TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (19)
August 19, 2018
One of 25 installments in a series of enthusiastic posts analyzing and celebrating a few of our favorite TV shows from the Fifties (1954–1963).
The British “spy-fi” comedy serial The Avengers is a mix of style, innuendo and surrealism. A man floats upright out of the sea in a garbage bag, and the narrative doesn’t even blink. Outlandish events are met with a deadpan shrug. Emma Peel and John Steed would rather quip, flirt, and drink than sleuth. They sashay through bizarre scenarios, accepting the peculiar nature of their reality.
With karate and swordplay, Peel fights right alongside her male counterpart, Steed, who sometimes seems to be just a prop for her dazzle, someone to pour her champagne when she’s done dispatching foes. Steed is as dry as the martinis he mixes. A typical Steed moment: he peeks under a sheet covering a corpse, and needs not see the face to identify it, just the cut of the man’s cloth: “We share the same tailor.”
The empowered, crime-fighting Peel was seen as an early feminist icon, yet years later actress Diana Rigg, who played Peel, scoffed at the idea. She thought it to be a happy accident, a bit of good luck, rather than prescient design. And the iconic black leather zippered skin-tight catsuit? Rigg was relieved when the costume director traded that hot, uncomfortable outfit in for lighter, looser, colorful jumpsuits.
I’ve written both Spider-Man and Batman comics, so was delighted to stumble on a 1967 episode that contained both a wall-crawler and a man who skulked around in batwings. “The Winged Avenger,” a spoof of the Batman TV show, is a nasty bit of satire. It takes on the comic book creator rights battle through a neurotic writer and an egotistical artist. There are even branding jokes — when the “bat man” walks up a wall and hangs from the ceiling like a bat, Peel and Steed joke about “vertical salesmen selling vertical souvenirs, from vertical souvenir stalls.” The “winged avenger” vigilante is after a ruthless businessmen (read: Bruce Wayne). Emma Peel ends up drawn right into a comic strip (with art by fabulous real-life comic artist Frank Bellamy), complete with the high camp POW SPLAT BAM sound effects.
TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM: Series Introduction | Luc Sante on LOONEY TUNES | Chris Spurgeon on THE THREE STOOGES | Adrienne Crew on MY THREE SONS | Barbara Bogaev on ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | Devin McKinney on THE TWILIGHT ZONE | James Hannaham on THE NAT KING COLE SHOW | Mimi Lipson on THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES | Jessamyn West on THE JETSONS | Gary Panter on THE OUTER LIMITS | Peter Doyle on THE MANY LOVES OF DOBIE GILLIS | Mark Kingwell on ROUTE 66 | Josh Glenn on THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW | Lynn Peril on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW | Rob Walker on LEAVE IT TO BEAVER | Dan Reines on DAVEY & GOLIATH | Adam McGovern on HIGHWAY PATROL | Erik Davis on HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL | Greg Rowland on THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW | Annie Nocenti on THE AVENGERS | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on GUNSMOKE | Sarah Weinman on NAKED CITY | Douglas Rushkoff on THE HONEYMOONERS | Kio Stark on ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS | Gordon Dahlquist on PERRY MASON | Brian Berger on CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? | CODA: Crystal Durant on Marc Anthony & Pussyfoot shorts | CODA: Mike Watt on “A Stop at Willoughby”
FERB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (1Q2021): STEVEN UNIVERSE | TOP CAT | REN & STIMPY | SHE-RA | DRAGON BALL Z & 20 other animated series. CARBONA YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2020): “Sex Bomb” | “Going Underground” | “Soft South Africans” | “Typical Girls” | “Human Fly” & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) punk singles. KLAATU YOU (2020 weekly): ZARDOZ | METROPOLIS | DARK STAR | SINS OF THE FLESHAPOIDS | SOLARIS | & dozens of other pre-STAR WARS sci-fi movies. CONVOY YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2019): THE TAKING OF PELHAM ONE TWO THREE | ROLLERBALL | BLACK SUNDAY | SORCERER | STRAIGHT TIME | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) action movies. SERIOCOMIC (2019 weekly): LITTLE LULU | VIZ | MARSUPILAMI | ERNIE POOK’S COMEEK | HELLBOY | & dozens of other comics. TUBE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2018): LOONEY TUNES | THREE STOOGES | THE AVENGERS | ROCKY & BULLWINKLE | THE TWILIGHT ZONE | & 20 other Fifties (1954–1963) TV shows. WOWEE ZOWEE (2018 weekly): UNISEX | UNDER THE PINK | DUMMY | AMOR PROHIBIDO | HIPS AND MAKERS | & dozens of other Nineties (1994–2003) albums. KLUTE YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2017): THE KILLERS | BANDE À PART (BAND OF OUTSIDERS) | ALPHAVILLE | HARPER | BLOW-UP | & 20 other Sixties (1964–1973) neo-noir movies. #SQUADGOALS (2017 weekly): THE WILD BUNCH | BOWIE’S BAND | THE BLOOMSBURY GROUP | THE HONG KONG CAVALIERS | VI ÄR BÄST! & dozens of other squads. GROK MY ENTHUSIASM (2016 weekly): THE THEORY AND PRACTICE OF LUNCH | WEEKEND | MILLION YEAR PICNIC | LA BARONNE EMILE D’ERLANGER | THE SURVIVAL SAMPLER | & dozens more one-off enthusiasms. QUIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2016): “Tainted Love” | “Metal” | “Frankie Teardrop” | “Savoir Faire” | “Broken English” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) new wave singles. CROM YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2015): DARKER THAN YOU THINK | THE SWORD IN THE STONE | OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET | THIEVES’ HOUSE | QUEEN OF THE BLACK COAST | & 20 other Thirties (1934–1943) fantasy novels. KERN YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2014): ALDINE ITALIC | DATA 70 | TORONTO SUBWAY | JOHNSTON’S “HAMLET” | TODD KLONE | & 20 other typefaces. HERC YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2013): “Spoonin’ Rap” | “Rapper’s Delight” | “Rappin’ Blow” | “The Incredible Fulk” | “The Adventures of Super Rhyme” | & 20 other Seventies (1974–1983) hip-hop songs. KIRK YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2012): Justice or vengeance? | Kirk teaches his drill thrall to kiss | “KHAAAAAN!” | “No kill I” | Kirk browbeats NOMAD | & 20 other Captain Kirk scenes. KIRB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (2011): THE ETERNALS | BLACK MAGIC | DEMON | OMAC | CAPTAIN AMERICA | & 20 other Jack Kirby panels.