The faceless voice leading a group female crime fighters is back in ABC's three-peat of the inexplicably popular Charlie's Angels franchise. This time, as opposed to the physics-defying camp that was the McG series of films, Charlie's Angels is more reminiscent of the aspects that launched the franchise some 35 years ago.
That's not to say ABC wasn't interested in bringing a little more of the films' high-octane action to this version, however. What the audience gets is a rather nostalgic mash-up of a little action and a little drama with a heavy dose of exposition. While one could say this is a much-needed bit of fun and action to be paired with the sometimes-heavy melodrama of Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, why does this series premiere leave the viewer with such a feeling of ambivalence?
The pilot starts off promisingly enough with Angels Kate (Annie Ilonzeh), Gloria (Nadine Velazquez) and Abby (Rachael Taylor) rescuing a young girl from a ring of human traffickers – the sequence even throws the audience a bit of a curve ball with the absence of Friday Night Lights and Parenthood star Minka Kelly in the opening Angel introductions – leaving one to wonder how she will finally figure into the story.
All of that is explored soon enough as Gloria falls victim to a car bomb – setting off the chain of events that will lead to Eve French (Kelly) becoming her replacement.
This means going after the person responsible for Gloria’s murder – a man known only as Pajaro. Of course, Eve knows he is also a wealthy Miami developer by the name of Rodrigo, as their paths have crossed before. Coincidentally enough, Pajaro is also responsible for the human trafficking the Angels were sent in to clean up in the first place. Talk about two birds with one stone.
The rest of the episode plays out as a sort of crash course on each of the Angels – though none of them really have that complex a backstory or motive. Each scene becomes a chance to put a particular Angel’s skill set on display - for instance, the highly advanced safe that Gloria had stashed underneath a fake tray of kitty litter. No problem for socialite-turned-cat-burglar Abby – she cracks it like she’s opening a can of soda.
And so without too much ado, the Angels manage to bring justice to their fallen comrade and Eve gets her wings… so to speak.
Even though this new iteration of Charlie's Angels comes from Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the series lacks all of the charm that came with those first few seasons of the adventures of a young Clark Kent. Perhaps it is because this Charlie's Angels carries with it a heavy dose of been-there-done-that, which not only makes the show feel old from the get-go, but also makes the rather lengthy exposition of the pilot episode all the more burdensome.
Sure, Angels hits all the right beats, but in the effort to not shortchange any one Angel, the episode moves at such a pace that for all the beats it manages to hit, it never stays with any of them long enough for it to matter. Conflict erupts in a heartbeat, but is extinguished just as quickly. It’s as though the show is reluctant to pursue any real sense of danger for fear of getting bogged down by it.
The only moment that seems to carry any weight is Gloria’s untimely demise – and even that is more or less forgotten as soon as Minka Kelly is introduced.
The audience already knows everything about Charlie’s Angels – and quite frankly – there’s nothing spectacular enough about any of the women that they need to have their story told at the same time. The origins of each Angel would have been better served later on in the season (perhaps an episode dedicated to each), as the pilot sort of became the unofficial origin story for Eve French.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is that Charlie’s Angels wasn’t screaming for a reboot – in fact, this isn’t a reboot at all, it is just another version. It’s like a chain restaurant: essentially it’s different, but you’ll still be ordering off the same menu. One would think that with the popularity of reboots, there would be some change to go along with it – something original that wasn’t said before that would justify a series this old to find its way to television once more.
Sadly, for this incarnation, the only things new are the faces. The least Gough and Millar could have done is change Charlie’s gender – which would have been the smallest gesture possible to warrant this show, but a gesture nonetheless. At the end of the day, it feels like Charlie’s Angels is on television again because no one could think of anything better to put on – not because there was an incredible new take on the concept.
Still, this is only the pilot episode, and Charlie’s Angels may yet have some tricks up its sleeve. It would be too easy to write off a series that has existed for so long – and has proven popular on both television and in film. With any luck, some aspect will develop on this show that will single it out – and the 2011 version of Charlie’s Angles won’t simply be remembered as a show based on a show.
Charlie’s Angels airs Thursdays @8pm on ABC.