the second movie (although, given what he was able to survive in the first movie, there is a lot of speculation that he may actually still be alive).
- Rule of Cool / Rule of Funny: Generally the tone of both films. Also, it's the only reason Bosley is able to make a gun out of soap.
- Sequel Non Entity: Bosley is conspiciously absent (save for a photo on his family's wall) in the sequel, having been replaced by his adoptive brother. Despite the fact that Bosley appeared to be beloved by the Angels in the first film, here they never seem to miss him for even a moment -- nor is his absence (and current whereabouts) ever explained.
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Apparently, on-set friction between Bill Murray and Lucy Liu was downright venomous, so when sequel time came, the more essential castmember was retained.
- Shout-Out: In the first movie, the scene where Bosley is kept prisoner in the tower contains references to The Great Escape and The Birdman of Alcatraz. The "soap gun" is also a reference to John Dillinger's famous escape.
- Also, when Dylan falls into the garden of the house where two kids are playing games, it is actually the same house from ET the Extraterrestrial, which starred a very young Drew Barrymore. Not only that, but an E.T. poster can also be found in this scene.
- Additionally in the second movie, Natalie's boyfriend, Pete, attended his high school reunion. At Rydell High.
- When the Angels visit the abbey in the second movie, "The Lonely Goatherd" from The Sound of Music can be heard in the background.
- The Speechless: The Thin Man doesn't speak a word throughout the movie series. In the second film, it is revealed that he has been a mute since childhood (it is implied to be due to the trauma of losing his parents at a young age). He does make a valiant attempt to speak later on, but he doesn't manage to get the words out... and is stabbed before Dylan (and the audience) get to find out if he can.
- Tattooed Crook: Seamus.
- Troperiffic: Full Throttle. (Probably completely intentional.)
- Trailers Always Spoil: The trailers and marketing for Full Throttle played up Madison Lee's status as the Big Bad despite it being presented in the film as a surprise twist.
- A Worldwide Punomenon: Eh, the whole second movie.
- With My Hands Tied: Dylan knocks out three bad guys (after describing in detail what she would do) while tied to a broken chair.
- You Killed My Father: In the first movie, Eric Knox wants to kill Charlie, as he (mistakenly) believes him to have killed his father.
- The Alcatraz: The prison in "Angels in Chains". Oddly for this trope, the Angels don't actually manage to escape and are instead caught during their escape attempt.
- Bilingual Dialogue: In "Angels in Chains" when Bosley in disguise talks in English to a Cuban National Revolutionary Police Force (Policía Nacional Revolucionaria) officer, who replied to the former in Spanish.
- California Doubling: While the series is shot in Florida, there were some places (e.g. Cuba, some of the islands near Florida) that were shot in the state.
- Classy Cat Burglar: Abby. Not anymore when she was caught by police.
- Cold Sniper: The Chechen guerrilla turned terrorist when he tried to assassinate the Russian First Lady.
- Did Not Do the Research: The fictional country of Ukata was stated to be a republic. But why does the show state that the leaders are a monarch?
- Dirty Cop: The reason why Kate was off the force.
- Same happened to some Cuban Ministry of Interior officers. It wasn't the case however when the Angels found out about it.
- External Combustion: How this happened to Gloria when her sedan was destroyed in a car bomb.
- Fake American: Rachel Taylor as an American since she's an Australian.
- Framing the Guilty Party: How the Angels did about with the Cuban mission when they were accused of having cocaine by having planted evidence.
- Laxative Prank: In the pilot, Abby does it to a pair of Rich Bitches.
- My Greatest Second Chance: How most of the Angels (and Bosley) work for Charlie.
- Mythology Gag: The Townsend Agency's signage notes that it was founded in 1976.
- Same thing with the safe deposit box as it had the same numbers too.
- The Pete Best or The Other Marty: Robert Wagner was set to be the voice of Charlie (replacing the late John Forsythe) but was prevented by scheduling conflicts; ultimately Victor Garber supplied Charlie's voice.
- Shout-Out: In the episode "Angel with a Broken Wing", the Angels mention Call of Duty after they find a disassembled sniper rifle.
- Why We Can't Have Nice Things: In "Bon Voyage, Angels", the Angels meet with Scott Foster. They all "like him", until Bosley tells them that he's engaged.
- ↑ Unfortunately the movie version arrived two years after Miss Fawcett passed away.