RIP Farrah Fawcett. She will always be most associated with Charlie’s Angels, of course, even though she left the show after the first season (in the most famous and controversial early departure until David Caruso). But one thing you can see even from a casual look at her filmography is how long it takes for an actor to get his or her Big Break in TV, assuming that Big Break ever comes. Fawcett had been doing TV since 1969, mostly in small parts; you can see her in one-scene roles in many sitcoms and dramas. She even appeared on The Dating Game where, like many aspiring actors appearing on game shows to boost their careers, she was not identified as an actor (same with Kirstie Alley’s appearance on Match Game a decade or so later).
If there was a scene that called for a pretty blonde woman, she might audition, and sometimes she’d get the part, as she did in this early episode of The Partridge Family where Danny and Reuben understandably seem in awe of her:
The smaller parts eventually led to bigger guest parts (most notably on her then-husband’s show The Six Million Dollar Man) parts in TV movies, unsold pilots, and a recurring role on a series that actually did get picked up, the underrated David Janssen private-eye series Harry O. (She wasn’t in it originally, but the network re-tooled it to include more hot women.) Here’s a promo from a rerun of the show years after it was canceled (for some reason CBS, a network that didn’t even run it, showed episodes as their “late night movie”).
Then came 1976, when it all came together: another high-profile appearance on Six Million Dollar Man, the Logan’s Run part, the famous poster, and finally Charlie’s Angels. One of the things about TV is that there is no such thing, or almost no such thing, as overnight stardom (maybe there’s almost no such thing anywhere, but movies and theatre more frequently try to give the impression of creating instant stars). Behind most overnight success stories is a long list of credits as a working actor.