Saturday, January 10, 2009

Pat Hingle R.I.P.

Character actor Pat Hingle, who appeared in everything from The Andy Griffith Show to Clint Eastwood movies, passed on January 3 from myelodysplasia. He was 84 years old.

Pat Hingle was born Martin Patterson Hingle on July 19. 1924 in Miami, Florida. He was only six years old when his father abandoned his family. Hingle's mother had to move from place to place finding what work she could. Hingle attended the University of Texas as an advertising major, but dropped out in 1941 Hingle to join the United States Navy. He served aboard the U.S.S. Marshall. Following the war he returned to the University of Texas. While he initially became involved with the theatre department as a means of meeting girls, he soon learned that acting was what he wanted to do. In college he appeared in over 35 plays over a three year period. After graduation Hingle moved to New York where he acted on stage and in television. He made his debut on television in the 1951 episode of Suspense entitled "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde." He made his debut on Broadway in 1954 in a part in the play End as a Man. That same year he made his first appearance on film in an uncredited role in On the Waterfront.

Pat Hingle would have a long career on the Broadway stage. Hingle was a regular on Broadway throughout the Fifties and Sixties, appearing in such plays as Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (originating the role of Gooper), The Dark at the Top of the Stairs, J.B. (playing the title role), Blues for Mister Charlie, The Odd Couple (as a replacement for Walter Matthau as Oscar Madison), and Johnny No-Trump. He appeared less frequently on Broadway after 1970, but would go onto appear in such plays as The Selling of the President, and the 1997 revival of 1776.

Hingle also had a very healthy film career. He appeared in the films The Strange One and No Down Payment (both released in 1957). It was while he was in the Broadway play J.B. that he was offered lead role in the film Elmer Gantry. Hingle lost the role down after accidentally plummeting 54 feet down an elevator shaft, fracturing his skull, one of his wrists, and many of his ribs. In the Sixties he appeared in such films as Splendour in the Grass, The Ugly American, Invitation to a Gunfighter, Nevada Smith, Jigsaw, and the Clint Eastwood movie Hang 'Em High. During the Seventies much of Hingle's career was spent in television, but he continued to appear in movies, including WUSA, The Carey Treatment, The Super Cops, Independence (in which he played John Adams), the Clint Eastwood film The Gauntlet, and Norma Rae. In the Eighties he appeared less frequently on film, although he did appear in the movies Going Berserk, Running Brave, the Dirty Harry movie Sudden Impact, The Falcon and the Snowman, and Maximum Overdrive. His most notable role during the Eighties may have been in the 1989 movie Batman, in which he appeared as Commissioner Gordon. He was the only actor besides Michael Gough (as Alfred) to appear in all four movies of the Nineties Batman franchise. Beyond the Nineties Batman movies, from the Nineties to the Naughts Hingle would appear in the films The Grifters, Lightning Jack, The Quick and the Dead, The Hunter's Moon, Muppets in Space, the 2000 version of Shaft, and Waltzing Anna. He played his final role in the movie Undoing Time, released just last year.

While Hingle appeared frequently on stage and in movies, he may be most familiar to viewers from his long career in television. In the Fifties he appeared on such shows as Appointment with Adventure, The Goodyear Television Playhouse, The Phil Silvers Show (AKA Sgt. Bilko), The Philco Television Playhouse, Studio One, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and The United States Steel Hour. In the Sixties he appeared on such shows as Cain's Hundred, The Untouchables, The Twilight Zone, Route 66, Rawhide, Daniel Boone, The Andy Griffith Show, Mission: Impossible, The Invaders, and Bonanza. Hingle was considered for the role of Artemus Gordon on The Wild Wild West. The role would ultimately go to Ross Martin. Hingle started the Seventies out filling in for Milburn Stone, who played Doc Addams, on Gunsmoke while that actor was ill. For six episodes Hingle played Dr. John Chapman. Throughout the decade he appeared on such shows as Kung Fu, Hec Ramsey, McCloud, Barbary Coast, and Barnaby Jones. From the Eighties into the Naughts, Hingle continued to appear on television, in such shows as M*A*S*H, Hart to Hart, Murder She Wrote, Cheers, Wings, and Homicide. Although he had a long career in television, Hingle played only a few recurring characters in series beyond Dr. Chapman on Gunsmoke. He appeared in recurring roles on Stone (as Chief Paulton), Hail to the Chief (as Lamar Montgomery), and The Court (as Chief Justice Townsend). Hingle also appeared in several telefilms, including The Ballad of Andy Crocker, Tarantulas: The Deadly Cargo, Elvis (as Colonel Parker), Of Mice and Men, The Habitation of Dragons, and Truman (as Boss Pendergast). Hingle also played in the mini-series War and Remembrance (as Admiral Halsey) and The Shining.

Pat Hingle was perhaps best known for playing such authority figures as police officers, judges, politicians, and military officers. In truth this belied his sheer versatility as an actor. In his prolific career Hingle played everything from hard working husband Herman Kreitzer in No Down Payment to the Ugly American Homer Atkins in the movie of the same name to dedicated track coach Bill Easton in Running Brave. Even when he was playing authority figures, he could be very versatile. After all, Pat Hingle didn't simply play dedicated lawman Commissioner Gordon in the Batman franchise, but also the corrupt Judge Adam Fenton in Hang 'Em High. Indeed, it is a mark of Hingle's versatility that he was prolific in three different media--on stage, in film, and on television. Most actors can only boast being a star of one of these. Pat Hingle was a star on all three.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pulp Illustrator Edd Cartier Passes On

Edd Cartier, who illustrated such legendary pulp magazines as The Shadow and Astounding Science Fiction, passed on December 25, 2008 at the age of 94.

Edd Cartier was born Edward Daniel Cartier in North Bergen, New Jersey in 1914. His father ran the Cartier Saloon in North Bergen. The building which housed the saloon also held a dance hall, gas station, indoor parking garage, machine shop, and watch repair shop. His oldest brother was a mechanic at Teterboro Airport in Bergen County, New Jersey. While young Cartier not only got to fly with aircraft manufacturer Anthony Fokker and aircraft designer Igor Sikorsky, but he knew both Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes while young. He developed an interest in art while young. His father let him paint Christmas pictures on the windows of Cartier Saloon.

Cartier attended the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. An instructor there was also an illustrator for Street and Smith, the most largest pulp magazine publisher of the time. Cartier started selling illustrations for $8.00 each to such Street and Smith pulp magazines as Detective Story, Wild Wild West Weekly, and, of course, The Shadow. While he wanted to be a Western artist, upon graduating the Pratt Institute, Cartier found himself illustrating The Shadow following the legendary Tom Lovell. In 1939 John W. Campbell lured Cartier away from The Shadow to the new science fiction magazine Unknown.

Cartier was drafted during World War II. He served as an infantryman and heavy machine gunner for a tank battalion in the European theatre. Wounded in the Battle of the Bulge and later when the hospital train he was on blew up, he was given both a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star. Following the war Cartier returned to Street and Smith. He illustrated Astounding Science Fiction, The Shadow, and Doc Savage. He also illustrated covers for Street and Smith's comic book line, including Red Dragon Comics and Super-Magician Comics. During the Fifties Cartier was the primary illustrator for both the Fantasy Press and Gnome Press. Cartier was also a draughtsman for an engineering company. Starting in the late Fifties he was art director for the Mosstype Corporation for over 25 years.

Edd Cartier was not only one of the last surviving pulp illustrators, but also one of the best. He had a strong style which was put to good use on his noirish illustrations for The Shadow and his more whimsical ones in Astounding Science Fiction and Unknown. He was also very prolific. He did over 800 illustrations for The Shadow, 200 illustrations for Unknown, and 300 for Astounding Science Fiction. His influence was seen on comic book artists such as Mort Meskin, Joe Orlando, and Jerry Robinson, and science fiction/fantasy illustrators such as Frank Kelly Freas. When it came to pulp illustration, Cartier's talent was only matched by a very few.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Spy Shows of the Sixties Part Five

"I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered. My life is my own." (Number Six,from the episode "Arrival" of The Prisoner)

In American television the spy cycle came to an end in the 1967-1968 season. No new spy series would debut for the entirety of the 1968-1969 season. There were a few spy shows remaining on the air. Sadly, the 1968-1969 season would be a very difficult one for most of them.

One of few exceptions was the series Mission: Impossible. Oddly enough, the 1968-1969 season would be the most successful season Mission: Impossible ever had. That season Mission: Impossible made its only appearance in the top twenty shows for the year, at #11. The series would remain on network television until 1973. At nearly seven seasons, Mission: Impossible was the longest running American spy series, and the second longest spy series in either the United Kingdom or the United States (The Avengers beat it by a few episodes).

Both The Prisoner and The Saint would return as summer replacements. The Prisoner had ended production long ago, but for The Saint this was its last season. Having tired of the role, Roger Moore had decided to leave the show. The final season of The Saint debuted on NBC on April 18, 1969.

Get Smart would also survive the season, although it would not remain on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC). For its fourth season NBC moved Get Smart from the 8:30 Eastern time slot on Saturday to the 8:00 Eastern time slot that same night. While the difference may have only been a half hour, it was enough to seriously hurt the show's ratings. Opposite The Jackie Gleason Show on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) (it would be 25th in the ratings for the whole season) and The Newlywed Game on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the ratings for Get Smart dropped so low that NBC cancelled the comedy in February 1969. Fortunately, CBS would pick up the series up almost immediately. Get Smart would survive for one more season on CBS. Get Smart would not be the only spy series to leave the air during the 1969-1970 season. It Takes a Thief was cancelled as well. Fellow spy comedy Hogan's Heroes would be cancelled during the 1970-1971 season, a victim of CBS's effort to revamp its schedule to appeal to younger, more urban audiences.

