I’ve been watching re-runs of The Avengers, a rough-and-tumble show that mixes gritty crime with a splash of espionage. It was created by that Sydney Newman chap who pushed off to the Beeb to indulge in a police box fetish (well that won’t last). Being in black-and -white it has a noir-ish feel, even when the video lights flare a little too much. Some of the people teamed up with that mucky John Steed bloke seem to dislike him as much as the low-life crooks they face off against.
So this morning it was Mr Teddy Bear which is a touch transitional. Steed’s wardrobe is getting snappier but so is his relationship with Dr Cathy Gale, played by Honor Blackman. She doesn’t exactly trust him, does she? No kinky boots yet but she sports an exotic Chinese silk top. The title refers to an assassin who follows a gentlemanly code of conduct and communicates via a teddy bear. He also used aliases like Edward Bruin, etc. Steed gets Cathy to place a bounty on his head something that backfires when he gets dosed with a nerve agent sprayed on a telephone.
There is something intensely visceral about the way Steed rushes to stem the flow of the poison and bleed it off until he can get to an antidote. I’m not sure he would be shown in that kind of peril again.
But afterwards my mind wandered forward in time. In the wake of The New Avengers there was a newspaper story that Steed was moving to Canada for a new series. For some reason Purdey (Joanna Lumley) was getting the heave-ho and would be replaced by Morgan Fairchild. No word on what would happen to Mike Gambit (Gareth Hunt) presumably destined to be brushed off with a coffee handshake. Now this kind of made sense because they had filmed four episodes in Canada. A title frame was added to declare The New Avengers in Canada.
.But those episodes feature the Steed, Purdey and Gambit team. Did they make more, like those Australian Mission Impossible seasons? Well no. Except, yes they did. Kind of!
Brian Clemens, architect of The Avengers through the Gale-Peel-King years, the man who brought us Bugs, Captain Kronos and well, Highlander II, entered in to a devil’s pact with Quinn Martin Productions. (I can never read that name without thinking of a Benny Hill sketch that has Quinn Martin Bartin fartin’ production). Somehow The Avengers became Escapade where two US Secret Service agents hunt for a missing colleague. Morgan Fairchild was Suzy and Granville Van Dusen was Joshua Rand (who would surely get that coffee handshake down pat if you asked him). Grief it exists! A pilot for Avengers US or should that be USAvengers? I need to see it. OK, maybe I don’t. No, I do.
Dig that computer! It seems there were plans to involve Patrick Macnee but the pilot went unsold. Clemens expressed dissatisfaction with QM. But I can’t imagine anything further removed from the days of Dr Keel?