Something a bit more lighthearted as an antidote to the somewhat serious stuff I’ve been putting out recently.
The phrase used in the title is one that’s lodged in people’s minds as the moaning of an old duffer, but nevertheless it’s partly true.
In some cases, it’s no bad thing. The Austin Allegro is out of production, and the few that were bought have long gone to the Great Scrapheap in the Sky. Loon pants. String vests. Patchouli oil. Clackers. Boil in a bag cod. Frank Ifield*. Nobody in their right minds wants any of those to make a comeback.
But one thing you can say is that there were television programmes in the 1960s that would never get past the pitch stage these days, and one of the foremost was The Avengers. Fortunately, right now I can watch it every night on some obscure channel, and I’m loving every minute of it.
It’s quite clear that the producers, directors, and screenwriters were all on some pretty serious drugs. Some of the episodes are truly surreal. Last night (ermm, Monday night) we had Tara King, played by the pneumatic Linda Thorson, apparently driving round Victorian London in a red Lotus Europa.
Tara King was the last of the kickarse female partners to Patrick Macnee’s urbane John Steed. Early on we had Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale, then Diana Rigg’s Emma Peel. Those latter two pretty well invented catsuits, jump suits, and over the knee vinyl boots. Nobody wants kinky boots back either, now I come to think of it, except people out on the more innocent fringes of S&M.
The show was wildly popular with other actors, who queued up for parts. Warren Clark raised his ugly head. Ian Hendry, he was there. Ian McShane, pre Lovejoy. Philip Madoc. Richard Wattis. Warren Mitchell. Roy Kinnear. Peter Bowles. They were all there.
In the 1960s, the Mini Moke was the car of choice for the weird shows that hit the screens. There were Mokes in The Prisoner, complete with candystriped tilts. You’ll even see Mokes in the Bond franchise, Moonraker for one.
There was one in last night’s show, equipped with a radar scanner, ferrying Mother around with his usual coterie of nubile young women in short nurses’ uniforms. (Mother is a sort of M character, played with a huge amount of seedy gusto by Patrick Newell. In the episode last night he was wearing a gasmask for some reason. Strange touches like that happened all the time.)
The staged fights were rubbish, and people got shot or stabbed with not a drop of blood spilt, but that didn’t matter. The set designs were brilliant. Tara has a stuffed grizzly in her flat, and a fireman’s pole to use as access to her telephone. The lighting and colours made you think you were about to start the mother and father of all acid trips. Exceptionally good cinematography too.
They really don’t make ‘em like that any more.
Interesting factoid I was watching The Avengers when I heard that Kennedy had been shot.
*Frank Ifield was an Aussie sheepshearer who mysteriously made a fairly radical career change and gained some fame yodelling popsongs.