Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Pilot Inspektor Tim: Charlie's Angels

The show: Charlie's Angels, Thursdays on ABC

The premise in ten words or less? Three pretty ladies fight crime.

Any good? Yikes! This is some bad television! Not a disappointment in any way – it's exactly as bad as I figured a new Charlie's Angels TV series would be the minute I heard they were making a new Charlie's Angels TV series – but a clear-cut piece of shit by any standard; a show that makes pretty much all of the USA Network's frothy, generic crime procedurals look like masterworks.

Last week I praised another new ABC show, Revenge, for mostly standing aside and letting the cheesiness of its premise waft through unchecked. But that kind of cheese really only works if there's at least the pretense of creative effort put in – few movies I consider "so bad it's good" were deliberately engineered to suck – and Charlie's Angels announces its shittiness so quickly and so assertively that I was stunned. It's just amazingly stupid, and "stylish" in the worst, most grating way. Even things like the song choices, establishing shots of Miami, and scene transitions are obnoxious and garish.

The two episodes I watched (yes, by the time I got around to it on Hulu, there were two episodes, so I watched two, which I already know I shall lament on my deathbed) were identically structured outside of Minka Kelly joining the team as the third Angel in the first one. Some type of crime, investigation which at some point entails dressing sexily (but not so sexily as to upset elderly viewers), uncover a supervillain and his plot, lukewarm action scene, Charlie congratulates the Angels via intercom. It's all flawlessly dumb and predictable. In the second episode they prevent the assassination of the First Lady of Russia, so it seems that comically huge stakes are going to be Charlie's Angels' bread and butter. Not that I have anything against huge stakes – I did watch 24 – but it helps if they're earned over time.

The acting in this show is astonishingly bad, despite the four-person regular cast containing both a Friday Night Lights alum and a Wire alum. In fact, the single biggest laugh I've had at any new show this entire TV season is Annie Ilonzeh's look of mild disappointment upon seeing her best friend blown up via car bomb, which plays like the director told Ilonzeh to imagine she just arrived at the bank, only to realize it was already closed. But writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar don't exactly give their leads golden dialogue to work with either. In response to the same car bombing, one of the Angels later blandly utters the line "I never thought my heart could hurt this much," and my whole asshole clamped up.

Ilonzeh may be the worst, but if so it's by a tiny margin. Rachael Taylor delivers all her dialogue with impressive apathy, and while Minka Kelly can do good work under the actor-friendly umbrella of Jason Katims (i.e. on Friday Night Lights and Parenthood), as car thief and new Angel Eve French she achieves a failure to emote that you almost never see in a professional production. The scene where she describes her and a friend's escape from a child trafficking ring in an expressionless monotone may be a new low for the filmed monologue, especially when she caps it off with "The faces of the girls we left behind still haunt me." in a tone and cadence that seems more appropriate for the line "They were out of chips at the grocery store."

The problems with Charlie's Angels are legion, from the plotting to the acting to the dialogue to the filmmaking, but I think the true fatal flaw is what a soulless and mechanical thing the series is even by the standards of network television. The majority of scripted shows, even shitty ones I have no use for, were, at some point in the development process, an idea by a creative person; a story they wanted to tell. Charlie's Angels is only on television because some businessmen said, "Yeah, we can probably make money off this title. Make 42 minutes of stuff that we can market it with every week." And so they did, and it sucked, because there's absolutely no heart behind it whatsoever.

Will I watch again? Sorry, Charlie!

Premise: D+

Execution: D

Performances: D

Potential: D-


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