1968: Time analyzes Mission: Impossible’s appeal

Few people remember Bruce Geller today. He created Mission: Impossible, developed Mannix and was viewed in his heyday as a brilliant television producer. His series were known for very stylized title sequences. In fact, it’s his hand who strikes the match that lights the fuse in the M:I title sequence of the original TV series. He died in a aircraft crash in 1978 but was very much on the mind of Time magazine a decade earlier when it described his most successful TV product:

The program is TV’s hottest suspense series, and its fans find in it the same inspired implausibility that characterized The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in its prime. Bruce Geller, 37-year-old film, TV and off-Broadway writer who conceived the whole enterprise, concedes that his original script was basically a paste-up of Topkapi and several other favorite movies. When Hollywood wouldn’t buy it, he turned to Desilu. When Desilu proposed a series, he turned nervous, fearing he would run out of ideas—his own or other people’s. But he tried, and made it. M:l won four Emmys last year, and now in its second season it ranks as a solid favorite in the Sunday evening slot formerly occupied by Candid Camera and What’s My Line? Needless to say, Lucille Ball is disavowing nothing.

In many ways, Time described M:I at its peak. In the third season, a quarrel between Geller and his best writers, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, would lead to the departure of the latter duo. Also, during the second season, Paramount acquired Desilu from Lucille Ball. That led to a new studio regime that emphasized cost cutting — which, in turn, led to the departure of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain.

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