In my opinion this is the first proper Tara episode. The series now is operating in a world of its own and this episode is pure humour.
It opens up well enough with a man being murdered by clowns and it just gets better and better. Okay, the plot gets a bit ropey, but who cares? Linda gives a fine performance and her banter is timed well, so one gets a real sense of interplay between the two. Dennis Spooner proves he is one of the series' best writers, providing a script full of sparkling wit. The scenes with Bernard Cribbins are perfect, as are the moments with John Cleese. Cleese gives a very comic performance which must have kept him in good stead for his Python days. John Woodvine excels as the villain of the piece and gives one of his finest performances. Jimmy Jewel and Talfryn Thomas give good performances, too—Jewel gives Maxie a real edge and illustrates why Vaudeville closed down with some really bad jokes.
However, my one complaint is that there's only one fight, which is so badly edited that Maxie curiously appears from behind the sofa at the end, and when Tara fights the second clod she fights him Emma Peel style, even if his arm comes off.
Overall an enjoyable slice of hokum.
Look - (stop me if you've heard this one) But There Were These Two Fellers...
What a delight this episode is! I watched it on a dreary, blustery, snow's-in-the-forecast Monday evening, and by the end of the hour I had completely forgotten what a rotten mood I was in.
An offbeat installment like this can't please everyone, but it won me over completely. It was bouncy and breezy and maintained its good humor from start to finish. Even the high body count (normally out of place in a comedy) didn't detract from the upbeat mood. After all, the villains were killer clowns and not to be taken too seriously.
I especially enjoyed the manic closing where Steed rescues Tara from the world's worst stage magician (and the only performer loopy enough to try cutting a woman in half with a blowtorch), then proceeds to bop the many incarnations of the quick-change-artist killer clown. It was a goofy and appropriate climax to a fun episode.
Other highlights that lifted me out of the Monday evening doldrums include:
For a real change of pace, I watched the film noir classic Ride the Pink Horse immediately after viewing this episode. Pink Horse was dark and brooding and a satisfying mystery, but I would have felt better if I had watched The Avengers again instead.
An enthusiastic 4.8 out of 5 bowlers.
This grotesque episode bears absolutely no relationship to my Avengers, which is defined by the image of Steed and Emma stretched out on his Regency couch trading witty Noel Cowardesque dialog as they exchange a "look." This episode is the antithesis of everything that makes the Rigg black-and-whites (to me, the apex of the series) so beguiling even to this day—genuine wit, eccentrics who are just a half-step beyond "real" people and, above all, a subtlety of style and character. The episode is such a violation of the Avengers style that I find it downright offensive, and I think this may be the only one that I outright hate.
I think this episode is a work of genius! To me, as someone growing up with the dreary realist dramas of the 80s in the background, seeing that one in re-runs exemplified all that was refreshingly silly, exuberant, and somehow confident, not just about The Avengers, but about the 60s as a whole.
Basically, I understand when people say that it's a departure from the traditional style of the series. It certainly is. But, let's keep an open mind here. The series changed tremendously from the first episode to the last. "The Frighteners," for example, is nothing like "Bizarre" or even "Epic." Speaking of "Epic," I think it's just as much of a departure from the series' style as "Look..." Anyway, a departure from established style is fine as long as it works, and doing a comedy is fine as long as it's funny. To me, "Look..." both works and is funny. From the very beginning, it was obvious to me that it was something different, bizarre, and special. So, I shifted my paradigm, opened my mind and really enjoyed it for what it was—a brilliant, surreal, completely bizarre good time.
I have to disagree with [David's] harsh review of ["Look..."]. There can't be many finer Tara King episodes. It stood out as a distillation of all those classic Avengers elements, the small group of connected individuals who get bumped off one by one with the Avengers seemingly completely unconcerned to protect them (OK, Tara tried to bodyguard the last one but, please, Tara as bodyguard? Not that it would have made a difference to the outcome if it had been Emma), the who cares anyway motivation, the weird shopkeeper/expert (Cleese) and the extraordinary vaudeville villains. If you hate clowns I can understand the negativity, but these two were inspired, a great example of the controlled, tightly-structured lunacy that The Avengers often strove for, an outbreak of the surreal which obeys its own logical (if arbitrary) rules. Great dialogue, some of it laugh out loud.
Aside from the fact that the only Tara King episodes I've seen are "The Forget-Me-Knot", "All Done with Mirrors", and this one, I can see where the tide of controversy comes from. This is by far the loopiest lot of the bunch I've seen. And, might I add, rather gruesome. Tara comes across as a little too eager to please in her position, but there is potential for her to move on to bigger, better things at the Ministry. She just needs the chance to settle down a bit and figure out how things work (which I saw in "All Done with Mirrors," but that's another subject). The set-up, however, is a little awkward, but it beats a general roving band of clowns and vaudevillians (vaude-villains?) with no real purpose other than popping people off just for the heck of it. It seems to me that besides going after the spy-show crowd, they were trying to capture the "Batman" fans with this one (were the two on the air at the same time? Forgive my ignorance on this!) A little off-kilter ! and unbalanced in parts, it's still more entertaining than the dross being offered today.
