January 12, 2015

Brian Clemens: A Retrospective

Without dating myself too much, I can say that I grew up in an era where televisions were portable, made of plastic, and had black & white screens.

As a child, it was on that television that I began my love affair with several television shows - both Benny Hill and Monty Python (defying my mother's scolding that I was too young for both), scrambled movies via On-TV (a very early form of pay television), and CBS's late night lineup.

It was one evening when I couldn't sleep and turned on something called "Murdersville", later discovered to be an episode of The Avengers. The show had such an impact on me that I once claimed to have two childhood role models: Jon Pertwee as the Doctor and Patrick MacNee as John Steed.

So it was with great sadness that I read about the passing of Brian Clemens, who was the main writer on The Avengers.

Now, keep in mind - I was kind of a weird child. Most kids would watch to see who played their favorite parts - I was always more interested in the behind-the-scenes information. I was more curious about people like Gene Roddenberry & Rod Serling more than I was about William Shatner. But for a show like The Avengers - a show with a very unique tone - I was even more curious to explore the works of Brian Clemens....and boy, was the guy prolific.

But it's with his passing that I feel....well, even more uncomfortable in our current media climate. We live in a time when experiencing media - television shows, films, books, comics - are more focused on the emotional experience rather than enjoying the craft. In short, we are so used to having "the feels" that we almost expect our media to be tailored to our particular tastes....rather than enjoy them for the craft they provide.

One of Clemens' greatest assets was that he wrote a lot for television - and movies. In our current age, he would have put-upon bloggers (like me) berating him for any failures. In short, "You're failing because you're not doing what I think you should be doing...."

...and he didn't. In the war between art and commerce, Clemens straddled both. Watching episodes of The Avengers now via Cosi-TV,  I'm struck by the wit, the craft, and more importantly, by Diana Rigg. (OK, some things didn't change since childhood)....

But in true testimony to Brian Clemens, let me offer this - the next time you want to criticize a showrunner (let's say one whose name rhymes with Heathen Stuffhat)....put pen to paper yourself. Try putting together a decent script or story.

It's tough. Trust me, I know. But to deliver the kind of volume any writer delivers - even absolute dreck - requires a certain amount of discipline and hard work.

Brian Clemens inspired me in my youth....and quite honestly, he did so in ways I didn't realize until now

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