TV Cream

TV: A is for...

Avengers, The

"You need to be appreciated, Mrs Peel" "I appreciate your appreciation"THE FORMAT might have been through the mill countless times, but when it got itself sorted, this was close to the best damn thing on telly. Way back at the beginning the whole thing was taped as live: a bonkers idea that had PATRICK MACNEE, aka John Steed, inching out of shot at the earliest opportunity in order to swap his cumbersome mackintosh for a lightweight morning suit ready for the next scene. Plots involving private zoos and crates of rotting fruit singularly failed to reel in many viewers, but as least the episodes had ace titles like ‘Nightmare’, ‘Square Root Of Evil’ and ‘The Tunnel Of Fear’. The decade rolled on and some supposedly stereotype-bashing judo/leather business came and went, though given it was all still as-live HONOR BLACKMAN (Cathy Gale) shared top billing with Stunt Man In Blonde Wig. ’65 saw a Connery-bound Blackman switched for the magnificent DIANA RIGG (Emma Peel) and here everything clicked into place helped by loads more money and pre-recorded escapades. New titles, new gimmicks, acres of new wardrobes and endless flipping between spy thriller, science fiction and telefantasy all helped, despite proceedings almost always ending up unravelling into a long car chase around the Shire counties. By now loads of people were watching, and even more were talking about it, so when a Lazenby-bound Rigg pissed off the self-appointed power that was, Brian “BUGS” Clemens, pressed on regardless. Sadly what followed was pretty dire: MacNee suddenly looked wrinkled, new sidekick LINDA “20 YEARS OLD” THORSON seemed to have only read her script first thing that morning, and PATRICK NEWELL was conscripted in to play dopey boss Mother, seemingly purely to trot out “Mother knows best” gags. JOHN CLEESE even showed up to dust down his besuited lunatic turn. It all ended with MacNee and Thorson being blasted into space for no reason – “They’ll be back!”.



  1. Glenn Aylett

    June 17, 2009 at 9:14 pm

    You have to wonder if the popular seventies car, the Hillman Avenger, had its name inspired by the series.

  2. paulus - Bangkok

    July 16, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    back then I had no idea what that ‘funny feeling’ was that I got when watching Emma Peel in her black leather cat-suits… puberty (and reruns) have made it quite clear to me now.
    It’s leather-tastic!

  3. Glenn Aylett

    July 19, 2009 at 10:11 pm

    Hello, Paulus, it always had this kinky edge to it- leather, thigh boots, dominant female characters- but it was always so innocent. It had no bad language, severe violence or sex, so was a perfectly watchable family show. 25 million people watched The Avengers so it must have done something right. BBC Four was still repeating it 2 years ago and it was still totally watchable.

  4. Ian Jones

    July 19, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Funny, I’ve never noticed anything kinky about The Avengers. Instead I notice nifty plots, brilliant jokes, superb guest stars, great location stuff, eerie concepts, cosy sentimentality and wonderful sets and direction.

  5. Chris Hughes

    July 19, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Obviously the lyrics of Kinky Boots cancel all that stuff out.

  6. Arthur Nibble

    July 20, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    No mention yet of that episode with Diana Rigg at the Hellfire Club. Set the shower to freezing!

  7. Clio

    April 13, 2011 at 5:28 pm

    I remember ‘The Living Dead’ from series 5 scared me rigid when I was a kid. It was a Brian Clemens effort and involved a ghost (Christopher Lee) emerging from a country church table tomb to ring a bell.

  8. Glenn A

    February 16, 2017 at 12:35 pm

    Linda Thorson’s episodes weren’t dire at all. I think the introduction of Mother gave us an idea that The Avengers were working for an organisation, Ms Thorson was just as tough in a fight as her predecessors, and there were some decent episodes. I particularly like the one where Jimmy Jewel plays a killer music hall turn who dances after a murder.

