Let’s hear it for Toni’s boys…
Someone is trying to kill Charlie’s Angels so he calls on his old friend Toni to get her boys to protect them.
Charlie’s Angels Season 4 Intro, bfelten and photos © Sony Pictures Television
Once upon a time, there were three little girls who went to the police academy. And they were each assigned very hazardous duties but I took them all away from all that and now they work for me. My name is Charlie.
This was the opening narration and origin story for Charlie’s Angels (1976-81), the action Aaron Spelling TV series that spawned a franchise with dolls, trading cards, board games, and cosmetics. The show featured a team of three ex-policewomen who worked as private investigators for Charlie Townsend’s detective agency.
The women who played the “Angels” had inspiring fashions, haircuts, names, and careers for women worldwide. Every woman (allegedly) wanted Farrah’s haircut, Jaclyn Smith’s karate skills or just to be one of the Angels. Every teenage boy wanted that Farrah Fawcett poster.
The Angels’ boss, the enigmatic Charlie was only seen from behind or heard as a voice on a speakerphone adding to the mystery. Charlie’s iconic voice was provided by the man who would later become the Carrington patriarch, Blake in Aaron Spelling’s Dynasty, John Forsythe.
Forsythe was a last-minute replacement for Gig Young. The only other manly help these women had in their jobs was from the avuncular Bosley (David Doyle). This lack of hands on male support in this police series made the show unique for this time.
The Angels worked in threes. This as actresses came and went from the series and on to greater things like the movies. By season four, two of the original Angels, Kate Jackson and Farrah Fawcett (was Majors) had both left the series. The future Bond girl, Tanya Roberts had still to sign the dotted line as the last of those Angels for the final series. In this to be reviewed episode, the trio was played by Shelley Hack (as Tiffany), Cheryl Ladd (as Kris), and Jaclyn Smith (as Kelly).
Special guest stars in the series included some big names in film and TV including Kim Basinger, Patrick Duffy, Timothy Dalton, Audrey Landers, Tom Selleck, and Christopher Lee. Storylines included the girls going undercover in women’s prisons and masquerading as fashion models, solving murders, and investigating jewellery theft. The show lasted five seasons and 110 episodes. The concept of this show is still reimagined in a constantly rebooted film franchise.
The Toni’s Boys episode was part of the season four lineup. This was a unique episode and one where the Angels’ storyline was secondary to a backdoor pilot. As in an alternate universe you may well have watched the Toni’s Boys TV series, but this show never came to fruition. This would no doubt have made the “boys” household names, but it was not to be with this rather uninspiring trio.
Now it’s more of a novelty episode for Charlie’s Angels as the girls have to depend on Toni’s boys’ help to solve the case. This episode also boasts a big star of the silver screen with screen legend Barbara Stanwyck as Toni. I’m sure the budget went on Ms Stanwyck’s salary after meeting her boys, as TBH I don’t recognise any of these actors… but maybe you do.
This episode starts with an unknown bad guy plotting to kill Kelly (Smith) and sending his henchman to do just that. A timed bomb is put in Kelly’s car. The bomb masquerading as a birthday present and replacing a similar present (the odds of this explained as the henchman followed her in the gift shop!) she’s put in the car.
A short time later, Kelly’s car explodes but (of course) when the Angels aren’t in the car. This leads to much gnashing of teeth etc. from the bad guy (Robert Loggia) and his assistant Riso (Andy Romano). Charlie is concerned as this is the second attempt on the Angels’ lives, so he contacts the Angels by speakerphone and sends them to a mystery address.
At this palatial address, they meet Toni, (Barbara Stanwyck), a rich widow who runs an all-male detective agency. She’s head to foot in crimson – to match the surrounding decor – and her presence felt on hearing Stanwyck’s trademark husky voice. Toni introduces them to her three “boys” who are also detectives, Bob (Bob Seagren), Matt (Bruce Bauer), and Cotton (Stephen Shortridge).
