Avengers was most certainly not a household name in South Africa prior
to the radio series. With no national television service until 1976,
the mechanism simply was not present in the country to show television
programmes to mass audiences. While many other countries revelled in the
filmed adventures of John Steed and co., South Africa was not equipped to
join in the fun. The series took Britain by storm and also made a major
impression in the American markets, being that greatest of rarities, a
British series given a network transmission slot. However, as a filmed
series (rather than a videotaped one), The Avengers was able to
gain a modicum of exposure in South Africa through film rentals.
Diana Rigg and Patrick Macnee were
global stars in The Avengers as Emma Peel and John Steed, but South
Africa initially missed out.
Most South African suburbs in the 1960s and 1970s had rental libraries,
which offered 16mm film prints of films and television series for public
hire. Many homes were equipped with 16mm cine projectors, and film
hire was effectively the only way in which South Africans could see
British and American TV programmes. This was not always an ideal
system, however, as film prints could often be seriously damaged by
projection breakdowns or misuse. Prints reputedly had an average
life of no more than two years, and none of these prints are thought to
Awareness of The Avengers would have been little more than an undercurrent in South Africa,
but certainly Donald Monat and June Dixon remember seeing the series on 16mm film in their home.
It is believed that others involved in the Sonovision productions would have been exposed to the
series in this way, long before the prospect of the radio series arose.
Once the radio series premiered in its prime-time slot, The Avengers very quickly became a hit
show. Its stars, Diane Appleby and Donald Monat, soon found themselves very much the centre of
attention, proving to be very popular in their roles. The pair made many promotional appearances
to raise public awareness of the series, signing postcards of themselves as Steed and Emma. These
items were enthusiastically snapped up by the crowds, eager for mementoes of their heroes.
years, the original television series has been airing on South African