A wonderful madness, this episode to which I'll refer simply as "Look..." for obvious reasons, has a couple of attention-grabbing features that make it unique. In the first place, the episode has the privilege of carrying the longest title in The Avengers history. I don't know why, but for some reason, this makes me establish peculiar similarities with the legendary Emerson, Lake & Palmer's triple album of 1974, "Welcome Back, My Friends, To The Show That Never Ends - Ladies And Gentlemen: EL&P." Probably, and like the EL&P's album, "Look..." appears to be one of the most controversial episodes of the whole show. Perhaps this controversy arises for the fact that it's a little hard to relate callous killings to assassin clowns. But... wait! Just like in many other Avengers episodes, you shouldn't take this too seriously! It's only a farce, a crazy Avenger-ish farce displaying a very unusual approach to violence! However, the hullabaloo still stands—you find out there are no average terms for "Look...": viewers adore it or hate it. And it is my humble wish to state at the top of my voice, that I belong to the first of those categories. Hence, listen up if you like!
As it happens, one of the most remarkable characteristics of the scripts of The Avengers was the introduction of oddball characters along the majority of its episodes. And if I have to talk about oddballs, "Look..." guarantees a fabulous fest from the very beginning! No one would be so sure about what riotous character should be placed on the top of the unusual thing. But there's no doubt that from Maxie Martin to the wicked magician Fiery Frederick, a plethora of nutcases stand in between, displaying enough talent as to make Steed—or Gentleman Jack?—keep his ever heavy-lidded eyes wide—and I mean, wide—open! That IS original, don't you think?
As a matter of fact, not only the characters excel in "Look...", but also the sets, the effects, and even the sounds! Tell me who couldn't shriek with laughter whenever the hilarious Maxie's mute pal "speaks" through the many horns he carries in his fur coat? And once again, from the absolute chaos in Bradley Marler's office, to the neatness of Marcus Rugman's collection of eggs, everything is a contrasting frenzy. Like that dialogue between "ducks" before Maxie and Jennings get rid of their next victim. Like the metamorphosis a simple wand is experiencing before Tara and Steed's eyes. Like the way Lord Dessington says good bye to this world. Like the imaginative fight between Steed and Maxie, this latter being perhaps the most amusing Steed's opponent in The Avengers canon. Like the particular way to tackle violence shown throughout the episode—with refinement, elegance and a splendid sense of humor.
It's true that during the first shows of 1968, Tara and Steed looked a bit inappropriate as a team. However, "Look..." sets a landmark, indicative of a certain rapport between them, that, although never as apparent as Emma-Steed's, for many fans it wasn't nonexistent either. Linda Thorson looks much more confident in her role, and the scene played by Tara and Lord Dessington, with that musical crescendo in the background, is pure joy. On the other hand, Patrick Macnee carries out an outstanding performance, as an irrefutable sign that "Look...", as he said, has been "one of the most enjoyable working experiences of my life."
One should ask if there's any cast member who's not involved in such a charade, in which even the puppets take part! But the point is that the strokes the great Dennis Spooner made, and the masterful hand of the ineffable James Hill, have drawn up a skillful portray of absurdity, wherein the humorous, the brilliant and the outlandish thing, mix freely in the typical surreal paraphernalia of the 60s. There was or will be no better time for "Look..." And if anyone is still wondering which was the true magic of that irreplaceable decade, then a good part of it is condensed in this episode, through the craziest vaudeville style.
Okay. Put me down on the side of "It's Great!" In fact—don't throw things, please?—it's probably my favourite of the entire series, all incarnations. (Of course, there are more than a few Blackman episodes I haven't seen, so maybe...)
I'm not exactly sure why it's my favourite, though the comic aspects probably play into that.
Looking back at this episode and others, I realise just how good an actress Linda Thorson was, considering her age and the boots she was stepping into when she joined the series. I think her best moments here are her bodyguard assignment, as she and the client desperately strive to find any common ground—and fail... until music come up and they connect.
The manipulation of clown routines into murder methods plays nicely into the fact that many people find clowns scary rather than funny. (Take a look at the film Killer Klownz from Outer Space...)
Cleese plays his part well—and did he take the fall himself, or did they find a stunt man with legs that long to take it for him?
I haven't seen anyone else mentioning this, but as soon as I realised that John Cleese was the tall skinny guy in both this episode and Monty Python, I have always wondered if the scenes in this with gag-writer Bradley Marler in his office with the huge piles of discarded jokes, writing new ones, re-reading them, beginning to laugh, then frowning and crumpling up the paper and and tossing it on the huge pile could have in any way been related to the later Monty Python "deadly joke" routine, which, in its full version, opens with a virtually identical set and business...?
materials copyrighted per their respective copyright holders.