Once upon a time, this classic '70s crime series ruled the airwaves, goosing TV's sexiness and paving the way for other female-driven vehicles. Charlie's Angels was the first in producer Aaron Spelling's formula for primetime TV revolving around soapy plot lines that hook viewers. These light plot lines make for refreshingly frothy escapades -- a nice, though not deep, escape from the often-grim procedural drama of today's shows (no gross-out CSI-type forensics work, enhanced by dreary lighting, here). That said, it's hard to take any of the Angels' cases seriously. Just a few of the over-the-top storylines: One of the Angels suffers temporary amnesia, an escaped convict spoils a cruise, and all three play bodyguard to no less than Sammy Davis Jr. But it's clear that serious detective work is beside the point.
The concept of the Angels as eye candy is dated and sometimes hard to watch through a modern lens, though it's all done in the spirit of sunshiny -- this is L.A., after all -- adventure. On the plus side, they're also providing examples of strong, capable women. Later on in the series' run, when the original cast broke up and Cheryl Ladd, Shelley Hack, and Tanya Roberts joined in, Charlie's Angels lost some of its magic. Jackson, Smith, and Fawcett had wonderful chemistry, and when their balance was upended, some of the show's charm was lost. In the end, the show that came in like a lion left like a lamb, but its place in TV history is secure. Anyone who doubts its legacy need only look at some more-recent small-screen hits, including Desperate Housewives, to gauge the Angels' long-term legacy.