The Avengers had survived the 1967-1968 season with respectable ratings and as a result appeared on ABC's fall schedule for the first time (previously it served as a summer or mid-season replacement). Unfortunately, turmoil in the production of the show and ABC's unfortunate choice of when to schedule The Avengers would spell its doom. It was in April 1967 that Diana Rigg decided to leave The Avengers. This created a crisis for the production team, who were now faced with replacing the wildly popular Emma Peel. In secret the producers began screen testing actresses to find Diana Rigg's replacement. Among the actresses who were considered were Gabrielle Drake (who would go on to appear in the series UFO), Jane Merrow (who had appeared in the 1963 serial Lorna Doone and Danger Man), and Barbara Steele (who had appeared in the movie 8 1/2).

At the same time that the producers started searching for a replacement for Diana Rigg, it was decided to change the style of the show. Throughout the two Emma Peel series, The Avengers had faced a modern day version of the Hellfire Club, a sentient man eating plant, killer pussycats, and a device which could swap minds. Despite the fact that these episodes had been wildly successful on both sides of the Atlantic, the decision was made to move the show away from fantasy and more towards reality. James Bryce, who had produced the majority of the Cathy Gale run of the show, was hired as the new producer. Brian Clemens (who had developed the show for Sydney Newman) and Albert Fennell, both of who had produced the Emma Peel run of The Avengers, left The Avengers very shortly afterwards, unhappy with the direction the series was taking.

It was after Clemens and Fennell had left that a replacement for Diana Rigg was finally found. Although there are other stories, the most common one is that young actress Linda Thorsson was hired with the approval of Don Boyle, then head of ABC in the United States. Linda Thorsson was cast as Tara King, a young woman fresh from training. As a result, initially Tara was a weaker character than Cathy Gale or Emma Peel ever had been. While Mrs. Gale and Mrs. Peel were rarely in need of rescue, Tara often played the damsel in distress. Eventually, the character was revamped so as to be stronger. Linda Thorsson herself would not have it easy starting out on The Avengers. She was immediately sent to a health resort to lose weight. It was also insisted she dye her hair blonde to offer a contrast to Emma Peel. As a result, her hair fell out and she was forced to wear wigs for several months until her naturally brunette locks grew back. The Avengers was also the first time Linda Thorsson had ever appeared before the camera. She was fresh from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she had received no training in acting for television or film.

Producer John Bryce soon had problems of his own. He found himself falling far behind the production schedule, with the contract with ABC in the United States to fill. He had only shot three and a half episodes when Brian Clemens and Albert Fennell were invited back and given total control of the series. Clemens and Fennell reshot one of Bryce's episodes and pitched the rest as unacceptable. To save time, they recycled a script that had been meant for Emma Peel, "Split," as a Tara King episode.

The Avengers could perhaps have survived the turmoil taking place during its production (it had before), had it not been for ABC's fall 1968 schedule. ABC scheduled the series at 7:30 Eastern time on Monday night. This placed it opposite Gunsmoke on CBS (which would rank #6 in the top twenty five shows for the season) and Laugh In on NBC (then the number one show for the season). It was hardly a surprise, then, that ABC announced the cancellation of The Avengers in February 1969. With the necessary money from the United States, The Avengers could not continue in the United Kingdom either. The longest running spy series of all time was over.

Strangely enough, the final series of The Avengers was the first to debut in the United States before it did the United Kingdom. The last season of The Avengers debuted in the United States on September 23, 1968. It would not debut in the United Kingdom until January 12, 1969, only about a month before ABC in the United States cancelled it.

While The Avengers was cancelled due to low ratings, The Wild Wild West would be cancelled for an entirely different reason. Following the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the television industry was faced with renewed outcries over violence on television. In previous years at most the networks might cancel some of the more offensive series and then go about their business, but in 1968 the networks actually blinked. Initially the networks severely cut the amount of violence contained in television shows. Whereas once many Westerns had featured massive bar fights, the fights were now restricted to a punch or two. And stunts which had once been acceptable on network television shows, such as falling off a horse in a Western, were even counted as possibly being "violent." Even the gunfight which opened every episode of Gunsmoke was cut in favour of a new opening. Indeed, Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik in their book Watching TV: Six Decades of American Television referred to the 1968-1969 season as "the One Punch Season."

Despite the fact that the networks had dramatically cut the amount of violence in their shows, the public outcry continued unabated. At least two networks then took the next step of cancelling shows which had been criticised for violence. In November 1968 NBC bought the contracts for the Saturday cartoons Birdman and the Galaxy Trio and Super President and cancelled both of them while they were still in production. It cost the network around $750,000. Both series went off the air that December. As to CBS, they cancelled another show which the watchdog groups had attacked for violence: The Wild Wild West. While its ratings had fallen since its debut in the 1965-1966 season, the series was still getting respectable ratings when it was taken off the air. In fact, for the 1969-1970 season CBS would air reruns of The Wild Wild West (although they were specifically selected and edited for violence) as a summer replacement. The reruns consistently won their timeslot. Wile only Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Super President, and The Wild Wild West were cancelled due to violence, the fact that they were cancelled at all because of such demonstrated the turnaround in the networks' attitude towards violence. And unfortunately for the spy series, it also showed the growing power of watchdog groups opposed to violence on television.

Outcries over television violence from watchdog groups would continue well into the Seventies, and among their favourite targets were the spy shows of the Sixties. In fact, The Wild Wild West would be targeted by a watchdog group even as it made its first run in syndication. It was in November 1970 that a group called the Foundation to Improve Television filed a lawsuit to prevent WTOP-TV in Washington D.C. from showing The Wild Wild West before 10:00 PM, contending it violated "the constitutional rights of child viewers" in exposing them to alleged violence. In January 1971 the lawsuit was dismissed in U.S. District Court, but it would not be the last attempt by a watchdog group to remove shows they considered overly violent from the air.

In 1973 the National Association for Better Broadcasting filed a petition with the FCC to deny Los Angeles independent station KTTV's licence renewal on the grounds that its programming was too violent. It was for this reason that on October 1, 1973 KTTV signed an agreement that would remove 42 animated cartoons from the station's programming, including the 1966 series The New Adventures of Superman, Aquaman, Marine Boy, and even Mighty Mouse. The station also agreed to issue a parental guidance warning before 81 live action series the Natonal Association for Better Broadcasting considered violent, including 77 Sunset Strip, Batman, Have Gun-Will Travel, The Untouchables, and, of all things, The Lone Ranger. Among the spy series affected were The Avengers, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and, of course, The Wild Wild West.

The agreement between the National Association for Better Broadcasting and the KTTV would force the major television syndicators to take action. In late October, 1973 Kevin O'Sullivan, president of Worldvision Enterprises, called a meeting with 11 other syndication companies to take action against what he called "...the blacklisting and greylisting of television series." As it was, O'Sullivan need not have bothered. It was in September 1975 that the FCC declared the agreement between National Association for Better Broadcasting and the KTTV improper, stating that KTTV had relinquished too much control over their programming to the watchdog group.

KTTV was not the only station targeted by the National Association for Better Broadcasting. The group also petitioned the FCC to deny renewal for the operating licence of KTTV's sister station KCOP on the basis of alleged excessive violence in their children's programming. The FCC responded by stating that Section 326 of the Communications Act prohibited censorship by the Commission and renewed KCOP's licence.

While the National Association for Better Broadcasting's efforts to prevent the renewal of the licenses of television stations whose programming they considered objectionable failed, it would have an impact on one of the spy series of the Sixties. Listed alongside such fare as The Untouchables on the National Association for Better Broadcasting's blacklist, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. became a show that was controversial for its alleged violence. While the series did very well in syndication during its first several years since NBC had cancelled it, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was suddenly shown in much fewer markets than it once had. By the late Seventies, it was difficult to find the show on any local station's schedules. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was not the only series affected by the blacklisting of watchdog groups. The classic Western Have Gun-Will Travel was also so affected.

Strangely enough, other spy series of the Sixties were not so adversely affected by the blacklists of watchdog groups. For all that it may have been the prime target of watchdog groups for years, The Wild Wild West continued unabated in syndication. The Avengers would also continue to air on local stations across the United States. In fact, it would even be part of the lineup of The CBS Late Movie in the late Seventies and early Eighties. This leaves the question as to why The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was so adversely affected by being blacklisted by watchdog groups for alleged violence when The Wild Wild West and The Avengers were not. After all, all three series were spy shows that delved heavily into science fiction and fantasy. The reason could simply be due to the nature of the action in the three series. Set in the modern day United States, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. sometimes featured gunplay, not as much as The Untouchables and other crime dramas, although it did occur. On The Wild Wild West and The Avengers, most of the action came in the form of hand to hand combat. In fact, it must be pointed out that James West and Emma Peel were among the first characters in the United Kingdom and the United States to use kung fu on the small screen. For a Western gunplay did not occur that often on The Wild Wild West. As to The Avengers, set in the United Kingdom, there were whole episodes in which guns did not appear. It is possible that when looking at shows which were alleged by watchdog groups to have violence, station managers around the United States also paid attention to the nature of that violence, whether it was gunplay or fisticuffs. And given that very few fist fights are fatal, they may not have taken the violence in shows featuring hand to hand combat that seriously. It is notable that other series which were seriously hurt by the blacklists of watchdog groups such as Have Gun-Will Travel and The Untouchables, were also ones in which gunplay played a role.

Even as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. saw its syndication profits dry up due to unfair accusations of violence, a revival in interest in the spy series was beginning. The continued popularity of the Tara King run in France led to a revival of The Avengers called The New Avengers in 1975. The new series would air on The CBS Late Movie starting in 1978. The Saint would be revived in 1978 as Return of The Saint, with Ian Ogilvy playing the famous Simon Templar. Return of The Saint would also run on The CBS Late Movie starting in 1979. Here it must be pointed out that The CBS Late Movie was very significant in the revival of interest in the spy series of the Sixties. Not only did CBS air The New Avengers and Return of The Saint on The CBS Late Movie, but they also aired The Avengers, The Saint, and The Prisoner.

