Hello, Angels! A Look at the Charlie's Angels Script By Mike Thompson. When I was growing up I watched my fair share of TV but there were certain shows that were frowned upon by my parents...
When I was growing up I watched my fair share of TV but there were certain shows that were frowned upon by my parents. Among the majority of those verboten programs were shows high in violence or buxom babes. Needless to say, Charlie’s Angels was not a part of my TV diet. But now, thanks to TNT, I can catch up on years of this Aaron Spelling-produced jiggle-fest.
Charlie’s Angels walked a fine line between exploitation and empowerment in its story of three police academy graduates who feel that they can better serve justice by working outside of "the system." The show is often disparaged for being sexist in actuality, the 106 episodes are an epic tale of Womyn taking charge of their destiny. It’s true, Sabrina (Kate Jackson), Jill (Farrah Fawcett) and Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) worked for a man, Charlie (John Forsythe) but his presence was so insignificant in their life that he could be portrayed by a disembodied voice. And yes, two of the three Angels often doffed their more sensible outfits in favor of evening gowns or bathing suits (the exception to this being Sabrina the brainy and therefore "butch" Angel). However, these stunning and/or skimpy wardrobe changes were usually necessary to aid the Angels in their work. Moreover, one must keep in mind that the Liberation movement was still in its infancy and there is a proven inverse ratio of the amount of clothing that a starlet wears to the ratings a show receives.
Of course, when I heard that Charlie’s Angels is slated to make its way to the silver screen, I considered the notion with trepidation. I contemplated the long-standing trend of turning television shows into feature length films and recalled such duds as Twilight Zone: The Movie (Okay, the George Miller-directed segment worked) and hits like The Fugitive.
After doing some research I discovered that Ed Solomon, the writer of Men in Black and the Bill & Ted films, and Ryan Rowe, the powerhouse behind 1997’s TV remake of The Love Bug, were penning the Charlie’s Angels script.
Unfortunately, this means that when the screenplay for Charlie’s Angels fails miserably that it’s not because of a lack of talent. Instead, it’s a matter of bad attitude.
The script goes wrong from page two, reading as if it was written by two guys who had no love of the show intent on writing a screenplay that struggles to take itself seriously while ridiculing the premise on which it’s based. If this sounds like a paradox, it is. The result is a regular clusterfuck of silly action sequences and bad writing.
Solomon and Rowe appear to have no respect for Charlie’s Angels and seem anxious to dispense of everything essential to the show’s success. In other words, they threw just about everything except for the show’s title right out the window.
As mentioned above, Charlie’s Angels was firmly rooted in its late ’70s era of social upheaval and plunging necklines. Solomon and Rowe take the Angels out of that decade and try to place them in the ’90s. This isn’t done as a conceit like the anachronistic Brady Bunch living their ’70s lives in a ’90s world. No, instead it seems to be a maneuver done solely for the sake of budgetary constraints.
The writers’ disdain for the show continues in their renaming the Angels and changing their backgrounds. Now one is from the street. One’s a beauty queen. And the other is a brilliant nerdy girl who grew up to be (surprise!) beautiful. Huh, I seem to remember talking about three women who went to the police academy! (Yes, in the final season, Julie (Tanya Roberts) was a model and didn’t first attend the police academy, but she was the third new addition to the show and it just didn’t make sense to have her in the police academy also.)
In addition to changing their names and backgrounds, the Angels now have secret identities to protect the lives they live outside of their dealings with Charlie. This undermines any empowerment that the original Angels possessed as it creates the idea that women can’t be accepted as doing this dangerous kind of work and thereby have to hide how competent they are. Exactly the idea that the show was trying to tear down!
The original Angels went to the police academy and, despite their talents and abilities, were given menial jobs. Charlie "took them away from all that" and helped them to help themselves; elevating them to a level of power and respect. The Angels were out doing what the police couldn’t do and they weren’t hiding it! But in the movie that’s supposed to take place in the progressive ’90s, Charlie empowers the women, but wants to keep it a secret at the same time. That’s not the Charlie I know!
To be fair, some of the script’s action scenes work (though not overly well) and the new Angels manage to kill quite a few peoplesomething they couldn’t do in the TV series. Solomon and Rowe also propose an excellent idea for the film’s opening sequence which would mimic the television show in that the credits would play over images from other adventures of the Angels. This differs from the credits of Mission: Impossible as the Angel images aren’t from the film we’re about to see.
The success of the credit sequence idea is a testament to everything that’s wrong with this script. The credit sequence is the only thing that works, because it’s a duplication of the style and spirit of the original show. Is the message getting any clearer? When one makes the move from television to film, discarding everything about the original premise is detrimental to its success. The concept needs to be embraced.
Solomon and Rowe, however, seem hell-bent on letting the audience know that they are smarter than what they’re writing. Even in the opening action sequence there’s a statement (not a reference, a statement) that a TV show being made into movie is a bad idea. No, a bad idea is trying to be self-reflexive as a way to elevate yourself out of what you’re doing.
I figured Solomon would be perfect for this. Men in Black had an almost tangible coolness to it that never gets in your face and undermines itself but, rather, allows the audience to become part of it. But, with the wonderful tool we call the Internet, I have since discovered that in many cases the writer who’s name appears in the credits is not actually deserving of all (or any) credit. A whole slew of other writers worked on Men in Black, causing me to wonder just how much of Solomon’s script was left intact. (The current rumor on the Internet is that Solomon’s script for Men in Black 2 has been rejected.)
Regardless of Solomon and Rowe’s abilitiesor lack thereofit appears that production on the Charlie’s Angels movie is at a standstill. A few months back there were rumors galore about casting. The new angels were going to be played by Jenny McCarthy, Michelle Yeoh and (God help us) Jada Pinkett-Smith. Fortunately, all three actresses have since claimed no interest in the script. (One rumor I read stated Yeoh wasn’t interested because the part didn’t seem to require any actual acting, another has Drew Barrymore starring in and producing the film). If this rumor had any validity it would seem that a multicultural Charlie’s Angels written by Solomon and Rowe would much better be served with the title of Ebony, Ivory and Jade 2.
Meanwhile, the Charlie’s Angels legacy continues to thrive. Latino channel Telemundo promises to bring Charlie’s Angels in español back to television. Solomon and Rowe take notethe language might be different but I predict that the spirit will remain the same.
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