On This Day: ‘Charlie’s Angels’ Series Finale Aired in 1981

by Jennifer Shea
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“Charlie’s Angels” lasted for five seasons. But in June of 1981, it finally went off the air. In the ABC series’ finale, Charlie made a quick appearance, albeit hidden behind a surgical mask.

In the final episode, Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) gets shot at close range by a suspect she’d been trailing in a stakeout. Bosley (David Doyle), Kris (Cheryl Ladd) and Julie (Tanya Roberts) keep a vigil at the hospital. While stuck there, they look back on previous cases as they wait to see if Kelly will pull through.

‘Charlie’s Angels’ Star Cheryl Ladd Revealed Key to Show’s Success

Kris actress Ladd had a theory as to why “Charlie’s Angels” became such a pop culture phenomenon. In a 2019 interview with CNN, Ladd said they were breaking new ground with the show. And she believed the show had broad appeal.

“At the time [that ‘Charlie’s Angels’ aired], it was something that had never been done,” Ladd said. “None of us was actually trying to be men, we were women, one hundred percent women, and we were powerful and smart and fun to watch and intelligent.”

Ladd, who continued to act well into her golden years, said that when she showed up for autograph signings years later, she was taken aback at how many “Charlie’s Angels” fans showed up. She called the role “life-changing” and said she had nothing but good memories from the show.

“It was hot and edgy, and because, [creator] Aaron [Spelling] insisted on some bikinis, occasionally sexy clothes, everybody just decided to write it off,” Ladd added. “And let’s face it, it wasn’t Shakespeare. But it was definitely something the whole family could watch together all for different reasons.”

Farrah Fawcett Famously Left the Show Early

Ladd was hired to replace Sabrina actress Farrah Fawcett, who left the show early, in 1977. Fans were shocked when the actress announced she was leaving after only one season.

A number of potential reasons have emerged for Fawcett’s departure. One possibility is that she wanted to make movies. According to Biography.com, Fawcett told Smith she wanted to do feature films instead of a television series. Indeed, Fawcett and her husband at the time, actor Lee Majors, formed Fawcett-Majors Productions to produce films of their own.

Another possibility is that Fawcett was unhappy with the money she was making on “Charlie’s Angels.” She started out making $5,000 per episode and getting 2% of the merchandising income from the show. By the second season, she was set to get a raise to $10,000 per episode, but rumor had it she wanted $75,000 and 10% of merchandising income. And unfortunately, as producer Leonard Goldberg told Vanity Fair, Fawcett wasn’t much of a negotiator. Goldberg said he never was able to figure out why Fawcett left.

But whatever the reason for Fawcett’s departure, she nonetheless went down in pop culture history, along with the rest of the Angels.

Outsider.com