Book Review – The Avengers: A Celebration: 50 Years of a Television Classic

Subtitled 50 years of classic television this was a curious book for me to review as it’s not the thing I buy. For preference I get weighty tomes will with pertinent fact or get them out the library.

What you have here though is a rather lovely and lovingly assembled large – picture book – filled with publicity stills, private shots and frozen frames from the Avengers over its whole 6 series history of the program. It takes us  from the early days of a flasher mac’d Steed as a mysterious spook sidekick to an avenging Doctor (that’s were the name comes from) to the bubblegum space-pop of Tara King and her amazing culotttes.

There are words with the pictures. The book is divided by series and each chapter has considerable information on behind the scenes changes in the make up  of the production crew, selection of cast members etc; Interesting and kept at a level of information rather than the navel gazing levels of trivia some Doctor Who books can reach – perhaps a little more interesting is the captions to the photos that occasionally include tit bits of gossip like X made a pass at Y, such and such was put on addictive diet pills, the original Mrs Peel and the like. I would have liked a bit more gossip. The format of the book which comes across as an assertive guide you miss some of the hilarity of the credit grabbing and mis-rememberences (various people claiming to be responsible for Honor Blackman’s leather catsuit that makes some of the TV specials they’ve done so much fun.) I think I’d have prefered more interviews. When Patrick McNee quotes flitter on the page they are typically an absolute delight and restorative and some more wouldn’t have gone a miss.  You also get insights from exerts of the reviews the show was getting at the time which not only informs you of the avengers but also of the period in which it was being made.

To the pictures themselves – they are nicely framed and there are is a nice balance of full-page shots and clusters of 3 or so ont he pages. There is also a good mixture of colour and black and white shots though on first reading the book does seem heavily weighted towards the later series. Now this might be a commercial decision or that when the show was two fellows in rain macs there was less photography than when Steed was paired with pur-etttty la-dees. It might even be that the tapes that have been wiped of the old shows mean there is much less to draw upon. It is  shame however because I for one would like to see more of the old school Avengers.

But one can’t do wrong with pictures of Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg in full blossom.  Linda Thornton is also very easy on the eye but rightly or wrongly doesn t have the same iconic status though the selection of wigs they plopped on her didn’t help. Though my favourite picture is one of Brian Clements during shooting series 6 and really does look like El Diablo – which might help explain BUGS.

Overall it works visually and the wordage is light but services the images. It’s a very pretty book. Here at the Tower of Arrogance we run a fairly tight ship and don’t have coffee table books lying around – if that’s your bag then maybe this books for you. However the real barrier for me would be the price point £24.99 is a lot of money for a series of pictures unless you’re an Avengers addict and even then I’d check you don’t have the photos in earlier texts . It’s an attractive lovely book but perhaps this isn’t the first time this has been levelled at the Avengers – it’s a bit light to be really substantial.

3/5

The Avengers: A Celebration: 50 Years of a Television Classic available from Titan Books RRP £24.99

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