TV Theme Of The Week: The Avengers

29/12/2010 at 5:11 pm (TV Theme Of The Week)

As one of the few truly successful British shows to make it Stateside, The Avengers stands head and shoulders over many other programmes at the time. Not just of the spy genre, but pretty much anything else. Although, the injection of American money from the ABC network certainly helped!

The Avengers started in 1961 as a low-key thriller series. Ian Hendry played Dr David Keel, who’s fiancée was murdered by a drug cartel. A bowler hatless John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee, was a shadowy figure who appeared on the scene investigate the murder. Together they began to solve further mysterious murders and misdeeds. Eventually, Steed’s character took greater importance, surviving to a second series, with a major overhaul.

Instead of a gritty crime drama, the highest excesses of British eccentricity were exploited. In David Keel’s place came tough and haughty Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). This was the foundation of everything to come afterwards. Later plots featured espionage, science fiction, comedy, action and thriller. These elements gelled perfectly, thanks to the introduction of Diana Rigg, and the creation of Mrs Emma Peel.

The charisma between Macnee and Rigg is fantastic, and both were a hit with viewers. Bursting into colour, the adventures of Steed and Mrs Peel became bigger, bolder and more shameless. Laced with innuendo and wit, The Avengers was a distillation of the swinging 60’s and a sense of defending the realm from undesirables.

In its final season, with Linda Thorson – an inexperienced young actress given the hard task of replacing Rigg – playing Tara King, The Avengers was reined in a little. The plots became less “out there” until the very last moments of the last episode in 1969, when Steed and Tara are launched in a rocket, with Steed to not return until the mid 70’s in The New Avengers.

You will always hear Laurie Johnson’s theme to The Avengers (first heard with the introduction of Diana Rigg in 1965) somewhere. Adverts, fashion shows, parodies. the clattering harpsichord and sweeping strings instantly evoke elegance and action of a bygone age…


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