When we are growing up we watch television, movies and sports. As children we sometimes like what we see in a person and want to grow up to be just like them. It was no different in my day except we only had about 5 channels to choose from. We did not have cable or movies at our fingertips (there weren’t even VCR’s when most of these programs originally aired) but we had our heroes and we wanted to be like them. Who did you want to be when you grew up? We all had someone that we wanted to be just like. For people my age this will be a pleasant walk down memory lane. For my younger readers, you may not even be aware of who some of these ladies are. You would probably find the shows lame by today’s standards. I assure you, in my day, these ladies kicked ass! This is Movie Bad Girl of the Week: Television Edition: Retro Ladies Who Were Beautiful and Tough
First up on our Retro Bad Girl Countdown:
Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson
“Police Woman” (1974-1978)
Once upon a time the only women you saw on TV were mothers, wives, maids, secretaries,school teachers and maybe waitresses. “Police Woman” was groundbreaking television because the lead was a cop. She was beautiful and she was tough. This was practically unheard of. A strong woman and the show was about her. This gave little girls dreams that they didn’t just have to stand in a kitchen and bake cakes and I am sure more than one boy’s heart fluttered at this sexy lady.
Pepper had an exciting career. She was a member of the L.A.P.D., C.C.U division. (Criminal Conspiracy Unit). She was part of an undercover team and many times went undercover in dangerous situations as a hooker, prison inmate or nurse just to name a few. They investigated all kinds of crimes from murder, to theft and blackmail to rape and drugs. The guest stars on the show were also top caliber including Sandra Dee, Patty Duke, William Shatner and Ruby Dee just to name a few. There was even a doll produced where young girls could create their own adventures with Pepper. She sparked more than one young imagination
Next up on our countdown:
“The Bionic Woman” (1976-1978)
“The Bionic Woman” gave us Jaime Sommers and they kicked it up a notch with this exciting sci-fi action series. Now young girls had a super hero of sorts to look up to that could be anyone of them when they grew up.
The story was simple. Jaime is a professional tennis player and is at the top of her game. She goes sky-diving and there is an accident that leaves her on the verge of death. Steve Austin (“The Six Million Dollar Man”) a former love interest of Jaime’s, implores his boss Oscar Goldman to save Jaime by using bionics like his own to save her life. He goes so far as to say she can be an agent in the O.S.I. like he is.
Jaime reluctantly agrees to become an agent. She retires from tennis and takes a job as a school teacher on a military base and goes on missions when the O.S.I. calls upon her. What is unique is that Jaime leads a double life. One as a teacher (her students adore her), second as a government agent. This sent out a message to young ladies that you can do anything you want and not be limited in your choices. You can be a teacher, it is a good profession, however you have the ability to be so much more. One thing I must add is in a couple of episodes Jaime comes up against the ultimate female villains. A group of robotic women called Fembots and they are nothing short of fabulous.
We are already at the half-way point. Next up:
Sabrina Duncan, Jill Munroe and Kelly Garrett
“Charlie’s Angels” Season 1 (1976-1977)
For our younger readers: Once upon a time there were three little girls who went to the police academy and they were a television series before they were a theatrical film.
“Charlie’s Angels” gave us a trio of beautiful women from very different backgrounds who were all police officers at one time. They quit their jobs when they got an offer from a man who is known only as Charlie. The ladies (and the audience) never see Charlie. He is a voice on an intercom and he has hired the three as private investigators for his firm. They are paid well and have lots of free time between jobs. When a job does come in. “Oh Boy!” are you in for an exciting adventure.
These ladies were a bit different than other women TV characters. They could all be fashion models and they had the best clothes yet went on daring and sometimes dangerous adventures. What little girl wouldn’t want to grow up to be them? An interesting thing about these ladies: They all had strong moral fiber. They quite simply know the difference between right and wrong and what I love is that we do see them on dates and with romantic interests but not once do we see them go to bed with one of these men they are not married to. That is pretty impressive considering what characters on TV do in this day and age. It is probably not a very realistic view that none of three was having sex but times were a bit different then and they didn’t want their heroes to be sluts. Now they wouldn’t be considered a slut for having sex but it was a more wholesome time. There were several seasons of the show with Angels changing on occasion but I will always love the original season the best.
This show sent girls a message that you can be beautiful and have brains, that you can be sexy but don’t have to give it away and most importantly life is an adventure to be enjoyed. Who said you can’t be pretty and fight crime? You can have it both ways.
We are almost at the end of the road….next I present to you:
Diana Prince aka
“Wonder Woman” (1975-1979)
“Wonder Woman” was pure escapist fun. The show based on the comics of the same name. The boys had Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and Aquaman to want to emulate. Wonder Woman gave girls the same option. She was beautiful, exotic, fearless and could be domineering in dangerous situations.
The show originally took place during WWII and stuck very close to the format of the comics and was fun and exciting. In season 2 (mostly likely to be more cost effective) the show was moved in the modern day and age of the 1970’s and began playing out more like a cop show. I never liked those as much.
Diana/Wonder Woman was unique. She had strong morals and the episodes would prove that. This show seemed to leave you with a positive message at the end of each episode. At the time the show was on air Wonder Woman’s costume was considered very racy. I know that sounds a bit funny because you see smaller bathing suits on the beach, at the time though that was a lot of skin for a woman to be showing off and boys and men everywhere rejoiced. Wonder Woman showed girls they could be independent, strong, beautiful and have strong morals. I am sure parents were not thrilled because girls wanted to wear that little outfit as well. If you go back and watch reruns you will see that this was a wholesome and entertaining family show.
We are at the end of our journey but have one more show to cover:
Detective Sgt. Christine Cagney and Detective Mary Beth Lacey
“Cagney and Lacey” (1981-1988)
It was the 80’s and times were changing when this dynamic duo was created. Women characters had made many strides during the 70’s and these ladies nailed it in the 80’s. They were both pretty but not model types and they didn’t go on comic book style adventures. These ladies were tough as nail cops in a hard hitting police drama about 2 women who were partners on the police force. Gone was the high fashion clothes and exotic locations.The sets at times were gritty, the language became harsh and the violence much more realistic.These were characters any woman watching could (for perhaps the first time) identify with. Mary Beth was married and had to balance work and family. Christine was single and a career woman. They dealt in dangerous crimes and dealt with very real personal issues like alcoholism and pregnancy. This also sent out a more realistic version of what a woman could do to girls watching the show. It showed that you could be single or have a family and still have a career. It showed that no one has a perfect life and you have to work at some things. It showed the value of friendship and dedication to hard work. It showed girls that you can have a very full life and can be anything you want….if you are willing to work hard enough to achieve it.
This was the most recent of the shows (and ladies) I selected for this column. I am sharing the photo below to show how much time has actually passed since “Cagney and Lacey” went off the air. It has been 27 years and it makes my head spin because it seems like yesterday.