Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Return Of John Steed?

I was reading an article this morning about the fall TV lineups of the various US networks. Amongst other intersting tidbits(Canadian Paul Gross will star in a TV version of The Witches of Eastwick, Fox has actually renewed Joss Whedon's Dollhouse) was that a new version of V will appear as a mid season replacement. For those younger visitors not familiar with it V was first a 1980s miniseries, then a short lived weekly series, about the conquest of Earth by alien lizards disguised as humans, and the resistance against them. Reading this made me think that perhaps it's time for another veteran show to have another run, The Avengers.

The British TV series first hit the air in 1961, and actually revolved around the adventures of Dr. David Keel, played by then popular actor Ian Hendry. Aiding Keel was John Steed, played by Patrick Macnee. Although only initially considered a secondary character he became increasing central to the series, so when Hendry was unavailable for the second season of the show Steed became the central character. He was soon joined by Honor Blackman as leather wearing adventurer Cathy Gale, and the series became very popular in both the UK and abroad. This continued when Blackman was replaced by Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, and the series would continue until 1969, with Linda Thorsen in the female partner role during the last season. What had been a fairly straight mystery series quickly evolved in a spy series that often featured high tech menaces and oddball enemies that fit in with the kind of world popularised by the James Bond films and series like The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Macnee would be back for 1976 revival of the concept as The New Avengers, which included four episodes filmed in Canada. Although not considered a classic like the original it's fair to say it's looked on more fondly than the 1998 big screen treatment, which stared Ralph Fiennes as Steed and Uma Thurman as Emma Peel. Still, despite this failure I can't help but think there's still life left in the idea. The fact that Doctor Who has been successfully revived after a long TV hiatus shows that it's not just old American concepts that can be brought back from the dead. And it would be interesting to see a modern take on a series that I can't help but wonder might not be a partial inspiration behind partnerships like The X Files Fox Mulder and Dana Scully

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