Our Adam Adamant Lives! viewing choice was season one Satanist shocker "The Last Sacrifice". To make ends meet an aristocratic family is forced to conduct tours of the family home and put merry-go-rounds in the rose gardens. No wonder another, less savoury, way of making money seems so appealing.
This show is incredibly hard to like, which is a shame, as there's something about it that really makes you want to like it. The idea is a real corker - the problem is that the execution is so serious and surprisingly charmless.
Gerald Harper is superbly stiff, and Juliet Harmer is wonderfully kooky, and at times their odd couple relationship rattles along... and at other times it's almost as though the two aren't even in the same programme. Harper's performance is especially peculiar - sometimes he appears to be acting loudly all to himself, like a rambling madman with a sword-stick. This bizarrely stilted appearance isn't helped by make-up that makes him look as though he's wearing rather too much fake tan.
The whole show shares this slightly unhappy feel. Characters and scenes strangely fail to work. Just when you're wowed by a snappy bit of dialogue, or a beautifully set-up scene, it all comes apart with a lame fight scene, or even just a badly-staged door being opened.
The problem, I think, is the ambition to be the BBC's Avengers. When the Avengers was studio-bound, it excelled at doing studio-bound things. Adam Adamant is studio-bound, but tries to be expensive, glossy, filmed Avengers. Trying to go up against 50 minutes of the classiest television ever made with the production values of Doctor Who is always going to be tricky. Adam Adamant fails, but fails valiantly.
Adam Adamant feels a bit like the Avengers crossed with HG Wells - lots of Victorian dandyism, but with a strange fondness for Minis and words like 'Kinky'. It's not quite Avengers-grade, but it's passable.
Perhaps it is simply the different pace of sixties television. Post Matrix and MTV, the lack of, well, action in an action show is odd. But technically, it's a corker - if you ever see this episode, check out the magically appearing fairground. The old-style BBC in-house directors really knew their onions. And look - location shoots!
I judge films by fidgets - the more times I have to squirm in my seat to stop my legs going numb, the worse the film. I think this was a two-fidget programme. Not bad for a venerable old archive gem.
Although I quite enjoyed this, I can’t imagine settling down for more of an extended viewing - one episode was quite enough.
It’s a pity, because the idea of Adam Adamant’s character itself is inspired. When he’s at his most Edwardian, castigating Miss Jones for her loose morals, or expounding on the shoddy quality of foreign goods, then the programme really seems to work. More of this stiff-collared repartee, and rather less drawn-out plots would have pushed Adam Adamant Lives! into the premier league of cult viewing. That this episode suffered from absolutely the very worst fight choreography I’ve ever seen didn’t help either - Adamant’s fancy footwork and consummate skill with the rapier being conveyed by a lot of bumbling around and crashing into one another.
The programme was eventually abandoned by the BBC because it was felt that it never quite "gelled", and you can see what they meant. A revived version, set in the Cool Britannia years of the nineties, would be an intriguing prospect though…
One man from the past battles the crimes of the present with only a sword-stick and a Mini Cooper to aid him. Gerald Harper certainly gives Adam a touch of class, although I'm not sure the stab first, ask questions later approach he uses would be allowable in modern TV drama.
The whole cast seem very posh, even the ones who aren't meant to be (Miss Jones, we mean you), and the wobbly dungeon sets prove that Doctor Who didn't have exclusive rights to shaky walls.
Adam Adamant isn't a bad show, but it's always going to look inferior when compared to the lavishly-budgeted Avengers. The only time it comes close is a shot of Adamant arriving at the stately home only to find the premises converted into an extremely tacky tourist trap, complete with funfair.