The Avengers – A Celebration: 50
Years Of A Television Classic [1961
– 1969 British TV Spy Series]
Hearn/2010/Titan Books (Book Review)
Before it was the title of the hugely successful Marvel
Comics title, The Avengers was,
still is and always will be the title of one of the greatest TV series British
Television would ever make and the world would ever see. A classic that has influenced everything from
the Spy Genre, to clothes fashion, to inspiring endless imitators (and even
leading to a horrible feature film that wasted Sean Connery, Uma Thurman and
Ralph Fiennes, plus the paying audience amongst its many victims), the show is
heading for its 50th Anniversary soon. In lieu of that, writer Marcus Hearn has created
a terrific new, large hardcover book entitled The Avengers – A Celebration.
Many books have been made and written on the subject,
including episode guide and history books (often involving the great Dave
Rogers), in depth analysis (Toby Peters book is one of the best) and many of
the former cast have released books about their time on the series. Tie-in novels sometimes based on actual
episodes were also issued and A&E’s massive home video release put their company
on the map and brought the show a whole new generation of fans. The series is being reissued in upgraded DVD
(and eventually Blu-ray) sets in England and we’ll be seeing those
worldwide, so the timing for this book is great.
The way Hearn’s book differs from others is that it goes
through all the seasons of the original show and offers hundreds of publicity,
behind-the-scenes and actual frames from the episodes to give us an idea of the
rise and rise of the show from its earliest beginnings of the series as a live
police drama to it early turn as an action espionage series to the
international sensation that has never been equaled. The opening of each chapter has good text on
the show, then we go though each season via stills representing the
episodes. This includes still from the
Ian Hendry shows that have almost all been lost for good.
Patrick Macnee himself wrote the forward, then Hearn
writes about the show starting with how exceptionally Associated British
Corporation (the U.K.’s
ABC) did an unusually exceptional job of creating a still photography archive
of the series throughout its run to promote the show and how vital this record
has become. He and current series
owner’s Studio Canal teamed up to 10,000+ images, 350+
which appear here. They have all been
restored (as have the episodes recently) and include familiar shots, plus some
rarer ones that fans will love. There
are also more than a few authentic color stills from the black and white
series, also some of which have not been seen before and this from one of the biggest
fans of the show… yours truly.
Hearn is obviously a big fan of the show, is very well
read on it, has a good grasp of it and has created a key volume on the show as
a result of his knowledge, research and the content of stills uncovered. The text also offers quotes from various
participants on the show that are old and new to the book, but has decided not
to include The New Avengers or
anything else outside of the original series.
The only oddity is that throughout the text he refers to
Honor Blackman’s character as Mrs. Gale often when that has hardly been the
case. It is usually Cathy Gale or Ms.
Catherine Gale, especially because she is a widow (her husband had been
murdered) by the time she meets Steed and any note of her involvement with the
Castro Revolution is also absent.
Otherwise, most of the accuracy of the references are, as fans of the
show would say, is on target.
The quality of the pictures are presented on very high
quality paper with excellent image reproduction over the 162 pages and continuing
over the covers, inner-covers and dust jacket.
More hard work went into making this than it would appear, so seamless
is the result, but The Avengers – A
Celebration is a true achievement that will impress fans and creates a
model for which more TV classics should be addressed and presented in
print. I hope it is the beginning of a
big celebration of the show all around.
For more on the show, try these links to the out-of-print
A&E DVDs that became the first official home video release of the show
after many years of really bad VHS copies of the show:
Avengers 62 (Honor Blackman)
Emma Peel MegaSet
Avengers 68 – Set 5 (Linda Thorson)
- Nicholas Sheffo