The late Seventies saw a cycle towards television show reunion movies, with the casts of such shows as Father Knows Best and Gilligan's Island reuniting for movie length continuations of their series. Quite naturally, with renewed interest in the spy series of the Sixties, a few of the old spy series would also see reunions. The first such reunion movie would be The Wild Wild West Revisited in 1979. It would be successful enough to warrant a sequel, More Wild Wild West in 1980. Given Ross Martin's death in 1981, there would be no more. The Wild Wild West would only be the first of the spy series to have reunions. It would be followed by The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair (1983), Get Smart, Again (1989), and I Spy Returns.

Beyond reunion movies, two American spy shows would be also be revived. Debuting in 1988 and airing only around two seasons, Mission: Impossible brought Peter Graves back as Jim Phelps, complete with a new IMF team. In 1995 Get Smart was revived, with Don Adams playing Maxell Smart (now Chief of CONTROL) and Barbara Feldon playing Agent 99 (now a politician). Their son Zach (who, sadly, took after Max) was now a CONTROL agent teamed with Agent 66 (Elaine Hendrix). The series did not prove to be successful, lasting only seven episodes.

The Nineties would see Hollywood beginning to adapt old television series with all new casts. There have been a few of the spy series which have been adapted as feature films, although the first such movie at least has its original star. Get Smart was the first of the spy series of the Sixties to be made into a feature film (here I am not counting episodes of shows combined to make a theatrical release). That having been said, The Nude Bomb only features Don Adams as Maxwell Smart and Robert Karvelas as Larrabee from the original series. In fact, Max doesn't even work for CONTROL, but instead for a group called PITS (Provisional Intelligence Tactical Service). Despite this, Max was still fighting KAOS. The movie proved to be a disappointment at the box office and for many fans as well.

Since The Nude Bomb, there have been many other major motion pictures based on the spy shows, and they are largely a mixed lot. In 1996 a movie based on Mission: Impossible was released. Although controversial with some fans and the movie received mixed reviews, but did well at the box office. It was followed by Mission: Impossible II in 2000 and Mission: Impossible III in 2006. A feature film based on The Avengers was released in 1998. The film would bomb with critics and audiences, and particularly with fans of the original series. The year 1999 would see the release of a movie based on The Wild Wild West. Not only was the movie reviled by critics and bombed at the box office, but it offended both its fans and the series' original star, Robert Conrad. In 2002 a major motion picture based on I Spy was released. Sadly the movie departed from the series in incorporating a bit too much comedy and including some outlandish spy gadgets more suited to U.N.C.L.E. or Bond. It fared badly with critics and at the box office. Another feature film based on Get Smart (featuring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway as Max and 99) was released last year. The film received mixed reviews and was largely considered inferior to the original series. The movie did do well at the box office, so well that a sequel is planned.

There may well be other feature films based on spy series in the near future. Reportedly Will Smith has been signed to star in a big budget adaptation of It Takes a Thief, set for release in 2010. There have also been rumours of A Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie for years. For a time director Quentin Tarantino was reported wanted to make a A Man From U.N.C.L.E. film. Later it was reported that director Matthew Vaughn was in negotiations to adapt the series to film.

In addition to feature film adaptations, there is at least one mini-series adaptation of a Sixties spy show. In 2006 it was announced that British network Sky1 and American Movie Classics (AMC) were co-producing a mini-series remake of The Prisoner to last six to eight episodes. Sky1 would pull out of project due to creative disagreements with AMC. ITV (the network upon which the original series first aired) then stepped in to co-produce the miniseries with AMC. The mini-series will be broadcast in both the United Kingdom and the United States sometime this year.

In all, the spy cycle on American television in the Sixties lasted four years and produced several series. It has certainly had a lasting impact with regards to its shows. A Man From U.N.C.L.E., Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, and Mission: Impossible all continue to be popular to this day. British series which played such a large role in the sixties spy craze on American television, such as The Avengers, Danger Man, The Saint, and The Prisoner also continue to be popular. All of these series are available on DVD and merchandise for some of these series is sold to this day. Pop culture references to these series abound, in such shows ranging from The Simpsons to NCIS (on which David McCallum, once Illya Kuryakin, plays Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard).

While the shows of the Sixties spy cycle would also leave their mark on pop culture, they would also leave their mark on American television history as well. The spy shows would break barriers and make innovations in American television. Spy shows can take credit for both the first female lead in an American action/adventure series (Honey West) and the first African American in a lead role on an American drama (I Spy). The spy series of the Sixties were groundbreaking in other ways as well. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. presented a world where many nations cooperated in an international organisation to fight crime, and where an American and Russian could not only be partners, but friends as well (keep in mind the show debuted not shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis). Both Mission: Impossible and Hogan's Heroes presented us with teams in which minorities had important roles. Since the Sixties there have been only a very few successful spy shows in the United States, but the spy series of the Sixties long ago left their mark on both American pop culture and American television history.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Spy Shows of the Sixties Part Four

"I can't help but think, Mr. Solo, your days on this earth are numbered." (Mr. Waverly, from the episode "The Double Affair" of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.)

By 1967 the spy craze in the United States was coming to an end. Even the wildly successful Bond franchise suffered. Although still a box office smash, You Only Live Twice made $20 million less than the previous Bond movie, Thunderball. Other movies did not fare so well. Billion Dollar Brain (featuring Michael Caine as spy Harry Palmer), Casino Royale (a spy spoof very loosely based on the first Bond novel), Fathom, In Like Flint (featuring James Coburn as spy Derek Flint), and The President's Analyst all bombed at the box office. Television was affected as well, with not one spy series debuting on American network television in the fall of 1967. Worse yet, older spy series would be cancelled during the season. In fact, the 1967-1968 can safely be said to be the last season of the spy cycle.

The first spy series of the 1967-1968 season would not debut until January 1968. It Takes a Thief was created by writer Roland Kibbee (who had also created the Western The Deputy), drawing some of its inspiration from the Hitchcock movie To Catch a Thief. The series centred on cat burglar Alexander Mundy (played by Robert Wagner), who finds himself arrested and sent to San Jobel Prison. Fortunately for Mundy, he is visited by SIA (Secret Intelligence Agency) head Noah Bain (Malachi Thorne), who makes an interesting offer for him: steal for the SIA and he will receive a complete pardon. To this end the SIA provided him with the cover of an international playboy and an extravagant estate (which was equipped with a good deal of surveillance to keep an eye on Mundy). It Takes a Thief was more realistic than such series as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers, albeit with a similar light touch.

It Takes a Thief debuted on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) on January 9, 1968. The series started out quite well, with episodes written by Gene Coon (one time producer of Star Trek), Dean Hargrove (who had written several episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and would produce Columbo), and Stepehn Kandel (who had written for Star Trek, The Wild Wild West, and I Spy). As the series progressed, however, it declined considerably in quality. It is difficult to say where the blame for this decline in quality rests, although it could possibly be at the feet of Glen A. Larson (who would go onto create such shows as Battlestar Galactica and Knight Rider), who was an associate producer and then producer on the series. Larson was writing the bulk of the episodes by the series' third season, generally considered the worst of the show's run. It Takes a Thief ran from January 9, 1968 to March 24, 1970, only a little over two years.

That It Takes a Thief only ran a little over two years may not have been so much due to a decline in script quality as it simply debuted at the wrong time. It was only the following week after It Takes a Thief debuted, on January 15, 1968, that The Man From U.N.C.L.E. aired its last episode. There can be little doubt that the turn towards camp which the series took in its third season probably drove viewers away from the show. Ranked 13th in the top twenty shows for the 1965-1967 season, it had dropped to number 46 for the 1966-1967. It is for that reason that the production team decided to return The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to a more serious direction. The show was even provided with new sets, complete with a row of computer banks placed in U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Unfortunately this effort to revitalise the show would not save it. Quite simply, events would unfold that would result not only in the cancellation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but other shows as well.

It was during the 1966-1967 season that CBS programming executives decided to cancel the twelve year old western Gunsmoke. In the past few seasons the series had seriously dropped in the ratings. Despite this, its cancellation resulted in angry phone calls and letters to the network. Worse yet, it drew the ire of chief executive officer and CBS founder William S. Paley. Gunsmoke was the favourite show of Paley's wife and he liked it quite a bit as well. To this end Paley demanded the return of Gunsmoke to the network's schedule. Fearing for their jobs, the network executives found themselves having to revise the fall schedule after it had already been set. They solved the problem by cancelling the still highly rated series Gilligan's Island (a show Paley actively hated) and the unaired, new sitcom Doc (a show which CBS's affiliates did not care for) and placing Gunsmoke in the 8:30-9:30 Eastern Time slot. In the new time slot Gunsmoke made an amazing recovery, shooting to the top of the Nielsen ratings. For the 1967-1968 season it was the fourth highest rated show.

Naturally, if Gunsmoke was doing well in the ratings, it meant that other shows weren't. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. dropped to the very bottom of the Nielsen ratings, leading to its cancellation. And it was not the only show which Gunsmoke killed. The Monkees, also on NBC, was cancelled at the end of the season as a result. The new show on ABC, Cowboy in Africa, did not have a chance. Ironically, the show which had started the spy cycle of the Sixties (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) was killed by the show which had started the Western cycle of the Fifties.

It Takes a Thief was not the only spy series to have a debut at mid-season. In February 1968 The Saint returned to NBC, this time in colour. While the series would leave NBC's airwaves in the fall, it would return once more in April 1969. While The Saint returned to American television, February 1968 would bring sad news to fans of spy shows. As of February 1968 I Spy would not be on the fall 1968 schedule for NBC.

Strangely enough, while no new spy series debuted in the fall of 1967 and only one new show at mid-season, more spy series would serve as summer replacements in 1968 than had in 1967. Man in a Suitcase was another spy series produced by the Incorporated Television Company (ITC) belonging to Lord Lew Grade. It was created by writers Dennis Spooner (who had wrote for Thunderbirds, Doctor Who, and The Baron) and Richard Harris (who had wrote for The Saint, The Edgar Wallace Mystery Theatre, and Adam Adamant Lives). The series utilised many of the production crew had worked on Danger Man (which had ended when Patrick MacGoohan had decided to leave the series), including producer Sidney Cole. The series focused on former CIA agent McGill (his first name was never disclosed) who was forced to resign from the Company for something for he which was innocent. To make ends meet McGill worked in London as a bounty hunter and private eye. Several of the jobs he took involved espionage. The series dealt with espionage in a realistic fashion, and was even one of the most violent series produced by ITC at the time.

