Angel in the Spotlight

A Look at Solo Episodes and Angel Screen Time (for Advanced Angel Nerds)

This debacle of an article began with my complaint that Sabrina never got a true solo episode. Solos aren't my favorite, but that still annoys me. We got more Kris and Kelly angst than we know what to do with; Tiffany had a few decent spotlights; Jill stole the show whenever she visited; Julie had the big premiere and logged some quality time in Hawaii; even Bosley reserved an adventure of his own. As the best actress of the bunch (according to then-critics and herself) wasn't Kate Jackson deserving of one measly hour of attention? When WAS her biggest spotlight, anyway?

I timed a few Sabrina-heavy episodes and found that the answer is Angels on a String, where she spends about 13 more minutes on screen than each of the other Angels. Okay, so what? For comparison, I checked Angel On My Mind, which is like ALL Kris, right? She has a whopping... barely 5 more minutes than the others. Wait, what?

Then - sigh - I had to know the whole truth. Whenever I watched an episode, I took a moment to add up its time. Here, at last, are the answers to questions that have tormented you ever since the beginning of this sentence.

Which Angel got the most of the spotlight?

This show totally has a thing for blondes. Depending how you look at it, you can make a case for three Angels being the winner - Jill by averages, Kris by bulk, and Tiffany by degree of solitude (though much like her fighting prowess, Tiff's case makes sense on a calculator but not in your heart. I'll explain.) Forced to choose a single answer, I'd say it leans towards Jill.

And then the Angel given the least of the spotlight is Julie, or in some ways Tiffany. Yes, I meant to put Tiffany on both lists. Mildly intrigued?

BACKGROUND CHECK

Townsend Agency original article by Anna September 12, 2012

SOLO SYNDROME

Solo Episode n : An episode that focuses heavily on one Angel.

If you've ever felt like Charlie's Angels began as a perfect three-pronged attack and then steady dissolved into a rotation of Lifetime featurettes, that's because it did.

Solo episodes are usually explained as the result of the cast's desire for time off. When one Angel's kidnapped or tripping out on her lonesome, the other two barely have to contribute anything. And after a few years of 14-hour workdays, you better believe you'd want a break, too.

Director Dennis Donnelly suggests that Ed Lakso's writing style is also to be thanked. "I thought those were better written," he told me of the Lakso solos he directed, including Angel's Child and Angel on a Roll. "They could develop the character better if you concentrated on one."

True, it is hard to grow one character when she's getting a carefully measured 1/3 share of attention, so sometimes it's nice to bond with one at a time. If nothing else, a tighter focus shakes up the potentially monotonous formula (be honest, if all 109 episodes were perfectly balanced, we'd all be complaining that they should have focused sometimes). Perhaps the best thing about solos is that they happen to present some of the best opportunities to see the Angels actually getting to act, rather than just read interchangeable lines as themselves.

"As for my role of Kelly, it doesn't give me that much to do," Jaclyn Smith said in a 1978 interview, at end of the second season. "Everything dissipates on the show because they try to divide everything equally among the three girls. I'd rather have them feature a different one of us each week, with the other two doing less."

Dreams do come true! You'll often find Jaclyn naming Avenging Angel as her favorite episode because it gave her a meatier role than usual. (Then again, sometimes she says Angels in Chains.)

Solo episodes got solo-er. Let's look back at Angel On My Mind, which people generally agree to be the first solo. Kris and her amnesiac beach wanderings take up roughly 26 minutes, while Kelly and Sabrina get 21. Not the landslide it feels like by the time you've wandered off in search of a snack to compliment Kris' hobo stew. In my opinion, this is a great structure for a solo episode: while one Angel is definitely in the foreground, the ones in the background are still getting a healthy amount of involvement.

