Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 1:7 “To Kill an Angel”

Airdate: 11/10/76

Kelly becomes a mother-figure to Skip, a young, sanitarium-bound “autistic” boy, but during one ill-fated trip to the carnival, he manages to find a gun, lost by a couple of hit men finishing a job, and uses it to accidentally shoot the hapless Angel. Hospitalized, she’s nurtured by Bosley and her fellow Angels, who try to figure out where the kid is now, and how they can protect him from the bad guys who clearly do not want a witness. But the fey Skip is perusing a roundabout scavenger hunt of sorts, inspired by Kelly’s fairy-tale poetry, and also winds up tracking down his mother, guilt-stricken by her abandoning him many years before. When his trail of shells leads him to the merry-go-round, the hit men are waiting, but so are the Angels. All’s well that end well when Skip finally gets a family, and Charlie gets his Angel back.

More emotional than average, this one gives the viewer a break with the easiest plot to follow thus far as well as the most drama – we actually see Sabrina cry in the hospital scene, or at least sport glycerin under her eyes. No clients here – it’s another one of those cases that affect the Angels directly, so we don’t have to go through the debriefing slide-show at the beginning, or Charlie’s recap at the end. And it’s good to see character actor Richard Donner as the slimy heavy, taking a break from his guest roles on The Waltons, and not yet cast in his trademark role as Exidor on Mork & Mindy.
No Emmy for this performance?
But there are some “aw, c’mon”-inducing stretches here, starting with Kelly’s shooting – a gunshot to her forehead that would render anyone in real life either dead on the spot or incapacitated for at least a week. And one big inconsistency: Donner’s character plots to kill witness Skip and Kelly (why not) in one scene, and later on blows the opportunity to do so while in her hospital room. Well, it’s sort of made up with the sight, at the show’s climax, of his captivity in a Tilt-a-Whirl ride while Jill and Sabrina consider using the opportunity for target practice. Ohhh, I wish they would have. Maybe if Tarantino directed.

And then there’s the labeling of Skip as an “autistic” boy. First of all, I was surprised this word was part of the common vernacular back in 1976. Apparently it was, but the show really just uses it as a catchall description for social maladjustment, because the boy is clearly not autistic, as would be painfully obvious to any sentient adult living in the 21st century. But the show reflects the knowledge of the pre-Rain Man audience, who likely understood autism as some arcane terminology. It does make me wonder: did it also not reflect the ken of the medical community, who also may habe diagnosed autism for wayward youths before it was applied correctly to a very specific neurological disorder?

Sporting a "Strasky & Hutch" T-shirt.
Anyway, I’m digressing far too much for a Charlie’s Angels review, and I apologize. t the risk of being to negative, let me go back to something I liked: the winsome storybook tales Kelly regales her youthful “date” with, revealing a softer side of the normally stoic woman. If you want a good double bill idea, watch this with the Incredible Hulk episode “Alice in Disco-Land,” in which David Banner touches his inner youth via a friendship with a Lewis Carroll-loving girl. Loss of innocence and the vain but poetic attempts to recapture it is one of my favorite themes, and it was a pretty hardy trope of 70s TV.

Oh, and look out for Lee Bryant as Skip’s mom, a prolific TV character actress best known as Mrs. Hammen in the greatest spoof movie ever, Airplane!

Suspend disbelief, and modern sensibilities, and you may get involved in this one.

Client: None

Plot Difficulty Level: 3 

Rating: ***

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