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First General Impressions

 
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Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D.
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 6:34 pm    Post subject: First General Impressions Reply with quote

Well, so far I have seen:
--The two-and-one-third Keel episodes.
--All three of the King episodes.
--Four Cathy Gale stories.
--One Venus Smith episode.

My first impressions:

1. Good Lord, they smoked a lot in those days! My favorite example is in “Girl on the Trapeze”: when Keel is locked up in the same room with Carol, after comforting her for a few moments, he . . . offers her a cigarette and takes one himself. Even if I was addicted to the demon leaf, if my friend and I were being held captive by a bunch of thugs who’d made it clear that they were going to kill us as soon as it was convenient, my first priority—or even my 37th!—would not be lighting one up. Rolling Eyes I half expected there to be some kind of product placement, it was so jarring.

2. From the very limited data I have at my disposal, it definitely seems like Steed was at least somewhat warmer and fuzzier in Series 1 and his relationship with Keel quite respectful, whereas in Series 2 he’s frankly kind of a cad, and his dealings with the various partners seem much more manipulative (at least so far), like he has something on each of them. Maybe the writers saw that as a way to make things more tense and interesting. Dr. King kind of wearily accepted it, whereas Venus seems to be naively outraged by it, and Cathy pushes back against his crap. I may have to borrow that Two Against the Underworld book and learn more about what the first series was like.

3. I find it interesting that the union rules of the time in essence required episodes to be filmed “live’, even when they were actually being recorded to be broadcast later. My perception is that American production companies abandoned live broadcasts as soon as they possibly could. One wonders if this was because of more competition in the American market, which drove them to greater heights of perfection, or because the British companies didn’t have as much money, or maybe because the British acting scene was still dominated by stage traditions.

4. While I still like the Johnson theme better, I have to say that the Dankworth theme is growing on me, and it does fit the different mood of the early episodes.

5. The fights so far are . . . ahem . . . not convincing (although in the Gale episode I just watched, she does restrain a baddy rather effectively). I was particularly amused by the scene in “The Frighteners” where the goons are “beating up” de Willoughby; the camera moves up, but you can still tell that nothing is really happening below the bottom of the screen.

6. I will alter the famous Shaw quote to say that England and America are two countries separated by a common language and really different accents. Even when characters are speaking the Queen’s English, it’s sometimes hard to understand them, and if they’re speaking Cockney or some more "common" accent, I’m lucky if I can catch every fifth word. (The occasional poor sound work doesn’t help, of course.)

7. I really like Cathy already. Beyond the fact that Blackman’s a better actor than the other two, her chemistry with Steed and willingness to stand up to him is already obvious; the episode I watched most recently is “Bullseye,” and her final exchange with the corporate raider is the funniest thing I’ve seen in the series so far.

8. Obviously, British TV pushed the sexy envelope further at that point than American shows did; you have Cathy’s bra in “Death Dispatch,” and both the shower scene and Steed smacking the waitress’s butt in “The Decapod,” whereas in the US, married couples were still being shown sleeping in separate beds, and that was only if we got into the bedroom at all.

Anyway, please correct any mistaken assumptions in the above. Soon, I’ll start posting on individual episodes in the reviews section.
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Lhbizness
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 7:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yep, that all sounds pretty accurate to me. I do think that Steed warms up a lot during Seasons 2/3, though - he's more acerbic than in later seasons, and has a harder edge, but his relationship with Cathy develops beautifully and with great affection. I think you sometimes have to look past what he says he does and what he actually does - and there's a sweetness and a gentleness that is there, just under a slightly rough exterior (his gentleness comes out in some of the later Venus Smith episodes). I disagree that he's a cad as a general rule - he behaves caddishly on occasion (The Decapod), but it's more of an act than a character attribute. Cathy softens him in a way - he cares about her opinion and her feelings towards him, and he changes his behavior to better reflect both the man that he is underneath, and the man that she wants/hopes him to be.

Glad you're enjoying the earlier eps!
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dissolute
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 3:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That seems pretty similar to my first impressions (although I saw series 1 last, more than 20 years after seeing series 5, and series 2 only a couple years before that)

1. I always laugh at that scene, can you imagine a doctor offering a patient a cigarette these days?

2. Total cad, he always manipulates Venus, and at the end of the episode where she tells him off and orders that he never does so again, he just smiles and says, "As if I would..."

6. I'm lucky, my parents come from England.

8. "The Avengers" quickly became considered "kinky" as it was in a late time slot and could get away with more - a January 1964 episode of "Steptoe and Son" even refers to it.
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mrs_emma_peel
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PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2016 6:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I remember thinking in 1964 that no one could possibly replace, equal or surpass the fabulous character and kinkiness of Honor Blackman's Cathy Gale yet, it only took about three episodes of series 4 for someone to do just that - in the statuesque form of Diana Rigg's Emma Peel Smile
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Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D.
Nutshell


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 23, 2016 5:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Yep, that all sounds pretty accurate to me. I do think that Steed warms up a lot during Seasons 2/3, though - he's more acerbic than in later seasons, and has a harder edge, but his relationship with Cathy develops beautifully and with great affection. I think you sometimes have to look past what he says he does and what he actually does - and there's a sweetness and a gentleness that is there, just under a slightly rough exterior (his gentleness comes out in some of the later Venus Smith episodes). I disagree that he's a cad as a general rule - he behaves caddishly on occasion (The Decapod), but it's more of an act than a character attribute. Cathy softens him in a way - he cares about her opinion and her feelings towards him, and he changes his behavior to better reflect both the man that he is underneath, and the man that she wants/hopes him to be.

