An absolute masterpiece in British television, The Avengers is a timeless, witty, fantastical series which is as, if not more, popular today than it was more than 40 years ago.
This series has something for everybody - gangsters, diabolical masterminds, glamorous girls, car chases, fights and endless glasses of champagne.
It is interesting to see how the series developed from its humble beginnings in 1961. Playing it straight in the early days it gradually became more and more way-out with wackier and wackier plots and characters. The Cathy Gale and Emma Peel eras are regarded by many to be the high point of the series although there are high spots in virtually every point in the show's history.
Only one episode exists from Series 1 with the mysterious, shadowy Steed being a much more sinister character to Ian Hendry's open Doctor Keel. Then we have much verbal sparring and innuendo between Steed and the delicious Cathy Gale and her kinky boots. Film and eventually colour were introduced with the feline Emma Peel and her high kicks and the show closed the 60s in gaudy, cartoonish style with the naive Tara King and her snazzy Lotus Europa.
This is British television at its best and a true legend in broadcasting. The 1970s version, The New Avengers, has it's own charm in a way but is best regarded as a totally separate entity as this original series was...well...original!
When most people think of THE AVENGERS, they often think of the Emma Peel episodes and tend to ignore the magic that the entire series is. What began as a cheap weekly live-broadcast B&W thriller managed to become a major color series with quite high production values and also the first British TV show ever to be exported to the US.
THE AVENGERS began in 1961, as an attempt to cash in ABC's previous medical thriller POLICE SURGEON. The former stared Ian Hendry who became one of the biggest TV stars of the time. The show failed to be a hit however. So Hendry and his co-star Ingrid Hafner were called in to do a replacement called THE AVENGERS. The weekly show would pair up the widowed Dr. Keel (Hendry) with charming secret agent John Steed (Patrick McNee) as they hunted down criminals and diabolical masterminds while walking on the noir-like soaked London streets wearing raincoats. Hafner starred in some episodes as nurse Carol. Only two of these episodes are known to exist, and they have been rarely seen. After many videotaped episodes, the show became a hit and Hendry decided it was a perfect time to start a movie career. He quit the show and so did Hafner. This left co-star McNee all by himself.
The second season started in 1962 and McNee was paired up with Dr. King (Jon Rollason), a temporary replacement. After shooting left-over season one scripts, King was dropped and Julie Stevens as jazz singer Venus Smith was brought in to be Steed's new female partner. A bad one by the way. Not only was Stevens a young unexperienced actress, but the character itself was a manipulative innocent teenager that would always become the damsel in distress and have to be saved during the climax. Weak material here. However, the writers decided to pair Steed up with a different kind of female partner. One that would be written as a male character on the script, and play it like a man. And so was born television's first true independent woman: Mrs. Catherine Gale. Played to perfection by Honor Blackman, the high-tempered Cathy would always have "battle of the sexes" arguments with Steed, hit him with outrageous answers and punchlines, ("Good morning Cathy, what's for breakfast?" "Cook it and see!") and always try to erase his sexist side. Also notable were Cathy's leather catsuits that launched an entire fashion in England, as well as her weekly judo fights with male thugs. The many Cathy Gale episodes have remained in obscurity during the years for the fact that they were videotaped on low production values and transfered into poor prints with lackluster sound. This makes them almost unwatchable. And the bad guest acting and all the technical bloopers that were never fixed during editing didn't help. But all the purists who try to avoid these episodes are actually missing a great load of fun. If you overlook all the negative elements, you are left with entertaining stories that always surprise you with all the wit, poison, and humor from McNee and Blackman. You would also be surprised at how superior the material is since back then the show took itself seriously.
Some episodes speak for themselves: MANDRAKE is a slow-paced but well done suspense with a great fight scene with Blackman and wrestler Jack Parlo. THE LITTLE WONDERS is a funny episode featuring Lois Maxwell (a.k.a Miss Moneypenny) as a wicked machine-gun shooting evil nun. DRESSED TO KILL is a well done variation of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians. THE MAN WITH TWO SHADOWS was one of the first spy stories to use the look-alike element. And THE CHARMERS is perhaps one of the best episodes ever.
It is true that these shows don't even come close to the wonderful filmed seasons that would start in 1965 and they do not hold up to today's standards when compared to other shows of the time. But the biggest reason you should go back to watch these episodes is Cathy Gale herself. A wonderful actress (Blackman) and a wonderful character, Gale is one of the most important female characters of all time. She is for sure my favorite out of all of Steed's partners. Long live Cathy Gale!
To this day, The Avengers remains a cult favourite. It is still released onto video and watched by fans today; whether a new generation of fans has been introduced to it is unknown but I do know that people like myself who watched it the first time round are tuning in again.
The one constant through the series was Patrick Macnee who played John Steed. He was joined by various females throughout the show (my favourite being the lovely Emma Peel played by Diana Rigg).
