The Original Cast of "Charlie's Angels" was the Best

Herbie J Pilato

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The original cast of "Charlie's Angels" (1976): From left - Jaclyn Smith, Farrah Fawcett, Kate Jackson[The Classic TV Preservation Society]

[This article features edited information from the book, Glamour, Gidgets, and the Girl Next Door: Television's Iconic Women from the '50s, '60s, and '70s.]

The show was the brainchild of a genius producer named Aaron Spelling, who had brought similar but different team-crime shows to the small screen with his business partner Leonard Goldberg.

The series was titled Charlie's Angels, and it featured an alternating cast of three female lead detectives over the years, each with a unique look and style all their own.

But it was the first season cast of Charlie's Angels, which originally aired on ABC from 1976 to 1981, which TV viewers most remember.

That initial year the show starred Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith, the latter of whom was the only original cast member to remain with the series for its entire five seasons.

Jackson portrayed Sabrina Duncan, "the smart one." Fawcett played Jill Munroe, "the athletic one."
Smith was Kelly Garrett, "the sophisticated one."

The trio worked for the heard-but-unseen Charles Townsend, who owned and operated the Townsend Detective Agency. The Angels never saw their boss, and only communicated with him via a speaker phone in the office, by other landline phones (the series aired decades before the smartphone era), or via their colleague, Bosley.

Bosley was played by David Doyle, who bore a striking resemblance to actor Tom Bosley, who played Ron Howard's father on Happy Days. That sometimes proved confusing for TV fans.

John Forsythe, the former star of Bachelor Father, and later star of Dynasty, provided the voice of Charlie.

Fawcett, then married to actor Lee Majors, of TV's The Six Million Dollar Man, on which she made three guest appearances, became the most popular star of Charlie's Angels. But after a legal battle with Spelling and his producing business partner, Leonard Goldberg, left the series after the first year.

In the second season, Fawcett was replaced by Cheryl Ladd, who once made a guest appearance on Happy Days. Ladd, playing Jill Munroe's kid sister, Kris Munroe, became popular as well.

Jackson began her career on TV's gothic daytime soap, Dark Shadows, and the prime-time hit, The Rookies, another crime show with three leads which was from the Spelling/Goldberg stable, which also included The Mod Squad (yet another detective show that featured three leading characters).

Jackson was never fully satisfied with the scripts of Charlie's Angels, was initially upset about the attention Fawcett received, and then, too, by Ladd's popularity, and never felt fully credited for her input into the show's concept.

By the fourth season, Jackson left the series and was replaced by actress Shelly Hack, who was best known as the "Charlie" perfume girl from the then-popular TV commercials. On Charlie's Angels, she played Tiffany Welles.

It was in TV commercials, that both Fawcett and Smith had also initially received a measure of pre-Charlie's Angels success; though their commercials were for Wella Balsam shampoo.

The on-screen chemistry between Hack, Ladd, and Smith didn't work as well as that between Smith, Jackson, and Ladd, even if the latter two did not always get along off-screen.

In the fifth season, Hack was replaced by Tanya Roberts, who played Julie Rogers, "the street angel,"

Now, the show featured one brunette (Smith), one blonde (Ladd), and one redhead (Roberts).

That was the only vision for the series at the beginning.

But back in 1975, when Smith walked into the audition to read with Fawcett, a blonde, and Jackson, who was also a brunette, the chemistry was electric. The Spelling/Goldberg team was impressed, and it did not matter that they now had two brunettes and one blonde actress.

By the show's fifth season, however, after years of cast changes, and script issues, the era of Charlie's Angels was over. The original chemistry of Jackson, Smith, and Fawcett would never be replicated, no matter how many times or ways it was tried - on the original series, or in any of the TV or feature film remakes that followed over the years.

There was talk over the years of reuniting the original cast or any members of the first Charlie's Angels TV series. But a group effort would never come to be. Fawcett died a painful death from cancer in 2009, and Roberts was also gone much too soon in 2021.

But either way, the magic chemistry between Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett, and Jaclyn Smith would and could never be replicated or matched.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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