Let’s start off with the title: it’s rubbish. The New Avengers? Why the rebrand? What makes this different from The Avengers? Sure, this is a million miles from the Mrs Peel episodes, but it’s not a bigger difference than that between, say Hot Snow and Homicide and Old Lace. If it’s got Steed in it, it’s The Avengers.
That said, there are a couple of differences I think we can probably generalise. First of all, our leads do not inhabit quite the same bubble of cool that was so stylish it warped reality. While it’s not always wholly successful, there’s clearly an effort here to add a dimension to the characters by allowing them some emotional development, and making them a little bit more vulnerable, and everything a bit less stable and safe. They lack the self-sufficiency of Steed/Gale or Steed/Peel, who only ever needed each other to be able to take on all-comers.
And, even more obviously, there’s the new dynamic of three. I’m still not always sure about this. I like Gareth Hunt’s performance, but I’m not always sure why he’s there. There’s a generational thing that has sprung up (as well as a more pronounced class thing than was explored with, say, Venus or even Cathy). But that’s a legacy of casting of Linda Thorson – the 25 year age gap. That’s narrowed to a 24 year age gap with Lumley’s Purdey, but Gambit is of the same generation. So in The New Avengers Steed has been pushed into a somewhat paternal role – at its worst being vaguely reminiscent of the role of Mother. But the Purdey/Gambit dynamic works well, so it’s a partial success.
Often, though, three feels like a crowd. I do wonder what it’d be like with ‘holiday’ episodes, like there were so many of in series 6 of The Avengers. With one of the team relegated, there would’ve been three pairings to play with, and no need to resort to the goofy one-shot partners.
I’ve also been wondering what it would’ve been like with different casting choices. A female contemporary for Steed, maybe? Probable that the sexism in the TV industry would’ve made that impossible – Honor Blackman is three years younger than Steed, and would’ve been just over 50 when this series was made. But what about making the third team member a second woman, rather than a second man?
Anyway, there are enough okay to good episodes to make me feel the team works, even if there are several poor to awful episodes and generally even weaker writing and production values than the colour episodes of The Avengers. At its best, the show is easy to watch (almost even addictive) to make its many many flaws seem forgivable.
I watched all 13 episodes from the first series of The New Avengers:
- Eagle’s Nest
- House of Cards
- Last of the Cybernauts…??
- The Midas Touch
- Cat Among the Pigeons
- To Catch a Rat
- The Tale of the Big Why?
- Dirtier By The Dozen
- Three Handed Game
Pick of November: Sleeper by a whisker. It’s always been a favourite episode, but it’s not as good as I remember, whereas Dirtier By The Dozen and Eagle’s Nest are better than I recollected from previous viewings. Faces remains a flawed favourite.
Episodes Remaining: 13 New Avengers episodes with 1 month to go.