  9. Glenn A

    October 15, 2017 at 12:02 pm

    Loving the re runs on ITV 4 and the popularity of The Avengers in the Diana Rigg years was so big you had Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing appearing as villains. Also the dynamic duo had to fight off organisations like PURR and SNOB to keep Britain swinging.
    Interesting fact, the person who trained Honor Blackman in judo and karate, Joe Robinson, was another Avengers figure who made it into Bond, when he played diamond smuggler Peter Franks in Diamonds Are Forever.

  10. Sidney Balmoral James

    August 10, 2020 at 9:28 pm

    It’s not Christopher Lee who rings the bell – it’s Edward Underdown. Having now seen the earlier series on telly, it’s striking how much more naturalistic the performances are before they switched to film – Patrick MacNee in particular seems far more on the ball when he didn’t have the option of doing another take. Linda Thorson isn’t bad – I think no worse than Diana Rigg – who may well have been easy on the eye but wasn’t (at least at this stage in her career) much of an actress. Despite supposed lack of violence, it’s odd how many episodes include lots of people getting murdered, sometimes close to double figures (see for example The Girl from Auntie episode).

  11. Richardpd

    October 1, 2022 at 12:15 pm

    The Avengers was one TV series that was almost a perfect fit 1960s, so much so that The New Avengers struggled to match up, even with a layer of 1970s cynicism added on.

    The Digg – Thorson years had a massive budget for the time (supposedly 5 times more per minute than Dr Who!), as ABC wanted to sell it in the USA & succeeded. This explains the large number of big names they could afford to cast.

    I heard the early Thorson era suffered from the producers changing, the new ones not working out, then the old ones having to be brought back & sort things out.

    There was a similar jittery period between the Hendry & Blackman eras when Steed had a rotating roster of sidekicks, but they soon settled on Cathy Gale.

    • Glenn Aylett

      October 1, 2022 at 8:21 pm

      @ Richardpd, the New Avengers reminded me of The Return Of The Saint, more cynical, more violent and less amusing than their predecessors, though perfectly watchable. Always thought ROTS suited the time it was made in and had a few nods to The Professionals, with stories involving terrorists, violent biker gangs and a lone fanatic trying to set off a nuclear weapon in London.

      • Richardpd

        October 1, 2022 at 10:07 pm

        The Professionals were made by the same production company as The New Avengers, & even had Lewis Collins & Martin Shaw in one episode.

        • Glenn Aylett

          October 2, 2022 at 12:27 pm

          @ Richardpd, Mark One Productions, who were linked to LWT. Return Of The Saint was made by ATV, like the original, but with a much larger budget and partly made in Italy with funding by RAI. I think the episode in Venice with Maurice Colbourne as a sadistic killer is one of the best, same as the one in the sinister village in the mountains, where The Saint investigates a woman’s murder.

  12. Sidney Balmoral James

    October 1, 2022 at 7:27 pm

    Interestingly for such a successful show, both the switch to Emma Peel, and the switch to Thorson were rocky – in the first case, Elizabeth Shepherd was signed, and had begun filming before she was fired and replaced by Rigg. The Thorson series indeed began with a new producer, John Bryce, who attempted a very different style of episode, which didn’t work out. He was then fired, and they had to bring Clemens and Fennell back, and try to use such material as already existed (which is why some of the Thorson episodes are of noticeably lower quality than others).

  13. Glenn Aylett

    November 19, 2023 at 1:00 pm

    ThE Avengers had probably run its course by the last series and Steed and Tara being sent into space was an appropriate way to end the show, as the critics were turning against it. There were some really good episodes among some dross: I like the one where Tara has the principal role while Steed relates her activities to two maiden aunts, the one in the common cold research centre and the one with Jimmy Jewell as the killer vaudeville entertainer. Anyone rate the Honor Blackman episodes as there are never shown nowadays, or are they too old fashioned?

  14. Richardpd

    November 19, 2023 at 9:41 pm

    It was probably for the best that The Avengers ended when it did, as the enthusiasm for spy thrillers was to wane during the early 1970s.

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