Review: Charlie’s Angels 1×1

Almost as bad as the original

Charlie's Angels ABC

In the US: Thursdays, 8/7c, ABC

You must remember Charlie’s Angels back in the 70s. “Once upon a time there were three beautiful 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.” The irony, of course, was that “hazardous duties” meant desk jobs because they weren’t treated seriously, despite their skills, because they were women. ‘Charlie’ and his detective agency gave these police officers a chance to properly fight crime.

The show, fondly remembered despite its descent from feminist concept to bathing suit competition in less than 60 seconds (the show “did more damage to the cause of feminism than the Susan B Anthony dollar” as someone once quipped), got remade as movies, largely at the instigation of Drew Barrymore. Now ABC have remade it as a TV show, once again with Drew Barrymore producing but aided and assisted by most of the Smallville production staff, and once again, the show has changed.

Will feminism be served this time, with over 30 years of hindsight to help us? Let’s ask Charlie, now voiced by Victor Garber: “Once upon a time, there were three young women who got into very big trouble…” Yes, the “three beautiful girls” are at least now “three young women” but they’re no longer former police officers, discriminated against by male superiors, but a rich girl turned cat burglar, a crooked cop and a former car thief, given a second chance in life – largely through wearing expensive dresses and swim suits and talking about boys.

That’s so much better for the cause, isn’t it?

Here’s a trailer for the original, followed by a trailer for the new version.

Plot
Everyone deserves a second chance — even a thief, a street racer and a cop who got in a little too deep. After all, the three women who solve cases for their elusive boss, Charlie Townsend, are no saints. They’re angels… Charlie’s Angels.

Set and filmed in Miami, this fun, glamorous, action-packed take on the 1970s smash hit series introduces us to three new angels, all fearless detectives, head-turning beauties and close friends. There’s Abby (Rachael Taylor), a Park Avenue princess who became a world-class thief. Then there’s Kate (Annie Ilonzeh), a Miami cop who fell from grace, losing both her career and her fiancé. Finally there’s Gloria, a disgraced army lieutenant who has a way with explosives. When one of the angels’ missions ends in Gloria’s tragic death, Charlie persuades them to partner with Gloria’s childhood friend, Eve (Minka Kelly), a street racer with a mysterious past. They may not know each other yet, but one thing’s for sure — Abby, Kate and Eve will always have each others’ backs. The angels are rounded out by the new Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez), a hot, young computer hacker who helps them solve cases and enjoys being surrounded by powerful, beautiful women.

Written and executive-produced by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar (Smallville), Charlie’s Angels is also executive-produced by Drew Barrymore (Charlie’s Angels movies, 50 First Dates), Leonard Goldberg (the original Charlie’s Angels) and Nancy Juvonen (Charlie’s Angels movies, How to be Single). It’s directed and executive-produced by Marcos Siega (Vampire Diaries, Dexter). Charlie’s Angels is produced by Millar/Gough Ink, Flower Films and Panda Productions in association with Sony Pictures Television.

Is it any good?
No. It’s plenty bad. Not dreadful, but certainly one that most people should and hopefully will turn off before the end of the first episode.

Its problems are many. For one, they appear not to have cast actors in the main roles. Reasonable approximations to actors. They even got one who looks an awful lot like Minka Kelly, who actually could act in shows like Parenthood, except this simulacrum can’t. But not actual people who can deliver lines and feign emotions convincingly. Victor Garber, ironically, sounds like he’s phoning his dialogue in. Ironically, Nadine Velazquez (My Name is Earl) is the only one of the angels who could act and she gets killed before the first 10 minutes is up.

Then we have the script, which is a confused mess, not knowing whether it’s supposed to be hard-hitting or fun. When it’s trying to be hard-hitting, it’s painful. “He’s a trafficker in under-age girls,” gets solemnly repeated several times. Oh, so if they were over 18, it would have been all right would it? He wouldn’t have been quite so evil.

But when it’s trying to be fun, it’s equally painful. There are vague stabs by the writers to mimic female-to-female conversations, but these all appear to revolve around dating and boys. Characterisation is done by repeating facts about characters, as though that’s somehow the same thing as writing emotions, although I guess that would then have relied on people being able to deliver those lines with the required emotions.

Then there’s the action. Which is ludicrous. Bad guy wants to take out someone who doesn’t know he’s after her. He successfully killed someone with a car bomb so what’s the stealthy method he uses this time? Yes, one guy with an assault rifle in the world’s noisiest mode of transport, the helicopter. Personally, I’d have gone for the sniper shot from across the harbour, assuming my house boat bomb didn’t work, of course.

The obligatory martial arts fights are poorly handled and implausible. The equally obligatory computer hacking scenes are even more implausible – we have the world’s prettiest hacker in the former of the new Bosley using an iPad to hack into computers; we have a cat burglar breaking into a safe by hacking its computer lock mechanism with a single finger. Why not just have one of the ‘angels’ be into voodoo and get it over with if you’re going to use magic?

None of the actors are interesting. None of the characters is clever or interesting. The dialogue isn’t funny, clever or interesting. The plot isn’t clever, funny, interesting or gripping. It’s just there, on your screen, saying “This is Charlie’s Angels. You’re too young to really remember it, but you’ve heard of the original, haven’t you, and if you’ve heard of it, it must have been good. So this must be good, too, mustn’t it?”

It’s not good. It’s marginally better than the original, not as egregiously stupid but nowhere near as fun as the movies. Don’t watch it.