The men are also known as bland, blander, and blandest but this depends on how much you love this episode. These men looked more like a group of ungroovy 1970s geography teachers with dodgy haircuts, V necked jumpers and elbow patches. Charlie has employed Toni and her “boys” to protect his Angels.
These men each come with their own unique set of (handy) skills, which on looking at them is hard to believe. You know these attributes will kind of foreshadow just what skills you’ll see them use in this particular episode if you’ve seen The Bionic Woman and The Fall Guy recently. Thus proving they are not just there as eye candy (for some).
Stanwyck tells us of her boys’ “particular set of skills” (to quote Liam Neeson in Taken). This proving as an Oscar-nominated actress she can convince us of this series, if not the powers that be.
Matt is the “master of disguise and weapons”, this is seen to mean he can put on some sunglasses and use a stereotypical BBC English accent. An accent that he obviously learned watching a terribly English BBC drama, and might explain his fad for elbow patched suits.
Bob is an ex-Olympian track and field athlete who when showing off his skills dons a cool stripey 1970s tracksuit like The Six Million Dollar Man. He also has a handy bag with a DIY pole, which is always useful for getting over the bad guy’s electric fences as the opportunity arises.
Cotton is a Champion rodeo rider with a handy horse (but not kept in a bag), roper, and tracker. He also has a lasso but TBH Wonder Woman did this much better and had much sexier clothing.
Kris sums them up as “Captain America, James Bond, and the Lone Ranger” (but I think she is being a bit too optimistic). Charlie tells that he and Toni will work out just who is trying to kill the Angels from their list of possibilities. This I assume will be from at least four seasons and twenty-two episodes worth of bad guys and girls.
The two bosses then assign jobs to the boys because Charlie thinks it’s dangerous for the girls to work alone in this case. This as they are “known quantities” and in the meantime the men will have to follow the Angels, to ensure their safety. This annoys the Angels (understandably) who complain to deaf ears.
The girls are more than a bit put out (and TBH it does feel like a kick in the teeth for these feisty man-independent PIs). They try and ditch Toni’s male detectives by going to the powder room and other scrupulous means. These actions lead to bemused and head-shaking men who are not outwitted easily (as the girls discover). Meanwhile, the bad guys are toasting the potential death of the Angels with some expensive wine.
The Angels argue they want to work on this case alone but Toni demands they team up with the men. She and Charlie narrow the bad guy down to Durano (Robert Loggia). Durano (for plot convenience) has just been let out of jail after the Angels testified against him in court. Durano is now in the wine business as he has since prison given up his prostitution and drug rings. Luckily, Durano is the same bad guy we saw earlier.
Helping the boys means basically means the Angels have to stand and watch these guys showing their prowess in the detective dept as they try and track down Durano. This investigation was obviously catered for those who weren’t watching the show for the girls’ renowned “jiggle” factor. But for the men’s, so it’s one for your mum and not your dad this week…
The Angels try unsuccessfully in interrogating women who know Durano in the strip club he owned part of and the stables which his kids rode at. The men then use their charm, brains, and brawn with these same women fawning over and responding to the men and falling for their undercover stories and line of questioning.
However, in a reverse scenario, a woman working for the modelling agency recognises Tiffany when she visits with Matt in tow. She sends Matt packing but asks Tiffany to sign up. As she does, she warns Durano that the Angels are investigating him.
She then pulls a gun on Tiffany, telling her she knows who she is… and Durano kidnaps Tiffany. It’s up to the remaining Angels and Toni’s Boys to save Tiffany. This by going undercover at Durano’s upcoming wine gala… using the Angels as bait.
This episode has action, mystery, and some comedy. Initially, though I felt as annoyed as the Angels in the men’s part in this story. It felt that too much time was reinforcing points, with all three boy-girl pairs meaning three explanations to reinforce one line of the script. This took up at least half of the episode, so this should have been a two-parter.
