While the original ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was a smash success with viewers, series star Jaclyn Smith remembers critics absolutely “slammed” their debut, deeming it of “no value.”
Harsh! Having spawned several big-screen reboots and an ill-fated one for television in 2011, you would think the original ‘Charlie’s Angels’ was a hit across the board when it debuted. Not so. While the show remains one of the most beloved television programs of its time, critics were far from pleased with the opening act.
In fact, the only angel to stick with Charlie through all five seasons, Jaclyn Smith, recalls critics absolutely destroying the show upon release in 1976.
Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in 2019, Smith recounted just how much heat she and then co-stars Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett took for the show’s inaugural 1976-77 run.
“I don’t know why we got slammed so much. They gave us no value,” she told THR. As the trade reports, reviewers were “quick to dismiss” the Angels. To critics, Smith recalls they were simply “Barbie Dolls prancing around in pretty clothes.” Again – ouch!
“But we really weren’t,” Smith continued of her Kelly Garrett character and fellow crew. “[Our characters] were emotionally and financially independent. We were making our way.”
“We were strong,” she emphasized. And not just figuratively. As Smith notes, the original Angels “did a lot of our [own] stunts. We had each other’s backs.”
‘Charlie’s Angels’ Had to Overcome Rampant Hollywood Sexism
As for the show’s “winning formula” as THR puts it, which famously involved three gorgeous private investigators working as a team to solve cases from Charlie-behind-the-speaker, Jaclyn Smith gives all credit to executive producer Aaron Spelling.
“Really, Charlie’s was Aaron. He liked bright, happy, popping. He said it was ‘mind candy.’ It wasn’t meant to be Shakespeare,” Smith added. “The lighting was not shadows and moody. Get into their faces, get into their eyes, really look at these girls…”
And it worked. So much so, in fact, that the ‘Charlie’s Angels’ premiere on ABC averaged an incredible 26.0 rating for the first season. The show’s brand & formula remains a household name to this day.
At the time, however, three young actors came immediately to the forefront of pop culture – for better or worse. Each – Smith, Jackson, and Fawcett, became the ultimate “sex symbols.”
“It’s like you’re a rock star. You don’t go anywhere without being bombarded. You don’t stand in a line at a movie… [And] you can get a reservation anywhere,” Smith recalls of this specific sort of Hollywood fame. “And do you want to pose for Hustler for $1 million?” she quips.
Charlie’s Angels did, of course, turn down Hustler‘s offer. Despite all this, however, Smith says she “never thought of it as we were exploited in any way.”