It was naturally ITC's desire to appeal to the American market that an American was cast in the role of McGill. Among the actors considered for the role was Jack Lord (soon to be cast in Hawaii Five-O), but the part finally went to Richard Bradford (who appeared in the 1966 movie The Chase). Casting an American lead worked out. Man in a Suitcase premiered in the United Kingdom on September 27, 1967. It debuted on ABC in the United States on May 3, 1968. Sadly, the series was not successful enough to make ABC's fall schedule, which might explained why the show did not return in the United Kingdom either.

While Man in a Suitcase was not successful, it is impossible to argue that the next spy show to debut in the summer of 1968 was not successful, even though it aired only 17 episodes. There were essentially two factors which led Patrick MacGoohan to create The Prisoner. The first was when Danger Man was filmed at the Hotel Portmeirion, later the setting for The Prisoner. McGoohan was amazed by the hotel's atmosphere and architecture, thinking it should be used in a series at some point. The second occurred when Patrick McGoohan expressed his growing frustration on Danger Man, feeling that the show was growing stale and becoming boring, to George Markstein, the script editor on Danger Man. Markstein recalled that during World War II individuals who "knew too much (and hence were a danger to national security)" would be imprisoned in special institutions. Markstein could have been referring to the rumours regarding Inverlair Lodge in Scotland, widely known to have been used as a base for the Special Operations Executive (the wartime organisation created by Winston Churchill to conduct espionage and sabotage in enemy areas). Rumours have persisted for years that Rudolf Hess was incarcerated there after fleeing to Scotland. This naturally led to the idea that a secret agent who resigned might find himself and sent to such a resort like prison. The Prisoner may have also owed something to the Danger Man episode "Colony Three," in which John Drake encounters a recreation of an English village in the Eastern Bloc being used to train Communist spies to appear totally British.

The Prisoner centred on a secret agent known only as Number Six (although many fans suspect he is John Drake himself, Patrick McGoohan has always denied this), who upon resigning is abducted and taken to a mysterious place simply called The Village (it was shot at the resort village Portmeirion in Wales). This began an ongoing battle of wits between Number Six and his unknown captors, led by whatever individual is acting as the Village's head administrator of the time, known only as "Number Two"--everyone in The Village was known only by a number. The episodes centred on Number Six's attempts to escape The Village, to resist his captors' attempts to interrogate him, or his attempts to simply oppose his captors. While the series was at its heart a spy drama, it also blended psychological drama, allegory, and even science fiction.

The Prisoner debuted on September 5, 1967 on the CTV Television Network in Canada and on September 29, 1969 on Independent Television (ITV) in the United Kingdom. Patrick McGoohan originally wanted the series to run only seven episodes, but Lord Lew Grade argued against what he felt was a very short run for a series. McGoohan then agreed to two series of thirteen episodes each. The Prisoner proved to be a runaway hit, attracting approximately 11 million viewers a week. Despite the series' success, McGoohan insisted on ending The Prisoner after seventeen episodes, feeling that there were no more stories left for the show to tell. Typical of The Prisoner, its final episode, "Fall Out," was obscure and allegorical, leaving many viewers who wanted a more traditional ending outraged. Switchboards were jammed with calls from angry viewers. Many wrote angry letters to newspapers. Reportedly, others went to even further extremes, forcing Patrick McGoohan to go into hiding.

Regardless of British fans' reaction to the show's ending, the series would debut in the United States on CBS on June 1, 1968. It became a smash hit here just as it had in the United Kingdom. It was covered by such Time magazine and such newspapers as The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, and The Christian Science Monitor. The Prisoner did well enough in the ratings that it was reran by CBS in the summer of 1969 starting on May 29 of that year. It has been reran ever since, everywhere from PBS to the Encore Mystery channel.

The last new spy series to debut in the 1967-1968 season--in fact the last new TV series to debut on American television in the Sixties--was a British import entitled The Champions. The Champions was created by Monty Berman (who helped bring The Baron to the small screen) and Dennis Spooner (co-creator of Man in a Suitcase). The series centred on three agents for the international law enforcement agency called Nemesis (Craig Stirling the cryptographer, played by Stuart Damon, Richard Barrett the pilot, played by William Gaunt, and Sharron Macready the doctor, played by Alexandra Bastedo), whose plane crashes in the Himalayas. The trio are rescued by a mysterious civilisation and given such abilities as superstrength, telepathy, and heightened senses. Their head at Nemesis, Tremayne (Anthony Nicholls) remained unaware of his agents' newfound abilities.

Lord Lew Grade obtained funding for the series from NBC in the United States. It is for that reason that Stuart Damon, who had guest starred on Naked City, Man in a Suitcase, and The Saint, was cast as Craig Stirling. Ian McShane tried out for the role of Richard Barrett, but the part ultimately went to William Gaunt, who had starred in the Victorian police drama Sgt. Cork. For the role of Sharron Macready several actresses were considered, including Ilona Rogers (who had guest starred on both Doctor Who and The Avengers) and Annette Andre (who guest starred on The Avengers and The Prisoner and would go onto to be a regular on Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Alexandra Bastedo would be cast in the role after director and creative consultant Cyril Frankel found her in a European advertising campaign.

Strangely enough, The Champions debuted in the United States before it did the United Kingdom. It debuted on NBC on June 10, 1968 and ran through the summer. It would not debut in the United Kingdom until September 25, 1968 and then only in London. It would not air throughout Great Britain until November 1969. Sadly, The Champions did not perform well in the United States and was not picked up by NBC for its fall schedule. Since the series needed funding from the United States to survive, it ended after thirty episodes. The series proved much more popular in the United Kingdom than it had in the United States, and proved wildly successful around the world. In the end it was broadcast in over 60 countries.

The Champions was the last new spy series of the spy cycle of the Sixties. The spy craze which had seized the United States in 1964 had come to and end, and with it the spy cycle on American television. The spy cycle in the United Kingdom would hold out a bit longer, with such series as Callan (1967) and Department S debuting late in the decade. And a few spy series would persist on American television into the 1969-1970 season. Sadly, most of them would not last long...

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Spy Shows of the Sixties Part Three

"As always, should you or any of your IM force be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim."
(the mysterious voice on the tape recorder at the start of every episode of Mission:Impossible)

The 1965-1966 season saw more spy series debut than ever had on the American networks. One would have thought that the market would have been glutted with so many spy shows, but the 1966-1967 season saw more debut. In all, five new spy series debuted that fall.

One new series was actually a spinoff from an old one--The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had become one of the top series on television, ranking 13th in the top twenty highest rated shows according to the Nielsens for the 1965-1966 season. Quite naturally, the producers wanted to capitalise on its popularity with a spinoff. It was decided that the new series would centre on a female U.N.C.L.E. agent, hence the title The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.. For the character's name executive producer Norman Felton chose "April Dancer," the name Ian Fleming gave the secretary of Napoleon Solo's boss in his original outline for the series. Several different actresses were considered for the role of April Dancer. The National Broadcasting Company (NBC) had wanted Stefanie Powers to play the character, but at the time she was shooting a movie. They also considered Dorothy Provine. Ultimately, the role went to Mary Ann Mobley, a former Miss America.

At that time April Dancer's partner was considered as an older male, who would act as a mentor to her. The role of Mark Slate then went to Norman Fell, who had played on 87th Precinct and would later appear on Three's Company. The pilot for the series was shot an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. "The Moonglow Affair" aired February 25, 1966. The episode met with extremely good ratings, so NBC greenlighted the series. That having been said, it was decided that there would be some changes before The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. made it to the air. By the time the series was approved Stefanie Powers was available. NBC then replaced Mary Ann Mobley with her. As to Norman Fell as Mark Slate, it was decided that The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. should appeal to a younger, hipper crowd. Norman Fell was then replaced with younger, British Noel Harrison (son of actor Rex Harrison) in an effort to appeal to young women (keep in mind The Beatles were all the rage at the time). The series debuted on September 13, 1966.

The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. debuted to decidedly mixed reviews, although its ratings were initially very good. In fact, upon its premiere it beat both Combat on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) and Daktari on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). The series would not continue to do so well. The following two episodes dropped in the ratings. By December the series was consistently losing to both Daktari and Combat. In late February 1967, NBC cancelled The Girl From U.N.C.L.E..

Ultimately, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. was probably killed by the direction which the original series had taken quite recently. In January 1966 the comedy Batman proved to be the smash hit of the 1965-1966 season. A spoof of the superhero genre, Batman utilised outlandish plots and outrageous situations in a camp style. It is perhaps for that reason that late in the second season episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. began to appear which clearly veered into camp territory. By the series' third season, such episodes dominated the show. Overnight The Man From U.N.C.L.E., originally a dramatic series with tongue planted firmly in cheek, became a very bad comedy. The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. followed this same path. In the end The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. was cancelled and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was ailing. It dropped from 13th in the ratings for the 1965-1966 season to 46th for the 1966-1967.

The other notable spy series to debut in the fall of 1966 was Mission: Impossible. Unlike other spy shows of the time, Mission: Impossible not only drew upon the spy genre for inspiration, but the caper films of the era as well (Topkapi was a prime source of inspiration). Bruce Geller, a television writer who had written episodes of The Rifleman and Have Gun-Will Travel, conceived a half hour action/adventure series entitled Briggs's Squad. The series would centre on a former special forces squad which would undertake dangerous missions that the government could or would not. Geller was unable to sell Briggs's Squad, being told by the networks that they were no longer in the market for half-hour action series. Geller then altered the concept of the series. He decided that the squad would have to have some sort of semi-official status to be acceptable to the networks. He then decided that they would work as secret agents, although the team would remain a private concern that took jobs that the government could not legally do.