The show was full of wit in addition to the action, intrigue and adventure. Steed-in his bowler hat and with his umbrella-faced all kinds from mad scientists to robots. Always calm, Steed brought down his foes usually with the help of his bowler hat or umbrella.
What more can I say about The Avengers? It was unique, it was funny and it has stood the test of time very well.
THE AVENGERS was already a popular show in England during the early 60s. However, it all backfired when Honor Blackman decided to leave the series in order to star in GOLDFINGER. When season three ended, ABC decided to pull the plug on THE AVENGERS and sold the series to Telemen Limited. Albert Fennel and Brian Clemmens were both recruited to keep up the standard. Plus, a big revolution happened: The series moved from videotape to film and the budget was also sightly improved.
But even knowing Patrick McNee came back, the studio faced a major problem: Cathy was gone. Since Blackman had already made the character so popular, it was decided a new partner would be created to be paired up with Steed. So Elisabeth Shappard was cast as Emma Peel (Man appeal! Get it?) and production started. But it was soon noticed Sheppard's cold beauty and persona was not right for the role. So Sheakespeare stage actress Diana Rigg was cast as a replacement. The show premiered in 1965 as a completely different deal.
And of course, the rest is history... Diana Rigg brought the charm and kindness that Blackman lacked, altrough she lacked Honor's strenght and toughness. Patrick McNee also played a very different Steed: He went from a James Bond-like sexist macho man to a more kind gentleman spy. The new AVENGERS became so popular that it was exported to the US. Yes, the fourth season was indeed revolutionary. But what made it so much better than the previous seasons? The most obvious answer would be Emma Peel, or the bigger budget, but I would give credit to the writers. This time, the scripts were much sharper and the show never took itself very seriously. And then there is the wonderful chemistry between McNee and Rigg. The Steed/Emma relationship was subliminally romantic and funny. They always enjoyed great lines togheter.
Some season four episodes are good even for today's standards: THE GRAVEDIGGERS has a hilarious silent film spoof climax. THE HOUSE THAT JACK BUILT was a clautrophobic "girl alone in a house" sort of thriller. THE CYBERNAUTS brought a strong sci-fi element. TOO MANY CHRISTMAS TREES brought the Steed/Emma chemistry to he highest calibur. And let's not forget a TOUCH OF BRIMSTONE that gets the award for sexiest episode ever.
The UK didn't order a season five, but the US did. The series moved from B&W to color, the budget was even higher, and the action increased as well. Gone were the sloppy season four fights and the large male stunts used to double Rigg. Now, the fights were better coreographed, and Cyd Childs (Who looked a lot like Diana Rigg) would be in charge of the kung fu moves that would take out the female baddie of the week. Included were the "we're needed" introductions that were made in order to format the show a-la MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE. The US backers also demanded Emma Peel to be more femenine and Rigg decided to replace her leather catsuits with jumpsuits that woulkd go down in fashion history as Emmapeelers.
No doubt season five was fun, but the show went from spy adventures to spoof comedies. Just look at the plot lines: THE HIDDEN TIGER dealt with cats progammed to attack their owners. ESCAPE IN TIME was about time-traveling! And FROM VENUS WITH LOVE was about an alien beam that would kill scientists! You just couldn't watch the show as a thriller anymore.
Even Rigg got tired and decided to leave the series. Linda Thorson was cast as Tara King for season six. Of course, the only reason was that Linda was the girlfriend of then-producer John Bryce. The character of Tara King was the femenine partner that the US backers wanted. The girl was so dependent of Steed that she carried a brick on her purse. It looks like Venus Smith all over again. The fact that Linda was a totally unexperienced actress didn't help. Season six began, with quite good rantings that kept up the standard.
Most fans usually hate season six because of the absence of Emma Peel, but I dare say this season was a great deal of underrated fun. Not as silly as season five or as serius as the first three seasons, this era of the show saw Steed and Tara on trully good adventures. LOOK... teamed them against killer clowns (?). SPLIT! dealt with agents shifting personalities through brainwashing. And STAY TUNED is one of those rare episodes where Steed almost cracks!
Even the character of Tara King became more tolerable as the season progessed. She even had a Steedless episode (ALL DONE WITH MIRRORS) where she put both Emma and Cathy to shame. She soon didn't need the brick (*sight*) and her intelligence was also improved. In France, she is ten times more popular than Emma.
However, the show's rantings in the US were poor due to the bad time-slot of putting the show against LAUGH-IN. The US didn't order more episodes and without the US support, THE AVENGERS ended.
THE AVENGERS was indeed a revolutionary and magic TV show. Many later sows (HART TO HART, REMINGTON STEELE) owe a lot to it.
Sure there is the 1976 revival and te dreadful 1998 movie, but that is another story...
The adventures of a suave British agent John Steed and his sexy female sidekicks...
