From Charlie's Angels to Cagney and Lacey; Starsky and Hutch to Dynasty, the Americans have given us decades of OTT soap drama - and we've loved every minute!
Can it really be 40 years since we first heard the words “good morning angels” spoken by a mysterious husky voice to three crime-fighting American beauties? Yes, this autumn, Charlie’s Angels, the most glam girls of the undercover detective world, pass their milestone birthday, celebrating four decades since they broke the mould with their all female crime team. Originally called The Alley Cats and starring Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith in the title roles, Charlie’s Angels went onto be a runaway hit between 1976 and 1981. But Charlie’s were not the only American angels of TV that lit up our screens – and faces – back here in Britain. How many of these other blockbuster shows from the States do you remember?
Farrah Fawcett’s contract with Charlie’s Angels stipulated that she finished shooting each day at exactly 7pm so she could make it home in time to cook dinner for her husband, Lee Majors
This was the show that had many of us experiencing symptoms of light-headedness, hot flushes and racing heartbeats. The cause of our sudden affliction: a rather serious case of heart-throb Richard Chamberlain looking gorgeous in the title role of Dr Kildare. Based on a popular film series run by MGM in the Thirties, the TV show that started in 1961 told the story of the intrepid young intern, Dr James Kildare, as he started working medical life at Blair General Hospital. The show broke new ground in many ways, not least by showing a lot of medical conditions we’d never seen on telly before including epilepsy, sickle cell anaemia and drug addiction. Meanwhile, viewers thought the action was so realistic, Richard Chamberlain used to get a postbag full of letters addressed to Dr Kildare asking for medical advice!
By the early Sixties, Coronation Street had well and truly gripped Great Britain. And the Americans, of course, wanted their own slice of soap success. Cue Peyton Place, the first American prime-time soap opera and the first to be screened on British television, which started in September 1964. Set in a New England village around the lives and loves of the Harrington family, murder, passion, insanity and secrets became the everyday bread and butter of the soap’s storylines. We couldn’t wait to see our favourites Mia Farrow, Ryan O’Neal and Barbara Parkins, who played the fragile young things Allison MacKenzie, Rodney Harrington and Betty Anderson, who were forever falling in and out of love with each other. We never quite recovered when Mia left the soap at the request of her then-husband Frank Sinatra, and neither did the show, which switched off for good in 1969.
Peyton Place’s producer Paul Monash originally thought about importing Coronation Street to the States but he later decided that Americans might not understand Lancashire life – or the accents!
Starsky and Hutch
They were the epitome of Seventies cool with their flared jeans, fetching cardigans and trusty bright red Ford Gran Torino in which they tore around the fictional Bay City, California, catching baddies. Starring Paul Michael Glaser and David Soul – sparking endless arguments over whether you fancied the blonde one or the dark-haired one – police detectives Starsky and Hutch first sprung onto our screens in 1975 with guns, criminals, crashes and chases. But the best thing about it was the brotherly friendship between the boys, the kind of which we’d never really seen in men on the telly before. And it completely captured our hearts.
Who shot J.R? That was the burning question on everyone’s lips in the early Eighties thanks to epic family drama, Dallas. For a whole nail-biting eight months, we clung onto that cliff-hanger of who had killed off J.R.Ewing outside his office in what was the show’s – and, to some extent, TV history’s – biggest storyline ever. When it was finally revealed, more than 90 million American viewers and millions more around the world, tuned in for the answer. It was all a big turn-around for the show about a wealthy Texan family that had originally received something of a lukewarm response.
A spin-off from Dallas who could forget Dynasty, the Eighties’ series that gave us non-stop cat fighting between Alexis, unforgettably played by Joan Collin, and Krystle (Linda Evans). Amazing shoulder pads were a must for the women in this soap that ran for nine years from 1981 to 1989.
Cagney and Lacey
Here come the girls! And my words, you didn’t want to mess with Mary Beth Lacey and Christine Cagney. One may have been a working class mother-of-four, the other a hard-drinking party girl, but together the best friends became the most formidable female coppers on telly, taking absolutely no nonsense as they fought crime on the streets of New York. Cagney and Lacey ran for six series between 1982 and 1988, during which time the show was actually cancelled twice – but mass public outcry got it back on the air.
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