Diane Haithman is contributing to Deadline’s coverage of TCA.
At this summer’s TCA, across the networks, there has been more than one panel including earnest, beautiful young women, mostly clad in teeny-tiny skirts and architecturally challenging platform heels, talking about how retro shows about gaggles of “girls” answering primarily to male bosses are actually all about female empowerment. Network execs and show producers also seem to be repeating the girl-power mantra. The main cases in point: NBC’s set-in-the-’60s The Playboy Club, ABC’s new Pan Am and the remake of the 1976-81 series Charlie’s Angels, co-executive produced by Leonard Goldberg with Drew Barrymore (veteran of the Charlie’s Angels movies) and creators/executive producers Al Gough and Miles Millar (both of Smallville). The show was unveiled at last month’s Comic-Con with the phrase: “These ain’t your mama’s angels.”
Following this morning’s Charlie’s Angels panel, I asked Millar the empowerment question: Really? He at first seemed to be addressing the issue by saying that initially, Gough’s and Miller’s wives didn’t want them to do the show. Why? Because the original angels were such role models to the producers’ spouses, Millar said reverently. “They didn’t believe we could do it [and maintain] the legacy of Charlie’s Angels.” Millar said during the panel that the idea of the new series was not to make “a cynical remake” of the original, nor to assume the same tone as the movies, about which Gough said: “[They were] superheroes for girls, post-Matrix … [the new show will] bring to the table more grounded, more real” characters with somewhat dark back stories. “You want to have something to come back to every week.” Describing the tone of the new show, Gough said: “If Jack Bauer and Carrie Bradshaw had a love child, it would be [the new] Charlie’s Angels.”
There is as yet no replacement for Robert Wagner, who was originally cast as the voice of Charlie — he has bowed out due to “scheduling issues.” “What we are looking for in the voice of Charlie is someone who brings a sort of paternal-ness, a certain amount of authority and mystery,” Gough said. They confirmed that Wagner is still a part owner of the show.
Veteran producer Goldberg was asked to talk about how the original show, which he co-produced with Aaron Spelling, spawned the less-than-empowering terms “eye candy” and “jiggle show.” He jokingly blamed both terms on competitor NBC. “We were very successful our shows, the other networks were always trying to disparage us,” he said. “A lot of publications, the New York Times included, gave us negative reviews, but as soon as the show hit, they were quick to put us on the cover of everything they could find.”