TV Review: ABC’s Latest ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Reboot Fails to Take Flight

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CHICAGO – Out of all the franchises recently resurrected on the small screen, “Charlie’s Angels” is perhaps the least necessary. Does the world really need yet another rehash of the hit ’70s show that has been hailed for its female empowerment but was mainly popular because of its scantily clad female ensemble? There’s a very good reason why the show was referred to as “Jiggle TV,” and the reason was Farrah Fawcett.

Yet Drew Barrymore’s Flower Films seems determined to make the dated schlock relevant for a new generation. The company produced two “Angels” films in the early 2000s that were trashy fun at best, audience-insulting dreck at worst. Now Flower Films has teamed up with “Smallville” creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to launch the latest incarnation of “Angels” on the 35th anniversary of its original debut. Too bad the ladies’ clipped wings already appear primed for cancellation. Television Rating: 2.0/5.0
Television Rating: 2.0/5.0

In their attempt to modernize the material, Gough and Millar have stripped it of the campy excess that made McG’s cinematic retreads so tiresome. Yet without the nonstop in-jokes and winks to the camera, the new “Angles” is practically indiscernible from any other cop show on television. It uses the standard formula of the old show without bothering to subvert its predictable clichés. Not a single moment in the “Angels” pilot is the least bit surprising. When the camera lingers for an inordinate amount of time on the same vehicle, it’s clear that the car is about to burst into flames. When a young hot woman enters the picture just as an angel makes a sudden exit, it’s clear that the mystery lady is intended to be her replacement. The only sizable difference between this show and its predecessors is the backstory of its heroic trio. Whereas the original Angels were police academy graduates proving they could fight crime as successfully as men, the new Angles are corrupted souls seeking a second chance at life. Millionaire Charlie Townsend still delivers their assignments over a speaker, though it’s unclear this time around why he would take a chance on these women. Since his voice has all the charisma of an answering machine, his intentions remain entirely enigmatic.

Ramon Rodriguez, Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor star in ABC’s reboot of Charlie’s Angels.
Ramon Rodriguez, Minka Kelly, Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor star in ABC’s reboot of Charlie’s Angels.
Photo credit: ABC

The other big change to the formula lies in the casting of Bosley. In the past, he’s been an interchangeable male counterpart good for a few laughs but of no real value to the show overall (Bill Murray and Bernie Mac suffered through the role on the big screen). Now Bosley has been recast as an attractive male (Ramon Rodriguez) designed to provide female viewers with eye candy of their own. He’s also a complete bore, and the same can be said for the new league of Angels, who so far exude as much personality as the Fantanas. It’s impossible to believe any of these women have a criminal record. They’re so wholesome that they would seem like better candidates for “Touched by an Angel,” while their line delivery veers close to a “Scooby Doo”-level of stiltedness. Yet to be fair, none of the actors are well supported by the script, which is as banal and uninspired as they come. A vast majority of the dialogue in the pilot requires the Angels to remind the audience that they are driven by “justice” not “vengeance,” thus drawing an obvious line between their show and ABC’s Wednesday night drama, “Revenge.” Yet the devious mischief on display in “Revenge” is far more diverting than the Angels’ sanitized acts of routine heroism.

ABC’s latest reboot of Charlie’s Angels premieres Sept. 22, 2011.
ABC’s latest reboot of Charlie’s Angels premieres Sept. 22, 2011.
Photo credit: ABC

And yet, I’ll begrudgingly admit that watching an episode of this show is vastly preferable to sitting through the original. As former socialite-turned-thief Abby, Rachael Taylor has a smile that lights up the screen and outshines those of her fellow co-stars, Annie Ilonzeh (as dirty cop Kate) and Minka Kelly (as new French recruit Eve). It’s admittedly refreshing to observe a trio of Angles that aren’t merely objectified in skimpy disguises. When these ladies go undercover, their costumes are less conspicuous, save for the party scene where they dress up as devils (har har). The only sexualized object on display is Bosley, who’s reduced to using his masculine wiles to create a diversion. Since the show is devoid of comic relief and opens on a bummer note, it’s pretty dreary all around. The only quips to be had are of the groan-inducing variety (“Abby puts the cat in cat burglar!”).
The best thing that can be said about Gough and Millar’s “Charlie’s Angels” reboot is that it never sinks to an irredeemable level of awfulness. It’s just thoroughly mediocre at every turn, and what’s worse is that the cast and crew seem to be well aware of this. The show moves at such a rushed pace that it never pauses long enough to truly engage the audience. When a seemingly major character is killed off in the pilot’s opening moments, the actresses are called on to squeeze out tears for the character they (and the viewer) barely knew. Their emoting is as unconvincing as their allegedly dark pasts. Everything from the fight scenes to the fearsome villains fails to pack a solid punch. When a sequence jarringly reverts to split screen, the technique is used merely as a stylistic device that pays homage to the show’s ’70s-era origins. Why not use the split screen to enhance the storytelling by inventively staging an otherwise derivative set-piece? Such creativity does not seem to be within the grasp of this toothless revival. When the line, “You killed my best friend,” is delivered without a trace of conviction and fails to impact the audience on any conceivable level, it’s clear that this half-hearted attempt at franchise renewal has yet to earn its wings.

‘Charlie’s Angels,’ which airs on ABC, stars Rachael Taylor, Annie Ilonzeh, Minka Kelly and Ramon Rodriguez. The show was created by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts and developed by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. The first season premieres on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011 at 7PM CST. staff writer Matt Fagerholm

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