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The Avengers in GERMANY, Part 1

Holger Schmitz of Gummersbach, Germany has compiled a comprehensive history of The Avengers in his home country. He begins at the beginning...

In Germany it all began on Tuesday, October 18, 1966, 9.15 PM. German viewers tuned in to ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) and met Emma Peel and John Steed, the heroes of Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone for the first time, fighting their first German adventure against "The Cybernauts." Obviously the series had been bought in the course of the common "James-Bond-boom" because it was mainly promoted as "spy-series." IMO, this explains the choice of the episodes which had been accepted (see list below).

Sadly enough, until the present day German viewers never got to know the Cathy Gale episodes, not to mention the ones with Ian Hendry.

As usual for series in German television, for the present only 13 episodes had been bought for broadcasting, chosen by some editors who "defined" which scene had to be cut (Golden German TV rule: 45 minutes and not a second longer!) or which episodes suit the taste of German viewers of the 1960s at all! You can imagine their pale faces as they previewed "A Touch of Brimstone." I think, viewers all over the world are familiar with those problems...

Additionally, the title sequence was edited with a gimmick, one may call it: Whereas the English original "only" opened with the title coming "from the front" in big white letters on a black ground under the impressing intro of Laurie Johnson's theme, the ZDF, above all, defined the series' German title to its viewers. The additional sequence used a similar kind of stills the original had in the title- and end credits. A gloved hand with a small Beretta on the left side of the screen is shooting three times in a "triple window" on the right. First shot — an umbrella appears (Schirm), second shot — Emma (Charme), third shot — bowler hat (Melone), the musical score sets in, the title flashes in in one of the columns, and then we see the usual cuts of stills. The adventure begins...

The Master Minds

One very interesting point was the choice of Patrick Macnee's German dub voice: Gerd Guenther Hoffmann, who took the part, was also the dub voice for Sean Connery! So if the Germans got an unknown actor to see, they got a popular voice to hear. He was the standard voice of actors like Paul Newman, William Shatner or Rock Hudson in nearly every film they made. So he did for Patrick Macnee later on, e.g. in The Howling, A View To A Kill and — as one of his last works — in Hulk Hogan's series Thunder in Paradise. He even dubbed George Lazenby in his only Bond-appearance. Hoffmann was one of the most popular dub voices in Germany, therefore — to his displeasure — he was called "The King of Dub"; although an actor, the people recognized him rather by his voice than by his face. After long illness Hoffmann passed away in 1998 at the age of 68.

Margot Leonard was the German voice of Diana Rigg. She also dubbed her in the Bond-movie. Additionally, she read Honor Blackman's dialogue in Goldfinger. Coincidence? In the 50s she lent her voice to Marilyn Monroe. Unfortunately, she's gone, too. The very good German dialogue, which contributed essentially to the series; success, had been directed by Werner Peters, actor and then owner of the RONDO-Film dubbing company in Berlin. Additionally, he took over some of the minor-role-dubbings by himself, you can hear him nearly in every episode. An extraordinary actor he was, Peters was also cast in some international movies, often as the "nasty German officer."

The first German Avengers-season was broadcast in a 14-day rotation and ran as follows:
 

The Cybernauts

18 Oct 66

Silent Dust

08 Nov 66

Two's a Crowd

22 Nov 66

Dial a Deadly Number

06 Dec 66

The Town of No Return

20 Dec 66

Castle De'ath

10 Jan 67

Quick-Quick Slow Death

24 Jan 67

The Gravediggers

07 Feb 67

The Master Minds

21 Feb 67

The Thirteenth Hole

07 Mar 67

Death at Bargain Prices

21 Mar 67

Small Game for Big Hunters

04 April 67

What the Butler Saw

18 April 67

Viewers were enthusiastic about the couple, and Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone gained average ratings by around 55%. The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) called it "the best entertainment series in Germany ever," and "the most intellectual of all crime-series" said Die Zeit (qt. Fischer, p. 32).

After that first season the ZDF scheduled a longer break for Emma and Steed and tried to entertain the viewers with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. But for German viewers it was a poor substitute; so, after some massive viewer reactions, The Avengers were back on screen — and even on time with the introduction of colour TV in Germany in June 1967.
 

Honey for the Prince

04 July 67

The Danger Makers

18 July 67

A Sense of History

01 Aug 67

Room Without a View

08 Aug 67

The Bird Who Knew Too Much

29 Aug 67

The Living Dead

12 Sept 67

Escape in Time

26 Sept 67

The Correct Way to Kill

10 Oct 67

From Venus With Love

24 Oct 67

Never, Never Say Die

07 Nov 67

The See-Through Man

21 Nov 67

The Hidden Tiger

05 Dec 67

The Fear Merchants

19 Dec 67

A wonderful quote by the FAZ after the return of The Avengers stresses German "Emmamania": "The world was set up again, the republic was liberated, when Emma Peel, the greatest, our fortune, when Emma, the female detective from England, came home to German television screens." (Fischer, p. 32).

