StudioCanal to Reboot the 1960s-era 'The Avengers'

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as Steed and Mrs. Peel in the famous cheesboard opening title sequence made for the American broadcast of 'The Avengers'

Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg as Steed and Mrs. Peel in 'The Avengers'


When most people think of 1960s-era British television, they rightly think of PBS, as when broadcast TV was the dominant form, public television was the leading purveyor of shows from overseas. But what most people no longer remember is that PBS didn't form until the end of the 1960s, and Masterpiece wasn't launched until 1971. Before that, it was more of a free-for-all in who brought over what, as the nascent TV networks were open to experimenting with all sorts of programming to see what worked and what didn't, including ABC, which took a chance on a little-known James Bond-like spy series from what was then known as Associated British Productions, called The Avengers

Starring Patrick Macnee as the debonair John Steed, the series was initially about male spies, with Steed's assistant, David Keel, played by Ian Hendry. The show debuted in 1961 on both sides of the pond and did fair ratings but not great. Hendry left after Season 1 and was promptly replaced by Honor Blackman as Cathy Gale. While Blackman is less remembered than the woman who would go on to replace her in Season 4, Diana Rigg, her Dr. Gale created the role that Rigg would make famous. Despite supposedly being an assistant, she was every inch an equal partner: assertive, stylish, brilliantly capable at combat and weaponry, and formidably intelligent, all while wearing a leather catsuit.

Since the show ended in 1969 (one year after Rigg left, replaced by Linda Thorson as final Steed partner, Tara King), there have been various runs at reboot. ABP morphed into Thames Television, which launched The New Avengers, but that only lasted a season, and then there was the 1998 film, which was a disaster. Then Marvel Studios came along with its movies that had nothing to do with the British series but claimed the moniker, and well, since then, it's been impossible to do anything. However, with the waning of the superhero death grip at the box office, StudioCanal, which holds the rights to the series, hopes now is the right time to bring The Avengers back.

According to Deadline, StudioCanal has been quietly working on the project for some time now and has finally landed a pilot script it feels is worthy of shopping to production studios. The Avengers isn't just a hard sell because of the movie flop or the very successful superhero films, but because of the particular blend of genres from the period. It isn't just a James Bond TV series, but one that incorporates a specific kind of surrealist science fiction. This weirdo off-beat humor was popular in the U.K. in the early 1960s, the sort of thing that gave rise to Doctor Who in 1963 but fell out of vogue for decades after. With Doctor Who regaining popularity and a mainstream foothold on Disney+, StudioCanal seems to think The Avengers might follow suit.

Mickey Down and Konrad Kay, the writing team behind hit HBO/BBC series Industry, are behind the new script, and Warner Bros. are said to be lined up to produce the pilot with Sex Education director Ben Taylor listed as a co-creator and slated to direct the pilot and a potential series if it gets picked up. It should be noted, though, that HBO has repeatedly insisted it has not picked up the series and is not involved at this stage. Considering that Warner Bros. head David Zaslav is still canceling things left, right, and center (fare the well Our Flag Means Death and Julia!), and HBO president Casey Bloys is publicly begging The Gilded Age fans to help keep the show from Zas's axe, that's probably for the best.

StudioCanal's reboot of The Avengers does not yet have a home on either side of the pond, but we will be keeping a sharp eye on where this one lands.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

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