Behind the Scenes: The New
As if to repeat the disaster of the Tara King series, the production people began tinkering with the show, and a tug-of-war ensued between the French and Canadian backers over the British property. The French demanded a sexier Purdey. The Canadians wanted equal time on home soil. In the end, Purdey remained much the same character, but got more emotionally involved, and Joanna Lumley also got a new French wardrobe. And the Canadians got to host the production of four episodes, while the French co-hosted three.
But it only served to exacerbate the series' problems, rather than solve them, even though Patrick Macnee felt that things were beginning to improve. Still, The New Avengers quite possibly could have been a hit—if the Brits hadn't shot themselves in the foot. The ITV network failed to reach an agreement on when the show would air, and it ended up appearing on three different nights, none of them ideal. When America finally picked it up two years after it ran in the UK, CBS thought it was too violent, and aired it at 11:30 PM.
Death appeared imminent about midway through the second season as the producers found it harder and harder to meet payroll. The French apparently did not live up to their end of the financial deal. Canadian backing helped see them through the end of the season, but when production was moved to Canada, a large degree of creative control was lost, and quality suffered considerably. (Brian Clemens did not even go to Canada.) Although worldwide orders for the show eventually covered production costs, there was not enough impetus to launch another season.
But the corpse continued twitching as a series of bizarre events followed...
Two years after the demise of The New Avengers, Clemens shot a pilot in the US for an Americanized version called Escapade. Starring Morgan Fairchild as Suzy (Purdey's counterpart) and Granville Van Dusen as Joshua (the American John Steed), the series never sold. Clemens later claimed that Quinn Martin Productions messed with the show's format and also mis-cast the leads.
In September 1979 Clemens announced that, with CBS's backing, The New Avengers would return. This was followed by news in February 1980 that CBS was financing a theatrical film production of The Avengers. Then in March 1985 the story switched back to a TV series, this time called The Avengers International, planned as a cross between The New Avengers and Emma Peel-era old Avengers.
In November 1988 it was rumored that Mel Gibson had purchased the film rights to The Avengers, with the intent to produce The Avenging Angel, starring himself as Steed, and featuring appearances by Patrick Macnee, Honor Blackman and Linda Thorson. The director of choice was apparently Nicholas Meyer (Star Trek II). Michael Sloan was supposedly writing the script, as well as looking into launching a new Avengers TV series.
Finally there's the 1998 movie wherein Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman attempted to recreate John Steed and Emma Peel, with Sean Connery as the diabolical mastermind, no less. Sadly, this utter disaster may have ruined any future hopes for the series.
Obviously there was no lack of trying—just a lack of success. But I suspect it ain't over yet. If there's money to be made, someone will bring them back. I for one have been trying my best!
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