The Soapbox

This page written circa 14 June, 1999.

Avenging Uncles

I had forgotten what The Avengers and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were like: Programs made with tongues firmly planted in cheeks, and made as if they existed to entertain the cast rather than the viewer. The furious (and hopefully futile) attempts by the makers of the new Austin Powers movie to promote that drivel through their cable channel have afforded us some wonderful opportunities. I watched episodes of Longstreet (blind detective), The Prisoner, as well as Avengers and UNCLE, as they were showing any old programs that had a high sexual content presented in conjunction with detection and spying. Marvellous.

In the space of three episodes of UNCLE we saw William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Caesar Romero, Twiggy, Connie Francis, Werner Klemperer (colonel Klink), and Barbara Feldon (pre-99?) as an unlikely array of badguys and bystanders. Peter O'Toole was the evil genius in the Avengers, engaging Diana Rigg in leather, chains and spiked collar, and we have a lot more of this sort of thing to come as Tony bought half a dozen videos of the stuff. If the British music industry of the 70s and 80s seemed incestuous with various people making cameos on other's albums, TV programs made before then must have been the model.

It was watching TMFU that taught me some of the axioms of life: All women are always made up, even when asleep (except dykes, who are large, short-haired, and gracelessly use machine guns instead of pistols); men never panic, and even when perspiring and sporting dishevelled hair they are not permited to crease their clothes or get them splattered with blood (which they never do because bullets leave tiny holes). It's like the cartoon laws of physics.

There are a lot of lessons to be learnt from these old shows. Perhaps the important one is that the ingredients of good entertainment have not changed: interesting people, ambiguous humour, created for fun (and maybe profit). Contrast this with the unwittedly-written, super-seriously-acted, and sexually-crass programs of today (try Baywatch or Walker, Texas Ranger for some quite billious garbage, I am assured) and you have to come to a conclusion: There is a section of the population with neither sophistocation nor taste. I guess that hasn't changed either... but what they watched on TV thirty years ago has, fortunately, been discarded. I think.

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