Another year, another reboot of a classic television series on the fall schedule (actually replace “classic” with fondly remembered-but-actually-quite-mediocre). This time it’s “Charlie’s Angels,” a show about women getting a second chance as crime-fighting private detectives, that’s getting a second chance after a failed, hideously campy film franchise that more or less killed (‘U’ alum!) Lucy Liu’s movie career. Graciously, the only tie to the movies is star Drew Barrymore, who serves as an executive producer (also known as The Title That Means Jack) on the show.
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This “Charlie’s Angels” follows the standard copy-paste checklist of every modern-day reboot, filling out the cast list with pretty young things, blaring a top-40 soundtrack (Rihanna’s “S&M,” natch) and establishing the contemporary setting (almost desperately flashing iPads and referencing Twitter feeds), while keeping the iconic theme song and basic premise — in this case, three women work for a rich do-gooder named Charles Townsend who’s always heard but not seen.
The new Angels aren’t exactly a heavenly trio of actresses, but consider the casting restrictions and it’s easier to be forgiving: The leads have to be leggy ladies who are Gorgeous with a capital G and athletic enough to lay the smackdown on chumps — not exactly a sample size bubbling with acting talent. Minka Kelly (“Friday Night Lights”) is the most famous of the bunch but also the weakest link, delivering dialogues as a posh secret agent with the same amount of panache she had as a cheerleader in a podunk Texas town. The other Angels are a former cop (Annie Ilonzeh, “General Hospital”) and a former socialite (Rachael Taylor, “Grey’s Anatomy”), the latter wearing the shiniest halo of the cast as a prissy princess turned ass-kicker extraordinaire.
But so far, the Angels have as much chemistry as a paper-maché volcano filled with baking soda and Kool-Aid. The humdrum writing is as much to blame as the acting, but the show has a microscopic chance at success unless the camaraderie of the Angels is ramped up.
The final member of the crew is the Angels’ sidekick, resident Adonis and weak attempt at comic relief, Bosley (Ramon Rodriguez, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”). His character is the only prominent alteration from the original, de-aging from an older chap (appropriately played by Bill Murray in the 2000 film) to a young, ladykilling lothario — clearly it would be too sexist to have the ladies use seduction as a weapon, so in the pilot, it’s up to Bosley to be the piece of meat.
Salvation is found in the action of “Charlie’s Angels,” as the ladies (and gentleman) display amazing athletic prowess, engaging in full-throttle combat against hordes of nasty henchmen. With eye-popping stunts galore, these secret agent women are the best female action heroes since “Kim Possible.”
The pilot admirably tries to raise the stakes with a whopper of a twist midway through, but its ramifications essentially fade away by the second episode. And besides some sweet feats by the Angels, both episodes lacked any true “wowza” moments to justify a weekly watch (except for a character in the second episode played by the Old Spice Guy, what a man). Right now, the show is the entertainment equivalent of a package of Kraft American slices — if we’re chowing down on cheese, is it too much to ask for a wheel of gouda?