Crime, fantasy, action adventure series The Avengers is probably the quintessential show that sums up the 1960’s. Very stylish and very with it, the Avengers featured agent John Steed and a succession of beautiful women crossing swords with all manner of evil doers.
The show had its roots in an Ian Hendry production called Police Surgeon, when this show folded after just one season ABC created The Avengers for Hendry and he was actually the lead in season one as Dr David Keel. It was pretty obvious from the outset however that Steed was by far the strongest character and Keel was quickly phased out – in came leather clad judo expert Cathy Gale and the show really hit its stride. The early shows were all filmed on video tape and unfortunately many of them have been lost for good.
When Diana Rigg as Emma Peel arrived to take over from Cathy Gale the show moved onto glossy film, later at the start of the next season it also went into colour, a brave move aiming the show at the US market as British TV had yet to introduce colour.
The Peel-Steed years are really the crowning glory of The Avengers, a sucession of classic episodes in which the villains and the plots became ever more outlandish with the pair dealing with such delights as a cat lovers organisation (PURR) trying to take over the country and a tangling with a group of killer nannies (Something Nasty in the Nursery). The series painted a somewhat strange version of England, there were no policemen in the Avengers world and not many poor people either.
When Diana Rigg left the show it never really recovered; Linda Thorson was brought in as Tara King along with a wheelchair bound male agent called Mother whom Steed and Tara had to answer to. The plots however were even more outrageous this season.
The show ended in 1969 but then in the mid seventies The New Avengers was born with Steed being joined by sexy Purdey and action man Gambit, this series had heavy French and Canadian backing leading to some episodes being made in those countries. Although still very watchable The New Avengers was not up to the standard of the original.
A very poorly received big screen version was made in the late 1990’s with Ralph Feinnes as Steed and Uma Thurman as Mrs Peel.
TRIVIA: Steed had a special hangover cure called the “National Anthem”. It was composed of one raw egg, three or four shakes of worcestershire sauce and a dash of salt. Steed’s full name was: John Wickham Gascone Berresford Steed.
Guest stars included the likes Ronnie Barker, Jon Pertwee, Ron Moody, Philip Madoc, Christopher Lee, Peter Wyngarde, Yootha Joyce, Peter Cushing, Charles “Bud” Tingwell, Arthur Lowe and Francis Matthews.
The Avengers Season by Season
26 b/w episodes, premiered in the UK January 7, 1961
A replacement for the short-lived Police Surgeon, THE AVENGERS initially stars Ian Hendry as Dr. David Keel and Patrick Macnee as John Steed.
The first two episodes feature Steed and Keel avenging the shooting death of Keel’s fianceé.
26 b/w episodes, 1962/63
Introduction of anthropologist Mrs. Catherine Gale, PhD, played by Honor Blackman.
Cathy Gale introduces the martial arts and leather suits that become a hallmark of the series.
26 b/w episodes, 1963/64
The show is so popular that a duet by Macnee and Blackman, titled “Kinky Boots,” eventually becomes a Top 5 hit in the UK.
Honor Blackman decides to leave the series at the end of the season to play Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery’s James Bond in Goldfinger.
26 b/w episodes, 1965/66
The series moves to film format.
Elizabeth Shepherd is cast as Emma Peel.
Shepherd is found to not have the required rapport with Steed and is soon replaced with young Shakespearean actress Diana Rigg.
24 colour episodes, 1967
The first colour season of THE AVENGERS was also the first full season of the show aired in the US, and the first season created specifically for the US market.
Many of these episodes are seen in b&w in the UK, where colour TV broadcasting hasn’t yet been introduced.
The famous “Mrs. Peel, We’re Needed” tags are added to the programme.
Two-line episode summaries are also added to the opening credits.
At the request of the broadcasters, both elements are dropped after the first sixteen episodes.
33 colour episodes, 1968/69
Linda Thorson takes on the role of Steed’s new partner, Miss Tara King.
The Mrs. Peel/Miss King transition episode “The Forget-Me-Knot” introduces Steed’s superior, Mother (Patrick Newell).
In the final episode, “Bizarre,” Steed and Tara rocket into space while Mother reassures viewers that they will return.
UK / ITV – ABC / 161×60 minute episodes / Broadcast 1961-1969
Creator: Sydney Newman, Leonard White / Music: Laurie Johnson / Executive Producers: Albert Fennell, Brian Clemens,
PATRICK MACNEE as John Steed
HONOR BLACKMAN as Cathy Gale
DIANA RIGG as Emma Peel
LINDA THORSON as Tara King
PATRICK NEWELL as Mother
Ape And Essence (The Wednesday Play BBC-1 1966, Alec McCowen)
In Scifi drama Ape and Essence, based on the novel by Aldous Huxley, a group of New Zealand scientists conduct a survey on a Britain ravaged by atomic war 80 years previously.
Series: The Wednesday Play Season 2 Episode 29
Alec McCowen as Alfred Poole
Robert Eddison as Arch Vicar
Derek Sydney as Chief
Jenny Lee as Flossie
Yvonne Antrobus as Young Girl
Sydney Bromley as Craigie
Martin Carroll as Director of Food
Hazel Douglas as Mies Hook
John Falconer as Patriarch
Petra Markham as Loola
Ken Parry as Science Praet
Amanda Reiss as Polly
Jonathan Scott as Int. Priest
Fiona Fraser as Part of Crowd
Ann Mitchell as Shaven-Head
Jacki Salt as Mulatto Girl
Carol Blake as Shaven-Head
Gordon Craig as Part of Crowd
Robert Cude as First Man
Writer: John Finch
Book: Aldous Huxley
Music: BBC Radiophonic Workshop
Producer: Peter Luke
Director: David Benedictus.
Network and Production Companies: BBC One
Duration: 1×75 minute episode
Aired From: 18 May 1966
Plane Makers, The (ITV 1963-1965, Patrick Wymark, Barbara Murray)
Drama series The Plane Makers took us behind the scenes in the boardroom and shop floor of the Scott Furlong Aircraft Factory. After two seasons the lead character John Wilder took a place on the board of a merchant bank and the series was then renamed The Power Game.
Patrick Wymark as John Wilder
Jack Watling as Don Henderson
Barbara Murray as Pamela Wilder (Seasons 1-2)
Ann Firbank as Pamela Wilder (Season 3)
Reginald Marsh as Arthur Sugden
Alan Dobie as David Corbett
Creator: Wilfred Greatorex
Producers: Rex Firkin (seasons 1-2), David Reid (season 3)
Network: ITV – ATV
Duration: 57×50 minute episodes
Aired From: 4 February 1963 – 12 January 1965 black and white
Running Wild (ITV 1987, Ray Brooks, Janet Key)
Sitcom Running Wild was about the ups and downs of separated couple, Max and Babs, trying to get on with their lives. In season two Max wants to return to his wife but Babs is not so keen.
Ray Brooks as Max Wild
Janet Key as Babs Wild
Sharon Duce as Wanda
Michelle Collins as Stephanie Wild
Peter Amory as Rob
Berwick Kaler as Tom Coleman (Season 1)
Brigit Forsyth as Jenny (Season 2)
Writer: Philip Trewinnard
Producers: Marcus Plantin (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)
Directors: Vic Finch (Season 1), Derrick Goodwin (Season 2)
Network and Production Companies: ITV – London Weekend Television
Duration: 13×25 minute episodes
Aired From: 6 March 1987 – 4 June 1989
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