Robert Culp first obit on the “In Memoriam” segment of ABC’s “This Week”

You can view it by clicking CLICKING RIGHT HERE. A few seconds included part of a main titles from I Spy.

45th anniversary of Thunderball — in French!

It’s WAY too early to do serious posts about Thunderball’s 45th anniversary. But here are a few clips from the French version of Thunderball’s trailer.

Ann Baack

To all our visitors,

It is with a sad heart that I inform you that Paul Baack’s mother Ann has passed away. She was a delightful and special woman.

My deepest and sincerest of condolences to my brother Paul. I am there for you always.

Tom Zielinski

1997: a 1960s spy reunion with Culp, Vaughn,Macnee and Bain

The Dick Van Dyke series Diagnosis Murder often engaged in “stunt casting,” in which the producers would deliberately cast actors famous for certain roles in the past and put them in a story that evoked their iconic images.

In November 1997, CBS aired an episode of the series called “Discards,” which featured the stars of 1960s spy shows. Most of the screen time went to Robert Culp, who played the father of a series regular. Besides Culp (I Spy), Robert Vaughn (The Man From U.N.C.L.E.) and Patrick Macnee (The Avengers) were on hand, playing spy types. What’s more, Barbara Bain was there actually reprising her Cinnamon Carter role from Mission: Impossible. On top of that, Phil Morris, the son of M:I’s Greg Morris appeared.

Here are some clips:

MGM update: one bidder drops out

Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., which makes the “Saw” horror film series, has dropped out of the bidding for Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc., according to Bloomberg.com.

MGM controls half of the James Bond franchise, and thus MGM’s fate will determine how quickly, or even if, there will be a Bond 23. According to the Bloomberg story, Time Warner remains one of the potential new owners.

Why I Spy was a big deal

Robert Culp’s death this week is drawing an attention to a show that debuted 45 years ago this fall. Typically, obituaries for the 79-year-old actor reference him starring in I Spy.

It’s not hard to see why. I Spy was a big deal for various reasons.

First, and most obviously, it was a ground breaking series in that it featured a white and black man working together as equals, with Culp and Bill Cosby in the leads. This was in the middle of the drive for civil rights in the 1960s. Around the 5:00 mark of this clip from a 2007 interview, Culp discusses how some NBC affiliates didn’t want to air the show and what he and Cosby said about it:

Second, among the various 1960s spy shows, it was the most grounded in the Cold War. The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was, in effect, a post-Cold War show with an American and a Russian as lead characters. Mission: Impossible had stories set in fictional, vaguely Eastern European countries. I Spy made it clear the characters were dealing with the Soviets or Red Chinese. I Spy also took place in a world of ambiguity and shades of gray. For example, Culp’s Kelly Robinson was ordered by his U.S. bosses to kill his former mentor. Here’s the entire episode on You Tube:

Finally, I Spy showed it was possible to have extensive location shooting on a TV budget. U.N.C.L.E. and M:I were shot on studio backlots or in and around Los Angeles. When you saw Hong Kong or Tokyo on I Spy, it was the real thing.

I Spy’s Robert Culp dies

Two 1960s spy icon die the same month. Robert Culp, who starred with Bill Cosby on I Spy, died at the age of 79 after collapsing outside his Hollywood home, according to an Associated Press story on the Web site of The New York Times.

His death comes just 10 days after the death of Peter Graves, the star of Mission: Impossible.

Culp provided edgy, unpredictable performances for decades. In I Spy, he played Kelly Robinson, a U.S. agent who had a cover as a “tennis bum,” which enabled him to travel the world. Culp’s Robinson was a man whose world was shades of gray, not black and white. He often had plenty of reasons to question the value and ethics (or lack thereof) in his work. Of all the 1960s spy shows, I Spy perhaps came the closest to dealing with real-world Cold War themes.

Culp also scripted some of the best episodes of the series, including the first broadcast on NBC, So Long, Patrick Henry. (Note: Hulu lists it as the pilot episode but it isn’t; NBC selected the episode to air because network executives believed it was a stronger show than the pilot, which didn’t air until about mid-season.)

If you’d prefer watching the episode on YouTube, you can do it right here:

If you’re not up to watching an entire episode, here are the main titles from another episode featuring Culp, Cosby and a great theme by Earle Hagen:

While we’re at it, here’s a memorable Culp cameo in an episode of Get Smart:

UPDATE: The New York Times now has its own staff-prepared obituary on its Web site.