Monday, April 19, 2021

When Mannequins Come to Life


Look who popped up on “Charlie’s Angels” over the weekend as a rich bride-to-be with a two-timing fiancé! Any guesses? 

The episode was called "Angels at the Altar" and aired on Oct. 3, 1979, which was the season featuring Shelley Hack, who was brought in to fill the void left by the departure of original Angel Kate Jackson.

Wikipedia writes that casting calls for Sabrina Ducan's replacement began during the summer of 1979. Several up-and-coming actresses were considered for the role, including Barbara Bach, Connie Sellecca, Shari Belafonte, "The Price Is Right" model Dian Parkinson and newcomer Michelle Pfeiffer. 

In the end, ABC producers selected Shelley, a model who was best known for her Revlon "Charlie" perfume campaign. At the time, producers at Spelling-Goldberg were quoted as saying, "We feel that Shelley Hack has exactly the talent, style, and intelligence we were looking for." Aaron Spelling reportedly loved the idea of the headline "The Charlie Girl Becomes a Charlie's Angel."

Hack debuted in the fourth-season premiere as Tiffany Welles, an elegant police graduate from Boston. In hiring Hack, Spelling's priority for season four was said to be to "bring back the glamour" while ABC hoped Hack's sophisticated personality would bring an interesting new mystique and intrigue to the series. However, after an initial spike in the ratings, they began to erode, so in an attempt to revitalize declining ratings and regain popularity, ABC released Hack from her contract in February 1980. (She remained on the show through the season finale that aired May 7. (Of note, Farrah Fawcett, who made occasional appearances since leaving the show after season one, made her sixth and final guest appearance during season 5 in the episode "An Angel's Trailer" that aired Feb. 27.)

A statement later issued by Spelling-Goldberg read: "When she signed her contract for the series, Miss Hack had a personal agreement that she could review her continuation with the show at the end of her first season since series television represented an enormous change in her career and lifestyle," implying that Hack was included in the decision to exit "Charlie's Angels." 

Hack remembers things differently. In an interview, she said, "They can say I didn't work out, but it isn't true. What happened was a network war. A business decision was made. Change the timeslot or bring on some new publicity. How to get publicity? A new Angel hunt. Who is the obvious person to replace? I am -- the new kid on the block." (Hack later said she "never expected to be there more than a year and I wasn't. I did my year and I moved on.")

I've always thought of Hack as the Jenilee Harrison of "Charlie's Angels" -- a replacement who did exactly what they were hired to do only to be dumped on for no good reason. Pre-"Angels" she gave a brilliant cameo in "Annie Hall" and after getting axed from the series went on to give a perfect performance in Martin Scorsese's "King of Comedy."

Perhaps most interesting is what she did after leaving Hollywood. According to Wikipedia, the Greenwich, Conn., native -- who got her bachelor's degree at Smith College -- later got her master's and became a voting registration and polling-station supervisor in the 1997 Bosnia-Herzegovina elections . She also produced the first-ever televised presidential debates there, one in Sarajevo, one in Mostar and two in Banja Luka. That same year she founded the Shelley Hack Media Consultancy (SHMC), counting the largest media conglomerate in Eastern Europe as a client for two years. Hack worked in the television sector for 10 years, creating ethnically diverse television programs in Eastern Europe. Additionally, she became a member of the Pacific Council on International Policy (PCIP). 

These days, she and husband Harry Winer are co-presidents of the production company Smash Media, which develops and produces content for motion pictures, television and new media. 

Spoiler: Although she's retired from acting, I have an idea: If you haven't figured out the answer to the photo trivia question at the top of the post, here's a hint: How about having Shelley Hack take over as Samantha Jones in the latest incarnation "Sex and the City"?

1 comment:

Rockbird1986 said...

Thank you for spotlighting the wonderful Shelley Hack. I am a fan of ALL six original Angels and Tiffany Welles was a great addition to the show (even though it was near impossible to replace Sabrina Duncan). Right after "Charlie's Angels" Shelley starred in a New York production of "Vanities" with Meredith Baxter Birney and Annette O' Toole, which aired heavily on HBO in the early 1980s. She was truly magnificent in it. Thanks to re-runs, Shelley Hack is being much more appreciated as an Angel these days. Tiffany Welles really shines in the second half of season four. Check her out in "Three For The Money", "Angel Hunt", "Nips & Tucks", and "One Love Two Angels" (in which she pretty much solves the case on her own while Kris and Kelly are fighting over Bobby Ewing!).