Friday, July 15, 2016

Charlie’s Angels 1:21 “Angels at Sea”

Airdate: 3/23/77

Two hapless cruise ship passengers are steamed to death, sullying the reputation of its line’s owner, John Strauss, who hires the Angels to catch the culprit. Problem #1:the killer knows the Angels are on to him even before they board (nice going, girls), sending them threatening notes without even bothering to sign his name. Weird stuff happens right away: the chief engineer gets whacked, Bosley is knocked out and left naked on the deck, and Kelly nearly meets the same fate as those first two from the beginning. When Bosley takes over the ship for the investigation, he sets a trap for the perp, and winds up ensnaring… Frank Gorshin, playing Harry, the quite mad “clairvoyant” lounge act, holding a grudge against Stauss for not supporting his special ability. But wait, didn’t he also set three bombs on the ship, ready to go off unless the Angels can diffuse them? Hmmm.

Nice change of scenery for the series, closing out its first season, starts out as interesting whodunit, sort of an Orient Express on the Pacific. But then, roughly after the halfway mark, they catch the guy, and it becomes nothing less than a vehicle for Frank Gorshin’s high-energy, impressionistic skills (sort of a Jim Carrey before his time; no wonder both guys played the Riddler). The producers were probably hoping his manic performance style would translate to crazy, but it doesn’t. We’re entertained, and we’re wondering why the Angels are not.

Nice Titanic stock footage
And then, the last quarter is just filler, with the Angels sweating it out to diffuse those bombs, consulting, via telephone, a bomb expert, who kept reminding me of Lloyd Bridges guiding Ted Striker to land in Airplane! It got me thinking: how many of these straight-arrow dramas from the 60s and 70s will never be the same after that groundbreaking satire? Airplane was one of those movies where everyone from that generation immediately got the joke, and roared in union, and relief, that finally someone could skewer a couple decades worth of Baby Boomer mainstays.

Oh, yeah, back to the episode. A mixed bag at best, but probably most noteworthy for inspiring Aaron Spelling's then just-beginning Love Boat (the first episode would air two months later). Incidentally, the Angels will guest star on Boat later on, with most likely a decidedly different tone than the more macabre leanings of this offering.

Client: John Strauss (owner of the ship line)

Plot difficulty level: 4 

Rating: **1/2

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