Sunday, October 16, 2011

Goodbye, Angels

Deconstructing the early cancellation of ABC's "Charlie's Angels"

One of the utter disasters of Fall Season 2011 was the quality and, subsequently, the ratings of ABC's "Charlie's Angels".

More than merely disappointing, the new Angels were borderline unwatchable. Plodding and ponderous --and as sexy as leftover meat loaf -- "Charlie's Angels" was the second worst watch of the fall season, rating only slightly better than NBC's cancelled "The Playboy Club".

Never was watching three attractive women such a chore.

While the show was never promoted heavily by ABC, "Angels" benefitted from built-in brand recognition and most viewers were at least aware of the show's existence. Employing a tried-and-true formula, "Charlie's Angels" seemed like a decent bet coming into the season.

Where did they go wrong? A better question might be "what went right?"

Producers --Drew Barrymore was one--made many missteps, starting with absolutely disastrous casting. The new Angels were a low-wattage trio, a pale comparison to the iconic team of Farrah, Jaclyn & Kate. Is anyone rushing out to buy a Minka Kelly poster ? Not so much.

Kelly, who's most famous for dating New York Yankee Derek Jeter for three years, was joined in the cast by unknowns Annie Ilonzeh and Rachael Taylor. There's nothing wrong with casting unknowns and discovering fresh faces but this trio came across like an "Angels Junior Varsity", as if they were the little sisters of an actual crime-fighting team. Producers eschewed old-school glamor & va-va-va-voom for "the girl next door"-types. The problem with that is we all have girls next door in real life and there's no compelling reason to watch them on television.

Producers never found the right tone for "Angels". It was sincere, somber and devoid of humor. It was about as much fun as sitting in your dentist's waiting room. "Angels" shared the exact same problems with the 2007 "Bionic Woman" reboot, which lasted about the same number of episodes before cancellation.

The three lead characters were not fleshed out and given their own identities. Viewers were expected to root for the Angels just because they were Angels, without knowing much else about them.

"Angels" never soared in the ratings, pitted against CBS' hit "The Big Bang Theory" & a combination of "X Factor" / MLB playoffs on FOX. But the competition wasn't the Angels' problem; it would have failed opposite a test of the emergency broadcast network.

"Angels" premiered to ratings that were in the ballpark of respectable. However, by episode 4 the show hit an almost historically low rating of 1.3 for the coveted 18 to 49 demographic, which is almost impossible for a Big 3 network in Prime Time.

That little-watched episode, titled "Angels in Chains", was a remake of a famous episode of the original series in 1976 in which the Angels investigate corruption in a women's prison. Neither nostalgia nor the prospect of prison cat fights attracted viewers or created any discernible buzz.

ABC tried to soften the blow of embarrassment by announcing the cancellation on a Friday evening when it would garner the least amount of attention.

An epic fail.

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