Quickly though, the solos increase in both frequency and severity. The last definite one is Kris again - Angel on a Roll. She spends 29 minutes seducing that guy in Vegas, while the others barely scrape 11 minutes apiece. That's neither a fluke, nor the worst example. And time isn't the only problem - in the later solos, the two in the background aren't usually even doing anything. They're either sitting around worrying about the featured Angel who's in mortal peril, or phoning from afar just long enough to share a few exposition lines.

So the solo Angels didn't really get more attention than usual; it's just that the non-featured ones started getting way, waaay less

Charlie's Angels' suddenly soapier plots in 1979 (maybe the result of peer pressure from CBS' Dallas and Knots Landing) started to put one Angel in personal crisis on a regular basis. But why can't more than one at a time experience extreme emotions? Pretty much the only one like that is One Love... Two Angels, and of course that's the one time they're having emotions against each other.  It's like the best dramatic parts, almost as a rule, come at the expense of camaraderie.

Whatever happened to 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'? If you ask me - and I guess you kinda did if you're still reading - so frequently giving one Angel the whole spotlight isn't the best idea, simply because it works against the nature of the show. It's beloved for its teamwork and chemistry, which tend to require more than one participant. Sure, you'll get some memorable moments, but outside those it sometimes feels lacking. Today, it's no big deal - if it's an unfavorite episode, you just choose a different one on your DVD. But at the time, weren't they risking two-thirds of the audience changing the channel?

To me, Charlie's Angels is like a BLT. All the parts work deliciously together, pretending to fall in love with your hunger and then sending it to prison. But sometimes the waiter brings you a B or L or T sandwich. It's not technically what you ordered, although if it's the bacon, you might still eat it without complaint, because bacon is your favorite part anyway.  But other times it's just the lettuce, and not that lettuce is without its merits, but what kind of meal is that?

I can't help but wonder if they indulged in solos later on because chemistry wasn't the best anyway, so they figured we wouldn't be missing much. Or was it the other way around - did the chemistry, and the show overall, suffer at the hands of all the solo episodes?  Of course it's not the only factor, but the solo explosion sorta coincided with the show's decline in ratings. Make of that what you will.

You can go make yourself a BLT now, but then come back and we'll compare some episodes.

ANGEL BALANCE

How much screen time an Angel gets in relation to the others
Now we're going to talk about balance, by which I mean how solo an episode is, measured by how much screen time one Angel gets in relation to the others. The higher the number, the solo-er the episode. Let's look at the bad news first.

The soloest Though lots of episodes focused on one Angel above the others, there were only 15 where one Angel literally had twice the screentime of her cohorts (or more).

Angels on Campus should be crowned with the title of Most Unbalanced, for two reasons. Firstly, it's the soloest case ever, with Tiffany taking up 5 times as much time as the others. Secondly, and maybe worse, even the two ignored Angels ignore each other! This is the only episode in which, except for the obligatory intro and wrap-up scenes, no two Angels share a single frame of film throughout the hour.

Though Kelly's the most frequent offender on this list, you'll note that the true common theme here is Season 4, from which almost this entire list of episodes hail. Jill's only here because of her Season 4 shenanigans. Sabrina and Julie, as the only Angels absent from Season 4, are also the only ones absent from this list.

Most Unbalanced Episodes Angels on Campus, Tiffany 5x Angel's Child, Kelly 4.3x Caged Angel, Kris 3.8x Rosemary, for Remembrance, Kris 3.5x One of Our Angels is Missing, Kris 3.1x Angels in Waiting, Bosley 2.9x Of Ghosts and Angels, Tiffany 2.8x One Love... Two Angels, Kelly 2.7x An Angel's Trail, Jill 2.7x Angel on a Roll, Kris 2.6x The Prince and the Angel, Jill 2.6x Angels at the Altar, Kelly 2.5x Angel on the Line, Kelly 2.5x Avenging Angel, Kelly 2.4x Nips and Tucks, Tiffany 2x

So what makes a solo? These are by no means all the episodes I’d consider solos, but I attempted to compile a definitive list based on screen time and it made no sense. Let me show you why:

• Hellride showcases all three Angels working in glorious, equal harmony, right? Well, guess what’s about equally as balanced: To See An Angel Die. Yep, the one where Kris sits in a truck for an hour while Jane Wyman hallucinates about Hansel and Gretel.

