Private Schulz

Major Neuheim and Private Schulz

The six-part TV series Private Schulz was a hit when it first aired and has become something of a cult since it was first broadcast in 1981. Made by the BBC in collaboration with the Australian ABC, it was the last outing for the great TV writer Jack Pulman, whose I, Claudius adaptation had been one of the great successes of the 1970s and who was the BBC’s go-to man for adaptations of big novels (Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace, Henry James’s The Golden Bowl, Thomas Mann’s Buddenbrooks). It was also the first, and only collaboration between its stars, Michael Elphick and Ian Richardson, both scene-stealers extraordinaire, but who came at upstaging from … Read more

Danger Man aka Secret Agent

Still from Season 1 episode 1

Is Danger Man one TV series or two? It has two entries on the IMDb. There’s this one, for the original series, which ran 1960-1962, and this one for its second coming, 1964-1967, when the show in some places (the USA for example) went by the name Secret Agent and had a snappier theme tune (High Wire, played on a muscular harpsichord). In its native UK it was always Danger Man. There is an argument for treating them as different entitities but in essence they are the same thing, united by the presence of Patrick McGoohan as John Drake, dry spy extraordinaire – no guns, no girls, no gadgets, initially at least. Along … Read more


The town clerk and the mayor

Broadcast in 1972, the same year it was agreed that the UK would join the European Common Market, Clochemerle caused a stir when it was first shown. That’s because this charming show was all about a urinal. This pissoir (the word is never used) is erected in a small French village by the progressive mayor and town clerk, and causes ructions after the forces of conservatism decide it’s an affront to deceny and campaign to have it taken down. It was an unusual TV show in many respects. It was an international collaboration (with West German TV) in an era when such things were rare. It was an adaptation of a French comic … Read more

The Avengers: Series 1, Episode 20 – Tunnel of Fear

John Steed and David Keel

For a long time it was thought that only a couple of episodes from series one of The Avengers had survived. And then Tunnel of Fear turned up in a “private film collection”, as the press release guardedly puts it, swelling the number of complete episodes from two to a mighty three out of a possible 26. There’s about a third of the very first episode, Hot Snow, too – reviewed here. We might not have the full run of the season but with Tunnel of Fear we now have enough to get a sketchy impression of the direction of the show. Hot Snow in first position establishing David Keel (Ian Hendry) as a … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 33 – Bizarre

Steed and Tara in a Saturn V rocket

So we come to the end of The Avengers journey with Bizarre, 33rd episode of the final season. The show started in January 1961 and was literally about an Avenger, Ian Hendry playing David Keel, a doctor going on a restorative-justice rampage after his wife was killed by drug smugglers. And it ends here in May 1969, having morphed from a crime-based show shot as live in black and white on big TV cameras into something a lot more spytastic, shot on film with all the gloss you could muster on a TV budget. The early (surviving) episodes are almost unwatchable now, the terrible telecine transfers making them even lower in visual quality … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 32 – Get-A-Way!

Steed pours vodka on his bowler

The penultimate Avengers episode actually goes right back to the early days of this series’ production run. There was over a year between the completion of Get-A-Way! in February 1968 and its transmission in May 1969. It’s one of the ones produced (or started, at any rate) by John Bryce, whose short-lived attempt to take The Avengers back to some version of realism never really had enough time to gain traction before the old team of Clemens and Fennell were reinstated. Invisibility (realism?) is what Get-A-Way! is all about. Invisibility at a high-security prison for enemy agents, run as if it were a monastery – the warders wear habits (again, realism?) – where … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 31 – Pandora

Tara King in front of a portrait of Pandora

The benign king deceived by his courtiers – a wicked grand vizier, a scheming cardinal, a treacherous brother – is a comforting story told and retold down the ages. The Avengers episode Pandora is Brian Clemens’s version of it: a man grieving for a lost love being fooled by his family into believing she is alive, the better to loosen his grip on the family fortune… Pandora is that woman, dead 50 years but still mourned by maddened recluse Gregory (Peter Madden), around whom a massive deceit is daily confected that out in the wider world the First World War is still raging and Pandora is still alive. All that bad guys Rupert … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 30 – Take-Over

Steed arrives laden with gifts

Take-Over it was called in 1969 when it first aired. In the intervening decades the word takeover has lost its hyphen but this episode of The Avengers remains fresh and watchable precisely because of its antique quality. But first a bit of a prelim – man being escorted to prison makes a run for it when the car he’s in breaks down. Instead of chasing after him, his guards just hang back and watch. They even pull out cigars. Then one of them flicks a lighter, and the running man immediately falters, then falls to the floor choking. Dead. With the opening credits out of the way, the plot proper gets underway. Tara … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 29 – Requiem

Angela Douglas as Miranda

Requiem sounds like it should be the title for the last-ever episode of The Avengers, now only weeks away. That it’s not is a typical piece of perversity by showrunner Brian Clemens. Another is Clemens’s ongoing attempt to sideline Linda Thorson, which he’s still engaged in even this late in the day. Perhaps a further series was still a possibility. If it had come off, doubtless Tara King would have been noticeable by her absence. Anyhow, the setup – a woman is killed in an underground car park by a pair of heavies. But it turns out it’s not a woman at all, but a man in drag – who has been acting … Read more

The Avengers: Series 6, Episode 28 – My Wildest Dream

Philip Madoc and Peter Vaughan

Though broadcast towards the end of the Tara King era, My Wildest Dream was made towards the beginning. It marks the point where Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell had fully taken back control of the series from John Bryce and were able to start banging out episodes that were theirs through and through, rather than rehashes/cut-and-shuts of stuff Bryce had finished or half-finished. This was the first of that bunch. It looks, perhaps no surprise, like an Emma Peel-era episode. Defiantly so, in fact – big bold colours, wide, empty sets, a pop-art influence. The dialogue is more Peel-era too – rat-a-tat-tat, knowing and smart. The story is by Philip Levene and has … Read more