Thursday, October 09, 2008

Honey West

Back in 1965, a character who appeared in an episode of Burke's Law was spun off into her own half-hour long series. She was Honey West, played by the wonderful Anne Francis. She was a PI with a guy who worked with her and a pet ocelot and she kicked butt. The show didn't last long, but Honey was TV's first independent, female action hero. She wasn't the junior partner. She didn't answer to a man. She had gadgets that would have made The Man from UNCLE proud (it premiered a year earlier) and an attitude. She had the confidence that she could do the job.

Sure, there was Emma Peel of The Avengers. Emma, played by the amazing Diana Rigg, with her sexy jumpsuits, was awesome. But Mrs. Peel was the junior partner to John Steed (Patrick Macnee). And a year or two later, there was The Girl from UNCLE, played in an episode of The Man from UNCLE by Mary Ann Mobley as a rookie agent partnered with a veteran male partner (played by Norman Fell), then in the series by Stefanie Powers who often needed rescuing. The show was part of a brief, campy era of TV, and April was a bit of a ditz. Partnered with Mark Slate (Noel Harrison) who was her equal, she would have been no match for Honey.

Years later, I discovered the British comic strip (in anthologies I found in comics specialty shops) Modesty Blaise and have been a big Modesty fan since those days in the mid-'70s. It occurs to me now that Modesty and Honey were similar. Both were independent women capable in the fields of martial arts. Both worked with men but were superior to them in "rank," with both men being devoted to them but not romantically. Both kicked ass. Modesty, however, did not have an ocelot. And I probably love Modesty so much because she's so much like Honey, perhaps better.

I wish Honey West had lasted longer, but she left her mark on television. The series was one I never thought I'd get to see again, especially on DVD, so I'm thrilled to finally have it in hand. I've got some good hours of TV to watch.


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