The Avengers: “The Hour That Never Was” (1965)

I was a teenager when I first discovered The Avengers in reruns on BBC America. As I recall, it aired in the late afternoon, shortly after I came home from school, and it wasn’t long before the series — which initially ran from 1961 to 1969 on the British network ITV — became part of my weekday routine. Ordinarily, I’m not sure that I would have had much interest in a show about secret agents, but I could tell from the start that this particular show was something unique, something special. Menacing wheelchair-bound nannies, men repeatedly getting hit by cars with no ill effects, mind-swapping machines, training schools for proper English gentlemen, nods to the Adam West Batman, quaint villages where murder could be overlooked for the right price — I never knew what to expect, but I did know that it would be fun and entertaining and probably more than a little quirky. In the midst of all that, there was always a mystery to be solved, and it was sure to be solved with wit and style (as well as a fight or two) by the dynamic duo of John Steed (Patrick Macnee) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg). Emma would eventually be replaced by Tara King (played by Linda Thorson) following Rigg’s departure from the series, and although I didn’t dislike Tara and enjoyed quite a number of the episodes that featured her, nothing could match that Steed and Mrs. Peel pairing.

From what I remember, BBC America exclusively ran the color episodes of The Avengers; at any rate, those were the only ones I ever saw there. It wasn’t until several years later that I encountered the black-and-white portion of the series, including the early episodes that teamed Steed with Honor Blackman’s Cathy Gale and, better yet, a slew of new-to-me Emma Peel adventures. There were a lot of gems among them, and one of my favorites is an episode directed by Gerry O’Hara and written by Roger Marshall that premiered in November 1965: “The Hour That Never Was.”

Continue reading “The Avengers: “The Hour That Never Was” (1965)”

The Adventures of Pete & Pete: “Grounded for Life” (1994)

At the risk of overgeneralizing, it seems reasonably safe to say that any television series that features a metal plate in a woman’s head and a preteen boy’s tattoo in its opening credits, presenting them as equals with the rest of the show’s main characters, is bound to be at least a tad offbeat — and that’s not even accounting for the fact that the two of those other main characters are brothers with the same first name.

Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of The Adventures of Pete & Pete.

Continue reading “The Adventures of Pete & Pete: “Grounded for Life” (1994)”

Driving Through Fog: La Cotta (1967)


Andrea (Luciano Piergiovanni) may only be a fifteen-year-old Milanese schoolboy (“Let’s say sixteen,” he suggests), but he prefers to view himself as a man of the world, especially when it comes to romance. “Every guy has his own technique for picking up girls,” he explains. “Some feign indifference. Some are very passionate, but that’s not in at the moment. Some act tough, but most guys act sad — who knows why, but falling in love makes them sad and surly. They look preoccupied. My technique, very little used but perhaps the most effective, is to use ideas and self-control. I talk and talk until they’re totally confused, and the trick is done.” Although Ermanno Olmi’s 1967 made-for-television movie La Cotta (or, in English, The Crush) runs a mere forty-nine minutes, Andrea manages to do a good bit of talking in that time; he also proves that he’s not immune to total confusion himself.

Continue reading “Driving Through Fog: La Cotta (1967)”

The Twilight Zone: “It’s a Good Life” (1961)

Rod Serling

“Tonight’s story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States, and there’s a little town there called Peaksville. On a given morning not too long ago, the rest of the world disappeared, and Peaksville was left all alone. Its inhabitants were never sure whether the world was destroyed and only Peaksville left untouched or whether the village had somehow been taken away. They were, on the other hand, sure of one thing: the cause. A monster had arrived in the village. Just by using his mind, he took away the automobiles, the electricity, the machines, because they displeased him, and he moved an entire community back into the dark ages — just by using his mind.

“Now I’d like to introduce you to some of the people in Peaksville, Ohio. This is Mr. Fremont. It’s in his farmhouse that the monster resides. This is Mrs. Fremont. And this is Aunt Amy, who probably had more control over the monster in the beginning than almost anyone. But one day she forgot. She began to sing aloud. Now, the monster doesn’t like singing, so his mind snapped at her and turned her into the smiling, vacant thing you’re looking at now. She sings no more. And you’ll note that the people in Peaksville, Ohio have to smile. They have to think happy thoughts and say happy things, because once displeased, the monster can wish them into a cornfield or change them into a grotesque walking horror. This particular monster can read minds, you see. He knows every thought. He can feel every emotion. Oh yes, I did forget something, didn’t I? I forgot to introduce you to the monster. This is the monster. His name is Anthony Fremont. He’s six years old, with a cute little boy face and blue, guileless eyes. But when those eyes look at you, you’d better start thinking happy thoughts, because the mind behind them is absolutely in charge. This is The Twilight Zone.”

Continue reading “The Twilight Zone: “It’s a Good Life” (1961)”