This highly popular and long running spy show was the brainchild of Canadian born producer Sidney Newman. It began life as a medical crime drama called "Police Surgeon" starring Ian Hendry as Dr David Keel a pathologist working for the London police. When this failed to take on with the public, the character called John Steed was created. In the first episode of the revamped show renamed "The Avengers", John Steed helps Dr David Keel to avenge the death of his wife because he happened to be after the same man. Steed and Keel would collaborate many more times to rid the streets of criminals. The new show took on much better but Ian Hendry departed after the first series and was replaced by Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale, the first of the better known sexy sidekicks that would put the show firmly on the British TV show map. Blackman lasted two series and was then replaced by Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, a sexy auburn haired leather cladded woman who was expert at karate as well as having skills in a wide range of subjects such as chemistry. By now John Steed's English gentlemen image had been fully opened up, his bowler hat and umbrella was inspired by the film "Q-Plains". Steed's image also consisted of suave suits and he drove vintage cars, first a 1927 4 and a half litre Bentley and occasionally a speed six Bentley (circa 1926) and later a 1927 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost in the Linda Thorson series. In one or two episodes, Steed could be seen driving a 1927 Rolls Royce Phantom One. Emma Peel drove a 1966 Lotus Elan and Tara King was often seen behind the wheel of a Lotus as well.
By now the show had cracked the American market and it's success lead to the use of colour film for the last two series. Diana Rigg left in 1967 and her replacement was a young Canadian actress called Linda Thorson who played a young agent called Tara King. There was initial doubts about her suitability to the part, but the script writers modelled the character as a young agent who Steed was grooming and her skills developed as the series progressed. The series was a tremendous success in the UK, but in America it was less so. Therefore in 1969 the show was cancelled. However, in 1976, a revival series entitled "The New Avengers" surfaced co-produced by original producers Albert Fennell and Brian Clemens and a French production company (see separate review). Alas, financial problems saw the show cancelled after a year.
"The Avengers" is without doubt one of British TV's finest hours. In almost every episode superb character actors were drafted in to support Macnee and his co-stars. The plots were usually tight and the combination of fantasy and a unique brand of British humour rose the show well above the average sixties spy show. The most representative segments of the show are without doubt the Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson series. The Honor Blackman series has dated badly because the primitive video tape production techniques are less effective than the later filmed episodes and the style of the show was never really opened up until Diana Rigg joined the show. The writers most associated with the look of the programme are Brian Clemens and Philip Levene. There is only one episode of the Ian Hendry series left in existence and the majority of these were transmitted live.
Finally, here is a list of my recommended episodes, all are available on DVD.
Diana Rigg series: "The Gravediggers", "The Master Minds", "What The Butler Saw", "Room Without A View", "Epic", "The Living Dead" and "The Forget Me Knot" (in which Emma Peel left and Tara King joined).
Linda Thorson series: "Love All", "Requiem", "The Morning After", "The Rotters" and "Bizarre" (the very last episode in the series saw Steed and Tara take off in a rocket).
Bowler hat and leather boots, that's the French title for this series which has been very successful here and and the 140 episodes or so are available on DVD !! I remember seeing some of the episodes when I was a boy in England during the 60's. I was stunned by Emma Peel's physical beauty and "childish" humour. Watching some of the Dvd's today, my view hasn't changed and I was just as pleased ! The best episodes were those made with Peel, both in colour and black and white. Not only were the scripts and stories well thought out and very mysterious, the picture quality was absolutely amazing and I liked the opening sequence and music with the two wine glasses on the screen. The episodes made with Gambit and Purdey were of LESS good quality than those with Diana Rigg despite being made almost ten years later ! I remember very well an episode with an empty milk float running across an airport runway - God knows what the story was called.
In France, this series has a cult status and everyone has their favourite lady ( Honor "Pussy" Blackman, Linda Thorson, Joanna Lumley, or Diana Rigg ). Steed comes over as the typical English gentleman with the bowler hat. Highly recommendable on an entertainment level and much better than most of the rubbish on our screens today !
One of my all-time favourite series, which hits its peak with the colour Emma Peel episodes. Style, humour, character and a wonderful hitchcockian macabre atmosphere.
Macnee is one of the greatest, most charismatic, leading men to ever grace Television. Rigg has become iconic in TV history, also appreciated was the groundwork set by Honor Blackman for strong females roles.
Great show. Great music. Great production values once it hit it's fifth series. Great atmosphere all round.
Definitely 60's and it is obvious. Yet this is still one of the most fun shows ever made. John Steed is the epitome of British class, right down to the Bentley in British Racing Green (notwithstanding the Tara King years).
Then there is Emma Peel, mmmmm Emma Peel. Aside from Diana Rigg's obvious physical charms her real appeal is the strength of her character. Totally confident, cool, classy, and capable (driving a Lotus Elan was also a big plus) Diana Rigg created a female character (which was resisted by the producers tooth and nail I understand) that surprised me even though I first saw the show over 20 years after it went off the air. Emma Peel was devoid of the traditional female stereotypes that permeate the airwaves always in need of rescue and if not are total cartoons. She could kick ass and frequently saved Steed's butt in the process. Mass media still has a major allergy to original, tough female characters which is a testament to the originality of the character.
