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John Steed and his new accomplices Purdey and Gambit find themselves facing new and deadly dangers in the bizarre world of espionage. Mixing fantasy with a darker edge, the trio face mutated giant rats, flocks of killer birds and fanatical mysterious monks. Later episodes find Steed's loyalty under question and an increasing number of assignments overseas. Written by
Gareth Humphreys <firstname.lastname@example.org>
If you were a child of the 1970s, then you will probably remember this as the definitive Avengers, and find the original rather odd. It's not to say I dislike the original, but when I watched The New Avengers in the 1970s, it had that sense of realism and style that was very formative in my younger days.
Technically, the 1970s saw lighter cameras and greater use of location filming, two things that made The New Avengers different from its forebear. These enabled the series to be grittier, in keeping with the mood of the time. Preserving the fanciful, "British Batman" ideals of the 1960s' series would have gone sharply against the realism that viewers demanded in the 1970s. Britons (and plenty of people worldwide) wanted to see Britain, not a studio mock-up of it. And car chases were de rigueur. On these counts, The New Avengers delivered.
Purdey, not Emma Peel, was the first strong female character I knew on television. Columbia Pictures Television's Police Woman seemed phoney with Angie Dickinson getting her gun out of her handbag; it was Joanna Lumley's willingness to do her own action sequences that made her Purdey character more convincing. The fact she did her high kicks while wearing Laura Ashley, and not encased in PVC, did not seem strange; it was more her short hair that naice girls on telly did not have.
And because I was introduced to the Avengers' mystique through this series, I have always been used to the idea of Patrick Macnee's John Steed being the elder statesman. The suggestive nature of his relationships with his female partners in the 1960s seemed inappropriate when I viewed The Avengers in re-runs (and Macnee once quipped that he felt John Steed did consummate his relationships 'continuously and in his spare time'). The Gambit character played by Gareth Hunt was more my idea of the action-oriented British gent who had spent time in the military, though I recall both being relatively wooden, save for a few episodes.
The spy story lines were entertaining, and I understand the original series' fans being less than impressed. But they were a clever differentiation from the typical cop shows of the decade, and even though there were some corners cut (using old footage of Diana Rigg in one episode), I never felt cheated by The New Avengers. The thriller style that Brian Clemens and his team introduced to this series kept viewers on the edge of their seats, and it must have been good enough to warrant a second season at the timeeven if the latter was partly made in France and Canada. Even then, the episodes were not as bad as some have made outContinental filming, in particular, gave me one of my earliest impressions of Europe. I don't think I had seen anything made in Canada prior to The New Avengers.
In many respects, The New Avengers was more a forerunner to The Professionalsone of the greatest British TV actioners madethan a successor to The Avengers. It had the same producers and very similar crews. By coincidence, The Professionals' Lewis Collins and Martin Shaw guest-starred together in one episode. And, like The Professionals, it gave the sense that after an hour, you got great value. The same could not be said for most TV series of this genre today, made to please a network and an accounting firm rather than the audience.
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