Last Night's Viewing: Charlie's Angels, E4
Frozen Planet, BBC1
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Thursday 01 December 2011
But for the few remaining seasons of Mad Men and Breaking Bad, a golden age of American television is coming to a close. While the last decade was populated by vital original dramas, the next one promises the defibrillated corpses of long-dead shows: the new Hawaii Five-O, shaken awake for its second season; Beverly Hills 90210 MkII, now on its fourth; and Dallas, due for a Bobby Ewing-esque resurrection next summer. In the meantime, the undead Charlie's Angels comes shuffling into our sitting rooms like a zombie with a spray-tan.
I'm too young to remember the Farrah Fawcett original, so my sole reference point for this pilot episode was Hollywood's godawful movie version, directed by Joseph McGinty Nichol, better known as "McG". Replacing Diaz et al as the new employees of Miami's Charles Townsend Detective Agency – aka "Charlie's Angels" – were Abby (Rachael Taylor), a former jewel thief; Kate (Annie Ilonzeh), a bent ex-cop; and Gloria (Nadine Velazquez), a court martialled US marine. They'd all been given a second chance by their anonymous employer, with whom they converse only via conference call.
Gloria, however, was killed in a car bomb after about eight minutes, forcing Abby and Kate to emote woodenly from beneath their tear-proof mascara. "Please tell me she's not really gone," said Kate. "I never thought my heart could hurt this much," Abby replied, looking constipated. I never thought my eyes could hurt this much.
Velazquez must have been gutted when she read the script and realised her character would be killed off so quickly – but not nearly as gutted as the rest of the cast, when they realised they'd have to film a whole series of this rubbish. Gloria was soon replaced by the equally pert and forgettable Eve (Minka Kelly), who is a mechanic, or something. The Angels' investigation of Gloria's murder led them to Nestor Rodrigo, an import-exporter of child slaves, played by Carlos Bernard. Bernard is better known as Tony Almeida from 24, which is, I fear, responsible for the rampant over-use of split-screen in inferior television thrillers such as, for example, this one.
Charlie's Angels purports to be about strong women kicking ass, but it's really just an excuse to squeeze strong women's asses into tight pants. When the gals were required to demonstrate depth of character, the screenwriters gave them tedious gal problems: clothes, catfights, boys. In what might be a nod to gender equality, Bosley – the Angels' schlubby male mascot – has been transformed into a Latin looker with martial-arts expertise.
In these more enlightened times, there's surely something suspect about an unidentified man of inordinate wealth, remotely ordering a trio of ex-convicts to clear the streets of criminals. Is Charlie really a civic-minded billionaire philanthropist, or just a crime boss eliminating the competition? This is the sort of mildly interesting question that Charlie's Angels – the show and/or its protagonists – completely fail to ask. Thankfully, the ABC network and its viewers were as underwhelmed as me, and it was cancelled after just seven episodes. Come back, McG, all is forgiven.
As far as American viewers are concerned, yesterday's was the final episode of Frozen Planet, the BBC's latest natural history masterpiece. Next week's seventh instalment, about the effects of climate change on the ice caps, will not be broadcast in the US. Apparently, this is due to a "scheduling issue" on the Discovery Channel, rather than any domestic political concerns. Last night's sixth makes a fitting conclusion nonetheless, focused as it was on man's relationship with the frozen wastes. It opened with a super slow-motion sequence of overweight Russian men bombing into the Arctic waters, presumably so as to be compared unfavourably to more graceful mammals, like the walrus.
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