Something was lost after Tara King took over. It was a return to the stereotypes and the show lost something for me, that and I didn't like Steed's new car, just didn't have the same class as his former Bentley.
Still I highly recommend watching it, fun plots, wry humor, over the top villains, great characters, and an impossible lack of blood. How can you not have fun watching this?
The final series of The Avengers (1968-69), had not only the highest ever ratings in the UK but also in Europe (especially France). The whole image and upbeat, catchy signature tune (the Thorson theme)are very different. The introduction sees a far more feminine Tara (pearls and chiffon) and a gentler Steed (picking a rose). Romance, youth and visceral eroticism are promised as Tara runs along the bridge to be greeted by an immaculate man in a bowler hat, Steed...the adventures begin...
Linda Thorson stepped into fill some very big shoes and people forget she was only a mere 20-year-old, and a Canadian! Tara King is a huge departure from both Mrs Gale (not so well-known in the USA) and the iconic, inimitable Mrs Peel. Tara brings us youth, amazing beauty and guile in a less 'acid Chelsea humour, sloan-ranger' way. Her diction is nonetheless impeccable and she is more than a match for the dastardly masterminds with her karate skills.
Linda Thorson did an amazing job, when you consider the problems that were faced after Diana Rigg's departure: scripting, producing, directing etc. The character is not 'helpless' just warmer and softer. The chemistry Tara has with Steed is very visible... these episodes are vastly entertaining, highly exciting, amazingly comedic and are bursting with 1960's British quintessential 'character'.
Linda, thank you for making such a huge contribution to what is one of the best series ever made in the history of British TV!
Like other American fans, I became aware of it when it burst onto American TV in summer 1966. What a revelation it was to someone who'd grown up watching American TV! It was unpredictable: it mixed mystery, adventure, science fiction, and satire in always changing proportions. The mysteries were truly intriguing, the adventures truly exciting, the eerie situations truly frightening, the fantastic explanations truly ingenious, and the jokes truly funny. In later seasons the show formularized its conflicting elements, like every other show. But in the beginning you couldn't guess what might come next.
And of course there was the sex and violence. It seems impossible now that there was once a time when there was too little sex or violence on TV, but what there was was dull and stodgy. The American network had omitted the most suggestive episodes, but left in a few lines of dialogue that startled at the time. The climactic fight scenes were much more exciting than those on American shows: dynamically staged and photographed, and with a satirical edge, which was lost in later seasons.
The writing was very good too. To us in the States it seemed even better than it was because we hadn't then seen a lot of British TV. The scripts were solidly constructed, tightly packed, and full of clever dialogue. Patrick Macnee has claimed in interviews that "there was no clever dialogue" except what he and Diana Rigg rewrote, but the lines of the supporting characters belie that.
The atmosphere of the show was new to me: a dark, bright, sharp, woozy, ordered, but unpredictable world where reality could be rolled like a die, figures of speech could become facts (a killing rain, an underground club), and you couldn't be sure that anybody was what he seemed. If I'd seen Alfred Hitchcock's early films at the time, I would have recognized this as an exaggeration of their milieu, to the verge of parody: those flower sellers and organ grinders seemingly hanging out on street corners but really doing spy business. The world of The Avengers extended beyond them to encompass killer robots and plants from outer space--but only a certain distance beyond. (The failure to observe that distance spoiled many of the later shows.)
That atmosphere stayed with me for years. It carried me through dreary jobs by enabling me to imbue mundane surroundings in schools and industrial parks with fantastic and sinister possibilities. Other shows tried to imitate it, but never successfully. How could they, when The Avengers itself had lost it and never recaptured it again?
The primary technical device for bringing about this atmosphere was the teaser. The Avengers made an art out of it. A man in a field is rained on, tries to escape, is rained into the ground. Superimpose title: "A Surfeit of H2O." The title is the punchline. A man breaks into a house and opens a door; a lion jumps out at him. Title: "The House That Jack Built." And so on.
The puzzle posed by the opener often suggested philosophical or metaphysical possibilities, but they were never followed up on. The solution generally turned out to be slightly science-fictional, and the climax, rather than expanding on the potential implications of the story's premise, was just a comic fight. But it was remarkable in itself that the series could progress from one to the other with such deftness, beginning with a cosmic inversion and steadily narrowing it down to a trivial joke.
The heroes were invincible (otherwise the stories would have been too horrifying), inexplicable (those of us who didn't know the show's origins had no idea why they were called Avengers), androgynous (Steed was the fancy dresser, Mrs. Peel did the manhandling), paradoxical (Mrs. Peel was widowed, yet somehow virginal), and timeless. (In subsequent seasons, they were turned into pop icons, but divested of most of the twists that had made them interesting.)