In the end the series would focus on the Impossible Missions Force, originally headed by Daniel Briggs (Steven Hill, later of Law and Order) and for most of the series' run by Jim Phelps (Peter Graves). For each mission the team leader would choose the team for that job, although the team would generally be the same save for the occasional guest star. For the first few seasons, the team consisted of master of disguise and escape artist Rollin Hand (Martin Landau), actress Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain), electronics expert Barnard "Barney" Collier (Greg Morris), and strongman Barnard "Barney" Collier (Peter Lupus). Over the years the cast of Mission: Impossible would change dramatically (Steven Hill left after the first year), so that in the end the character of Jim Phelps was the only constant.

In the end the fact that the cast changed frequently on Mission: Impossible may not have been important. The primary focus of the series was always on its intricate plots, with the characters only being of secondary concern. Each mission unfolded much as those of any caper movie, with the IMF meeting complications and plot twists as their mission unfolded. This made the series different from any other show on the air at the time. The series also tended to be more realistic than spy series such as The Man From U.N.C.L.E and The Avengers. The plots, although complex, were much more down to earth and any gadgetry which appeared on the show could actually exist in the late Sixties.

Because of its intricate plots, Mission: Impossible received a good deal of praise from critics in its earliest seasons. During its run it earned 20 Emmy nominations and won six Emmys. While critically acclaimed, Mission: Impossible would take some time to catch on with viewers. During its first season, ratings for the show were respectable but not impressive. Its ratings grew steadily in its first three seasons until in its third season Mission: Impossible ranked 11th in the top twenty shows of the year according to the Nielsen ratings. And while its ratings would drop following its third season, the series had a longer run than any other spy series of the Sixties. Debuting on September 17, 1966, Mission: Impossible would ultimately run for seven seasons. Mission: Impossible probably outlasted its contemporaries because in some respects it was much more adaptable. One week the IMF might take on a third world dictator and the next week they might face an underworld crime lord. Indeed, in its fifth season Mission: Impossible began to shift away from purely espionage plots to plots involving organised crime.

While The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible were set in the present day, Jericho was set during World War II. Created by Larry Cohen (who would go onto create The Invaders and a low budget movie career), Jericho centred on a team of Allied intelligence agents, code named "Jericho," working behind the lines in Nazi Germany. The series feature Don Francks (later of La Femme Nikita) as Franklin Sheppard, John Leyton as Nicholas Gage, and Marino Masé as Marino Jean-Gaston Andre. Jericho debuted on CBS on September 15, 1966. Unfortunately, it would be gone by January 1967. Scheduled against Daniel Boone on NBC and Batman on ABC, the show really didn't have a chance.

Despite its title The Man Who Never Was had no connection to the 1954 book or the 1956 movie based on the book. The series cast Robert Lansing as secret agent Peter Murphy. While escaping from East Berlin he encounters his exact double, millionaire Michael Wainwright. Unfortunately for Wainwright, he is mistaken for Murphy by the KGB and killed by them. Murphy then assumed Wainwright's identity. Wainwright's widow, Eva (Dana Wynter) went along with the deception for her own reasons. The series was filmed entirely in Europe. The Man Who Never Was debuted on September 7, 1966 on ABC. Scheduled against Green Acres on CBS, The Man Who Never Was only lasted 18 episodes.

Like The Saint, T.H.E. Cat was not strictly speaking a spy show, although it used many of the trappings of such. T.H.E. Cat starred Robert Loggia as Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat, a retired circus aerialist and former cat burglar. Giving up his life of crime, T.H.E. Cat now sells his unique skills as a bodyguard to both the government and private clients whose lives are being threatened. T.H.E. Cat never carried a gun, relying on his wits or martial arts to get out of situations. Scheduled against The CBS Friday Night Movies, T.H.E. Cat lasted only one season.

While primetime was filled with spies, Saturday morning would see another spy make his home there as well. Cool McCool was created by Bob Kane, co-creator of Batman and produced by Al Brodax of King Features, who also produced The Beatles cartoon. Much like Get Smart, Cool McCool was a parody of spy dramas. Cool did have some things in common with James Bond and Napoleon Solo. He was handsome, dashing, and charming. He even had his own catchphrase: "Danger is my business!" Unfortunately, he was also a total bumbler. Cool McCool reported to the mysterious Number One, who was never seen on camera 9much like Charlie on Charlie's Angels). Riggs provided Cool McCool with his gadgets, of which there was no shortage. The bumbling spy used a wide array of them, most frequently his moustache radio and the Coolmobile (which would even come to him when he whistled). While Cool McCool was a spy, the villains he usually battled could have come from out of the comic books. Among the opponents he faced were Hurricane Harry (whose breath was as powerful as hurricane winds), Dr. Madcap (whose hat was equipped with a wide array of weapons), and Jack-In-The-Box (who, like the legendary Spring Heeled Jack, had boots equipped with springs to make incredible leaps). Cool McCool proved popular, running for three seasons. It debuted on NBC on September 10, 1966.

While The Avengers would return to ABC in January 1967, there would not be another new spy series on the American networks until the summer. In fact there would be two (well, one was new to the networks, not American television). One of these would be The Saint. While NBC had initially rejected the series, the network would try the syndicated show out on its local stations. The network was rather shocked at its success and surprised that they could be so wrong. When ABC picked up The Baron as a mid-season replacement for the 1965-1966 season, this served to spark NBC's interest and even saved The Saint from an early cancellation. The Saint made its debut on NBC on May 21, 1967 as a summer replacement for The Dean Martin Show. While the series would go off the air at the end of the summer season, the success The Saint had seen would insure it would return to NBC's schedule.

The second new series to debut after the fall would turn into the cult series of the summer of 1967. Unfortunately, even with such success, the show could not go on. The show in question was Coronet Blue, created by Larry Cohen. The show grew out of an episode of The Defenders written by Cohen entitled "The Traitor," in which the father and son lawyer team must defend an accused traitor.

Coronet Blue centred on Michael Alden (Frank Converse), a man with amnaesia who can only remember the mysterious phrase "Coronet blue." Found floating in a harbour, Alden took his name by combining the names of the hospital to which he was admitted and the doctor who treated him. Quite naturally, Alden begins a search for his real identity. Unfortunately as he does so he is pursued by mysterious assassins Alden calls "Greybeards."

While Coronet Blue debuted on May 28, 1967, it had actually been filmed in 1965. The series had shot 17 episodes when for some reason CBS cancelled the show. It received its spot on the summer 1967 schedule only because the network wanted to recoup the show's costs. As a result, regardless of its success, CBS could not place Coronet Blue on its fall schedule. Star Frank Converse had already moved onto the series N.Y.P.D. and the rest of the production team had moved onto other projects as well. Another result is that the series ended with the secret of Coronet Blue never having been revealed. It would not be until Larry Cohen: The Radical Allegories of an Independent Filmmaker, published in 1996, that Cohen revealed Michael Alden's secret and the meaning of the words "Coronet Blue." In truth Michael Alden was not an American, but a Soviet agent belonging to an espionage unit codenamed "Coronet Blue." He had been trained to appear as an American in every respect. Alden had decided to defect, which led to other Russian agents being sent to kill him lest he reveal the secrets he knows. It was after one of these attacks that he developed amnaesia.

While some of the shows which debuted during the 1966-1967 season were successful (Mission: Impossible, Coronet Blue), as the season progressed it would seem the spy cycle was slowing down. After the fall premieres only two new spy series debuted all season, a stark contrast to the number of shows that had debuted at mid-season during the 1965-1966 season. The casualty rate for these new shows were also very high. Out of the nine spy shows which debuted in primetime during the 1965-1966 season, five survived the season. By contrast, out of the eight spy shows to debut during the 1966-1967 season, only two (Mission: Impossible and The Saint) would survive. The spy craze, so strong at the beginning of the 1966-1967 season, appeared to be winding down.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Spy Shows of the Sixties Part Two

"Always keep your bowler on in time of stress, and watch out for diabolical masterminds." (Mrs. Emma Peel, from the episode "The Forget-Me-Knot" of The Avengers)

By the spring of 1965 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had gone from a show in danger of cancellation to one of the hottest shows on television. Despite this, it cannot be held responsible for the many spy shows that would debut in the fall of 1965. Quite simply, many of these shows were conceived even before The Man From U.N.C.L.E. had debuted. Indeed, the next spy show to debut on American network season would do so even while it was still on the air. What is more, it would be a TV series that was not exactly new to American television.

The last original episode of Danger Man had aired in the United Kingdom on June 4, 1961. Since that time many things had changed. In the United Kingdom, Danger Man, alongside The Avengers and The Saint, had triggered a spy cycle on British television. On both sides of the Atlantic the James Bond movies Dr. No and From Russia with Love had been huge successes. In fact, to some it may have seemed that the United States was poised for a spy craze of its own. It occurred to producer Ralph Smart that it might now be time for Danger Man to return. That having been said, the new Danger Man would be different in some respects than the original series. The most obvious difference was that while the original Danger Man was only a half hour in length, the new Danger Man would be an hour in length. There were other more subtle differences as well. John Drake no longer worked for NATO, but for the fictional spy agency M9. While Drake showed more of a sense of humour in the new series, he also showed a greater sense of decency. Many more gadgets appeared in the new series, although they were not of the sort seen in the Bond movies or The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. The gadgets on the hour long Danger Man tended to be more realistic devices that were possible within the the technology of the Sixties (miniaturised tape recorders, guns disguised as safety razors, video phones, tracking devices). In most respects, however, the hour long Danger Man differed but little from the half hour version. John Drake still did not carry a gun, nor did he kiss the girls. The new version of Danger Man debuted in the United Kingdom on October 13, 1964. And if anything, it was an even bigger success than the original series.

Such success was not lost on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in the United States. The network picked up the series as a summer replacement, with its first episode debuting on April 3, 1965. The new version of Danger Man did not come to the United States without changes. It was retitled Secret Agent in order to capitalise on the growing spy craze in the United States. It was also given a new opening sequence, complete with a new theme song, "Secret Agent Man" sung by Johnny Rivers. Both Secret Agent (and its new theme song) would be a hit in the United States. In fact, Secret Agent achieved something few summer replacement series do--it made CBS's fall 1965 schedule. On both sides of the Atlantic Danger Man (or Secret Agent, as Americans were calling it then) did extremely well. In fact, the only reason the series ended in 1966 was because Patrick McGoohan left the show to pursue his own project. That project would prove to be a TV series that would see even greater success than Danger Man--it was entitled The Prisoner.

