Imagine how Jenilee Harrison must have felt being the replacement for Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company. I’m sure it was a combination of joy and extreme pressure. It was a great honor, but these were some pretty big shoes to fill. The same can be said of Linda Thorson who replaced Diana Rigg (a replacement herself) on The Avengers in season 6. It would prove to be the show’s last season.
To be fair, the show was slipping and I’m not sure who could’ve replaced Rigg and saved it. Linda was roundly thrashed by the press as being a poor substitute – all looks and no brains, a damsel in distress rather than a strong heroine.
True, some of it was well-founded – Linda was very inexperienced as an actress and she got the part because she was the girlfriend of then-producer John Bryce. But I still say that Tara King (Thorson) was every bit as good a character as Emma Peel (Rigg). Perhaps, even better… yeah, you read it right. Take a look at some these facts before you…
1. The show failed because it became dependent on US audiences, and it was lined up against Laugh-In (a show which also killed Star Trek).
2. Season 6 was actually an IMPROVEMENT over the previous season. Few will argue that Peel’s last season was lame – it was becoming a spoof like Batman. In the last season, things started to get back to being serious.
3. The character of Tara King started to show some real promising signs towards the end of the season – she became more intelligent, less reliant on Steed, and more of a badass. Quite often, Tara could open up a can of whoop-ass that Emma Peel could have only dreamed of. Check out Tara beating the hell out of some bad guys in this YouTube clip:
4. The British reaction was unfavorable, but Thorson didn’t face the same sort of ridicule abroad. US audiences were somewhat ambivalent, and Thorson was much more popular in France than Rigg ever was.
It’s the ol’ Ted McGinley syndrome, where a last minute replacement gets the blame for the demise of an already floundering show. Before the show's cancellation, Linda Thorson was riding high – she was dating Frank Sinatra (who became her son’s godfather), and even had a musical career. (Listen to her single “Here I Am” which came out right around the time of her role on The Avengers).
Sadly, after the cancellation, Linda removed herself from the limelight and concentrated on venues with lower visibility. Perhaps today she views her stint on The Avengers as more of a curse than a blessing. It's always hard replacing someone that's so well loved.... just ask Sammy Hagar.