I had never seen the pilot for Charlie's Angels before, so of all the episodes on this first season set, this is probably the one I was most looking forward to. The pilot is actually a movie that aired on ABC prior to the series starting. Most surprising for those who are not die-hard fans of the show (of which I am one) is the presence of a character named Scott Woodville (played by M*A*S*H* actor David Ogden Stiers) who was kind of a partner with Bosley (David Doyle), but was apparently dropped as a character once the weekly series began. Viewers may also enjoy seeing a young Tommy Lee Jones in the pilot, who even back in this early part of his career proves that he was destined for superstardom by easily giving the best performance of the pilot. What was also interesting about the pilot is how little of it showed off the Angels' sex appeal, concentrating on their "smarts" and their ability to go undercover.
While the episodes themselves never rise above standard 70's cop show drama, it's interesting to watch how the series develops, with more and more episodes showing off the Angels' bodies, and having them go undercover as models, nurses and…gulp…even prostitutes! I suppose the overwhelming reaction to the fourth show of the first season, "Angels In Chains" – where the girls go undercover in a women's prison – was the first sign that this show wasn't going to be as much about drama as it was going to be about putting the Angels in storylines where they could show off their…umm…assets.
Another enjoyable thing I found about watching the first season was the various guest stars that would pop up from time to time. An episode entitled "Target: Angels" features a young Tom Selleck; Kim Basinger appears in the already-mentioned "Angels In Chains"; and Robert Loggia pops up in "The Killing Kind".
Although there is a touch of character development throughout the show, there's really no on-going story or reason why one would have to watch these episodes in order. Perhaps the biggest reason to pick up the first season is because it is the one and only season of Charlie's Angels to star Farrah Fawcett-Majors, as she quit the show at the end of season one (although she would return for some guest appearances in future seasons of the show).
If you watch the pilot first, don't come away with the impression that the rest of the episodes will look this poorly. The source material used for the transfer of the pilot must have been in pretty bad shape, since there is obvious dirt on the print and "white flecks" throughout the presentation. However, the rest of the episodes are much better in quality, with only minor problems appearing here and there. The flesh tones and colors do seem a bit oversaturated at times, but this may be because this was the "look" of many 70's TV shows, rather than any problems with the actual DVD transfer.
The audio is presented in 2.0 sound and is serviceable, but not particularly noteworthy. There's nothing that stands out about the audio track, but it does its job and certainly doesn't detract from one's enjoyment of the episodes.
For a box set of an entire season, the extras here are quite skimpy. The only extras appear on disc five of this five-disc set and include a brief "Angels Forever" featurette which tells about the history of the show (with comments from die-hard fans) and which I noted was produced in 2000, which means it must have aired elsewhere previously and not been made exclusively for this box set. The only other extras on disc five are three trailers, one for the theatrical Charlie's Angels, one for the upcoming sequel, Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle, and one for Columbia's The Greatest 70's Cop Shows DVD.
Disappointingly, none of the episodes themselves have either a chapter selection menu or chapter breaks within the episodes themselves. The packaging was kind of neat, as instead of a cardboard foldout that we usually see with television box sets, we get five individual plastic holding cases, which when put together inside the slipcase form a kind-of purplish-blue rainbow look. It may not look as "flashy" as a cardboard foldout, but it should keep your discs from falling out of their holders, as they tend to do with those cardboard box sets.
THE BOTTOM LINE
I hadn't watched Charlie's Angels since my childhood, and I have to admit that my memories of how good this show was didn't quite live up to my experience watching the first season again after all these years. However, this show was never really about the stories as much as it was about showing off these three very attractive women in whatever outfits they could get away with on network television in the late 70's.
Die-hard Angels fans will want to scoop this one up. For the rest of us, it's an enjoyable rental for a weekend's worth of ogling.