I've been in a gloomy funk lately, so gloomy I had to turn to my ultimate solace: the first two seasons of TV's Charlie's Angels. As soon as it hit the airwaves in 1976 it was an instant sensation, especially amongst us children, many of whom couldn't even stay up to see it, but we saw the Time cover, the TV Guide cover, and were smitten en masse. I was a preternaturally perverse nine years old and the sight of Farrah Fawcet Majors, Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith on the cover of TIME in their cute red and white glitter costumes sent me through the roof with polymorphous jouissance. This being the era before the internet and video, we kids didn't see pictures like this too often, at least not right out in the open, right there in the mailbox.
Young as I was, I was not unlike the insane stalker obsessive who felt that by accumulating photos and tidbits from magazines, I could somehow imagine my way out of my mundane childhood and into the show. My dream was simple: I wanted the Angels and I to live together in a cool house in my same neighborhood (instead of living with my parents and little brother), then maybe Kate Jackson and I could hold hands on the porch. Of course in the meantime I'd settle for just being allowed to stay up late and watch it (my bedtime must have been 9 PM - I couldn't even see SWAT, which my schoolmates all watched beforehand and talked about at recess with even more enthusiasm than the Angels). I was too young to understand that not being allowed to stay up to see it was what made it so desirable.
There's something about Jackson, especially, that appeals to me, to the youth. She married a guy seven years younger than her in real life, and made her big TV splash as the itinerant free spirited girl who hangs out with a much younger runaway (Lance Kerwin) in the TV movie, JAMES AT 15. I never saw that movie, but I saw enough of the later series to be jealous of Kerwin.
Man what a time! To just give you an example of how cool the 1970s were: James loses his virginity in an episode (not to Jackson) and from then on the show is called JAMES AT 16! It still only lasted a season, but damn; If you were 9 or 10, and it was the late 70s, you felt you really had a lot to look forward to.
You were wrong, but how could anyone have predicted AIDS?
Kate's appeal is not sexual, it's deeper, it predates the orgasm, she is the figure of sisterly nurturing and hints of wickedness that comes between infancy and puberty. She and her friends on CHARLIE'S ANGELS never seemed to need, think about or otherwise want anything physical from anyone other than the occasional shoulder rub or make-out session (and if a guy got to make out with an angel, he usually wound up going to jail by the end of the show) and that's why we could all safely fall in love with them. Spelling's natural grasp of viewer psychology allowed us to fantasize ourselves into the show without the Oedipal frustrations of some new boyfriend, "Sorry Charlie, Sabrina's got a date with the Chad tonight" or some other toad-ish claim. It's like GUNGA DIN, with Cary, Doug and Victor as the Angels, and no young British lass waiting to try and abduct Doug and make him have tea on doilies, and then have kids of their own, which we kid viewers would then feel alienated by (for the same reasons we hated Robin, and Superboy, and most DC superhero comics as opposed to Marvel's; DC's war and horror comics were good though).
Decidedly less voluptuous than Farrah Fawcett Majors and Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson's Sabrina was a mix of older sister, protector, nurturer and friend, and sexy enough to be more than that, "when you're ready." I still turn to her in times of trouble and still get a warm glow off her wry grin and twinkly eyes, her faint southern drawl and old-fashioned girls school etiquette, her lanky form moving with quickness, ease and grace in her stylish 1970s clothes. Before ANGELS she was in The Mod Squad, Dark Shadows and two low budget TV movie titles: Satan's School for Girls and Death at Love House! I've still never seen either one, but if you're a strung out sugar addict nine year old in 1976, there were no two titles hotter to imagine on your cold prepubescent winter nights.
"The smart angel," Sabrina never shows any skin and is usually wearing turtlenecks (part of her contract, I think) but it works, as the midriffs of the Jaclyn and Farrah or Cheryl Ladd become even more revealing by contrast; and ultimately the show is not about sex, it's about beauty; and it's not about crime, it's about mystery; and it's not about violence, it's about skulduggery. All the sex and violence is filtered through a child's conception of same; adult talk has the same abstract meaninglessness it does for children; the dialogue focuses on plot line and the script is underwritten, so there's a lot of standing around, just like in real life. And tantrums get results. Negative attention is better than no attention. Many's the time Kate will calm down a killer, sweet talk them off the ledge by guessing their fixations and neuroses and providing a nurturing shoulder to cry on. But if it comes down to it, she'll pop a cap in your ass from her snub-nosed .38. Needless to say, she's a Scorpio. What was it Johnny Depp once said? "Kate... I love you, Kate..."