Glad you're enjoying the earlier eps!


This is true--I should have said, "He's kind of a cad, so far."
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anti-clockwise
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I assume you are from England? (Your name is a dead give-a-way) and you can't understand the accents? Laughing Makes me feel better!

I noticed that what made it difficult iin series 1 and 2 to understand,was the speed of Steed's speech. He was speaking so fast the words seem to just all blur together. Laughing He seemed to have slowed down considerably after series 3.
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Andrew Pixley
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 9:53 pm    Post subject: Re: First General Impressions Reply with quote

Oooohhhh! Interesting comments!

Operation E.N.G.L.A.N.D. wrote:
2. From the very limited data I have at my disposal, it definitely seems like Steed was at least somewhat warmer and fuzzier in Series 1 and his relationship with Keel quite respectful, whereas in Series 2 he’s frankly kind of a cad, and his dealings with the various partners seem much more manipulative (at least so far), like he has something on each of them. Maybe the writers saw that as a way to make things more tense and interesting. Dr. King kind of wearily accepted it, whereas Venus seems to be naively outraged by it, and Cathy pushes back against his crap. I may have to borrow that Two Against the Underworld book and learn more about what the first series was like.


I'd recommend "Two Against the Underworld". It's an incredibly good book and fulls in the gaps superbly.

For me, the big change in Steed's character is when they move from the videotapes episodes with Cathy Gale to the filmed episodes with Emma Peel. Steed seems to soften considerably; there are some early shows where he is a very ruthless b*st*rd indeed!

Quote:
3. I find it interesting that the union rules of the time in essence required episodes to be filmed “live’, even when they were actually being recorded to be broadcast later. My perception is that American production companies abandoned live broadcasts as soon as they possibly could. One wonders if this was because of more competition in the American market, which drove them to greater heights of perfection, or because the British companies didn’t have as much money, or maybe because the British acting scene was still dominated by stage traditions.


One of the main reasons for the shift to film in the US was the time zone issues; live dramas across the country were either too early on the west coast or too late on the east coast. Initially film recordings were made of the live performance to time shift across the nation, and then by the early 1950s people were thinking more in terms of films which could undergo post-production (rather than just capturing a live performance) and so be tightened up in editing.

Recording "as live" (as with "The Avengers") as far as possible died out in the UK during the mid-1960s with more recording breaks scheduled; live drama fizzled out around the same time. But in the UK, filmed drama was a rarity compared to the US; it was more expensive, but it also allowed a slicker product to attract a bigger market overseas, ideally in syndication on the US (or even on a network if they were lucky). Very few of the commercial ITV stations in the UK dabbles in this arena, the main two being ABC (notably "The Avengers", also shows like "The Human Jungle") and ATV (with shows like "The Saint", "The Prisoner", etc.).

Quote:
7. I really like Cathy already. Beyond the fact that Blackman’s a better actor than the other two, her chemistry with Steed and willingness to stand up to him is already obvious; the episode I watched most recently is “Bullseye,” and her final exchange with the corporate raider is the funniest thing I’ve seen in the series so far.


Honor Blackman's performance as Cathy Gale is terrific and I used to feel bad that her episodes were overlooked in comparison to the filmed ones. How lovely to see other people realising how brilliant she is! Smile

Glad you're getting so much out of these!

All the best

Andrew
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Sam
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PostPosted: Sat Jun 25, 2016 8:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Growing up in the US, all I ever experienced was Emma, Tara, and later Gambit and Purdey, although I did know of the existence of the earlier versions. Finally, A&E brought Cathy to us in the 1990's, then the DVD's came. Since then, I think Cathy has become my favorite out of everyone with the third season ranking highest!
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PostPosted: Tue Aug 09, 2016 10:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Lhbizness wrote:
Yep, that all sounds pretty accurate to me. I do think that Steed warms up a lot during Seasons 2/3, though - he's more acerbic than in later seasons, and has a harder edge, but his relationship with Cathy develops beautifully and with great affection. I think you sometimes have to look past what he says he does and what he actually does - and there's a sweetness and a gentleness that is there, just under a slightly rough exterior (his gentleness comes out in some of the later Venus Smith episodes). I disagree that he's a cad as a general rule - he behaves caddishly on occasion (The Decapod), but it's more of an act than a character attribute. Cathy softens him in a way - he cares about her opinion and her feelings towards him, and he changes his behavior to better reflect both the man that he is underneath, and the man that she wants/hopes him to be.

Glad you're enjoying the earlier eps!
no doubt, character that was steed...continued to be fleshed out....going from one dimension, to 3d, the steed that eventually, we all came to love...
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