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).
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
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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