About a month ago, coinciding with the franchise’s third attempted reboot and its second consecutive failure (at least commercially), Mill Creek Entertainment gave the original Charlie’s Angels its first ever Blu-ray release via a Complete Series box set. A P.I. show starring three women was pretty unique for its time and Charlie’s Angels is still pretty well-known to this day (thanks at least partially to the constant reboots in both the realms of television and movies). It was never regarded as a critical darling or an award-worthy show, but it was loved for being a campy and cheesy series you could put on when you didn’t want to think too much. Despite being such a classic series, this was my first ever exposure to the franchise (I haven’t watched a lot of shows that aired before the early ’00s because there are just too many great modern series to watch these days). Even though I didn’t grow up with Charlie’s Angels, I enjoyed my time watching most of the series for this review (watching 118 episodes and getting a review out in a reasonable time-frame is pretty much impossible so I skipped some episodes in each season but will go back to them in the future). Of course a series as campy as this would probably never work in today’s television landscape but it still holds up reasonably well anyway. There are a few things that don’t hold up as well and the show is a bit slower than today’s series, but its still fun and probably worth a watch for most viewers.
I’m sure most people have seen at least a few episodes of this series (or at the very least the early ’00s movies) and almost everybody knows the concept but for those who don’t, its pretty simple. Three beautiful women (Sabrina Duncan, Jill Munroe, and Kelly Garrett) graduate from the Los Angeles police academy but are put on boring duties like filing paperwork or working as a meter maid. Enter Charles Townsend, a famous and wealthy private investigator who “takes them away from all that” and gives them the exciting jobs they wanted when they signed up to become policewomen. Along with their co-worker John Bosley, the “Angels” investigate crimes like fraud, kidnapping, and extortion usually by embedding themselves into the situation by going undercover. Each episode has a bit of a theme with the Angels exploring a new type of business or pastime; things like roller derby, the female car racing circuit, and the world of antiquities. Charlie only communicates via telephone (he’s too busy with the beautiful women he constantly attracts) but his connections are everywhere, giving the Angels and Bosley the help they sometimes need to crack the case. At the end of each episode, the Angels, Bosley, and Charlie go over the case often expanding or explaining things that might not have been completely apparent until the wrap-up (and give updates on the status of the characters and the jail sentences the criminals will be facing). Charlie’s Angels originally aired as a 74-minute pilot film in March of 1976 to a huge audience (which shocked ABC so much they had to run it again to make sure it was as big of a hit as the ratings indicated). It was subsequently ordered to series where it would run for five seasons and 110 episodes before all the cast changes would finally erode the ratings and force the show’s cancellation.
Charlie’s Angels clearly knew that its greatest weapon wasn’t its hard-hitting plots or amazing writing. It should be obvious to anyone that the show’s major selling point was the gorgeousness of their Angels. While I disagree with its characterization of being “jiggle television” (I feel like there’s enough substance to make it more than just that), that is of course what much of the audience was watching it for at the time (and even now). All three of the original Angels are beautiful but they are also surprisingly good actresses as well. Everybody knows about the beauty of Farrah Fawcett and her famous hair but I want to give credit to the other original Angels as well as both Kate Jackson and Jaclyn Smith are just as good-looking and in my opinion are slightly better actors. Bosley (David Doyle) is my personal favorite character though. I especially love it when he joins the Angels on undercover assignments, as his characters like Brother John (S1.E1), Jimmy Joe (a brief role in S1.E14), and “Texas High Roller” Will Thurman (S1.E17) are always good for a laugh. He’s the best comedic actor of the group and thus gets bigger laughs when he goes undercover. Unfortunately, he’s also underutilized in a lot of episodes as he obviously doesn’t have the same “appeal” as the Angels do (and it is their show after all). Like most P.I. shows, the cast is tasked with playing their regular characters as well as a myriad of other “covers,” meaning the actors have to flex their acting chops with multiple different roles each week. In most cases, they absolutely pull them off.
One unfortunate downside with Charlie’s Angels is that it was definitely an example of a show hurt by its cast changes. While most viewers agree that Cheryl Ladd was a pretty good replacement for Farrah Fawcett (and I agree), her casting also caused problems that hurt the chemistry between the Angels and would eventually contribute to Kate Jackson’s exit from the show (a big loss). That wouldn’t be the only change though as two more replacements would happen later in the series, hurting the chemistry and the show even more. Any show with three major cast changes would suffer and Charlie’s Angels just couldn’t overcome it. Season four and five are absolutely still worth watching, they just aren’t as good as the first three seasons outside of a few episodes here or there. With only one original Angel remaining by season four, I can see why the ratings fell off and it was cancelled after a surprisingly short five season run.
