Two years after the original television series drew to a close, John Steed and Emma Peel returned to find a new audience in an unexpected locale South Africa and were this time played by expatriate British actors Donald Monat and Diane Appleby. By arrangement with EMI in the United Kingdom, The Avengers was adapted from the original television scripts and recorded at Sonovision Studios in Johannesburg. It was a mainstay of the South African Broadcasting Corporation's English language service Springbok Radio's weeknight schedule from 6th December 1971 until 28th December 1973. Other drama programmes running on the station at the time were The World of Hammond Innes, Sonovision's Squad Cars (an absolute pillar of Springbok Radio, running from 1967 to 1985 when the station closed), and Max Headley - Special Agent, in which Monat made many appearances.

The Avengers would be broadcast on Monday to Friday evenings in prime-time between 7.15 and 7.30pm on Springbok Radio on the station's evening frequencies - 4945kHz and 6195kHz.

The very nature of the timeslot (being only fifteen minutes in length) immediately forced the South African radio Avengers to stray from the show's traditional format. On British television, the series had always been presented as weekly fifty-minute stand-alone dramas, but on radio The Avengers would serialise the stories over five consecutive weeknights (later the number of episodes per serial rose to six and sometimes seven installments).

Serialisation proved not to have as major an impact on plot structure as might at first have been envisaged. The original television series had been designed to be sold to commercial broadcasters around the world, so there were an abundance of 'cliffhangers' written into each episode - after which, breaks could be inserted. Many of these dramatic devices were retained and manifested themselves in climactic episode endings on the radio. Oddly, despite the fact that the serial format was very much imposed upon the production, it remains one of the most endearing aspects of the radio series.

A further stipulation imposed upon the series was that each episode had to accommodate two 45-second commercial breaks - one after the opening theme and one before the closing theme. Allowing for station announcements and the like, this meant that for each Avengers episode, the producers would have to produce something in the region of thirteen minutes of programme material. The commercials transmitted during the Avengers broadcasts - for beauty products, household detergents, deodorants and iced lollies - suggest that a family audience listened to the series, with the South African housewife being the major target of advertisers at this time of the evening.

In addition to the regular commercials that aired on Springbok Radio, many timeslots on the channel were held by sponsor advertisers, who would finance programme making in return for publicity.

The timeslot that The Avengers occupied had been sponsored for many years by the detergent manufacturer, Lever Brothers, and had seen them funding many long-running serials, notably No Place to Hide, which ran from 1959 to early 1971, though the serial that directly preceded The Avengers was That Strong Family, which had starred Diane Wilson as Jody Strong.

It is thought that the concept to bring the series to the airwaves may well have originated from within the Lever Brothers advertising agency. It was not uncommon for sponsors to dictate what programmes were to be produced, based upon what they believed would be beneficial for their products to be associated with. Quite why the washing powder, Cold Water Omo and The Avengers were seen as a match made in heaven is anyone's guess, but this didn't stop each episode being introduced with the announcement (by Denis Smith and later Malcolm Gooding) "And now... from the makers of Cold Water Omo..." Omo was Lever Brothers' major detergent of the day, and the cold water variety was their latest innovation.

by Alan Hayes with thanks to Donald Monat, Frans Erasmus and Tony Jay

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