The two spy series, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Secret Agent, which debuted on American television during the 1964-1965 season were prime examples of two different types of spy series that aired during the spy cycle. One type, of which The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Avengers are examples, often combined espionage with fantastic elements. The plots of these series were often Bondian in scope. Another type, of which Danger Man/Secret Agent and I Spy were examples, were spy dramas which were more realistic. The plots were more down to Earth and there were no gadgets or fantastic devices. A third type, of which The Saint was an example, were shows that were not actually about spies, but shared many of the same trappings (beautiful women, diabolical masterminds, et. al.). None of these types were actually more successful than the others, as each could boast their own hit series.

Regardless, the success of the Bond movies would insure that there would be no shortage of spy shows on the broadcast network's 1965 fall schedules. In fact, in terms of the significance of the shows which debuted in the United States during the 1965-1966 season, it could be the most important season in the American spy cycle. Several of the series which debuted during the season would be very successful in their initial runs and would develop followings that would allow them to still be seen to this day.

Among the most successful of these series was a show that not only took advantage of the ongoing spy craze, but also belonged to a new cycle towards Westerns that included such shows as Branded and A Man Called Shenandoah. The Wild Wild West was conceived by Michael Garrison as "James Bond in the West." Garrison brought the idea up to Hunt Stromberg Jr., then CBS head of programming, who liked the idea. He assigned CBS associate director of programme development Ethel Winant to develop the series. The initial concept that Wiant developed the idea of a Secret Service agent, James West (Robert Conrad), assigned to fight international spies and other villains in the West of the United States during the late 19th century. In the initial concept West did not have his partner, although he did get his gadgets from a travelling peddler. The peddler character eventually developed into West's partner, Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin). James West was the gunslinger and man of action, while Artemus Gordon was the master of disguise, con man, and inventor of gadgets. These concepts would be expanded upon by Gilbert Ralston in the series pilot, "The Night of the Inferno."

The Wild Wild West lived up to the description "James Bond in the West." The plots were often Bondian in scope, with West and Gordon facing such villains as a mad scientist with the ability to create earthquakes, a former British colonel plotting to seize the throne of China, and a twisted matchmaker using young women to kill rich industrialists for their money. By far their most persistent opponent was Dr. Miguelito Loveless (Michael Dunn), who made several appearances throughout the show's run. Among other things, Dr. Loveless invented the most powerful explosive in the world, plotted to drive the entire nation mad with a hallucinogenic powder, and developed a powder which killed all plant life. Although small of stature, Dr. Loveless was a giant of villainy, his plots truly Bondian in scope.

The Wild Wild West proved to be one of the most successful shows in the spy series of the Sixties. It regularly won its timeslot and was still getting respectable Nielsen ratings in its final season. The only reason The Wild Wild West was cancelled was as a scapegoat in the campaign against television violence that occurred following the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. It would prove to be very influential with regards to the steampunk genre (a subgenre of science fiction involving advanced, usually steam powered device in the Victorian Era).

Another highly influential series to debut that fall was I Spy. The series was conceived by the writing team of William Friedkin and Morton Fine. I Spy centred on the team of Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp--the former star of Trackdown to whom the role of Napoleon Solo on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was offered), a spy who travelled undercover as a tennis pro, and Alexander Scott (up and coming comedian Bill Cosby), a spy who posed as his coach. Initially Alexander Scott was meant to be a mentor figure to Robinson, played by an older actor. This changed after producer Sheldon Leonard (famed for his many gangster roles in Hollywood movies) saw Bill Cosby's nightclub routine on a talk show. In casting Cosby, Leonard made history. I Spy would be the first drama on American television to feature an African American in a lead role. The two characters were always treated as equals and Scott's race was almost never brought up in the series' episodes.

I Spy relied heavily on exotic locations, with episodes actually shot in foreign countries. Like The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West, the success of I Spy relied largely upon the rapport between its two leads. There was always a good deal of hip banter between the two. I Spy differed from both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Wild Wild West in that its plots tended to be much more realistic. The villains were not would be megalomaniacs with advanced technology at their hands. There were no Bondian gadgets. And at times the series even focused on the darker side of espionage.

I Spy debuted on September 15, 1965 on NBC. It did very well in the ratings in its first two seasons. It even spawned a catchphrase, one often used by Alexander Scott--"Wonderfulness." Unfortunately, NBC would move I Spy from its original Wednesday night time slot to a new time slot on Monday night, where its ratings swiftly dropped. Despite this, NBC was interested in a fourth season of I Spy. Leonard asked NBC if they could guarantee that I Spy would be returned its Wendesday time slot. When NBC said that it could not, Leonard opted to end the show.

It was not simply dramas featuring spies that debuted in the fall of 1965, but also two comedies. The first to debut is not often recognised as a spy show, even though espionage was at the heart of the series. Strangely enough, as originally conceived, not only would espionage not have played a role in the series, but it would not have even been set in World War II. Bernard Fein and Albert S. Ruddy had created a series proposal simply called The Heroes, which would take place in a penitentiary in the United States. Fein and Ruddy spent four years trying to sell the series, to no avail. It was after seeing a fellow passenger on an aeroplane flight reading Von Ryan's Express that Fein decided to change the concept. The series, soon to be called Hogan's Heroes, was moved to a Nazi prisoner of war camp during World War II with Hogan and his men engaging in espionage and sabotage even as they were imprisoned in the camp. It then became a parody of such prisoner of war films as The Great Escape and Stalag 17. It is because of this that Colonel Robert Hogan (Bob Crane) and his men had access to resources to which no POW would realistically have had (including a tunnel which was never discovered). While Hogan and his men were clearly cast in a heroic mould, The camp's commandant, Colonel Klink (Werner Klemperer), and the other Nazis were generally shown as buffoons.

Hogan's Heroes debuted on September 17, 1965 on CBS, scheduled following The Wild Wild West for most of its run. It did extremely well in the ratings. In fact, when it was cancelled it was not because its ratings had dropped dramatically over the years, but rather because its audience had grown too old. It went off network television in 1971.

While Hogan's Heroes was as much as a parody of PoW films as it was a spy series, the second comedy to debut in the fall 1965 season was a straight forward spy parody. Get Smart was created by two comedy veterans. Buck Henry had been a regular on The New Steve Allen Show and had appeared on the American edition of That Was the Week That Was. Mel Brooks was one of the writers on Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour. Together they realised that the growing spy craze was ripe for parody. They created the character of Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 of the spy agency CONTROL. Smart was overzealous, bumbling, and wholly incompetent. Fortunately his partner was Agent 99, who was an extremely competent agent. She was also, for some odd reason, in love with Max. Just as U.N.C.L.E. fought THRUSH, CONTROL fought the evil organisation called KAOS. Several times, Max and 99 faced Siegfriend, the head of KAOS. Cast in the role of Maxwell Smart was Don Adams, who used the William Powell imitation he had also used as hotel detective Byron Glick on The Bill Dana Show. Cast in the role of Agent 99 was Barbara Feldon.

Get Smart was originally greenlighted by the American Broadcasting Company (hereafter ABC-US, to avoid confusion). Upon seeing the pilot, however, ABC-US decided not to go ahead with the series, considering the pilot "unfunny." The pilot was then taken to NBC, who approved the show. Get Smart debuted on September 18, 1965. Not only did Get Smart do exceedingly well in the ratings, but it also fared with critics and received three Emmy awards. NBC cancelled Get Smart during the 1968-1969 season, but the series was picked up for one more season by CBS. It ended its network run in 1970.

I Spy was not the only spy show to debut in the fall of 1965 that was groundbreaking in its casting. The character of Honey West had originated in the 1957 novel This Girl for Hire by Gloria and Forest Fickling writing as "G.G. Fickling." She would make her first appearance on television, played by Anne Francis, in an episode of Burke's Law entitled "Who Killed the Jackpot." True to form, Honey even outwitted the great Amos Burke. The character proved popular and so the go ahead was given for a Honey West TV series. Initially Honor Blackman, who had played Cathy Gale in The Avengers, was considered for the role. Having left The Avengers for film, she did not want to do the series. Anne Francis was then once more cast as Honey West. While in the novels Honey West is a straight forward detective, producer Aaron Spelling reshaped the series to fit with current craze for Bondian gadgets and plots. While still a private eye, Honey was equipped with such gadgets as earrings that sprayed tear gas, a lipstick case radio, and an exploding compact. The plots were often similar to those found on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. as well. Over the course of the series, Honey West and her partner Sam Bolt fought a modern day Robin Hood, a murderous and oversized toy robot, and a exact look alike of Honey herself.

Honey West was groudbreaking in being the first American action series to feature a woman in the lead role. Like Mrs. Cathy Gale before her, Honey West fought men using the martial arts and was very rarely in need of rescue. It would have seemed that it should have been a hit as The Avengers had in England and would be in the United States. And following its debut on September 17, 1965 on ABC, it did respectfully well in the ratings. Unfortunately, Honey West aired opposite Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., then a top rated show. In the end it was cancelled after thirty episodes.

While Honey West was transformed from a straight forward private eye to one who used gadgets, the hero of Burke's Law would be changed from a police detective to a spy. Originally Burke's Law featured Gene Barry as a millionaire and detective Captain Amos Burke who solved cases among the rich and powerful. With ratings declining in its second season and well aware of the growing spy craze, ABC-US forced producer Aaron Spelling to revamp Burke's Law as Amos Burke, Secret Agent. Spelling disliked the idea, but felt he had little choice if he wanted to keep the show on the air. The entire cast was fired except for Gene Barry as Amos Burke, and Carl Benton Reid was hired to play his new boss, a mysterious figure known as only "The Man." The new format was poorly received. It lasted only seventeen episodes.

