When sexy, sardonic Diana Rigg sported the leather catsuit in 1965 and became the second Mrs. Peel, "Avengers" aficionados were ecstatic. Now, for the first time ever, long-time devotees and new fans alike can enjoy in one set all 16 episodes in which Rigg threatened to steal this stupendous show from her equally engaging partner, John Steed, suavely portrayed by Patrick Macnee. Over 28 hours on 16 DVDs.
Along with Monty Python's Flying Circus, The Avengers practically defined British cult television, and it was never better than during the three years that Diana Rigg's Emma Peel character tossed out her witty barbs and karate kicks. The Complete Emma Peel Megaset encompasses all 51 episodes from 1965-66 (in black and white) and 1967 (in color). Paired with Patrick Macnee as the dapper, umbrella-wielding John Steed, Rigg's Mrs. Peel turned heads with her sexy outfits, then broke skulls of the various would-be world-dominating bad guys who crossed her path. Like the mixed crime-fighting teams who came after them in shows like Moonlighting and The X-Files, Steed and Mrs. Peel had a constant platonic playfulness. In one episode when Mrs. Peel is working undercover at a department store, Steed drops in for a visit, remarking, "They told me 'Mrs. Peel is in Ladies Underwear.' I rattled up the stairs three at a time." However, unlike their spiritual successors, Steed and Mrs. Peel never jumped the shark; instead she bid a fond farewell as she passed the torch to Steed's next partner, Tara King (Linda Thorson), just as she had been passed the torch from Honor Blackman. (Blackman left her Kathy Gale character to go on to fame as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger--in one episode, Steed receives a postcard from Gale sent from Fort Knox.) But although Macnee had some enjoyable moments with other partners throughout the series' run, it's the Emma Peel years that fans remember most fondly, not only for the great chemistry between the lead actors, but the superb writing and distinctly British, and distinctly '60s, quirky charm. The megaset was rereleased in 2006 in space-saving Thinpaks and with a new 216-minute bonus disc. --David Horiuchi