What was considered by common consent the best episode of all, "The House That Jack Built," I didn't see originally (it was a choice between that and a screening of "The Music Box" with Laurel and Hardy). When I finally got to see it in syndication, five years later, it was like being taken back in time and watching the series for the first time. I was just as fascinated, just as mystified, just as amazed.
I set aside my Wednesday nights especially to watch the series. Apparently not many other people did. But that was always how it was with everything that developed a cult. At the time I seemed to be almost the only one who took an interest in it. Only years afterward would people write about it as if it had been a universally shared generational experience.
The following year the news came out that The Avengers would return. And so it did--sort of. But despite assiduous effort I gradually had to accede to an awareness that it was no longer very good. It had been dumbed down for Americans. It wasn't the same. It was gone.
And now, looking back on it forty years later, I wonder (and can never know for certain): was it really so good as it seemed to me, in that one happy season of my youth? And can anything ever seem that good again?
The Avengers is universal and atemporal,the series never shows"the swinging london" but the soul of the mid-sixties is there. Patrick Macnee as the classic dandy in Pierre Cardin suits is just "cool",his first female partner was Cathy Gale(Honor Blackman)she was great but the real lady of the show was "Emma Peel"(the irreplaceable Diana Rigg)her wardrobe,sophistication and witty sense of humor makes her"unique". The chemistry between Macnee and Rigg is just incomparable! but happiness is not forever,Rigg leaves the shows in 1967(she joined the series in 1965);the last "Emma Peel episode" is full of melancholy.The replacement seem to be impossible but "Tara King"(Linda Thorson)appears and The Avengers was never the same,in May of 1969 the series was over. Diana Rigg,like Honor Blackman("Pussy Galore")also was a"Bond girl",but she always be the best female partner for John Steed. The show is quintessence "british" with great dialogues,fantastic script "the Avengers" works against dull Tv american series from the sixties. In " 2002" the new generation re-discovered "the avengers",and I'm very happy to be part of it.
John Steed, with his bowler and umbrella, reminded me of great deal of Raymond Barry in "Bat Masterson," with his cane and bowler. Both men were debonair, intelligent and dangerous when pushed. Unfortunately, Bat didn't have a Cathy, Emma or a Tara to assist him. Patrick Macnee' John Steed was the epitome of 'British cool' during the Swinging sixties. Emma Peel (Dame Dianna Riggs) was priceless as Steed's karate- savvy companion. I watched this classic television program back in the Sixties and to a boy growing up in rural Wisconsin there seemed no more of a mod-magical world than the city along the Thames. The avengers was "Batman," "James Bond" and The Beatles all rolled into one.
Barring The Prisoner, Star Trek (with Kirk and Spock) and Thunderbirds, The Avengers is the best 1960s TV series going - you can have hours of fun pretending to be John Steed by bellowing "MRS PEEL" at everybody in your life knowing that few of them will know what you mean - but will laugh anyway. Note the opening credits of the Emma Peel Colour series (1967), where Steed (Patrick Macnee)wobbles while standing on one leg proferring his furled umbrella. Some of the stories here have not been screened in the UK since 2001 - and then only on Granada Plus where they were edited down from original run times of 50 minutes to 46 to accommodate ever longer advert and trailer breaks; and in the case of the final episodes of the Tara King series (1968-9) this amounted to the removal of the tag scene which closed every episode. Thusly, volumes 7 & 8 of the Tara King series have been known to achieve ridiculously high prices in Ebay auctions - these being the episodes most rarely screened in their entirety - Channel 4 ran them in full in late summer 1997 in an early Friday evening slot. Some may choose to source their Avengers fix by buying the much better priced Dutch DVD releases (re-titled "Der Wrekers") but with the confusion that they sequenced their discs with a different running order to the UK issues. Oddly, even these do not follow the exact order in which the stories were originally transmitted or filmed (Dave Rogers' exquisite books The Avengers (1983) and The Ultimate Avengers (1995)tell you everything you need to know about this) Let's hope the whole set from Ian Hendry's one remaining 1961 videotaped episode ("The Frighteners") to Joanna Lumley's miniskirt marvel "Emily" from 1977 are all given re-releases on DVD at prices lower than you'd expect to pay for an thoroughbred Ferrari or an undiscovered Titian – which happily they now have. But what price would be paid to that enterprising and either exceptionally wealthy or well connected (pun intended) person who owns original video recordings of those 1961 episodes that ITV hadn't got room for in their apparently tiny vaults? Dream again - and dream harder,sweet cousins.
The Avengers started life as a fairly ordinary mystery series, with the main character being Dr. Keel. However, with the introduction of Honor Blackman in series 2 the format changed somewhat, with the focus now on John Steed, and his relationships with his leading ladies. The series also began to become more adventurous, dealing increasingly with the weird and the surreal, particularly in the later years with Diana Rigg and Linda Thorson.
