Long ago, in the dim recesses of prehistory, there were some of TV shows that I’d seen then that largely vanished but somehow remained stuck in my consciousness.
First, we have The Avengers. No, not the superheroes but, well, if coolness is a super power…
In the initial episodes, mostly lost, Patrick McNee in the role of John Steed was the assistant to Dr. David Keel played by Ian Hendry but as the series progressed the roll of John Steed took increasing importance. A strike cut short this first series and when they resumed John Steed took center stage, he was assisted by Dr. Martin King (Jan Rollason) and Nightclub singer Venus Smith (Julie Stevens), but what really changed the dynamic of the show was Dr. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman). Gale soon became Steeds regular partner.
Steed himself saw a transformation during this time, changing from a more typical tough guy to a suave, charming British Gentleman, full of sang froid.
In 1965, the show was sold to ABC which provided the budget to start shooting on film rather than tape. This era also saw the introduction of Diana Rigg as Mrs. Emma Peel.
This is when I started seeing them. It was only years later that I even knew that there were earlier partners for John Steed. The “Emma Peel years” pretty much sum up my memories of the series. As the series progressed episodes featured science fictional themes with villains who were mad scientists and their plots being the problem they had to solve.
Eventually, Rigg left the series to pursue other interests. I know that’s often a euphemism for “fired”, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here.
The show was a lot of fun. And, to my great delight I found that the Emma Peel episodes are collected and available from Amazon:
Another show from my childhood, one of a slightly later vintage, was UFO. In the first episode Colonel Ed Straker, of the US Air Force is the only survivor of a UFO attack. We jump forward ten years and he’s the commander of an SHADO–the Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization.
I took this show a lot more seriously as a youth than I can today. The creators had some strange ideas of how the future would go, from the mesh uniforms worn by their submarine crew (Skydiver) to the tight jumpsuits worn by female personnel in both the Earth headquarters (secretly located under a film studio) and the moonbase. to the purple wigs that were part of female uniforms on that moonbase. The vehicles show the influence of the producers previous “supermariotmation” programs such as Fireball XL5 and Thunderbirds. Kind of depressing that they thought we would actually have the capability for routine flights to the moon (in at least one episode in addition to SHADO’s moonbase, there was a commercial facility) by 1980.
Still, I very much enjoyed the series, enough that I remembered it years later despite rarely if ever seeing it in syndication. And on rediscovering it recently, I found that it is still eminently watchable, episodes often having a delightful darkness without going into the outright depressing. This is a war with casualties, where one is often having to scrape together the best out of a bad situation.
And the series is available on YouTube:
The third I’m going to discuss today is The Champions.
Three agents for an international espionage organization named “Nemesis” crash in the Himalayas. There, they are rescued in secret by a hidden civilization that heels them and also, unbeknownst to them at first, bestows on them the epitome of human capability, strength, speed, and even limited psychic powers.
The series revolves around them using their abilities to complete their missions for Nemesis while keeping their abilities secret both from the people they oppose and their own bosses.
Look, I grew up on superhero comics so this was more of the same to me. Why they’re keeping their abilities secret may not make a lot of sense. Those people in the Himalayas may not want their existence revealed but wouldn’t these people’s first loyalty be to the people they work for? Still, roll with it.
On discovering the series later, I don’t find it as good as I remember. It hadn’t aged as well as the others. Not something I’d “binge watch” these days but I can still spend a pleasant fifty minutes or so on an episode. And it, too, is available on YouTube:
There you have it, three TV shows from my youth and childhood that stuck through me through the years well enough so that in the modern age of Internet Video I was able to track them down. The Avengers has aged very well indeed, in my opinion. UFO, not quite as well. The Champions, the least of the three but at least retains enough nostalgia value that I still find it watchable.