Synopsis of TV Show
Spy-mania hit the medium of television hard in the mid-60’s as executives scrambled to come up with programming to satisfy audiences with an appetite for James Bond-style entertainment. The Avengers entered the fray in 1966. This show hailed from England, the home of James Bond, and quickly became as successful with American viewers as it had been with British viewers.
Interestingly, The Avengers predated the Bond film series and had been on television elsewhere for five years before it reached American shores. The basic premise focused on Jonathan Steed, a cool and dapper British secret agent who was rarely seen without his bowler hat and his trusty umbrella. Each episode followed him as he kept the Queen’s country protected with the help of a attractive femme agent. By the time it was added to ABC’s primetime schedule in 1966, Steed was on his third partner, one Emma Peel.
Mrs. Peel looked dazzling in a jumpsuit, but her appeal was not based on looks alone. She was intelligent and resourceful, thus making her a worthy partner for Steed. Accordingly, Steed treated her with respect and regarded her as an equal. The two characters were friendly, but never became romantically involved (a definite contrast to Bond's patented chauvinism).
The show’s episodes followed a set formula: a strange (often deadly) event happened, Steed and Peel investigated the matter, there was an action setpiece, and Steed and Peel rode off after saving the day (a different mode of transport was used in each episode). Along the way, our heroic duo would run into crazed villains and use a lot of fantastic gadgets to solve the case. New guest stars appeared each week, including familiar faces like Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Donald Sutherland.
The show was an instant hit with spy fanatics. Mrs. Peel was an obvious draw thanks to her eye-candy appeal, but a more important key to the show’s success was the comedic interplay between Steed and Peel. The two always exchanged a steady stream of witty banter no matter how intense the action got. Making all of this even more impressive was the fact that actors Patrick MacNee and Diana Rigg improvised most of this dialogue on their own.
Rigg left the show in 1968 after her character was reunited with the husband she had long believed to be dead. Mrs. Peel rode off into the sunset and was replaced with Tara King. The series continued until September of 1969, when it was canceled after running for over four seasons in the U.S. and even longer internationally. It is still a popular item in reruns and is seen in at least 120 countries today. The show was also briefly revived with a new cast in 1976 as The New Avengers.
The Avengers was also made into a feature film in 1998 with Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman taking on the roles of Steed and Peel. But Rigg and MacNee Trivia weren't quite done with the spy stuff yet: both would appear in a later James Bond film, Rigg in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and MacNee in A View To A Kill.
Release History of Prime Time Show1/7/61 - 9/14/69 ITV
3/28/66 - 9/15/69 ABC
9/15/78 - 3/23/79 CBS ( The New Avengers )
TV Sub Categoriesdrama
Television StudioABC Weekend Tv/ ABPC
TV CastJohn Steed Patrick MacNee
Catherine Gale (1962-64) Honor Blackman
Emma Peel (1965-1967) Diana Rigg
Tara King (1968-1969) Linda Thorson
Mother (1968-69) Patrick Newell
Dr. David Keel (1961) Ian Hendry
Carol Wilson (1961-62) Ingrid Hafner
One-Twelve (1961-63) Arthur Hewlett
One-Ten (1961-63) Douglas Muir
Dr. Martin King (1962-63) John Rollason
Venus Smith (1962-63) Julie Stevens
Charles (1963-64) Paul Whitsun-Jones
Rhonda (1968-69) Rhonda Parker