Personal preference is that the Rigg years were the best the show ever produced, although I also enjoy the Linda Thorson shows. As a result, I have to own up and say that the first three seasons are not taken into consideration when giving this rating and review as my knowledge of them is insufficient.
Overall, a great show that has really stood the test of time. Well worth a look.
'The Avengers' is one of the most successful television shows ever made in Britain, and stands up extremely well forty years later. It starred Ian Hendry originally as 'Dr.David Keel', a medic turned investigator after his fiancée is killed by the underworld. His partner 'John Steed' was played by Patrick Macnee. Initially, Steed was a trenchcoat-wearing spook no different from a thousand others, but as the series progressed he evolved into the suave, bowler-hatted, umbrella-carrying secret agent we all know and love, the quintessential gentleman spy. When Hendry dropped out, they replaced him with Honor Blackman as the karate-chopping 'Mrs.Cathy Gale'. The show took off.
Honor left after two seasons to co-star in the Bond classic 'Goldfinger'. After a false start with Elisabeth Shepherd, the producers sensibly cast Diana Rigg as 'Mrs.Emma Peel'. Of all the actresses to have played his sexy sidekicks, she was the one who made the greatest impact. Her arrival coincided with a move onto film, and the plots got wilder!
The pair would be called on to solve the most outrageous crimes imaginable, bringing them into contact with fiendishly clever diabolical masterminds.
The new-look 'Avengers' was a smash hit in the U.S.A. precisely because it made no attempt to pander to American tastes. From the very moment the classy opening titles and marvellous Laurie Johnson theme tune burst onto the screen, it has a polish that positively dazzles.
Where else would you get to see Ronnie Barker training cats to become assassins, a fight where the protagonists wear anti-gravity boots, bird seed spilling out of a dead man's chest, Clive Dunn killed by a 'Jack-In-The-Box', Paul Eddington regressing to childhood after touching a bouncy ball, John Cleese as a collector of eggs bearing the faces of clowns, a computer that writes romantic fiction, invisible spies, Venusian death-rays, rain-making machines, man-eating plants from space, amnesia-inducing milk, guns that destroy nothing except wood, British Rail ticket collectors out to take over the country, miniaturisation machines, underground cities, a village where for a price you can commit murder and the locals provide you with an alibi, and an assassination bureau masquerading as a dating agency. Nowhere except 'The Avengers'.
If you've never seen an episode, give it a whirl. You'll like it.
Rigg left in 1967 and the unknown Linda Thorson took her place as 'Tara King'. The Thorson series is in my view the highpoint of the show. But in America it was badly scheduled and ended after 32 episodes.
'The Avengers' returned in 1976 as 'The New Avengers', teaming Steed with Gareth Hunt's 'Mike Gambit' and 'Joanna Lumley's 'Purdey'. Two seasons were made.
The Rigg shows were repeated by Channel 4 in 1982 at the ungodly time of 12.55 a.m. on Sundays. However, it proved so popular it was eventually promoted to peak-time Sunday evening. Recent repeats have taken place on Sky's now-defunct Granada Plus, and B.B.C.-4.
In 1998, 'The Avengers' was made into a movie starring Ralph Fiennes, Uma Thurman, and Sean Connery. Though not well received at the time, it has developed something of a cult following. A campaign is presently underway to secure a Director's Cut D.V.D. release.
I loved 'The Avengers' as a boy, and love it still. It gets better the further away from the '60's we get.
The premiere of "The Avengers" in the US during the summer of 1967 is one of the seminal points of my life. It's impossible to convey how I loved (and still love) this series and what an impact it had on me, unless you grew up in the wasteland of midwest TV, where they had no independent channels and showed mostly westerns on the weekends and once in a great while an old horror film. I was 11 when it premiered on late night TV; an actual first for Omaha, since TV didn't go very late until the 70's. Our TV stations programmed nothing but what the network affiliates sent them; it was 50's programming that had atrophied. The Avengers was a fresh wind that blew across my imagination and brought me into the 60's. Diana Rigg's costumes really influenced my own fashions during the next few years. She was unlike any actress I'd seen on TV. Patrick Macnee was the epitome of charm and debonair grace; he spoke his lines with such conviction that he seemed to not be acting. He seemed to be John Steed. The scripts and the sets were a revelation that I studied with intense interest. In those days before VCR's, I even audiotaped several episodes.
It was, to put it simply, the best thing I'd ever seen on TV and from then on I looked for anything British on the TV listings. We got the chance to see "The Prisoner" and many others after this, but nothing compared to the Avengers. I still watch the episodes all the time, and my tapes have gotten pretty worn. I've now purchased the episodes on DVD and can watch them in their pristine clarity. Doesn't change a thing, though. Any way to watch the Avengers is the best way.