• You wouldn’t call Angels Ahoy a “Kelly episode”, would you? Her share of time there is greater than in The Seance and To Kill an Angel.

• While The Big Tap-Out seems fair for giving each Angel a segment in turn, its balance just about ties with the Farrahthon, Fallen Angel.

Besides time, there’s the matter of one Angel being physically separated from the others. That’s why Avenging Angel feels soloer than Of Ghosts and Angels – Kelly’s isolated and Tiffany isn’t. But Ghosts is actually worse. Of course, it also matters whether the Angel is the subject: doesn’t Angels on Vacation feel very Kris-heavy? That’s because it’s about her, but in actuality, it’s just about the most perfectly balanced episode they ever filmed. Check it out:

Most Balanced Episodes Angels at Sea Angels on Vacation Angel Hunt Angels in Chains Toni’s Boys Homes, $weet Homes Angels in Paradise Mr. Galaxy Angels on Horseback Angels Remembered

The evenest As they're ordered on cold hard math, the winner is Angels at Sea. (I know, you wanted it to be Angels in Chains.) Many episodes on this list have the Angels all exactly equal, give or take a minute.

Season 2 is generally the best balanced, which seems to contradict all the later episodes in this list. Again, it has a lot to do with the topics. The first couple of years rarely had an episode that was about one of them. They received and solved the client's case as a team. If somebody got kidnapped, it was a relatively minor tangent in the third act.

It's interesting to note that earlier episodes on this list are balanced because the whole team shares a lot of scenes, but the later idea of balance is to give the Angels equal amounts of alone time. But hey, at least this is one sorta good thing about Mr. Galaxy!

ANGEL CONTENT

How much the Angels are actually in an episode

Fullness / Emptiness By that, I refer to the amount of time when at least one Angel or Bosley is present.  Scenic footage, bad-guys-scheming scenes, etc. constitutes empty time - stuff you'd fast-forward if you were only looking for "the Angel parts".

Emptiest Episodes Angels of the Deep 48% Marathon Angels 51% Toni's Boys 53% Three for the Money 55% Counterfeit Angels 57% To Kill an Angel 58% Moonshinin' Angels 58% Angels in the Wings 62% Disco Angels 62% Terror on Skis 62%

Angels of the Deep is easily the worst at 48%, the only one in which the Angels are literally absent from the majority of their own show. And that's being generous - if you don't consider those long, murky stunt double scuba scenes to count as Angel screentime, we could be dipping into the 30's.

Season 1 has the least empty time, which is extra cool considering its episodes generally run a minute or two longer than the rest. Your gut will tell you that the last season is the emptiest.

Fullest Episodes Angel On My Mind 96% Angels Remembered 96% Angels in Chains 94% Rosemary, For Remembrance 94% An Angel's Trail 94% Let Our Angel Live 94% Angels in Waiting 92% Angels Ahoy 91% To See an Angel Die 91% Dirty Business 90%

I'm surprised to find the "good" column mostly consists of unpopular solos and clip shows. But it makes sense that solos are actually better for emptiness, because when you finish a scene with the featured Angel, you go check in with the other two. When you've got all your Angels in one basket, those in-between-scenes can only be empty. Unless it's Angels in Chains.

Richness Here's yet another reason why Angels in Chains is so scrumtrulescent: with 36, 38, and 39 minutes apiece for the girls, it's the most Angel-rich episode in the series. The only other (regular) episode in which all the Angels have at least 30 minutes apiece is Angels at Sea.

Now consider that the only time Julie ever got 30 minutes was Angel in Hiding, which is a 2-hour episode that focuses on her. Later episodes often have an Angel deficiency, the worst being Three for the Money, where they have only 10, 10, and 11 minutes. It's like a solo featuring no one.

