Farrah Fawcett considered that people wanted to “see some glamour, some clothes, some hairstyles”, and in the bouncing Jill Munroe even the most gluttonous were surely sated.The show propelled its three wholesome stars — and particularly Farrah Fawcett — on to the cover of almost every magazine in America.

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Although she performed creditably in several films, and was clearly eager to shed her lightweight image, never again could she attain the success she had achieved with her kooky detective.

In a life lived out in the tabloids, she increasingly became more famous for off-screen adventures that offered an unfortunate counterpoint to her image as a sun-kissed cheerleader.

She was born Ferrah Leni Fawcett on February 2 1947 in Corpus Christi, Texas, where her father was a pipe fitter in the oil industry; her name, later altered to Farrah, means “joy” in Arabic.

She was educated at WB Ray High School and the University of Texas, where she switched from Microbiology to Sculpture and dated the star quarterback.

An all-American girl with cascading blonde hair and a toothsome, dazzling smile, Farrah Fawcett’s character was the poker-playing Jill Munroe, who enlivened the programmes with her athleticism and derring-do.

If the plots were wafer-thin, the visuals — particularly the three scantily-clad heroines — were outstanding, and the show quickly gained huge audiences.

Described by one reviewer as “family-style porn”, the series attracted criticism from those who felt that the format exploited women.

But their voices were lost amidst the praise for its “good-natured and intentional teasing” and for its delicate poise “between sexism and sexiness”.

A natural beauty, it was rumoured that some male students memorised her timetable in order to meet her between classes.