The New Avengers: The 1970s Television Series
The Avengers Return...
...as The New Avengers
Actress Linda Thorson (Tara King) was the final partner for John Steed in the original, classic Avengers series which ended in 1969. While American (and to some extent British viewers) had not taken to the character, the French loved her.
The story goes that French TV producer Rudolf Roffi employed both Thorson and Patrick Macnee (John Steed) to make a TV commercial for champagne (see below).
Roffi had been a fan of the show and now realizing that it was no longer in production, asked Macnee why. He explained that there was no financial backing and even if some was forthcoming, he felt a remake would never recapture the special qualities of the original.
Undaunted, Roffi approached Brian Clemens (one of the producers of the original series) who confirmed the financial predicament, but expressed his desire to do another series if the money could be found.
Roffi acted quickly and contacted Clemens again - this time with backing worth £2 million. Within three months Clemens and Albert Fennell (his co-producer) had teamed up with Avengers theme composer Laurie Johnson to form Avengers (Film & TV) Enterprises Ltd. In association with French company IDTV, plans to bring John Steed back to television in 26 new episodes were almost complete.
Of course, this all hinged on Patrick Macnee's agreement. He, thankfully, changed his mind and ultimately declared his enthusiasm for the project. The updated show, broadcast in the UK in 1976-77, would be called The New Avengers, but there would be notable differences to its classic predecessor...
1975: Reprising The Avengers
Laurent Perrier Advertisements
As mentioned above, a champagne commercial with Patrick Macnee and Linda Thorson reprising their Avengers roles was made in 1975. This ad was reputedly the driving force for the return of the series to television screens.
Until recently, there was speculation that the commercial even existed. It has now come to light and can be viewed here in two versions.
The Opening Credits
Cool New Avengers Intros
Two sets of opening titles were made for the 1970s series.
The rarely seen live action set, along with the more familiar animated version which can be seen below.
And Then There Were Three...
The New Avengers Are A Trio
One major change with the new series was that the Avengers would now be a threesome. Gareth Hunt was chosen for the role of Mike Gambit. Brian Clemens felt that there should be a younger man to cover the aging Steed, as Patrick Macnee was obviously older.
However, the most difficult part of any Avengers series had always been trying to find the right female partner. Many actresses applied for the part, before Clemens and Fennell chose Joanna Lumley. Originally, her character was to be known as Charley, but as there was a perfume on the market of the same name at the time, another name had to be found. Joanna herself came up with Purdey: the name of the world renowned shotgun.
Joanna was an ex-model who had appeared in the James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service and who had a fleeting part in the soap opera Coronation Street, as well as Are You Being Served?.
Gareth Hunt had previously been seen in Dr. Who in 1974 and as Frederick the footman in the final series of Upstairs Downstairs.
Both Joanna and Gareth were put through physical training exercises prior to filming to get them fit. Joanna's fighting style was to take on the form of balletic high-kicking actions. Gambit was a martial arts expert. Both actors were to do much of their own stunt work, with only the more difficult scenes left to stunt doubles Cyd Child and Joe Dunne.
Joanna Lumley's Purdey was a combination of the characteristics and personalities of her predecessors. She had the sophistication of Cathy Gale; allure, athleticism and humor of Emma Peel, but also the softness and femininity of Tara King.
Gambit, on the other hand, remained much of a mystery. Before joining Steed and Purdey he had been a Major in the Paras and had pursued a career as a racing driver. He now resided in an apartment in London decorated in ultra-modern furnishings. A very tough, but usually quiet man, he enjoyed a good rapport with his partners, particularly Purdey.
The New Avengers: Full Theme Music
The New Avengers Episode Guide
The Eagle's Nest: When a spy is found dead on the Scottish Isles, all the clues seem to lead to a very unusual group of monks, and somehow appear to be tied to the kidnapping of a prominent scientist.
The Midas Touch: A group of terrorists have gained control of a technique that allows them to turn a man into a deadly and undetectable killing machine who can kill just by touching his victim.
House of Cards: A number of normal people suddenly become assassins killing off various members of a spy team. Who is behind the attacks and will the assassins be able to kill Steed before he finds the controller?
The Last of the Cybernauts...?: A crook is nearly killed when he crashes into a fuel tanker which explodes. Later, he reactivates the Cybernauts and sends them after Steed to enact his revenge for making him a cripple.
