M:I Rogue Nation’s attempted ‘fan service’

Steven Hill as Dan Briggs in a first-season episode of Mission: Impossible. The photo he’s looking at is of M:I creator Bruce Geller.

During the scripting of 2015’s Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, the filmmakers considered using the character of Dan Briggs, leader of the Impossible Missions Force in the first season of the M:I television series.

The source of the information: Christopher McQuarrie, the film’s writer-director himself.

Background: Steven Hill played Briggs in the 1966-67 season of the show. But he was dismissed and Peter Graves came aboard as Jim Phelps for the rest of the series.

McQuarrie relayed the following in a Jan. 12 tweet:

Fun fact: Dan Briggs was in early drafts of Rogue Nation as a long-lost IMF agent.

This concept, like most of our attempts at fan service, collapsed quickly under it’s own weight.

Vague remnants of Dan’s story informed a character that ultimately evolved into Ilsa Faust.

McQuarrie’s tweet was in response to a fan post on Twitter.

Isla Faust was the character played by Rebecca Ferguson. Both character and actress returned in 2018’s Mission: Impossible-Fallout.

McQuarrie currently is in preparation for two more M:I films that will be filmed back to back. They will be released in 2021 and 2022.

Edd Byrnes, Kookie in 77 Sunset Strip, dies

Edd Byrnes, front, in a TV Guide cover featuring the cast of 77 Sunset Strip

Edd Byrnes, whose hip parking lot attendant in 77 Sunset Strip became enormously popular, has died.

The death was announced on Twitter by his son, Logan Byrnes, a San Diego TV news anchor.

The tweet attached a press release that said Edd Byrnes died on Wednesday of natural causes. That press released gave his age as 87, but other sources, including a  New York Times obituary, listed it as 86.

77 Sunset Strip (1958-64), an ABC series produced by Warner Bros., featured Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith as smooth Los Angeles private detectives. It had a snappy title song and would spawn similar private eye series, including Hawaiian Eye and Bourbon Street Beat.

Edd Byrnes appeared in the pilot episode of 77 Sunset Strip, Girl on the Run, as a villain.

But following an audience preview, kids navigated toward Byrnes, who had played “a cold-blooded killer, a no-good from way back. He didn’t have one redeeming feature,” Roy Huggins, the series creator, said in a 1998 interview for the Archive of American Television.

As a result, Byrnes was brought back as the hair-combing Kookie, who parked cars at the restaurant next door to the private agency featured in the show.

The private eyes, former OSS agent Stuart Bailey (Zimbalist) and Jeff Spencer (Smith), soon pressed Kookie into service helping them on various cases. Eventually, Kookie was promoted to a detective at the agency.

Meanwhile, the Kookie role provided Byrnes the opportunity to record songs such as Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb.

Eventually, Kookie’s popularity waned. In the final season of 77 Sunset Strip,  the format was drastically changed. All the the cast fired except for Zimbalist and Stu Bailey became a lone-wolf private eye.

Byrnes continued on, appearing many television series as well as the movie Grease. His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists 85 acting credits through 1999.

Buck Henry, Get Smart co-creator, dies

Buck Henry in Heaven Can Wait

Buck Henry, a writer and actor who co-created Get Smart, has died at 89, according to an obituary posted by Deadline: Hollywood.

Henry died of a heart attack in Los Angeles, Deadline said.

Henry collaborated with Mel Brooks on the pilot script for Get Smart, a parody of spy shows and movies.

The series originally was developed for ABC. The network rejected the show because the script had bumbling CONTROL agent Maxwell Smart confronting KAOS villain Mr. Big, who was a dwarf.

NBC, upon hearing about the script, commissioned a pilot. Henry and Brooks re-tooled their script for Don Adams, incorporating some of Adams’ bits from his comedy act. Michael Dunn was cast as Mr. Big opposite Adams’ Maxwell Smart.

The series sold. It ran for four seasons on NBC and a fifth on CBS.

By the time Get Smart went off the air in 1970, the spy craze that spawned it had run its course.

Henry was nominated twice for Emmys for Get Smart. The pilot script received one nomination. Henry and Leonard Stern won an Emmy for a two-part episode, Ship of Spies.

“For continual satiric inspiration, I want to thank all those zanies in the CIA and FBI,” Henry said in accepting the award. “Precisely what I was going to say,” Stern added.

Henry stayed with Get Smart for its first season as story editor. He later moved onto other projects, including co-scripting and appearing in 1967’s The Graduate. That got Henry an Oscar nomination.

He shared another Oscar nomination with Warren Beatty for directing 1978’s Heaven Can Wait. Henry also had a supporting role in the film.

The writer also was a frequent host in the early years of NBC’s Saturday Night Live.

Below is a YouTube video of the 1967 Emmy Awards show where Henry and Stern got their award for Get Smart. The video quality isn’t very good, unfortunately.

The awards program represented a high point for spy TV shows. In addition to Henry and Stern,  Barbara Bain won the first of her three Emmys for Mission: Impossible, beating out Diana Rigg of The Avengers. Bruce Geller also won an Emmy for his pilot script for Mission: Impossible.

Real life Mission: Impossible — ex-auto exec escapes

Carlos Ghosn

Here today, Ghosn tomorrow.

Former Renault and Nissan executive Carlos Ghosn (rhymes with cone) pulled off a dramatic escape from Japan and ended up in Lebanon, a country where he’s a citizen.

Ghosn was arrested in Japan in 2018 for under-reporting his compensation. He spent much of the past year imprisoned. More recently, he’s been out of jail but under severe restrictions and surveillance. His lawyers in Japan had custody of his three passports (Lebanese, Brazilian and French).

