Saturday, 25 September 2021

The Avengers: Look - (Stop Me if You've Heard This One) but There Were These Two Fellers...


I really don't think this Avengers is a favourite with the fans and I'm not going to beat about the bush, I can see why. It lurches too far into the realm of slapstick for most people, has a plot which can only be described as labyrinthine, and includes enough gimmicks for three normal episodes. I'm not going to try to redeem it but as is my wont, have a few opinions to pass.

Right at the beginning when the secretary drives off the grey car she drives off in is a significant part of British motoring history. It is badged as a Morris 1100 with a 1965 registration and is part of the ADO16 range produced by the British Motor Corporation and later British Leyland. These were the best selling cars in Britain for most of the 1960s and in the Fawlty Towers episode where Basil gives the car a damn good thrashing, it's an ADO16 he does it to. Bizarrely they were designed by Sir Alec Issigonis who came up with this clunky design despite also designing the permanently curvaceous and sexy Mini. He was very quotable, notably saying that a camel is a horse designed by a committee! You won't find an ADO16 on the road nowadays because they were total rust buckets. Instead they live on in what makes them historic - their silhouette was used in the redesign of our road signs in the 1960s and these designs are still used today. You can see an example in the sign warning you not to drive into the harbour.

Perhaps I should have a go at saying something about the actual show.


There is a point at which Steed begins a limerick which has given the internet some difficulty in finding an ending. Of course it is entirely possible that no ending was specifically intended, however I have found a limerick about a young lady from Gloucester, although its published version requires a slight adjustment to Steed's beginning, which would make it 'There was a young lady from Gloucester, who met a young fellow who tossed her, she wasn't much hurt, but he dirtied her skirt, so think of the anguish it cost her'.

I like the basic premise of this episode enormously - a fraternity of decayed vaudeville artists using underhanded methods to try to start up their act again. How Avengers is that? It's got the perfect Avengers background of eccentrics and arguments. These theatricals, you know. The CUPID project is similar to other projects in The Avengers however it tends to get lost.

The episode is even studded with Great Names, John Cleese and Bernard Cribbins being the most obvious. I honestly love both John Cleese with his eggs and Bernard Cribbins with his papers. 

What always strikes me as being most uncomfortable with this episode is that there is a vein of great sadness underlying the story. The vaudevillians are out of work because vaudeville isn't a thing, put out of business by the cinema and later by TV. These are men in the saddest position of all, that the thing to which they have given their life has come to an end. Bradley Mahler touches on their inability to adapt. And the discomfort for us is that we are watching the show on the exact thing which brought their world to an end.

It would be reasonable to be bitter in the circumstances and it's entertainment for us. Gulp.

Oh well, let's end appropriately.



2 comments:

Mike Doran said...

Chicago Calling (Memory Time!):

This episode aired in the USA on May 8th, 1968 (before it ran in GB, according to my sources, which could be wrong; correction welcomed).
This would be about a month before my high school graduation; The Avengers had a sizable teen audience (boys, mainly) here in Chicago, even after the Peel-King transition.
My interest in British comedy was just gearing up about this time, but this show was pre-Python, so John Cleese was only a funny-looking tall guy to me, and I'd only seen Bernard Cribbins in a Carry On movie on late-night TV.
Seeing the reruns years later, of course, was another matter; by that time, many British comedy shows had crossed the pond, so I could put names to faces for the older players.
Here in the States, the Tara King shows started up immediately after the Emma Peels ended (The Forget-Me-Knot crossover right in between), which may account for the US critical hostility toward Linda Thorson out of the gate (the teenage boys I mentioned above - and I was one of them - didn't really care).
What I recall from the period was that when Linda Thorson was engaged, the producers were having a time trying to decide how her hair should look.
Linda was subjected to bouts of hairdressing that damaged her own locks, to the point that for most of her early shows she had to wear wigs, in various styles and colors.
You'll recall that for much of this show, Linda is wearing a long wig, apparently designed to resemble Diana Rigg's Emma-do as closely as possible; I just watched this on a digitally-restored DVD, and - well, you can see the join ...
So Anyway, I liked this as a 17-year-old in 1968, and also as a 70-year-old in 2021, So There Too.

All the best from the Great Midwest - and if you decide to look at some US-TV some time in the future, I stand ready to bombard you with more lore than you can shake a stick at!

John Berry said...

Always great to hear from you, Mike.
I had always thought that Diana Right and Linda Thorson were quite different types and you are the first person I have known to say they didn't mind the transition!
I expect you've seen them but I think you'd like At Last the 1948 Show, and Do Not Adjust Your Set. They're both in my mental list of things to blog about, and have been for several years. I don't currently have anything US in the pending list but as you know old TV links us unexpectedly to new things!