Yesterday was notable, aside from a Supreme Court decision with which I strongly disagree, in seeing the death of a man who has been a major influence on my life (and who probably wouldn’t have been at all pleased to know it, from what I know of his social views).
Patrick Macnee (1922-2015) is best remembered as the only permanent star of what I consider one of the greatest TV series ever produced, the BBC series The Avengers (not to be confused with the Marvel Comics books and movies). The Avengers appeared on American TV just as I was entering an uncomfortable adolescence, and left me with an enduring love for slender, auburn-haired women (Diana Rigg), and three-piece suits (Macnee).
Yes, it was a breakthrough show for a trope I’m now thoroughly sick of – the delicate little woman who beats up 200-lb men in groups – but it was new and interesting back then, and hey, it was Diana Rigg. I was desperately in love with her.
The show was not intended to be what it eventually became, the spritely, half-comic show we remember. It started in 1961 as a gritty, realistic program. It was a spin-off of a series called Police Surgeon, starring actor Ian Hendry. In the first episode of The Avengers, his character, Dr. David Keel, loses his fiancée, murdered by drug dealers. He is recruited by a shadowy semi-official character named John Steed (Macnee) to help him apprehend the criminals. Keel signs on enthusiastically (it’s his way to “avenge” the woman he loved), but is often put off by the ruthless methods of Steed, who at this stage was as much a thug as a charmer, and had no distinctive style of dress. Continue reading Death of an Avenger