I got a chance to see some of the episodes from the early 60's on a local cable channel a few months back,and I can't believe that the show's first three seasons were shot lived in black and white(before the show changed over to a film technique in 1965). However,"The Avengers",was one of the best spy shows ever to come from Europe and it was a runaway hit here in the states. I saw the episodes where Honor Blackman(who played agent Cathy Gale) was simply gorgeous indeed....beauty combined with deadly precision and great taste,and she really was something to see before she got with Sean Connery in "Goldfinger" after leaving the show during the 1963-1964 season. Diana Rigg as Emma Peel was simply in one word: astoundishing!!,and with a deadly kick that can knock any man (or woman in that matter)out,and she was just liked Blackman in a sense,but very stylish,and very witty indeed. Patrick Macnee was truly a English gentlemen,and there will never be another one like him who in any episode always had an ace up his sleeve or bowler for that matter. It was never the same after Rigg left the show in 1967 to pursue other interests particularly ending up as the wife of James Bond 007 in "Her Majesty's Secret Service" with George Lazenby(1969),and hosting a mystery show on Public Television Stations here in the states.
Interesting Note: They made a movie based on this as well with Ralph Finnes, and Uma Thurman that somewhat didn't fair with the public,but as for the TV series is concern..it was one of the best international hits ever devised and its still on the air in repeats!!
Started loving the show as a kid in the 1990s, teenager when the show was on the A&E(Arts & Entertainment) Network. As it had people like Honor Blackman(Cathy Gale aka Pussy Galore in "Diamonds Are Forever"), Diana Rigg(Who would go onto bigger things, but remains ever beautiful and great as Emma Peel when the show would take off), and Linda Thorson(Tara King). But really who was the star was Patrick MacNee as handsome, witty, debonair John Steed, UK secret agent. He was the only constant that remained in a show that had cast changes it seems like every 2-4 years. But without Steed, there would be No Avengers. The show had wit, charm, action, some romance, and chemistry. Especially with Diana Rigg and Patrick MacNee. Great writing and great acting put together! Wished there were more shows like that. Sadly, that is what TV is lacking these days!
Ah, Steed and Mrs. Peel, the coolest couple on TV. From their elegant and stylish clothes, to their charm and wit; the skilled professional and the talented amateur thrilled us every week. The series combined imagination, thrills, action, sophistication, and wit into an unbeatable package.
Patrick MacNee was the linchpin of the series. He was there from the beginning and made the show what it was. He exuded charm and sophistication, with a devilish twinkle in his eye. MacNee played it straight, but always kept a smile on his face to let you know he didn't take it too seriously. He developed new relationships with each partner, creating a new chemistry each time. He also set a style that was counter to the counter-culture, without seeming outdated.
Diana Rigg was the marvelous Mrs. Emma Peel, a stunning combination of beauty and brains, who could also knock the bejesus out of the bad guys. She spawned more than a few kinky fantasies with her leather wardrobe and fisticuffs, not to mention her penchant for ending up in a bind. Ms. Rigg was an actress of the first level and brought strong performance to the role. She was adept at both the comedy and the drama, and a deft hand at the stuntwork; well, for the amount not done by Cyd Child and the other team members. Her presence was sorely missed in the later series.
Linda Thorson came on board as Mrs. Peel's replacement. She had a tough job from the beginning; no one could easily follow Diana Rigg. Although she was a bit stiff at first, she improved as time went on and developed a strong chemistry with Steed. Where there was a hint of a deeper relationship between Steed and Peel, it was obvious that Tara King worshiped Steed. The hints were closer to statements here. Tara was more inexperienced, matching Ms. Thorson's own skills, but she got there in the end. Her tenure was diluted by weaker scripts and less dazzling costumes. She didn't have Ms. Rigg's figure, but her clothes could have been improved.
Patrick Newell made a great addition in the Tara King series, moving up from bit player to become Mother, Steed and King's boss. He was pompous and grumpy and completely eccentric; perfect for the series. His office seemed to move around more than M and Q, in the Bond series. My favorite was the top deck of a bus, in "False Witness." He was accompanied by his amazonian aide, Rhonda, who combined looks with a strong physical presence.
I never got to see more than a handful of Cathy Gale episodes, so I can't really comment on the series, except that those few left me cold. The studio staging and video recording detracted from the excitement. Perhaps I just haven't seen enough episodes to fully appreciate these series. I know that Honor Blackman set the standard for the women who followed.
The Avengers was great fun, with action and thrills working alongside comedy and the surreal. Some episodes were a bit slow and some had absurd plots, but even they had an element of fun. The best episodes featured wonderful characters and bizarre plans, combined with deft wit and charm. Those episodes never grow tiresome with repeated viewing. Some of my personal favorites are: The Gravediggers, The Cybernauts and Return of the Cybernauts, Girl from A.U.N.T.I.E., Quick-Quick Slow Death, A Touch of Brimstone, The Living Dead, Epic, The Forget-Me-Knot, Game, False Witness, and Have Guns..Will Haggle.