The men were a role reversal of those Angels characters with the men using their manly charms in this investigation. These men often make the Angels look bad, with the men using this manly charm or other “assets” to get results. In the strip joint, Bob takes his shirt off to make their undercover story more convincing!
I was happy to see Barbara Stanwyck’s role was expanded after Tiffany’s kidnapping. I’d feared that she would have a backseat role in this particular investigation after her scene introducing the “boys”.
Both she and Loggia are clearly having fun with their roles and it’s worth the wait for their joint scenes. I enjoyed seeing both their contributions to the plot and wished they had had their own episode together due to this on-screen chemistry.
Stanwyck’s on-screen gravitas and star appeal were heard in her worthy introduction to the boys. Like Forsythe’s narration, had this series been made this intro could have been easily added to the theme tune. It’s disappointing this wasn’t a pilot in its own right, as she set up Toni and her boys’ characters beautifully.
I strongly felt however that this script was out of place in the Charlie’s Angels series. The boys’ inclusion contradicted the premise of the host show. This plot weakened these strong female characters who now suddenly needed a man to help them. It seemed Charlie had taken his girls back to the dark ages, this plot device at odds with his Angels characters who had for the previous seasons and episodes shown themselves as quite able to look after themselves.
Stanwyck had on-screen warmth and rapport with all the cast. This includes the voice of John Forsythe on the speakerphone. Surprisingly, Toni didn’t have a scene with the man playing Charlie’s back (as it is only John Forsythe’s voice in the show) which would have been a nice touch for these old friends. I was relieved there was no budding romance or romantic chemistry between the Angels and Toni’s Boys. (As well as Toni and Charlie).
Unlike Charlie, Stanwyck’s feisty and older character joined in the investigation more actively. This showed Toni as a strong and sassy character. Stanwyck’s role was increased substantially in the latter half of the programme when she goes undercover. This with her boys and the Angels at Durano’s gala, where the plan is the Angels’ appearance will distract Durano, the men will spring into action and Tiffany will be rescued.
Toni’s strengths were seen as she convinced Durano with her undercover story. This had Stanwyck donning a Southern accent and her flirty banter with Durano. She later causes a scene and Stanwyck has an active role in the ensuing brawl.
After watching the whole of this episode I felt it was a shame that Toni and Charlie didn’t team up their detectives for more episodes. Stanwyck’s presence as Toni in this episode showed her as more of moral support than Charlie and Stanwyck was a great asset to this episode.
Not long after this episode in a crazy turn of events, Forsythe and Stanwyck reunited in a future Aaron Spelling production. This was in less than six degrees of Aaron Spelling separation.
Stanwyck’s Toni’s full name was Antonia Blake and one year later John Forsythe became Blake Carrington in Dynasty. This soap introduces us to the cast of this show’s spin-off The Colbys. Barbara Stanwyck had a major role in this spin-off series. This character she took after her 1980s roles took flight in her penultimate role in the 1983 mini-series, The Thorn Birds .
Weeper Rating: 0/10
Handsqueeze Rating: 🙂🙂🙂/10
Hulk Rating: /10
This review was added to Pale Writer‘s Barbara Stanwyck Blogathon. Other reviews with this cast include Barbara Stanwyck in The Colbys and Dynasty. John Forsythe also stars in Cruise into Terror and Dynasty. Jaclyn Smith and Shelley Hack starred in The Love Boat. Cheryl Ladd starred in Happy Days. Tanya Roberts is tributed HERE. Robert Loggia starred in Prizzi’s Honor, Big and Jagged Edge. David Doyle starred in The Fall Guy, Hart to Hart and Fantasy Island. Bob Seagren in Dynasty, Fame and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. Bruce Bauer appeared in Knight Rider. Stephen Shortridge in Say Anything, Murder She Wrote and The Love Boat. Andy Romano in Columbo and M*A*S*H.