U.N.C.L.E.: the week that was

"I can't believe everything that's going on, Illya."

“I can’t believe everything that’s going on, Illya.”

The week of Sept. 21-27 may be the busiest U.N.C.L.E.-related week since the 1964-68 series ended its first television run in January 1968. At least social media amplifies activity to make it seem that way.

It was also the week where news about U.N.C.L.E. 1.0 (the original series) and U.N.C.L.E. 2.0 (a movie version scheduled for release in August 2015 and starring Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer) collided.

Here’s a look:

Sept. 21: In the U.S., the MeTV channel runs the third episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Quadripartite Affair. It’s one of the best of the entire series and was the first to include significant screen time for David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin character. The director was future movie director Richard Donner and scripter Alan Caillou would do much to develop Kuryakin in several first-season stories.

Sept. 22: Fans celebrate the show’s 50th anniversary across a variety of social media.

Sept. 23: Composer Daniel Pemberton confirms via Twitter that he’s written the score for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie directed by Guy Ritchie and that recording of the music begins on Sept. 24.

Sept. 24: Recording sessions of the U.N.C.L.E. score begin at Abbey Road Studios. Separately, the movie gets a rating of PG-13 from the Motion Picture Association of America, according a list of MPAA ratings compiled by Box Office Mojo.

Sept. 25: Warner Home Video announces plans to re-release The Man From U.N.C.L.E. series, according to TVSHOWSONDVD.COM. The re-release, scheduled for Nov. 4, will have all the extras a 2007 release had but the packaging will be different.

Sept. 26: The Golden Anniversary Affair, a two-day gathering of 100 fans, begins in Culver City, California, at the site of the former MGM studio where the show was produced.

Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, stars of the original series, aren’t able to attend but post greetings on the event’s website. Fans post pictures on social media of crew members, including associate producer George Lehr and composer Gerald Fried, who scored the most episodes of the show.

Also posted are photos of original props, including the U.N.C.L.E. special, such as THIS ONE by author Paul Bishop.

Half a world away, composer Pemberton makes a posting on Twitter that appears to reveal one track of his movie score will be titled His Name Is Napoleon Solo.

Sept. 27: The Golden Anniversary Affair and the U.N.C.L.E. movie recording sessions continue. Andrew Skeet, a musician working on the recording, Tweets a picture of Pemberton working on his keyboard at Abbey Road.

U.N.C.L.E. movie gets PG-13 rating

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer (Art by Paul Baack)

Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer
(Art by Paul Baack)

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, 11 months ahead of its U.S. release has gotten a rating of PG-13 from the Motion Picture Association of America, according to the BOX OFFICE MOJO WEBSITE.

The MPAA cited “action violence, some suggestive content, and partial nudity,” according to a Box Office Mojo compilation of recent movie ratings.

That’s not unexpected. PG-13 is the sweet spot for most action movies. James Bond films, for example, have carried a PG-13 rating since 1989’s Licence to Kill. A rating of R, for restricted, where children under 17 aren’t supposed to be admitted without a parent, cuts down the potential audience for a film at theaters.

Separately, recording of the movie’s score began today. Composer Daniel Pemberton, for the second time in two days, took to Twitter to provide an update.

This week has been where U.N.C.L.E. 1.0 and 2.0 have collided.

On Sept. 21, MeTV telecast The Quadripartite Affair, the third episode of the original 1964-68 series and the first to have significant screen time for the Illya Kuryakin character. The next day was the 50th anniversary of the show.

The past two days have had news about the new U.N.C.L.E. film, with Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer, in the roles originally played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum.

U.N.C.L.E. movie score recording starts Sept. 24

Shoutout to @laneyboggs2001 at Twitter who re-Tweeted the composer as the postings went online.

Daniel Pemberton, composer for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, took to Twitter to announce he’ll begin recording his score tomorrow, Sept. 24.

Pemberton follows in the footsteps of Jerry Goldsmith (who scored the pilot for the 1964-68 television series and composed its theme music), Morton Stevens, Lalo Schifrin, Gerald Fried and others as U.N.C.L.E. composers. Pemberton didn’t provide a lot of details. For example, he didn’t say if Goldsmith’s theme is incorporated into the score.

