The Avengers (TV Series 1961–1969) Poster



Despite the reputation of "The Avengers", In Britain it only made the top ten of watched shows four times between 1960-69. February 1964, November 1965, March 1967 and February 1969. Ian Hendry's subsequent series The Informer (1966) was actually more popular at the time. So when the production company (ABC [Associated British Corp.], nothing to do with the American ABC, which stood for American Broadcasting Co.) was ordered to be wound up by July 1968 (due to breach of license on another matter), it was easy for the new company (Thames TV) to cancel the series.
Emma Peel's name was taken from the British film industry expression "M-Appeal", or "man-appeal", which is what the show's producers were looking for in her character.
To maintain the pure fantasy of it, there were strict rules about what could and could not be shown in an episode: 1. No "uniformed policemen". 2. No "colored people". 3. No blood. 4. No dead women. 5. No blatant sex.
In one episode during the fourth season, Steed receives a Christmas card from Cathy Gale and it is postmarked "Fort Knox". This is in reference to Honor Blackman's appearance as Pussy Galore in the James Bond film Goldfinger (1964).
Series writer Brian Clemens noted in an interview the sexual chemistry that particularly existed between Steed and Emma Peel, and the common question of "Will they ever go to bed together?" Clemens's attitude toward the characters was that they already had done, and this was the next day. Stars Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg confirmed later, in interviews, that they had decided their characters had a casual sexual relationship, "but just didn't dwell on it."
Diana Rigg was the first person ever to do Kung Fu on the screen. In 1965, Ray Austin went to his producers and said, "Listen, I want to do this thing called Kung Fu". They said "Kung what?" and insisted that Emma, like her predecessor, stick to judo. Instead, Austin secretly taught Rigg Kung Fu.
The vast majority of the first series is sadly missing from TV archives and believed probably lost forever - only the first 22 minutes of the very first episode, The Avengers: Hot Snow (1961), and two complete later episodes, The Avengers: Girl on the Trapeze (1961) (which is one of only two editions not to feature the character of Steed) and The Avengers: The Frighteners (1961) have been recovered and preserved. The off-air soundtrack to The Avengers: Tunnel of Fear (1961) is known to survive, albeit in the possession of a private collector.
The look and character of Steed is an amalgam of Patrick Macnee's father (a racehorse trainer and dandy), fictional character the Scarlet Pimpernel, and Macnee's commanding officer in the Navy.
Steed's full name is John Wickham Gascone Berresford Steed.
At least three principal actors in the series went on to appear in James Bond films: Honor Blackman as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger (1964), Diana Rigg (Contessa Teresa 'Tracy' Di Vicenzo Bond) in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) and Patrick Macnee as Sir Godfrey Tibbett in A View to a Kill (1985).
Mrs. Peel's maiden name is Knight. We learn more about her childhood and her relationship with her mother and father in an exhibition on the "late Emma Peel" in the episode The Avengers: The House That Jack Built (1966).
At the end of the final episode of the series, The Avengers: Bizarre (1969), Mother talks directly to the audience, promising that The Avengers would return.
Emma Peel's revolver is a gold-plated, pearl-handled pocket version of the Webley Mk IV chambered for .380/200 (aka .38 S&W).
The original macho female spy, Cathy Gale, was a composite character based on two real-life women: Life magazine's daring photographer, Margaret Bourke-White, and anthropologist Margaret Mead.
Eleanor Bron turned down Emma Peel and the role was taken by Elizabeth Shepherd, who was replaced by Diana Rigg midway through filming her first episode (The Avengers: The Town of No Return (1965)). Shirley Eaton and Moira Redmond also tested for the part when production on this episode was halted.
Linda Thorson narrowly won the role of Tara King after making the list of the final three candidates along with Mary Peach and Tracy Reed.
Footage of Emma Peel from one of the color episodes was reused in an episode of The New Avengers (1976).
Steed's London address is, variously: 5 Westminster Mews (during the Cathy Gale run), 4 Queen Anne's Court in the monochrome Emma Peel editions, and 3 Stable Mews for the colour episodes.
When the series began, Ian Hendry was the main star, with the idea being he would rotate between different partners (an early version of the Mission: Impossible (1966) format). The series title actually refers to Hendry's character, Dr. David Keel, and Steed, who worked together to find those responsible for Keel's fiancée's murder in the first episode. Early episodes focused more on Keel's character, and Steed doesn't even appear in a couple! When the first season was interrupted by a strike, Hendry quit the series during the hiatus. The same format was used for Steed with a couple of leftover Dr. Keel scripts retooled for a new character named Dr. Martin King, but other scripts, originally written for a male character, were rejigged for another new addition: Catherine Gale.
Nyree Dawn Porter was first choice for Catherine Gale but turned it down.
Steed's car was a vintage Bentley, Catherine Gale rode a motorcycle, Emma Peel drove a blue Lotus Elan, Tara King drove a red AC Cobra.
A sequence dropped from Pulp Fiction (1994) had Vincent Vega confess to Mia Wallace about fantasizing over Emma Peel beating him up. Uma Thurman, who plays Wallace, later went on to play Emma Peel in The Avengers (1998).
Julie Stevens was the second choice for the role of Venus Smith after Angela Douglas turned it down.
Emma's fighting suits were named Emmapeelers.
In the episode The Avengers: Whoever Shot Poor George Oblique Stroke XR40? (1968), Linda Thorson speaks with her normal Canadian accent.
A radio version began two years after the show ended: broadcast weeknightly on Springbok Radio, the South African Broadcasting Corporation's English-speaking wing, scripts from the filmed series (often earlier versions than had appeared on-screen) were reworked into fifteen-minute serials of varying lengths. Sponsored by Cold Water Omo and starring Donald Monat as Steed and Diane Appleby as Mrs Peel (Mother made occasional appearances, usually played by Colin Fish), the series ran from 6th December 1971 to 28th December 1973 (plus a mini reprise in "The Great Gong Robbery", a special drama celebrating Springbok's Silver Jubilee on 30th April 1975). Laurie Johnson's theme tune was used throughout, and to smooth over the more visual aspects Springbok news-broadcaster Hugh Rouse was engaged as the tongue-in-cheek narrator. This was South Africa's sole experience of the show (outside of rented film prints) at the time since their television service only began in the mid-'70s and the parent TV series wasn't purchased until many years later. It is unknown how many serials aired: from a potential 83 stories (some of which appear to have been remade), only 19 are currently known to exist in full, thanks to private South African enthusiasts as the SABC did not retain any copies.

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