When it came time for a long-discussed movie, the audience was kicked in the teeth. Instead of our favorite John Steed and Mrs Peel, we were given the Bizarro World versions, bereft of charm and style, and nary an ounce of wit.
Watching it, I was sure the screenwriter and director had been watching The Prisoner instead of The Avengers. It was cold and bizarre, not warm and charming. Had they meant to do The Prisoner, the still missed the boat, as it's intelligence was not to be found either. It was an abysmal failure. Patrick MacNee was a genius for keeping his face off the screen, so that he emerged from this mess with his dignity intact. You just can't remake a classic.
Bravo to A&E for bringing the entire series (except the Ian Hendry years) to DVD. The only quibble is the lack of extra features. A documentary would have been nice, commentaries would have been fantastic. At least I am able to revisit my favorite duo with a pristine picture.
This is the finest show ever exported from Britain. The plots not only action packed but they had a very British sense of humor. This can almost be seen as a British version of Batman with all the outlandish plots as well as the wild villains that were featured on each episode.
The only negative thing I have to say about it is about the final season. Linda Thorson is okay as Tara, but during her run on the show as Steed's partner, she pretty much played the young damsel in distress, unlike Emma who would probably beat the living daylights out of anyone who was threatening her. However, towards the end she was growing into the role and it would have been interesting to see how they would have let her evolve if the show had returned the next season.
This show is a treasure and its too bad that A&E doesn't show it anymore, but at least it is being shown on BBC America.
During the fourth and fifth seasons of THE AVENGERS, In my opinion It can be hailed as the best TV show ever made. Patrick Macnee Is of course John, and Diana Rigg of course Emma Peel, the secret agents born to work with each other. Steed Is a gentlemen with a wall of steel (apart from Inside his bowler) In him, and Emma Is the queen of unarmed self-defence. If you have just been Introduced to the show I strongly recommend the episodes THE TOWN OF NO RETURN, THE WINGED AVENGER DEATH'S DOOR, THE RETURN OF THE CYBERNAUGHTS and THE FORGET-ME KNOT.
I loved this show as a kid, but never got to see any of the Honor Blackman eps, and am going through them now, three at time, via rented DVDs from Blockbuster Online. A lot of the criticism leveled at these early eps is true, but there's also a lot to like. The most frustrating thing about them is the poor sound; this combined with the accents, unfamiliar idioms and fast-paced delivery causes me to have to rewind certain scenes three or four times in order to determine what the heck they're saying. Also, the fight choreography would greatly improve over subsequent seasons; take "The Grandeur that was Rome" for example. Ugh! However, the writing tends to be a little more literate and the tone more dramatic; there's more genuine emotion. In contrast to what other posters have noted, I find the supporting characters in those early eps to often be more well-developed than the leads! I loved the speech given by Mrs. Turner toward the end of "Mandrake"; a woman's life has rarely been more wittily and succinctly summarized. The characterization in "Second Sight" is very good as well. What's also interesting is that the show was freer to be a bit more racy in those early eps than when they were being produced with an eye for the American market. There was a lot more innuendo-laden dialogue; it seems like there was an illicit tryst going on in the background of almost every plot, and there was a great deal more skin. Steed even strips down to his tighty-whities in one episode! Emma Peel will always be my favorite of Steed's partners, of course, and I have a lot of affection for daffy, Steed-infatuated Tara, with her signature action-somersault move, but the real Avengers aficionado shouldn't cheat him or herself by passing up the Cathy Gale shows. Clumsy fighting but great words. And even though I've read that they're of dubious quality, I'd also be curious to see the season two eps, in which Martin King, Venus Smith and Cathy rotated as Steed's partners. How intriguing! As a kid watching the Diana Rigg / Linda Thorson shows on cable in the early 70's, I never would have guessed the Avengers had such a rich, deep history.
I'm a big fan of the Avengers TV series. The Avengers is a British TV series that ran for multiple seasons and had different cast members. The best seasons to see are season 4 (1965-1966) and season 5 (1967-1968.) They featured Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee as Mrs. Emma Peel and John Steed. The 1965 shows were black and white; the rest in color. The chemistry between Peel and Steed is fully established and the plots are the most clever. The Avengers series started out as standard mystery/thrillers but featured more sci-fi plots as the series aged. Some of the best episodes are The Cybernauts, The House That Jack Built, You Have Just Been Murdered, The Positive Negative Man, Murdersville. The Avengers is a time capsule of the '60s. In the '66 and '67 shows Emma's wardrobe changes virtually every scene and she wears some interesting clothes most famous are the Emma-peelers jumpsuits. Steed is always the dapper British gentleman. The dialogue is always interesting. The staged fights may be hokey but the supporting characters are always eccentric.