While Charlie’s Angels is an action and crime drama at its heart, you can also tell they were going for comedy as well. While it isn’t a laugh out loud show, there’s usually at least one or two funny moments per episode (like the obvious dirty movie shoot going on in “Dirty Business” or any of Bosley’s cheesy undercover roles). It’s also very cheesy and corny, though also a bit more serious at times than I was expecting. The cheese is there and and for better or worse, most episodes have at least one completely unbelievable moment that’ll have you throwing your arms up in disbelief (like throwing boxes of potatoes out of a truck running another car off the road), but some of the drama is also surprisingly compelling. The stories are better than what I was expecting but I must say I was a bit disappointed by the action in a lot of episodes. Most of the action in Charlie’s Angels consists of car chases (often boring ones), which is probably my least favorite type of action. I prefer chases on foot and hand-to-hand combat and there’s not a ton of either of those in this series. I know that using too many of those would make the show seem “unrealistic” when the Angels always win but it’s not like Charlie’s Angels was ever made with realism in mind anyway.
Charlie’s Angels also has a surprisingly great guest cast list, both with already well-known actors and ones before they were famous. In just the first six episodes alone Tommy Lee Jones (pilot movie), Kim Basinger (S1.E4), Tom Selleck (S1.E5), and Robert Loggia (S1.E6) all make appearances. Other well-known actors and celebrities that show up include Jamie Lee Curtis, Sonny Bono, Timothy Dalton, Sammy Davis Jr., Christopher Lee, Robert Urich, Kim Cattrall, Dean Martin, and Robert Englund. That’s just a small sampling of well-known faces you’ll see throughout the 110 episodes.
In addition to the complete original series, Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series also comes with the much-maligned 2011 series (also presented on Blu-ray). Only eight episodes were produced for this reboot (it was cancelled after the fourth episode though three more of the four produced episodes aired after its cancellation) so this isn’t a huge add but it is a nice bonus for Charlie’s Angels completionists. The concept is similar to the original, though in this case, the three Angels are all former troublemakers (a thief, a corrupt cop, and a street racer; even Bosley is a computer hacker) who have been given a second chance by Charlie. Charlie’s Angels 2011 is also much more action-packed and honestly more similar to something like Alias than the original series. However, while I only watched a few episodes for this review (due to time constraints), I actually didn’t think it was all that awful. For a show that has a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes and a paltry 4.4 on IMDB, I think it is quite underrated. It’s better than the original in a few ways (more action-packed rather than a slower-paced investigative show like the original), worse in others (most notably the acting and the awful change to Bosley’s character), but is ultimately watchable and not the stinker that other critics say it is. I would still recommend the original but Charlie’s Angels 2011 isn’t the unwatchable disaster that others would have you believe.
Visually, despite being released on Blu-ray I wasn’t really expecting Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series to look particularly good. The show is over forty years old after all and TV shows back then weren’t exactly big budget productions. I went in with very realistic expectations and actually came out surprised by the video quality. I haven’t seen a lot of old shows on Blu-ray but it compares favorably to the few I have watched. Just don’t expect it to look like the shows of today and you’ll likely be pleasantly surprised. While the increased visual quality helps in some areas, it also makes the ugly ’70s furniture, rugs, wallpaper, etc. much clearer as well which may hurt your eyes. Charlie’s Angels looks good for its age but you don’t have to look any further than this exact release to see how much better newer shows look on Blu-ray. That’s because this release also comes with the 2011 TV series and despite all eight episodes being crammed onto one disc, it mostly looks great.
As usual with Mill Creek Entertainment releases, the focus with Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series was on value. For less than $80 on Amazon (at press time), you get 118 episodes (or 110 if you want to forget the 2011 series exists) that are reasonably good-looking but not amazing visually. Considering most Blu-ray publishers wouldn’t even consider putting a good but not great older show like this on high-definition, I think even video quality sticklers should be reasonably happy with this release. It’s almost certainly the best they’ll ever get. No extras are included though none of the prior Charlie’s Angels releases have any major special features either. Packaging wise, the twenty discs in this set fit into two supersized Blu-ray cases (each disc gets its own tray instead of being stacked on top of each other) which are then placed into a pretty thin outer box. The packaging is ultimately pretty good but mine didn’t fare too well due to a shipping disaster. I don’t really foresee this being a problem for most though as I’m pretty sure the mail is responsible for my packaging’s destruction. While I will have to replace the Blu-ray cases the packaging was good enough to protect any discs from being ruined. I usually provide a picture of the packaging for Complete Series releases but due to the condition of mine, I can’t really do so with Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series.
As a first-time viewer of anything in the Charlie’ Angels franchise, I liked what I saw. It’s a good (but not great) cheesy show that can’t hold a candle to today’s high quality series, but is still fun enough to watch when you don’t want to think too much. The latter seasons are slightly worse than the early ones (due to cast changes) but the entire series is worth a watch. For those who already have the series on DVD and are wondering if they should upgrade to Blu-ray, I think it ultimately comes down to how much you love the show. If you love the show or really value watching things in the best possible video quality, it’s probably worth the upgrade. Those who just kind of like it or don’t care about video quality as much can probably stick with their DVDs. Since this is an older show, the video quality is nowhere near today’s shows but the upgrade from DVD to Blu-ray is still pretty significant. Recommended.
Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series was released on Blu-ray on November 19, 2019.
Buy Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series on Amazon: Blu-ray
We would like to thank Mill Creek Entertainment for the review copy of Charlie’s Angels: The Complete Series used for this review. Other than receiving the review copy we at Geeky Hobbies received no other compensation. Receiving the review copy had no impact on the content of this review or the final score.