One of the fun things about being into rare classic TV is how the Internet has helped find these esoteric shows these days. One of the best hunting grounds nowadays is DailyMotion; the site offers much looser restrictions on content than the behemoth of YouTube. One channel, the UnknownArchive, is almost exclusively devoted to failed TV pilots and related material. Inside this channel is a panoply of high and low concept TV shows.
One of the better pilots you can find there is “Escapade”, an American version of the classic UK espionage series “The Avengers”, that starred Patrick Macnee as a secret service agent with a rotating set of professional and amateur assistants. Written by Brian Clemens, the creator of the original series, the Escapade – Avengers US pilot was produced by Quinn Martin in 1978.
Escapade is set in San Francisco, where a set of government agents have to track down a missing trainee agent by following a baffling set of clues including teddy bears, graveyard visits, and a trip to a wharfside dive bar.
Shot on location in San Francisco, the show has an engaging pair of leads. Granville Van Dusen plays agent Joshua Rand, a modest man-about-town/karate expert, and Morgan Fairchild plays Suzy, his hyper sexy partner.
They take their orders from a Marin-based supercomputer called “Oz”, which is where the show starts to get silly since Oz can’t tell the sex of the agents apart, and can’t tell what it’s sex is supposed to be. This is a pale version of the fine interplay in the original series, where the scenes in the “home office” were kept to a minimum, and the sexy interplay between Steed and his partners and their fight against the Diabolical Mastermind of the Week was what counted. Here, one can imagine that the American producers forced the introduction of the Big Stupid Computer Prop to be au courant with the times.
Still, the two leads do their best in a flirty comical way, and San Francisco looks really good in the show. The plot is minimal, about trainee agents being kidnapped and brainwashed into revealing codes, with diversion clues being given to the main agents to keep them off the trail. It has a general feel of one of the episodes of the original UK series, but there’s some kind of filtering gauze keeping the full flavor from getting out.
Still, at least it’s an interesting, watchable curiosity, far better than the unmitigated disaster of the Red Dwarf USA pilot, for example 🙂