Angel Knockoffs: Codename: Foxfire

CHARLIE'S ANGELS KNOCKOFF SERIES

Once Charlie's Angels became a hit, the rest of the entertainment world suddenly shared an epiphany: women + teamwork = success! Somehow this formula failed to yield positive results when applied to a bunch of really, really bad copycat shows, and most quickly disappeared from the airwaves. Here's a closer look in memoriam of some Angel knockoff shows you may have forgotten.

Just 3 short years after the Angels made their final bow, Aaron Spelling decided to copy himself with the debut of the cheesy-as-hell TV movie Velvet. How cheesy? Well, Velvet was a group of four female government agents who had a secret headquarters located behind the mirror in a aerobic gym. That’s right, the four female agents were aerobic instructors by day and secret agents by night. (More on that here.) Not surprisingly, this horrible pilot was not picked up as a series and mercifully faded into oblivion. This week we continue our decade by decade look at Charlie's Angels knockoffs with a look at another of the cheesiest faux-Angel clones ever created... which happened to be produced in one of the cheesiest decades ever. The 80’s.

This is why it was quite a surprise when, just 5 months later, NBC tried to copy the Angels again with the TV movie Codename: Foxfire.

Their first adventure in a nutshell:Better written, cast, and produced than VelvetFoxfire was sort of a Charlies Angels - A-Team - Mission Impossible hybrid knockoff attempt at feminist 80's spy glamour. The series starred Sheryl Lee Ralph, Robin Johnson, and Joanna Cassidy, who actually held a Charlie's Angels pedigree: she had guest starred on the final season as femme fatale Stacy, who ended up getting kicked into a stack of boxes by Cheryl Ladd in Hula Angels.

Bad guys steal a nuclear missile. The President's brother springs former CIA superagent Elizabeth "Foxfire" Towne out of prison and offers her a full pardon in exchange for the small favor of saving the world from nuclear annihilation. Oh, and the mastermind nuclear thief, Sam Rawlings, turns out to be Foxfire's evil ex-fiance, by whom she'd been framed and wrongfully imprisoned! (Act shocked.)

Eventually, Foxfire discovers that Sam intends to blow up a Soviet spy satellite over the United States. The Russians are actually paying Sam to do this so it'll look like the USA did it, thus giving Russia an excuse to start World War III. (What?) This is all happening in the Virgin Islands for some reason.

Helping out Foxfire (somewhat reluctantly) are her beautiful teammates:

A former employee's daughter: Stunt driver Danny O'Toole (played by future newscaster Robin Johnson). Her dad was Foxfire's driver pre-prison, but now he's dead, so the quirky New York punk Danny gets the job!

Some chick she met in prison: Foxfire's former cellmate Maggie Bryan (played by future Moesha star Sheryl Lee Ralph) who's a cat burglar and con artist.

Wow, what a solid team.

The gang flies to Saint Thomas, where Sam and a Nazi rocket engineer are preparing to launch the missile. Chasing and shooting ensues, but the launch can't be stopped, so Foxfire hatches a plan to prevent WWIII: why not crash a plane into the missile in midair before it can do any harm? Yes, this sounds like an excellent idea.

Our heroine flies a seaplane towards the missile, planning to parachute out at the last second, but oh no, Sam is also somehow on the plane too! More fighting ensues. She's able to parachute out anyway. Sam, and the plane, and the missile, go boom.

The world is safe again and Foxfire graciously receives a pardon for a crime she didn't commit in the first place. Hooray!

The 2-hour pilot movie made respectable if not spectacular ratings, good enough to receive a Friday night timeslot, and the team went on to tackle other very hazardous duties like protecting visiting dignitaries. A whopping 7 episodes later, it died a swift and painless death going up against Benson and Webster on ABC and The Dukes Of Hazzard over on CBS.

One more interesting blip on our background check: these fake Angels somehow managed to garner a postmortem nomination in the 1985 Primetime Emmys for outstanding cinematography in a series - up against real Angel Kate Jackson's CBS series Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Don't worry, both lost against Miami Vice.

Though the series has never been commercially released in its entirety, Foxfire still retains a small following, beloved mainly for its ridiculous yet entertaining over-the-top 80's action. Most of all, it's a show everyone loved to make fun of.

The years of 1984 and 1985 proved to be a brief and slight respite for the idea of a team of female action TV stars prving once again that it takes more than hot chicks, faux karate kicks and beautiful locations to capture the hearts (and ratings) of the American public. 3 hot women working for a Howard Hughes/Heffner-like boss they never meet is one thing, but aerobic instructor government agents and ex-con spies? Now that’s just silly.

Stay tuned for our next installment of Angel knockoffs when we explore a decade very near and dear to Angels fans hearts: the 70’s.

BACKGROUND CHECK

Townsend Agency original article by Greg August 8, 2011

CODENAME: FOXFIRE

codename-foxfire

YEAR 1985

RUN 8 episodes

JIST Ex-con former government secret agent & assorted pals

"ANGELS" Joanna Cassidy Sheryl Lee Ralph Robin Johnson

PRODUCERS Joel Schumacher Richard Chapman Bill Dial