Guest Farrahs Don't these episodes make you go "Oh boy oh boy, FOUR ANGELS?" Yeah well, whenever Jill comes to town, she has this tendency to hog up the whole episode for herself (understandably, since Farrah's rare and you gotta make the most of her). But there's never really a big, equal group showcase, which is part of the fun of her returning. The Season 3 ones are semi-fair, but in Season 4 she gets at least twice the screen time of everybody else, and Kris always gets lots of reflected attention.

Two-Parters Although some of those double-long episodes feel like the extra part is all filler footage, I'm surprised that most of them aren't far beyond average emptiness. Terror on Skis and Angels in Vegas are the worst offenders.

Seasonally In terms of screen time, Jill owned Season 1, Kris owned Seasons 2 and 3, and Kelly owned Seasons 4 and 5 (although Kris nearly tied).

A totally average Charlie's Angels episode ...follows the standard crime-office-field-takedown-office formula. One Angel will have 1.5x as much attention as the others, spending lots of time on her own immersed in the field, while the other two share most of their scenes working the case from a different angle. Bosley will hang around for about 13 minutes, mainly in office scenes and some isolated hijinks in the middle. The bad guys will talk to each other boringly for about 12 minutes, and the whole thing will run about 47 minutes. Think of Teen Angels as the poster child.

SCREEN TIME STATS BY ANGEL

If you care to compare Angels’ various scores, delve into the following file cabinets.
Jill Munroe
Average Time Per Episode: 23 minutes (that's the highest of anyone) Soloest Episode: An Angel’s Trail, Jill had 2.7x as much time as Kris, Kelly and Tiffany Total Time Onscreen: 11 hours Longest Time: Angels in Chains, 39 minutes Shortest Time: To Kill an Angel, 13 minutes

Farrah was the “it girl” in the press and on the show: she has the highest average time per episode, and is the one who most often receives more screen time than her comrades. Even her briefest appearance ever (13 minutes in To Kill and Angel) is significantly longer than the other Angels’.

You won’t be surprised to learn that Jill wins nearly all her high points in her 6 guest episodes (Angel in a Box is the only one where she didn’t get the most time). She may not be around for very long, but she packs a punch.

Kelly Garrett

Average Time Per Episode: 21 minutes Soloest Episode: Angel’s Child, Kelly had 4.3x as much time as Kris and Tiffany Total Time Onscreen: 37 hours and 21 minutes (that's the longest of anyone) Longest Time: One Love… Two Angels, 54 minutes Longest Time (Regular-Length): Angels in Chains, 38 minutes Shortest Time: Angels on Campus, 5 minutes

Kelly occupies more time than any other Angel (shocker), spending a total of about 37 hours and 21 minutes on screen (and yes, that includes Full Throttle, which is only a minute long). But besides that, she doesn't receive as much attention as you might think. In fact, her 5 minutes spent in Angels on Campus is the shortest time any Angel ever spent in an episode.

She does own the 2nd-soloest episode ever, Angel's Child, so that's something. Kelly certainly gets her share of solos, but she's left in the background as often as she's featured. Statistically, she's doled out with surprising fairness. Maybe since she was there the whole time, early team-player Kelly sort of cancels out later solo-star Kelly.

 
Kris Munroe

Average Time Per Episode: 21 minutes Soloest Episode: Caged Angel, Kris had 3.8x as much time as Kelly and Tiffany Total Time Onscreen: 30 hours and 30 minutes Longest Time: Love Boat Angels, 57 minutes (that's the longest of anyone) Longest Time (Regular-Length): Caged Angel, 35 minutes Shortest Time: Angels on Campus, 7 minutes

If you go with your gut and consider how many solo and centric episodes she has, Kris is totally the soloest Angel, although I'm shocked to report that she doesn't win the title statistically.