Despite that, Ghosn this week arrived in Lebanon via a private aircraft. He said he was held unjustly and plans to discuss the case publicly next week. A report in Lebanon said part of the escape involved being taken out in a box meant for musical instruments after some musicians played at his Tokyo home.

For details, you can view reports in The New York Times, CNN and Reuters. (UPDATE: Reuters has an additional story saying Ghosn may have met Lebanon’s president after arriving in the country.)

The reason for bringing it up in the blog: I’ve seen mentions on social media comparing this to James Bond.

Granted (as a former co-worker of mine said years ago) Ghosn looks like he could play a James Bond villain. Another friend this week remarked this has the makings of a good movie and Rami Malek, having wrapped up work on No Time to Die, could play Ghosn.

Still, I think the better comparison is the original Mission: Impossible television series. Ghosn’s escape seems as elaborate as some of the plans devised by either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves).

The M:I pilot even had operative Willy (Peter Lupus) using cases to carrying people into a vault containing two atomic bombs.

Regardless, the world is going to be curious for some time about how Ghosn pulled off his escape from Japan.

Happy New Year 2020 from The Spy Command

Our annual greeting

It’s the end of another year. Here’s hoping for a great 2020 for readers of The Spy Command. There’s actually going to be a James Bond film in the new year, so there will be plenty to discuss.

And, as Napoleon Solo reminds everyone, be sure to party responsibly this New Year’s Eve. Happy New Year, everyone.

Wo Fat’s namesake is to be restored

James MacArthur and Emme Tomimbang, outside of the Wo Fat restaurant in Honolulu during a 1996 television special.

A landmark structure in Honolulu, the former Wo Fat restaurant, is to be restored and redeveloped, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.

Hawaii Five-O creator Leonard Freeman used the name of the of the Chinese restaurant for the arch villain who would oppose lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord).

Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made his first appearance in the 1968 Five-O pilot. Initially, Wo Fat was a Chinese agent. After the U.S. and China established diplomatic relations in the 1970s, Wo Fat went independent.

Regardless, Wo Fat took on McGarrett a number of times during the 12-year run of the show. The 1980 series finale brought back Wo Fat one last time.

A rebooted series that began in 2010 (with the spelling Five-0) had its own version of Wo Fat. The second version of the character was killed off in the 100th episode of that series. That installment aired in 2014.

Here’s an excerpt of the Star Advertiser story that describes developer plans to convert the restaurant for multiple uses:

The Wo Fat project calls for a cafeteria-style eatery and some retail on the ground floor along historic Hotel and Maunakea streets, and a 23-room boutique hotel on the second and third floors in what for decades served as the main dining halls for one of the largest and most prestigious Chinese banquet restaurants on the island.

The 86-year-old building was acquired by new owners in 2017, the newspaper said. The restoration project will cost an estimated $10 million. The Star Advertiser described some of the problems involved with the project.

It’s not a simple undertaking. In the early 2000s, the former owners of the building allowed it to become a nightclub and its proprietors decided to paint over the distinctive artwork that adorned the ceilings and columns, as well as the building’s unique, multi-­colored stained-glass windows — with black.

The development group spearheading the project is named Mighty Wo Fat LLC.

1967: The U.N.C.L.E./Invaders connection

A first-season episode of The Invaders directed by Sutton Roley…

….and a fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode directed by Sutton Roley

The final season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1967-68) included a major change in tone. The show got a lot more serious after a campy third season.

The primary reason was a change in producers. In came Anthony Spinner, a veteran of some Quinn Martin series. His time at QM Productions up to that point included being associate producer for the first season of The Invaders.

Spinner had written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Secret Sceptre Affair. But he also wrote a number of episodes for Quinn Martin series such as 12 O’Clock High and The FBI.

QM Productions hired Spinner for the Invaders, where he was deputy to the day-to-day producer, Alan A. Armer.

The show was a departure for QM — it was a science fiction series about how architect David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) tries to convince humanity the Earth is being invaded by an alien race.

The Invaders was a mid-season replacement series that debuted in January 1967 on ABC. Spinner departed the show after the first half-season and he landed as the new day-to-day producer for U.N.C.L.E.

Spinner, along the way, hired some contributors from The Invaders. Among them were writers Don Brinkley, Robert Sherman and John W. Bloch. Bloch, like Spinner, had also worked on a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode. Sherman’s U.N.C.L.E.’s script was among those that went unproduced because the series was canceled at mid-season.

But perhaps the most significant contributor from The Invaders was director Sutton Roley (1922-2007).

Roley was known for filming shots from unusual angles. He helmed two episodes of the first season of The Invaders, including one titled The Innocent.

The aliens try to fool David Vincent about their intentions, claiming they really want to help mankind.

The episode includes a point-of-view shot where Vincent, having not been fooled, looks up at the aliens.

Roley would direct three episodes in U.N.C.L.E.’s Spinner-produced final season, including the two-part series finale, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair. The director practically duplicates his shot from The Invaders as we see Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) look at people hovering over him.

For U.N.C.L.E., the changes brought by Spinner didn’t pan out. The show got clobbered in the ratings by Gunsmoke on CBS (a series which had been initially canceled but reprieved).

Nevertheless, a number of contributors to The Invaders had an impact on the tone for the final 16 episodes of The Man From U.N.C..E.

Footnote: The main guest star in The Innocent was Michael Rennie. He’d be the villain in the fourth-season U.N.C.L.E. episode, The Thrush Roulette Affair. Rennie would also return in the second season of The Invaders for the show’s only two-part story.