To Catch a Rat: 17 years after losing his memory, an agent recalls the identity of a double agent, The White Rat, now a ministry official. The Avengers become involved.
Cat Amongst the Pigeons: Prominent government officals are killed in mysterious circumstances, although they appear to be accidents. It is discovered that birds have been responsible for the accidents, but who is controlling them?
Target: Agents die following a visit to a training centre, just before going on leave. Steed and Gambit realise that Purdey is visiting the training centre and try to save her from the same fate as the others.
Faces: Gambit and Purdey are trained to impersonate themselves, and are instructed to kill their "real" counterparts.
Tale of the Big Why: Purdey and Gambit engage in multiple cross-country chases while Steed plays cards with a traitor.
The Three-Handed Game: A mind-transfer device, a mission-critical document and three operatives involve The Avengers in a race against time.
Sleeper: Sleeping gas is stolen leading to part of London being looted.
Gnaws: Is there really a huge beast in the sewers and how did it get there?
Dirtier by the Dozen: Suspicion falls on a Commando unit based at an army base when a general disappears.
The New Avengers Episode Guide
Hostage: Purdey is kidnapped while on her way to a weekend with her mother and Mike Gambit is ordered to capture Steed.
Trap: The Avengers intercept a drug drop and are kidnapped as revenge.
Dead Men Are Dangerous: Parts of Steed's property are destroyed and it is clear that someone has a personal vendetta against him. Clues point to a double agent that Steed shot more than ten years ago. Could it be that he is still alive?
Medium Rare: Steed begins to believe a medium, but can she help him unravel a web of deception before he is arrested for murder.
Angels of Death: When a colleague is recommended to visit a health farm, Steed decides to take his place and investigate it, but is he walking into a trap?
Obsession: Dark goings on in the Buckinghamshire countryside bring Purdey and an old flame back together.
The Lion and the Unicorn: Heading to Paris the Avengers capture an assassin and hold him hostage, but when he gets shot by accident by one of his own men, they have to keep his death secret to stop dangerous recriminations.
K is for Kill, Part 1: The Avengers try to prevent the assassination of France's President -and the start of World War III!
K is for Kill, Part 2: The story continues..
Complex: The Avengers travel to Canada in pursuit of a superspy.
The Gladiators: A KGB agent is planning to break into Canadian Security and smash the computers, thereby setting Canadian intelligence back twenty years!
Emily: A double agent's palm print lead the Avengers on a cross country chase.
Forward Base: A tip-off that an agent is delivering stolen technology to an enemy base leads the Avengers to Canada.
Gareth Hunt: An Obituary
Mike Gambit From The New Avengers
Gareth Hunt, died on March 14, 2007 of pancreatic cancer aged 64, and was the actor who played Mike Gambit in The New Avengers and subsequently sang the praises of instant coffee.
Alan Leonard Hunt was born on February 7 1943 at Battersea, south London. His father, a coal man, was killed during the war when Alan was two and he was brought up by his mother, Doris, and his stepfather. The Argentine-born actress Martita Hunt, who played Miss Havisham in David Lean's film of Great Expectations, was his aunt, and he was keen on acting from his earliest years.
He arrived at The New Avengers in 1976. Playing Mike Gambit, the action-man sidekick to Macnee's Steed and Joanna Lumley's Purdey (with whom, despite persistent efforts, Gambit never got anywhere), was the high point of his career. But after two seasons the series ended and decent film and television roles eluded him thereafter.
Hunt did not disappear from the screen, though. For several years he appeared with Liza Goddard and Una Stubbs in a series of Nescafe coffee commercials, in which he would shake his fist and then open it to reveal "three types of the finest coffee beans". He remained a popular sex symbol, a fact of which he took advantage.
More recently he appeared in a cameo role as the crime boss Ritchie Stringer in EastEnders.
Hunt suffered mixed health during the 1990s; in 1992 he collapsed shortly before appearing in a thriller at the Theatre Royal, Windsor, and he had a serious heart attack in December 1999 and had to pull out of panto at Malvern.
Gareth Hunt married three times. He is survived by his third wife, Amanda, and by a son from each of his marriages.
A Video Homage to Mike Gambit
A New Avengers Spoof Produced By French & Saunders
Laugh along with French and Saunders, as they present their own unique take on The New Avengers!
The Avengers Poll: What's Your Opinion?
Which version of The Avengers do you prefer?
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2007 Rich