Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pilot Season: Charlie's Angels (Am I Laughing With You Or At You?)

Yes. You do look like a tampon ad.
Sorry I’ve missed a few days here.  I’ve been engaging in a screenwriting marathon for the past few days*, and have thus been unable to update.

So, with almost no ado, have the latest installment in my series on self-torture:


Not to put too fine a point on it, but this was not a good show.  Pretty much at all.  It was a show that more raised the question, “Do they know it’s bad?  Is this on purpose?  Are you really saying that or are you being sarcastic?”  If our generation can be defined as the one in which we forgot whether or not we were being sarcastic**, then this show is our poster child.  Is it supposed to be funny?  Because it was.

The Pilot’s plot (insofar as I can remember/understood it at the time): The three Angels (Angry Blonde, Smart Latina, and Sassy Black Girl) finish a job.  Charlie thanks them.  They decide to split up for the night.  Walking back to her car, Smart Latina is blown up by a car bomb.  Angry Blonde and Sassy Black Girl mourn her and start to investigate her death, only to find Minka Kelly (I could be witty, but she’s not remarkable in any way in this) was at the crime scene.  Minka Kelly was a friend of Smart Latina’s.  Smart Latina and Minka Kelly were going to take down a sex trafficker, but he killed Smart Latina, so it’s Minka Kelly’s job to see it through.  The Angels decide that they have to help her, and Charlie’s disembodied voice agrees, so they do.  A mission happens.  It works.  The sex trafficker is brought to justice and Minka Kelly becomes the next Angel.

I straight up have no idea what happened in this scene.
It’s a pilot, so I can’t be too hard on the plot, but I rather want to, because the plot was terrible.  Sex trafficking is a genuinely horrific thing, but to have it glossed over in the course of an hour long episode, where the real focus was on the legs and tans of the stars, was demeaning.  But that was far from my biggest peeve with Charlie’s Angels.  Oh no, it bothered me in many ways, not all of which were related to the fact that it was so horrifically hard to watch that I had to keep turning the sound back on, as I was absent-mindedly putting my television on mute.  I feel the need to emphasize this: I did not happen on this show by accident.  I planned to watch it.  I sat down with my dinner and watched it.  And I had to keep turning the volume back up because every five minutes my attention would slip and I would mute the show because anything else was more interesting than watching it.

Folks, we have hit rock bottom.

And as strange as it seems, I don’t have many problems with the show as a feminist.  Aside from the usual questions—“How is a woman that skinny punching a man that large?  Does she have superpowers in her perfectly coiffed hair?” and “Why must you always fight crime in a skin-tight mini-dress?  Isn’t it uncomfortable?  Can’t everyone see your ladybits when you kick?” or even “Are all pretty women this boring?”—aside from these important queries, the show’s vague fetishization of its leads didn’t really bother me.  It’s Charlie’s Angels.  I could be more surprised.  And while that doesn’t make it okay, it makes it bearable.

No, the main problems I had with this show had to do with the actual show.  Simply put, it sucked. 

Point the first: What on earth is an Angel?  Is it like an FBI Agent?  If so, who does Charlie work for?  What government organization is sponsoring this?  Several times, when asked who they are, the Angels say that they are not “Agents” they’re “Angels”.  What does this mean?  Are they private contractors, guns for hire?  I feel I would be much more inclined to watch that show, to be perfectly honest.  Yet they still claim some support from the government, which raises the question of which government and how?  Baffling.

Point the second: If your plot is dull and generic, the solution is not to add a party scene.  Really.  I feel this needs little explanation, but I can simply say that if I am having difficulty watching the show to begin with, adding a large party full of vaguely attractive people, chaos and some loud music, where our characters blend in entirely, is the best possible way to make me lose all shred of caring I had for the plot. 

I can actually feel myself getting stupider.
Point the third: When remaking a franchise, it is important to add something new to the original.  Unfortunately what seems to have happened here is a loss of something in translation.  The original television show had a, and I feel rather silly saying this but it remains true, depth that the recent films and this remake lack.  Without this emotional depth, the stories ring hollow and the characters are no more interesting than the pithy-ish monikers I gave them above.

Point the fourth and most important: I haven’t the foggiest idea if any of the prior points are important.  And this bothers me.  You see, I cannot tell if Charlie’s Angels was simply an intentionally campy remake that was a bit underdone, or took itself seriously and landed in the realm of camp and unrealistic wardrobe decisions on purpose.  It's like a textbook case of everything that is wrong with network American television, and yet I can't shake the feeling that there's a joke I'm missing.  It’s just that I have no idea if this is the joke or not.  I don’t even know if there is a joke.  I can’t tell if we’re being sarcastic or not.

I’m not sure which would be better.

Are we being ironic? Because I can do that.

*Semi-successfully.  I got some good pages written, more than I would have otherwise, but not nearly as many as I wanted to write, and my brain feels like it’s made of soup.

**A friend’s theory, and one in which I’m rather starting to believe.  We’ve come so far into the realm of intentional irony and sarcasm that we can no longer tell when we’re being earnest.  It’s unnerving.


  1. I think they don't explain the whole concept of "Angels" because they thought we all took "Charlie's Angels" for granted and wouldn't question what they are... which is wrong.

    And seriously, what is so hilarious about pointing your fingers at each other?


    Also, at least in the other properties, it was a little clearer that the Angels worked for Charlie, and Charlie was a rich weirdo, and we were cool with that. This one is being confusing and I don't like it. Grrrr.

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