The Avengers - Jolly Good Show

Sophisticated International Playboy & Mrs Emma PeelIT HAS TAKEN AMERICA six years to discover The Avengers.  Since 1961, the show's Mod mayhem has delighted a sophisticated British audience with its hip and slightly far-out antics; but after importing the cloak-and-robber series for an abbreviated run last summer, ABC shelved it to unveil its new fall schedule.  Now, with the anemia of that schedule firmly demonstrated, The Avengers has made a deserved return (in living color), because it is one of the small handful of consistently inventive, offbeat and thoroughly entertaining programs on television.  The Avengers themselves are a rather insouciant duo who have a quite undefined but binding mandate to protect the Empire in times of dire peril.  They are sly, indomitable and eccentric - and the show is done with an audacious flair and flippancy that makes the U.N.C.L.E. crowd look like a bunch of dull coppers.  Patrick Macnee as John Steed is a dapper, derbied courtier - veddy British - with no visible means of support and a slight propensity for stumbling at crucial moments.  But the star is definitely Diana Rigg, who, as the widowed "Mrs. Emma Peel" (her husband was a test pilot), exudes more sheer sexuality than American TV has previously handled.  (She has made British viewers all but forget the show's first female lead, Honor "Pussy Galore" Blackman, who defected to play with the bad guys until James Bond straightened her out in Goldfinger.)   "Mrs. Peel" is an erotic stylization, rather than a character, in pants suits, miniskirts and an incredibly kinky wardrobe.  Her other great attribute is that she is one of the neatest brawlers anywhere: She karate-chops villains by the roomful, barely mussing her leather fighting suit.  There are no holds barred for Miss Rigg or for the show's uproarious style.  It's all high-wire melodrama, good-humoured fetishism and flamboyant self-mockery.  We hopefully expect it to be with us for a long while.

from Playboy, USA, March 1967.

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