Tuesday, May 22, 2012

15 Greatest TV Characters of the 1960s: Emma Peel

Name: Mrs. Emma Knight Peel

Portrayed by: Diana Rigg

TV series: The Avengers (the two Mrs. Peel seasons covered 1965-68)

Occupation: Amateur spy who worked with John Steed, a professional.

Lifestyle: Lived in an apartment. Drove a Lotus Elan convertible. When dressing for action, she favored catsuits--leather ones in her first year and then colorful cloth ones made of a stretch fabric. These jumpsuits became known as Emmapeelers.

Family and Friends: Husband Peter Peel was a test pilot, who went missing for two years when his plane crashed in the Amazon. Daughter of Sir John Knight. Steed is her best friend as well as professional partner.

Trademarks: Auburn hair; playful smile.

Useful Skills:  Martial arts experts; excellent fencer; drives very fast!

Classic quote: (In her farewell to Steed) "Always keep your bowler hat on in times of trouble...and beware diabolical masterminds."

Classic episodes: "The Gravediggers" (Emma gets tied to train tracks!); "Who's Who?" (Emma and Steed...there's more to it!); and "A Touch of Brimstone" (Emma wore an outfit that caused the episode to be banned in the U.S.).


  1. Now you've done it! I'm going to be thinking about Emma all day. What a gorgeous woman. I was so disappointed when Diana Rigg left the show.

  2. Emma Peel is a pop culture icon. Even if you never saw one episode she appeared in (like me), you still know she was on The Avengers.

  3. Ah, Emma Peel...Diana Rigg... Two other actresses played opposite Patrick Macnee in "The Avengers" (before and after Rigg--three if you count Joanna Lumley in "The New Avengers") but it's Diana Rigg who remains the heroine of the show to--and I don't think this is an exaggeration--everyone. The leather catsuits, the martial arts (it's clear now performed by a double in dim lighting), the Lotus, the banter with John Steed, the intelligence in that face and voice, that smile--just the character's name conjures up this and more for me. Diana Rigg was just the right fit for the tongue-in-cheek sophistication of the show.

  4. Great addition, of course. Another one of Emma's skills was that she was a genius, although she didn't get to show that off as much as her adeptness at fighting and driving. It's too bad she wasn't on THE AVENGERS for another season. Or twelve.

    1. Word. Or a million! I love how making her brilliantly intelligent actually makes her more of Steeds equal than a lot of other female characters in the "side-kick" role.

    2. I love the "Masterminds" episode, where she cleans Steed's clock on the IQ tests.

  5. THE AVENGERS was at its peak when the classy Ms. Rigg was around. There's no doubt that without her and her Emmapeelers, the show would be much less well-remembered than it is. The chemistry between her and Patrick Macnee is off the charts.

    Great choice! I've come around to the general consensus that the b & w first season shows are better than the later color ones.

  6. "Mrs. Peel, we're needed!" And off they went. John Steed and Mrs. Emma Peel were one of the best pairings ever on television. Dame Diana Rigg made "The Avengers" magic. Beauty and brains. What more could any woman want? Perfect choice for 15 best TV characters of the 1960s!

  7. Love, love, love Mrs. Peel. Well I like Steed too but Mrs. Peel was always one of my first heroines! As for my husband, he has always loved her character and ah...the way she filled out that black body suit! Excellent choice Rick!

  8. Mrs. Peel was simply the sexiest character on 60's TV.

  9. I had this one friend in college (like, two years ago) who would watch the Avengers with me regularly. We'd make tea and eat chocolate covered strawberries. We would always cheer when Mrs. Peel showed up in a cat suit because we knew there'd be a fight. And for our senior spring formal pictures we posed like Mrs. Peel in the opening sequence of the show, when she's karate-chopping the air. I'm not ashamed to admit that she and I were both a bit teary when Mrs. Peel left. She was our hero. I love what Dame Diana and Patrick McNee said about their characters, how they always played them as if they were carrying on a casual sexual relationship! How sexy is that!? xoxo for the post!