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.

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