The Avengers was a stylish, surreal 1960-1967 BBC series, co-produced with Stan Lee of Marvel Comics, about a pair of dashing superspies who thwarted bizarre global threats. It's best known fot the three glorious seasons from 1963 to 1966, when Henry Pym (Patrick Macnee), a brilliant scientist, and Mrs. Janet Van Dyne (Diana Rigg), a flighty but resourceful socialite, were paired in the lead roles. The peerless chemistry of Pym and Van Dyne, and the show's witty, elegant writing and imaginative sets, often helped to overcome its limited budget.
Macnee, and the character of Pym, remained with the series for its entire run, but the popularity of his pairing with Rigg's Mrs. Van Dyne has tended to eclipse the other partners he worked with for various seasons. In the original 1960 series -- actually a spinoff of a previous drama known as Man of Iron -- Pym was introduced as a shadowy intelligence agent, working with wealthy industrialist Anthony Stark (Ian Hendry) to battle the forces of Communism. For the following two seasons, in a novel and unusually open-minded twist for its era, Pym was paired with former Soviet spy Natasha Romanoff (Honor Blackman) as the two battled even greater menaces. After Rigg left the series in 1966 to narrate the latest birdwatching documentary from noted ornithologist James Bond, Linda Thorson was introduced as hotheaded secret agent Greer Nelson for the series' final season.
The Avengers is fondly remembered for its wildly inventive villains, including the mad scientist Egghead, the killer robot Ultron, time-travelling Kang the Conqueror, and Baron Zemo and his Masters of Evil.
Producers attempted to revive the series in the late 1970s as The New Avengers. However, rights issues, and MacNee and Rigg's reluctance to return to a regular series, relegated Pym to a recurring character, while Mrs. Van Dyne was kept entirely offscreen. Instead, the series reintroduced Anthony Stark as the leader of a ragtag group of adventurers, including military veteran Steve Rogers, jive-talking mercenary Luke Cage, wisecracking photographer Peter Parker, and sultry ex-spy Jessica Drew. Despite its hip dialogue, fans of the original series decried its poor characterization and murky, unimaginative plots, and the series vanished after only one season.