Still, after reshoots and test screenings, news — delivered one day after the show’s 50th anniversary — showed how the movie’s post production is proceeding. It’s scheduled to be released in August 2015.

Here are three of the Twitter postings:

The FBI season 9: Erskine’s final cases

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

The FBI, after eight seasons, was still getting decent ratings but they were declining. Executive Producer Quinn Martin decided to shake things up.

A new/old face was brought in as the day-to-day producer. Anthony Spinner, a writer on the series during the first, second and fifth seasons, took the helm.

Spinner had his ups and down at QM Productions. He left his post as associate producer of The Invaders to become the producer during the last season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He returned to QM to produce Dan August, a police drama that only lasted one season. Later he left again to work as story consultant and then producer of Search, another series that only lasted one season.

Whether it was Spinner’s doing or not, his tenure on The FBI’s final season resembles his time on U.N.C.L.E. On both shows, there was a “back to basics” feel. In the case of The FBI, there was a new young sidekick (Shelly Novack as agent Chris Daniels) for Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s Lewis Erskine. This was similar to the show’s first two seasons when Erskine had a young sidekick, Jim Rhodes (Stephen Brooks).

This meant William Reynolds, sidekick for six seasons, was out although he’d appear in two season 9 episodes. It turned out Reynolds’s Tom Colby had gotten a promotion and was now stationed on the West Coast.

Also, the final season went back to a minute-long version of Bronislau Kaper’s theme for the main titles, again similar to the first two seasons. Since the third season, there had been a very short main titles.

Still, it wasn’t enough to save the show. The FBI had always been an idealized version of the real-life U.S. agency. By the time episodes began airing in the fall of 1973, the Watergate scandal overwhelmed the news, including giving a black eye to the real FBI.

The show still maintained its quality, drawing a combination of old pros (Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Susan Oliver, Gary Lockwood) and upcoming actors (Harvey Keitel) as guest stars. Perhaps it was just time. Nevertheless, it could be said that The FBI (the series) never “jumped the shark” the way other long-running series did.

UPDATE (Sept. 24): Season 9 of The FBI is available in the U.S. from Warner Archive. CLICK HERE for ordering information.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. celebrates its 50th anniversary

Publicity still from the 1964-68 series.

Publicity still from the 1964-68 series.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted 50 years ago today with the telecast of The Vulcan Affair on NBC.

The series had false starts. First Ian Fleming was a participant, then after several months he wasn’t, bowing out to pressure from Bond movie producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman. Then there was threatened legal action from Eon Productions stemming from the show’s original title, Solo.

In turn, the series got a new title and the legal problems went away. The makers of Goldfinger did make one change in their film. A gangster named Solo died the most spectacular death among hoodlums invited to Goldfginer’s Kentucky stud farm, a change from earlier drafts and from Fleming’s original novel. (Adrian Turner’s 1998 book on Goldfinger details the changes in the movie’s script.)

Nor did U.N.C.L.E. get off to an easy start. Airing on Tuesday nights, it was up against The Red Skeleton Show on CBS, which nearly led to cancelation before a mid-season switch to Monday nights.

But the audience discovered the series, eventually ensuring a renewal for a second season for 1965-66, which would be its highest-rated campaign.

Executive Producer Norman Felton soldiered on. His developer-producer Sam Rolfe departed after the first season and things weren’t quite the same, certainly not as consistent. Various other producers — David Victor, Boris Ingster and Anthony Spinner among them — put their own stamp on the show with varying degrees of success. Major contributions were made by writers such as Alan Caillou (who arguably shaped the Illya Kuryakin character), Dean Hargrove and Peter Allan Fields.

It remains to be seen whether U.N.C.L.E. can resonate with modern audiences. A movie version won’t be out until next year, and some fans aren’t crazy about the idea. It is back on U.S. television, via MeTV, which is showing it on Sunday nights.

Regardless, happy anniversary, U.N.C.L.E.

Happy birthday, David McCallum

Happy 81st birthday, Mr. McCallum. We can see you’re busy.

David McCallum roughing it on his birthday

David McCallum roughing it on his birthday

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