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Test Pilot: Charlie's Angels

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ABC

Test Pilot is a semiregular feature sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next season’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots can be rewritten, recast and retooled before airing, and the shows that eventually get on the air can prove much better or worse. But premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: Charlie’s Angels, ABC

The Premise: ABC thought that if it aired another version of Charlie’s Angels, you would watch it.

First Impressions: Watching this pilot, which essentially takes the ’70s premise and Nikita-fies it, gave me a renewed appreciation for a few things. First, what a tremendous acting challenge it is to speak convincingly to a speakerphone. Second, the numerous applications in action thrillers for tablet computers, which appear to be the in dramatic accessory of 2011. And finally, the way that the movie remake of the franchise managed to take a very of-its-time concept and update it with a fresh sensibility and sense of humor. Which this pilot does not seem to, despite the involvement of producer Drew Barrymore. You could say that this Angels does have its own tone—it’s sleek and finds plenty of excuses to put its stars in hot outfits, but it aims to be darker, giving each Angel a rough past that has made them jaded and toughened. But it’s also full of glib action-movie dialogue and zingers (“I need to know you’re up to the case.” “Bring it on.” ), and the combination makes the performances feel stiff and the characters indistinguishable. Even performers I’ve liked in other roles, like Minka Kelley, come off wooden and unconvincing here. I don’t expect or need a Charlie’s Angels to be great drama, but I was hoping it would be more fun.

Do I Want to Watch Another One? Well, I’m sure there will be another remake eventually.

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