The spy craze which had gripped the United States in the wake of the Bond movies even spread to Saturday morning. On NBC on September 12, 1965 there debuted a series called The Atom Ant/Secret Squirrel Show. The first part of the show was devoted to an ant who was also a superhero. The second half of the show featured the first spy created for a Saturday morning cartoon. Secret Squirrel was Agent 000 whose boss was simply known as Double-Q. He was assisted in his adventures by Morocco Mole. He had an archnemesis in the form of Yellow Pinkie. The series proved popular enough to last three years.

While The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was not responsible for the plethora of spy oriented shows which debuted in the fall of 1965, it may have been responsible for some of those that debuted mid-season. There can be little doubt that in the spring of 1965 the other networks observed the success of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and decided to get into the spy game themselves. It is hear that we must make a detour into television programming history. Prior to January 1966, mid-season replacements were not unknown, but they were by no means common either. It was in January 1966 that struggling ABC-US would seek to change that. It was that month that ABC-US cancelled many of its shows and moved others to new time slots. In fact, the network replaced more shows at mid-season than any network had done before. ABC-US advertised this reshuffling as the "Second Season." In the end ABC-US would not create a "Second Season" of television separate from the fall, but it would make the practice of replacing shows at mid-season much more common.

Three of the shows which would debut as part of this Second Season were spy series. In fact, one of them was an outgrowth of The Saint. By 1965 there was concern that another series of The Saint might not be made. Producers Robert Baker and Monty Berman then looked to books once more for their new series. Namely, they bought the rights to "The Baron," who had first appeared in the 1937 novel Meet the Baron by John Creasey. In the books The Baron was a reformed British jewel thief who then put his skills to use fighting crime. Baker and Berman would make substantial changes to the character for the TV show. The Baron was now a Texan rancher who operated both as an antiques dealer in London and an undercover agent for British Intelligence. With the American broadcast networks increasingly wanting only series shot in colour, Lord Lew Grade of the Independent Television Company (ITC) decided that The Baron would be their first live action series shot in colour. Having made this decision, Lord Grade was able to sell the series to ABC in the United States. This would actually save The Saint. When NBC found out that ABC-US had bought The Baron, they expressed new interest in The Saint. Baker and Berman then parted ways so they could get both series on the air. Baker went back to The Saint. Berman stayed with The Baron.

With American Steve Forrest in the lead role, The Baron would actually debut in the United States on January 20, 1966. It would not debut in the United Kingdom until April 17 of that year. Sadly, The Baron did not do well in the ratings in the United States. Ultimately, only 30 episodes would be shot.

The other spy series to debut at mid-season was Blue Light. Debuting on January 12, 1966, Blue Light featured Robert Goulet as American correspondent David March. While claiming to have renounced his American citizenship to work for the Nazis, in actuality he was as a double agent working for a group code named "Blue Light." Many of the episodes of Blue Light were written by Larry Cohen, who would go onto create the series The Invaders and to direct such films as It's Alive and Q.

The ongoing spy craze perhaps guaranteed that Get Smart would not be the only spy comedy on the air. The Double Life of Henry Phyfe featured Red Buttons as Henry Phyfe, a milquetoast who is recruited by an American spy agency to impersonate a dead foreign agent known only as U-31. The series only lasted sixteen episodes.

The final spy show to debut on American television during the 1965-1966 season was not a new show. In fact, it had already been on the air for nearly five years. It was on March 28, 1966 that The Avengers finally debuted on American television. It was early in 1964 that an American network expressed interest in buying the show for the fall 1965 schedule. Unfortunately, it was only a few weeks later that the producers experienced a major crisis. Honor Blackman announced that she was leaving the show for a career in films (she would appear as Pussy Galore in Goldfinger). If the producers wanted the show to make it to the United States, then, they would have to find a new partner for John Steed. Indeed, since Blackman was so identified with Mrs. Gale, they would also have to create a whole new character.

That character would be Mrs. Emma Peel (named by the production's press officer, Marie Donaldson, who thought the character should have "Man Appeal" or "M Appeal"). Emma Peel was the young widow of pilot Peter Peel and the daughter of a wealthy shipowner. She lived in a penthouse and wore the latest fashions and drove the sportiest cars. Initially, actress Elizabeth Shepherd (who had been in Bleak House and the movie The Tomb of Ligeia) was cast in the role. It soon became apparent after viewing rushes for the first new episode, "Town of No Return," that she was not suited to the role. Fortunately, the production's casting director, Dodo Watts, had found an actress in an episode of Armchair Theatre. Her name was Diana Rigg. The rest, as they say, is history.

While the producers had found the perfect replacement for Honor Blackman, they also had the problem of breaking into the American market. NBC had expressed interest in the series, but worried that being so British in flavour it might not appeal to Americans. Another stumbling block was that the series had been shot in black and white, while it was NBC's intention to go entirely to colour (and they would in the 1966-1967 season). Associated British Corporation (hereafter ABC-UK) then struck upon a plan to sell the series to an American network. They had two offers. The first was that if a network ordered the first 13 episodes in monochrome, they would then order the second 13 episodes in colour. The second was that they could order the entire second series of Emma Peel episodes in colour. ABC-US took ABC-UK up on the second offer, so that at last The Avengers would debut in the United States. Of course, as it turned out, desperate for programming ABC-US bought the first, black and white season featuring Emma Peel.

Debuting as part of the American Broadcasting Company's so called "Second Season," The Avengers proved to be the most successful of the network's mid-season replacements save for an American product called Batman (which would become a craze unto itself). In fact, even in its first run in the United States, The Avengers developed a bit of a cult following. When the series did not show up on the fall schedule of ABC-US, both viewers and critics were upset. Fortunately The Avengers was taking only a short break from American airwaves while its first colour series was being filmed. The series returned to the American Broadcasting Company in January 1967 for a continuous run until 1969.

In the end, the 1965-1966 season would see nine different spy series debut on American prime time television. One would have thought that by now the market would have been glutted with spy dramas. It would seem that this was not the case. The spy craze of the mid-Sixties was such that even more spy series would debut on American broadcast television in the 1966-1967 season.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Spy Shows of the Sixties Part One

"Secret agent man, secret agent man,
They've given you a number and taken away your name."
(from the song "Secret Agent Man," written by P.F. Sloan and Steve Barri, performed by Johnny Rivers)

At the beginning of the 1966 to 1967 fall television season in the United States, one could tune in no less than five nights a week and see at least one show involving spies. The American broadcast networks were in the midst of a cycle towards spy shows, a cycle perhaps only surpassed in size by the cycle towards Westerns in the Fifties or the cycles towards police procedurals and reality shows in the Naughts. In fact, between 1960 and 1969, over twenty five shows devoted to spies were broadcast on American network television. That number might seem small, except when one considers the vast majority of them aired between 1964 and 1968. The American public was so enamoured of spies at the time that secret agents of some shape or another appeared on many of the sitcoms of the era, from Gilligan's Island to The Monkees to Please Don't Eat the Daisies.

There were a few factors that made the spy cycle on American television in the Sixties different from other television cycles. First, it was one of the few television cycles that was embraced by both American and British networks. In fact, as will be discussed below, the spy cycle began on British television before it did American television. Second, the spy cycle was part of a greater spy craze that not only involved television, but books, movies, and comic books as well. After all, this was the era of the earliest James Bond movies, the Matt Helm movies with Dean Martin, the comic book series Nick Fury, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., and spy novels ranging from the Sam Durrell series to John Le Carre's earliest efforts. In the mid-Sixties, it would be hard to avoid spies not only on the television screen, but in movie theatres, on paperback racks, and newsstands as well. Third, the spy cycle on American network television was one of the few that involved British made as well as American made series. Such British series as Danger Man, The Avengers, and The Saint were imported to the States, where they aired alongside such American offerings as The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy.

Tracing the origins of the spy cycle on American television, one must ultimately look to the Cold War. It is difficult to pick a starting date for the Cold War, and in fact it may be accurate to say that it had existed since the October Revolution in 1917. A feeling of distrust, created by the ideological clash between capitalism and communism, existed between the Soviet Union and the democratic countries of Europe and North America nearly from the beginning. There can be no doubt that this feeling of distrust only grew following the end of World War II. Indeed, the United Kingdom and the United States argued very strenuously with the Soviet Union with just how the map of Europe should be redrawn following the defeat of Nazi Germany. By 1947 President Harry Truman would take measures to counteract the influence of the U.S.S.R. The Cold War would only escalate in the Fifties.

As might be expected, much of the Cold War was fought through espionage. The Fifties would be the era of some famous spy cases, perhaps the most famous being that of the Kim Philby, Donald Maclean, Guy Burgess, and Antony Blunt. It was perhaps natural, then, that spy fiction grew in popularity during the Fifties. It was in 1951 that Shaun Lloyd McCarthy (under the pen name of Desmond Cory) published the first novel involving British superspy Johnny Fedora. Fedora was followed in print by such spies as James Bond in 1953 (written by Ian Fleming), and Sam Durrell in 1955 (written by Edward S. Aarons). The Sixites would only see more spies in print, including Matt Helm in 1960 (written by Donald Hamilton) and Len Dreighton's unnamed agent who figured in The IPCRESS File and other novels in 1962 (later named "Harry Palmer" for the movies). Even before spies reached the television screen, they were popular in print.

While the fictional spies who first saw print in the Fifties would have an impact on the spy cycle of the Sixties, that impact may not have been as large as that of director Alfred Hitchcock. In the Thirties, Alfred Hitchcock had directed such classic spy films as the original Man Who Knew Too Much, The 39 Steps, and The Lady Vanishes. In the Fifties Hitchcock would return to the genre. It was in 1956 that his remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much was released. Like the original, the new version of The Man Who Knew Too Much featured an ordinary citizen who gets involved with espionage. While the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much would be very successful, it would be nowhere near as successful or as influential as Hitchcock's second and final spy film of the Fifties. North by Northwest was released in 1959 and was one of the top grossing movies of the year. North by Northwest was a slick, sophisticated, and fast moving thriller in which an ordinary man doesn't only become involved with spies, but is mistaken for one. The emphasis in the film was less on intrigue and suspense than it was sheer excitement. It would prove very influential on spy shows in both the United Kingdom and the United States. Indeed, North by Northwest should be given more credit for starting the spy craze of the Sixties than Dr. No. Not only was the spy craze well under way in Britain (as will be discussed below) when Dr. No was released, but North by Northwest would also be responsible for the creation of the first spy show to air in the American spy cycle as well.

