Friday, November 11, 2005

Friday Extra

I couldn't resist last night's ITV celebration of The Avengers. I was briefly an addict, mostly during the Diana Rigg period.
But, from the clips shown last night, The Avengers was even more bonkers than I remembered.
Of course, there's always something appealing about any work of fiction that exists in a world sufficient unto itself. That's one of the charms of P.G. Wodehouse, although compared to The Avengers, Wodehouse was gritty social realism.

To be honest, I mainly watched it for the signature tune. I always got rather impatient with all that nonsense in the middle. But in the final scene the theme would start up slowly like a ticking clock......Da Da DA DA.....Da Da DA DA...... before finally erupting in all its plangent glory as Steed and Peel drove off into the sunset.
Maybe that's another piece of music to have played at my funeral. But it would really only work if, at the final crescendo, I burst out of the coffin waving an umbrella and kicked the priest in the goolies.

Patrick McNee and others said the programme was so successful because it was very, very good. I disagree. It was popular because it was so very bad. Last night's programme proved that with some examples of apalling dialogue and very hammy acting. It was kitsch with knobs on but hugely enjoyable.

When I was about 19 someone took me to dinner at the home of one of The Avengers scriptwriters. I'm fairly certain that The Avengers was never mentioned which, in retrospect, seems very odd. The scriptwriter was working on some project about the Spanish Civil War and kept asking me what I knew about it. I knew nothing about the Spanish Civil War and just mumbled awkwardly into my pasta. My friend said "Willie doesn't say much. He's writing a novel." I assume this was some kind of cover story I used at that time. I really wanted to talk about The Avengers but, although that programme had paid for the hi-tech flat we were in and a yacht in the south of France, I had the impression that it would be vulgar to mention it. It would be like reminding some Tory grandee that his family's wealth had come from the manufacture of condoms.
This may be unfair. He might have been very proud of his Avengers scripts and not without reason. It certainly gave pleasure to more people than many more worthy pieces of drama.


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At 2:18 PM, Blogger Wyndham said...

That Diana Rigg was some kind of woman. I don't think anyone has managed to combine brains and beauty to such devastating effect. Not even me.

At 2:31 PM, Anonymous robin said...

Yay! You've been headhunted by Adbiz. There comes a time in every bloggers life when personal worth can be converted to exchange value, and this is it! Nothing to do with the Guardian, I suppose.

Valuable keywords - love it.

I don't think the Avengers was all that bad. With hindsight what it was was: 1. Camp 2. Scary 3. Sexy. World domination, tight leather, high kicks. cars, rich sinister villains and as w the t so rightly points out, at least one fit bird. Absolutely couldn't fail if you look at the constituencies there.

I saw an interview with Steed/MacNee who said he actually couldn't believe his luck because the whole thing was based around his and a friend's sexual fantasies. And bingo - he got an acting career, loads of money and a good look at some fit birds kicking around in tight leather. Mary Whitehouse missed all that I think.

At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, the programme stirred a lot of memories, but one in particular.

It must have been in 1963 or 64, and as a normalish nine-year old boy, I thought the Avengers was pretty fab. I think it must have been broadcast live, because as Mrs Gale stepped into the shower and let her towel drop, there was the clear image of her right nipple, just above the top of the shower screen.

A nipple! A real lady's nipple! Moving! On the TV screen in our living room!

It's hard to believe these days, but until that time I had never knowingly seen even a glimpse of a female nipple.

A seminal moment. Though not literally, of course. Not at only nine.

- Tony -

At 6:08 PM, Blogger zaphod said...

I agree with Tony... We who are of a certain age remember the Avengers as fantastic.

At 6:18 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

wyndham: I think a correction I made in your comments ages ago was itself incorrect. I got Diana Quick and Diana Rigg confused. I worked on a show Ms Quick was in for a long time. But I'm sure I also met Ms Rigg fleetingly at an after-show party. As I was pissed at the time, I remember little about it. I'm sure it was even less memorable for Ms Rigg though for quite different reasons.

robin: I could do with the income. But although it might sound precious I'm reluctant to commercialise my blog in any way.

Re the Avengers, the heterosexual fantasies went over my head so I was just left with the pantomime but I thoroughly enjoyed it at the time.
Last night's programme showed a clip that had been cut when first shown but it was nothing to do with Whitehouse.

Tony: you young straight boys were so lucky with your glimpses of nipple. Gay boys never had a glimpse of any male bits. Well, not until Channel 4 was invented, but I was an adult by then.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger cello said...

It was indeed totally bonkers but rather deliciously so. I seem to remember occasional flashes of rather suburban surrealism that I was very taken with as a child. I haven't ever watched it as a proper grown-up because I suspect I'd be disappointed and that would be a shame.

Let's be honest, the magic was the unresolved sexual chemistry between Steed and Mrs (loved that Mrs thing) Peel. I never saw Honor Blackman, nor the women who followed Diana Rigg - in those roles at least, so, for me, Diana Rigg, is the archetype.

Incidentally, in one of those Melvyn Bragg 50 Years of ITV celebrations they showed a scene from the Avengers filmed in my village, followed by a scene from Morse also in my village in exactly the same spot. Classy-Locations-R-Us.

At 8:36 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

cello: I hadn't meant to denigrate it. The Avengers was some of the best escapist television ever made. If it looks a bit creaky now that's probably for technical reasons.

Do any location managers live in your village by any chance? Competition between regions and local authorities for film locations has now become a big industry, one that I was once slightly involved in.


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