Behind the Scenes: Emma Peel Era
Page 5 of 9


Riding high on the show's international success, the studio approached the as yet untapped American market. NBC and CBS turned them down. While ABC expressed interest (they had no espionage program of their own), they were reluctant to buy a monochrome program as the US had already been enjoying color television for a decade. So the studio offered a deal: buy the monochrome series, and the following season would be delivered in color.

Thus began the British Invasion, Avengers-style, as well as the series' transition to color. But the sale to America was to change the shape of the series, starting with the previous season, which received a special introduction just for the "dim" Americans. READ MORE

To further satisfy the American market, the show itself was "tweaked." For starters, Emma Peel's "strong" personality traits were toned down. Cathy Gale used brute-force Judo—considered far too violent for American tastes, and while Emma employed high-tech Karate in the monochrome episodes, this was still considered too "unladylike" by Americans, so the fighting mode of choice for the color season became graceful Kung Fu. In the fashion department, the "kinky" leather catsuits gave way to a parade of colorful "Emmapeelers." (Just as well for Diana Rigg, who disliked the leather gear.) Even the dialog was "Americanized"—flats became apartments; lifts, elevators. It seemed as if the very thing that made the show unique—its patent Britishness—was being compromised.

But a color Emma Peel series almost didn't come about. Exhausted by a six- to seven-day a week, twelve-hour a day production schedule, not to mention the pressure that publicity brought to bear, Diana Rigg felt the producers were treating her like a piece of meat, and decided that 150 per episode wasn't enough. (The cameraman made more than she did! And the media accused her of being greedy...) Although the producers agreed to triple her salary, she made it clear that this would be her last season, staying on more out of loyalty to Patrick Macnee—or "Paddy Nee," as she calls him—than anything else.

Yet another vexing issue had to do with money on a much larger scale: the show was very costly to produce, and without the continuous support of the Americans, production could halt at any moment. As it happened, ABC was somewhat capricious in placing orders for episodes, as they were still using the show as mid-season replacements, and so the studio was forced to suspend production midway through the fifth season while waiting for further orders. As a result, what was to be a 26-episode color season in the UK was split in two. READ MORE

In spite of increasingly erratic production and broadcasting schedules, The Avengers became a world-wide phenomenon, airing in a record-setting 120 countries. Diana Rigg was nominated for an Emmy (Barbara Bain of Mission: Impossible won), and was voted Actress of the Year by sixteen European countries.

But the world would have to be satisfied with this, for there was to be no more Mrs. Peel. And the world had no idea what insanity transpired behind the scenes to bring the next season into being.

For help in understanding the progression of the show's history, the Avengers Timeline puts it in graphic perspective.


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This website Copyright 1996-2017 David K. Smith. All Rights Reserved.
Page last modified: 5 May 2017.

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