Indeed, the show that would ignite the spy craze in the United Kingdom grew directly out of spy fiction, and the fact is that Northwest by Northwest may well have helped it make it to the air as well. It was in the late Fifties that British television company Associated TeleVision Limited (better known as ATV) was desperately seeking for a show that would be a hit in the United States. They had already had a hit with The Adventures of Robin Hood, but afterwards it seemed difficult to break through the American market. Television writer and producer Ralph Smart was commissioned by Lord Lew Grade, the head of ATV, to develop a series that would be a hit on both sides of the Pond. Smart developed the idea for an spy show, even holding meetings with Ian Fleming. For a time they had thought to bring James Bond to the small screen, but the rights to the Bond novels (save Casino Royale, which was in other hands at the time) had been sold to Eon Productions. Instead, Smart and Fleming created a character very much like Bond, a man who was smooth, cool, and a lady killer. Smart then assigned writer Ian Stuart Black to expand the concept. Black came up with the idea of a secret agent working for NATO and made the character an American, rather than a British citizen. It was then that Patrick McGoohan, born in the United States but raised in Ireland and later England, got the role of John Drake. McGohan had his own ideas on the show. Although Drake would still be smooth and cool, he would also be a man of honour who did not particularly care for violence. He would also never, ever kiss a woman, much less sleep with her. It was then that the TV series Danger Man debuted.

Danger Man proved to be a huge success in the United Kingdom. It was so successful that it would find its way to both the United States and Canada. In fact, Danger Man became the first spy series to air in the United States in the Sixties. It debuted on the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) on April 5, 1961 and aired until September of that year. Sadly, it was not as successful in the United States as it was in Britain. Without the necessary profits from the United States, as well as Canada, as a fairly expensive show Danger Man simply could not continue. It last aired in the United Kingdom in June, 1961. This would not be the end of Danger Man and certainly not the last that audiences had seen of John Drake.

Even though Danger Man was not initially a success in the United States, it helped spark the spy craze in the United Kingdom. And it would not be long before another show would debut in the United Kingdom would be a hit, a show that would also find its way to North America. Like ATV, the Associated British Corporation (ABC) was also seeking hits in the late Fifties. It was in 1960 that Howard Thomas, Managing Director of ABC, decided that the company should pursue adventure series--namely thrillers similar to Alfred Hitchcock's movies and Ian Fleming's novels. Among the shows developed by Sydney Newman, ABC's Head of Drama, was Police Surgeon. A rather routine police dramas, Police Surgeon was not a hit, although polls indicated audiences loved its star Ian Hendry. Newman and his co-producer Leonard White then developed a new series in which Ian Hendry still played a doctor. This time, however, Hendry's character, Dr. David Peel, found himself teamed with a man claiming to work for British Secret Service--John Steed (played by Patrick Macnee). Together the two men fought spies and criminals alike. It was the beginning of what could be the most successful spy series of all time, The Avengers. It debuted July 1, 1961.

The Avengers proved to be a smash hit. Sadly, its first series, which would have been 39 episodes, was cut short at only 27 episodes because of an actor's strike. As a result plans to introduce a female partner, Venus Smith, for Steed were put on hold. It was during the strike that Ian Hendry decided to leave the series for a career in movies. It was then decided that Steed would have two new partners, who would alternate episodes. Venus Smith (Julie Stevens) was a lounge singer who assisted Steed from time to time; however, It would be Steed's other partner, Mrs. Catherine Gale (played by Honor Blackman), who would turn the hit show into a phenomenon. While Venus Smith was a rather typical female character for the time, Cathy Gale was a woman as had never been seen on television anywhere. A PhD in anthropology skilled in judo, Mrs. Gale would battle and defeat men bigger than herself, all the while clad in leather. It was not long before The Avengers was one of the top rated shows in the United Kingdom. With its third series Venus Smith was dropped and Mrs. Gale continued as Steed's sole partner. It also continued to be a raging success, so much so that it aired in Canada and there was even talk of bringing it to the United States. Unfortunately, it would not make it to the United States until 1966, by which time John Steed had a new partner, one who would see even more success than Mrs. Gale.

In 1962 a series debuted that was not quite a spy series, but it would often be counted among them anyway. Simon Templar, also known as The Saint, was created by Leslie Charteris and made his first appearance in the novel Meet-The Tiger. Simon Templar started out as an outright criminal, but at some point he decided to use his skills as a confidence man and burglar to right wrongs. In fact, in Meet-The Tiger and other novels he makes a living largely by more or less robbing the "ungodly (those without a code of honour)." He is even referred to in the books as a Robin Hood figure. The Saint proved to be a very popular character. In addition to the many novels, novellas, and short stories, he was featured on radio shows on both sides of the Atlantic and on film. It was in 1961 that producer Roy S. Baker had the idea for a Saint TV series. Baker initially took his idea to the British ABC, who rejected it on the basis that such a show would be too costly. He then approached Lord Lew Grade of the Incorporated Television Company (ITC) to produce the series. Lord Grade like the idea and bought the television rights to The Saint from Charteris. From the beginning Grade had an actor in mind to play Simon Templar: Roger Moore. Moore was already somewhat famous on both sides of the Atlantic. He had starred in the British series Ivanhoe and played Beau Maverick on the American TV series Maverick.

The Saint proved to be a huge hit in the United Kingdom, turning Roger Moore into even more of a star. Lord Grade decided with such success that perhaps they could interest the American networks in the series. He approached the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) about the series, but they outright rejected it after viewing two episodes. CBS and the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) also turned Grade down. Lord Grade then hit upon the novel solution of syndicating The Saint to local stations in the Untied States. Debuting in the United States in 1963, The Saint proved to be one of the biggest hits in American syndication of all time. In the end NBC would have a change of heart. It would receive a permanent place on their schedule in 1967.

Although Simon Templar was not a spy and the series was technically not a spy drama, The Saint had many of the trappings of the spy shows. It had a leading man who was nearly irresistible to women, lavish settings, beautiful women, and nefarious villains. And, quite naturally, The Saint would face his fair share of spies.

Among the British series that would debut in the wake of Danger Man and The Avengers was an anthology series titled Espionage. Espionage was produced by ATV. The stories featured on Espionage ranged from the Second World War to the Cold War era to yet other eras. Espionage found its way to the United States, debuting on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on October 2, 1963. The series did not last on either side of the Atlantic, lasting only one season.

Danger Man, The Avengers, and The Saint would start the cycle towards spy series on British television. In the wake of their success, several more spy series would debut in their wake, including Top Secret, Man of the World, The Sentimental Agent, The Man in Room 17, Adam Adamant Lives, The Spies, Freewheelers, and many others, some of which found their way to the States. It was in part this new interest in spies in the United Kingdom that would finally bring James Bond to the big screen. Released in the United Kingdom on October 5, 1962 and in the United States on May 8, 1963, Dr. No proved to be a smash hit. It would only add fuel to the fire with regards to the spy craze in the United Kingdom and it would help bring the spy craze to the United States.

That having been said, the success of Dr. No was not responsible for the arrival of the first show in the spy cycle on American television. It was in the fall of 1962, nearly a half year before Dr. No would arrive on American shores, that producer Norman Felton (who had produced Dr. Kildare) approached Ian Fleming about the prospect of producing a new television show that would draw inspiration from the Hitchcock movie North by Northwest and Ian Fleming's nonfiction book Thrilling Cities. Fleming wrote a rough outline about a spy called Napoleon Solo. Fleming's work on the new series would end there, however, as his obligations to Eon Productions (who owned the film rights to 007) forced him to withdraw from the project. Felton then brought in Sam Rolfe (co-creator of Have Gun Will Travel) onto the project. Rolfe took little more than the names of characters from Fleming's outline and instead drew upon his own unsold project, St. George and the Dragon, for the rest. The end result was the series that would eventually be called The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. It debuted on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on September 22, 1964.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was different from any other spy series that had aired on American television before it. Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) worked not for an American agency, but for the United Network Command for Law Enforcement, an international agency devoted to maintaining order throughout the world. In fact, Solo's partner was not even an American, but the Russian Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). Just as the movie North by Northwest involved an ordinary person becoming involved in espionage, so too did each episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. involve an ordinary person or "innocent" who would get wrapped up in U.N.C.L.E.'s eternal battle with the forces of evil. For the most part, the men from U.N.C.L.E. faced off with agents from THRUSH, an international crime syndicate devoted to world conquest. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was an intelligent series, produced with tongue definitely in cheek and featuring some of the slickest production at the time. The plots often bordered on the fantastic, with Solo and Kuryakin facing such threats as brain altering machine (courtesy of THRUSH, of course) and women turned into superwomen using a serum that was reported to even bring the dead back to life.

Initially The Man From U.N.C.L.E. fared poorly in the Nielsen ratings. In fact, its ratings were so low that as of December 1964 it was not in NBC's tentative schedule for the fall 1965-1966 season. Fortunately, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would be saved by generally good reviews, good word of mouth, an extensive publicity campaign on the part of its producers (stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum made a tour of several key markets), and possibly the success of the latest James Bond movie (Goldfinger was released in the United States in December 1964). Starting in January 1965 The Man From U.N.C.L.E. rose in the ratings. By May 1965, not only was it a smash hit, but it had become an outright phenomenon.

The success of the first three James Bond movies (Dr. No, From Russia With Love), and Goldfinger) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. triggered a spy cycle on American television that would be one of the largest such cycles in television history. In the fall of 1965 alone, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would be joined by five new spy series. And as the 1965-1966 season progressed, yet more would debut. In the mid-Sixties, then, America was gripped by a spy craze.