Angel Knockoffs: Half Season Cash Grabs
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.
In the immediate wake of the Charlie's Angels phenomena the 2 other networks scrambled to duplicate the success of the show by churning out a bunch of hour-long action/adventure clones headed by beautiful women (usually 3 sometimes 2) with mostly mediocre/ disappointing results. CBS in particular seemed to have a hard on for the Angel formula, attempting two rather blatant knockoffs within months of each other. None lasted an entire season.
BACKGROUND CHECKTownsend Agency original article by Greg April 20, 2016
First up for CBS was Flying High. Debuting in August of '78, this hour-long adventure show which substituted 3 beautiful flight attendants for 3 beautiful detectives never clicked with viewers.
The series seemed most Angel-like in the opening credits of it’s pilot episode, where a computer read out and introduced each woman by name, age and location with a brief snippet of them getting their flight attendance acceptance letter (instead of Sabrina on a horse getting a call from Charlie, you get Marcy on a tractor getting a letter from the air-line). Too bad everything else after this very Angel-like intro felt more like The Love Boat In the friendly skies (this week's special guest star Jim Bakkus!) than anything remotely Angel-like.
Flying High starred Pat Klous, Kathryn Witt and Connie Selka as Marcy Bowers, Pam Bellagio and Lisa Benton respectively. All 3 actors were capable and lovely but it was Selka who would have the most success in Hollywood co-starring in the hits Hotel and the Greatest American Hero and marrying Gil Gerrard (TV’s Buck Rogers) before divorcing him and later marrying Entertainment Tonight and terrible music’s John Tesh, with whom she is still wed today.
Another tenuous Angel connection is the fact that Pat Klous would later replace Lauren Tewes' character, cruise director Julie McCoy, on Aaron Spelling's The Love Boat as Julie's sister Judy for a season while Tewes was in rehab for cocaine addiction.
The American Girls
Next up on CBS offered The American Girls, this time switching out 3 beautiful capable detectives for 2 beautiful capable magazine reporters.
Future Three’s Company star Pricilla Barnes stars along Debra Clinger as 2 roving investigative reporters that work for The American Report and travel the country in their production van chasing down stories. The series co-starred David Spielberg and William Prince.
Launched in September of '78 while Flying High was still struggling to find an audience, both shows faced a similar problem in trying to emulate the Angels' setup. Where shows like Charlie's Angels, Wonder Woman, and The Bionic Woman placed women in historically masculine roles as secret agents, detectives, superheroes, American Girls and Flying High offered more mundane and familiar careers for their leads. The Angels as detectives allowed for weekly jeopardy, bad guys trying to kill our heroines, and the women’s ability to out-drive, out-shoot and out-fight the men. The action distracted from any script problems and made an hour of TV not boring.
But an hour of magazine reporters and flight attendants can get tedious real quick if the script is badly written and the plots weak. These are roles women have already been associated with, and flight attendant and reporter adventures exposing corrupt business men are simply not as exciting as detective superheroes catching bad guys and shooting guns.
Not to be outdone, NBC first entered the empowered women’s fray mere months after the Angels premiered with the cheesy TV movie Cover Up. Starring Jayne Kennedy and Cornelia Sharpe, this blatant Angel knockoff is largely forgotten and rarely seen. Kennedy and Sharpe starred as government agents who posed as models. One-time James Bond George Lazenby co-starred as a bad guy.
With fair to atrocious acting and a nonexistent plot it’s a good thing Kennedy and Sharpe looked good, because the preceedings become boring pretty fast. There are some interesting guest stars, including soon-to-be Miami Vice star Don Johnson as a rock-and-roll agent, and John Travolta’s sister Ellen Travolta pops up as a photographer. Although the film feels like a pilot for a weekly series. it was only shown a few times on CBS late-night then faded into obscurity.
B.J. and the Seven Lady Truckers
4 years later NBC once again tried to capitalize on the whole "women in action" thing by adding 7 Lady Truckers to the third season of it’s quasi hit show BJ and The Bear. (By the way, you know a show is awesome if you can make a porn version of it without changing any of the words in the title.)
BJ (Greg Evigan) decides to hire 7 lady truckers for his struggling Bear Enterprises when his nemesis Grant harasses all the experienced drivers into quitting, leaving him with no other option but to hire an all-female staff. BJ is joined by Grant's own daughter Cindy, no-nonsense Callie, motorcycle jockey Angie, twins Geri and Teri, and feisty Angie. Even Charlie’s Angels guest star Judy Landers (Mrs. Chicken/the linen girl) gets to star as one of the lady truckers named, um... Stacks. No last (or first) name. Just Stacks.
Like the CBS knock offs, The 7 Lady truckers suffered from not enough character exploration (did I mention one of the women’s name was Stacks?) and too much was going on. Poor Greg Evigan, first he had to share screen time with a monkey and now he has to share screen time with a monkey and 7 hot chicks. The gamble did not pay off and even the addition of the 7 lady truckers could not slow down the show’s ratings slide; neither the 7 ladies nor the show itself lasted past this season.
Part of the problem was the cynical nature of the networks when approaching these shows. Under the mistaken belief that simply taking 2 or 3 (or 7) glamorous women and transforming them from detectives to flight attendants or truck drivers would be enough to sustain the audience attention. The chemistry between the Angels and the sense of adventure and empowerment were as important to the success of the show as putting beautiful women in glamorous situations.
The fact that none of these copy-cat shows even managed to last a season is a testament to the unique qualities Charlies Angels bought to the table.
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ANGEL KNOCKOFF SERIES