When you think of 1960s TV, what do you think of? Gilligan’s Island? Or perhaps The Munsters? Just don’t forget about I Spy (one of my absolute favorites). Imagine: the mod, mod world of the sixties, international espionage and thievery, and two American spies: Robert Culp as Agent Kelly Robinson, whose cover is as a former Princeton law student and Davis Cup tennis player; and Bill Cosby as Agent Alexander Scott, a Rhodes scholar whose cover is as Robinson’s Tennis coach as well as being a language expert (yes: a black tennis playing dude with a gun on TV in the mid-sixties). The show is an exercise in style and stealth, relying more heavily on crafty spy work than explosions; and the deliberate pace (a testament to the times) keeps me captivated.
My favorite aspects of the show include the great, globetrotting on-location shots, the intelligence of the writing, and the truly global cast of characters represented, all of whom are presented with dignity. Another notable factor was the palpable bond between Cosby and Culp. In fact, Cosby recently stated to the LA Times, “We almost had our own language”.
Click here for “So Long, Patrick Henry”, an episode from 1966 in which An expatriate African-American living in Africa must regain his citizenship before enemy agents kill him.