She is the least commonly ignored Angel, which is to say that she may not always get the most attention, but she never gets the least - and over time, that adds up. She's the tortoise to Jill's hare.

Kris and Kelly tie for the actual number of episodes they've hogged (31), but Kris' is worth more considering she's in fewer episodes total.

Sabrina Duncan

Average Time Per Episode: 21 minutes Soloest Episode: Angels on a String, Sabrina had 1.7x as much screen time as Kelly & Jill Total Time Onscreen: 24 hours and 20 minutes Longest Time: Angels in Paradise, 53 minutes Longest Time (Regular-Length): Angels in Chains, 36 minutes Shortest Time: Disco Angels, 8 minutes

Ol' Sabrina always draws the short straw. Not only does she not have a solo episode, but she's the one who most often receives less attention than her comrades. Even when she does get more attention than the other two, it isn't very much more. It's most surprising that the closest thing she ever got to a solo was in Season 1, even though she was still around when real solos started happening in Season 3.

Julie Rogers

Average Time Per Episode: 19 minutes Soloest Episode: Attack Angels, Julie had 1.8x as much screentime as Kelly & Kris Total Time Onscreen: 5 hours and 10 minutes (that's the shortest of all) Longest Time: Angel in Hiding, 30 minutes Longest Time (Regular-Length): Stuntwomen Angels, 29 minutes Shortest Time: Moonshinin’ Angels, 8 minutes

By the time Julie joined, Charlie's Angels was not into giving Charlie's Angels very much screen time, which sort of adds insult to the injury of being the shortest-lived Angel anyway. With only 16 episodes to her name, Julie Rogers exists on film for barely over 5 hours.

She was treated pretty fairly though, in terms of being ignored and featured. Maybe they learned their lesson with Tiffany.

Tiffany Welles

Average Time Per Episode: 18 minutes (that's the lowest of all) Soloest Episode: Angels on Campus, Tiffany had 5x as much screen time as Kelly & Kris (that's the soloest episode of all) Total Time Onscreen: 7 hours Longest Time: Of Ghosts and Angels, 33 minutes Shortest Time: (TIE) Caged Angel / One of Our Angels is Missing / The Prince and the Angel, 9 minutes

An enigma, as always. Tiffany not only occupied the soloest episode ever, but if you look at the severity of all the times she's featured, she's the soloest of them all. Yes, for all the multitude of Kris kidnap fests and Kelly drama hours, Tiffany is the statistical Queen of the Solos. (I told you it didn't make sense.)

And yet, she's still the least commonly featured, and also the Angel with the lowest average time per episode. If you don't think that's a big deal, go look at Jill. With only a 5 episode difference, she and Tiff are the closest Angels in terms of time on the job - but Tiff's lifespan is 4 entire hours shorter!

How? By being employed during the most solo-heavy year, and by being consistently under-utilized in group settings. So she rarely gets attention, but when she does, it's a LOT.

John Bosley

Average Time Per Episode: 13 minutes (that's the actual lowest time, lower than any Angel) Soloest Episode: Angels in Waiting, Bosley had 2.9x as much time as the Angels Total Time Onscreen: 24 hours and 10 minutes Longest Time: Angels in Waiting, 41 minutes (that's the actual 1-hour record high, higher than any Angel's) Shortest Time: Toni’s Boys, 50 seconds (that's the actual shortest time, shorter than any Angel's)

I've always felt like Bosley's character was marginalized at first, and then treated more and more like the Angels' equal - but in reality, his scores are all over the place. He actually gets the most attention in Season 3 - probably from all the romances - and the least in 4. In all his years of service, he spent about as much time on screen total as Sabrina did.

Although I've been labeling leasts and mosts among the Angels because that's mostly what we care about, Bosley actually holds the record for almost everything. The only surprising one is Bosley's 41 minutes in Angels in Waiting, which is longer than anyone else ever spent in a regular-length episode.