Would-be classic sacrificed on the altar of political correctness
In the Summer of 1975, not so long ago, this was the NUMBER ONE show on television, and was the TOP SHOW in many of the countries around the world in which it aired.
How many people know this? Today, almost nobody... Younger audiences haven't even seen it, or, in many cases, haven't even heard of it, or know it's success essentially inspired the advent of "Charlies Angels". (It was also TV's first successful drama series to feature a woman in the title role). When "Police Woman" premiered in fall 1974 it was, admittedly, a quite different show than it would end up four seasons later. Angie Dickinson was the slinky undercover cop, sexy but tough-- convincing on both fronts-- and the show was produced (in the beginning) with the very obvious idea in mind of doing something "good" and distinctive, while tossing in a dash of T&A in their for "kick".
Like with any show, in the very early episodes the series is trying to find it's identity, but by the last half of the first season, the show had taken on almost a cinematic sense of bigness that was REALLY working-- the show (at least for the standards of the day) had begun to feel like a movie, full of gravity and portend, decidedly not just another cop show and not just an undercover-hooker formula thing (although they didn't shy away from that). No wonder the show was, briefly, at the top of ratings at this time-- or in the summer reruns immediately following.
But the feminists, Goddess bless 'em, put a lot of pressure on the network about "Police Woman", unhappy with the go-go dancer assignments and the "oooo-ain't-she-sexy!" dialogue that sometimes permeated the program. They wanted the character de-sexualized... Perhaps one can understand their point about that, but all they seemed to see was Angie in spandex and fishnets, and some of their demands were rather odd (prior to the second season, they even demanded that "Pepper" only be shot by female assailants in the future.... Huh?!?!?... Since 99% of most gun violence is perpetrated by guys, this seemed a tad strange). In any event, as sophisticated and intelligent as "Police Woman" was becoming by the end of it's first year, it didn't really need the "sex-crutch" anymore anyway, yet excess caution was taken with the second year to "reign in" Angie's natural effervescent demeanor. Curiously, what turned-out happening was that the energy was sucked out of the star and the show very quickly, her character weakened considerably... and yet, the hooker assignments continued.
What?? Now we had the reverse of what should have happened.
Within 6 months "Police Woman" went from Number One in the Nielsen Ratings to, maybe, Number 30 (an unwise timeslot change didn't help). In fact, NBC kept moving the show so much one wondered if it was one of those 'let's-try-and-lose-it' type of corporate decisions.
Suffice it to say, the show never really recovered. Angie's confidence seemed surgically removed after the first year, and the scripts and direction followed suit; only about half the episodes from seasons 2 and 3 had enough energy and focus to really work, and even then there's a constant feeling of the program "holding back" --- or holding-back Angie. And season 4, the series' final, was largely a misfire... And in SUCH contrast to the dynamic, volatile first season--- well, it's like a completely different program.
And ever since a brief rerun period after it's initial network run, the show has been utterly buried--- like it never even existed!
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