In summer 1967 Rigg and Macnee went on a publicity tour through Germany, and in its course they also guest starred in Peter Frankenfeld's show Vergiss-mein-nicht ("Forget-Me-Not" (!!)). Frankenfeld was an outstanding showmaster and entertainer, and his shows — from the beginnings of German TV in the 50s to his death in 1979 — were enormously popular. Their tour could only be handled with heavy precautions because wherever they appeared the people gathered. A restaurant in Duesseldorf they went to had to be secured from the crowds by the police. (Fischer, p. 32) Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone was Emma Peel! Diana Rigg became "Karate-Emma" (hmm, not that flattering, IMO).

The Last of Emma...?

In late 1968 the ZDF announced the very last season with Emma Peel and the fans went furious: "I love Emma Peel. If you cancel Emma Peel, I'll drown myself. I love Emma Peel, and the evenings with her are the happiest for me. Therefore comply with it!" threatened an unknown Emma-lover. (Fischer, p. 40). Whether this "fan" really drowned himself is not known; anyway, Emma Peel left Germany in May 1969. She only reappeared for the first Tara King-episode, but that's all. The last German Emma Peel season now went from Tuesday to Thursday evenings and finally hopped to Wednesday. I can't help myself, but when watching this air time shifting it seems that the ZDF finally wanted to get rid of its hit:
 

A Funny Thing Happened
on the Way to the Station

02 Jan 69

Return of the Cybernauts

16 Jan 69

The Joker

30 Jan 69

Something Nasty in the Nursery

13 Feb 69

Mission... Highly Improbable

27 Feb 69

The Superlative Seven

12 Mar 69

You Have Just Been Murdered

26 Mar 69

Epic

09 April 69

Dead Man's Treasure

23 April 69

Who's Who???

07 May 69

Emma Peel was gone... Really? In the meantime some previously unreleased b/w-episodes had been put on the market on 8 mm to quench the fans' thirst for new adventures of the famous agent couple. It didn't matter that Emma and Steed got different dub voices this time. BTW: In David's episode guide these episodes are marked with "depending on the vintage of the print." Those were:
 

86

A Surfeit of H2O

95

The Girl from Auntie

99

A Touch of Brimstone

103

How To Succeed....At Murder

Whoever Dismissed Poor Tara...

Then in spring 1970 the "New Emma Peel" was announced. Tara King would be her name, and instead of doing some Karate she would "bite and scratch" (Muenchner Merkur newspaper, qt. Fischer, p. 42). But did they heard the bad news from England? The ZDF couldn't make up its mind to buy more than only 10 episodes (!), and even the viewers didn't grant Linda Thorson long life on TV or even superstardome in Germany as they did for Diana Rigg. In December 1970 Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone left the screens, but it had become a part of German-TV-history.
 

The Forget-Me-Knot

11 Aug 70

All Done with Mirrors

25 Aug 70

Super Secret Cypher Snatch

08 Sept 70

Whoever Shot Poor George
Oblique Stroke XR40?

22 Sept 70

Fog

06 Oct 70

The Curious Case of the
Countless Clues

20 Oct 70

Love All

03 Nov 70

Game

17 Nov 70

Noon Doomsday

01 Dec 70

Homicide and Old Lace

15 Dec 70

Never, Never Say Die

But the series wasn't gone at all! Whereas so many other series fall into oblivion after their initial broadcast, Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone had a frequent rerun throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, mostly in the sc. "third programmes", the local TV stations of the ARD (Arbeitsgemeinschaft der oeffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunkanstalten Deutschlands), the other — and even older — German broadcasting company.

The Strange Case of the Missing NEW AVENGERS

On January 25, 1978 The Avengers were back, now as a trio and now at the ARD. Although the original series was called The New Avengers, it was still Mit Schirm, Charme und Melone in Germany. Broadcast date was Thursday night, 9.00 PM. And that's when things were getting tricky:

From the 1960s to the early 1980s it was not unusual in German TV that series were broadcast in a two-week-rotation (The Emma Peel episodes, for example, ran in rotation with The Invaders). Now The New Avengers should run in a monthly cycle... — They should!

At least all 13 episodes from the first season must have been dubbed because they all got German titles. But to the end of 1978 only seven (!) episodes could be made out by date with irregular transmission dates (see below), and only five had been broadcast at all! Although announced in the TV guides, the last two had been obviously cancelled. And then their trace was lost for some years... Air dates throughout the 1980s are yet to be found out.
 

Cat Amongst the Pigeons

12 Jan 78

Faces

23 Feb 78

To Catch a Rat

23 Mar 78

Target!

20 April 78

House of Cards

1 June 78

The Midas Touch

29 June 78 (canceled)

Tale of the Big Why

27 July 78 (canceled)

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Page last modified 30 March 2002.