Anthony Spinner, writer-producer for QM, U.N.C.L.E., dies

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner

Robert Vaughn, David McCallum and Carol Lynley in The Prince of Darkness Affair Part II, produced by Anthony Spinner and written by Dean Hargrove

Anthony Spinner, a writer-producer who worked on a number of series for QM Productions as well as The Man From U.N.C.L.E., died in February at 89, according to the In Memoriam 2020 page of the Writer’s Guild West website.

Spinner’s work as a writer had a recurring theme of betrayal. A few examples:

–In The FBI episode The Tormentors, written by Spinner, kidnapper Logan Dupree (Wayne Rogers) brutally murders one of his confederates, John Brock (Edward Asner).

— In The Man From U.N.C.L.E. episode The Secret Sceptre Affair, written by Spinner, Napoleon Solo is manipulated and betrayed by his commanding officer from the Korean War.

— In The FBI episode The Assassin, plotted by Spinner, an international assassin (William Windom) sets up an idealistic traitor (Tom Skeritt) to be killed as part of an assassination plot aimed at a bishop (Dean Jagger).

–In The Name of the Game episode The Perfect Image, plotted by Spinner, Howard Publications executive assistant Peggy Maxwell (Susan Saint James) has been manipulated by an old friend as part of a plot to discredit a reform mayor of Chicago.

Anthony Spinner’s title card for Survival, the final episode of The FBI

After writing for a number of QM Productions shows, Spinner was associate producer for the first season of The Invaders. QM’s only science fiction show had a paranoid feel as David Vincent (Roy Thinnes) battled invaders from another world who took human form to take over Earth.

Spinner’s next job was producing the fourth (and final) season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Spinner, in effect, tried to bring the “QM Gravitas” to U.N.C.L.E. following that show’s very campy third season.

The fourth-season debut, The Summit-Five Affair, showed how Spinner was taking the show in a different direction. In the episode, written by Robert E. Thompson, Solo (Robert Vaughn) undergoes torture — by another U.N.C.L.E. operative (Lloyd Bochner), determined to show that Solo is a traitor.

Summit-Five also featured a major double-cross, something that would occur in other Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. episodes.

Not everyone involved appreciated the new direction. Veteran U.N.C.L.E. writer Dean Hargrove, in a 2007 interview for a DVD release, said Spinner came from “the Quinn Martin School of Melodrama.” He didn’t mean it as a compliment. In the interview, Hargrove described his disagreements with Spinner during production of the two-part story The Prince of Darkness Affair.

U.N.C.L.E. ran out of time and was canceled in mid-season. Spinner would return to QM Productions. His time there would have its ups and downs.

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

For example, Spinner produced the QM police drama Dan August (1970-71). Spinner pushed to have more topical scripts.

“Quinn said to me, ‘Are we doing propaganda here?,'” Spinner said in an interview with Jonathan Etter for the author’s Quinn Martin, Producer book. “I said, ‘Yeah, because I’m tired of diamond heists and kidnapped girls and all that stuff.'”

Regardless, boss Quinn Martin consistently utilized Spinner’s talents on multiple series.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI's final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Shelly Novack and Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a publicity still for The FBI’s final season, produced by Anthony Spinner.

Spinner produced the final season of QM’s The FBI. Even before that show was canceled, Martin re-assigned Spinner to Cannon. Spinner finished work on The FBI on a Friday in 1974 and began work on Cannon the following Monday, according to the Quinn Martin, Producer book.

In 1975, Martin had Spinner producing two QM series simultaneously, Cannon and the short-lived Caribe. The latter was a cross between Hawaii Five-O (tropical climate) and U.N.C.L.E. (agency with multi-national jurisdiction).

Also, while working at QM, Spinner and his story editor, Stephen Kandel, rescued Cannon scripts during a large fire at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, the home base for Cannon, according to the Etter book.

His credits also included being producer of The Return of the Saint in the late 1970s, with Ian Ogilvy as Simon Templar.

Spinner’s career extended into the 1990s with the TV movie The Lottery.

In 2009, Spinner sued ABC saying he actually created the television series Lost. Spinner in 1977 had written a pilot for the network titled Lost which he said contained ideas and concepts that ended up in the 2004-10 series. ABC won the case in court in 2011. a finding that was upheld on appeal in 2013.

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.

Dan August coming to DVD in December

The cast of Dan August (Burt Reynolds seated, while left to right, Ned Romero, Richard Anderson, Norman Fell and Ena Hartman) in a publicity still

Dan August, the Quinn Martin series that helped (albeit in an unusual way) Burt Reynolds become a star will be available on DVD in December, according to a listing at Visual Entertainment Inc.

The series only ran first run during the 1970-71 season on ABC. After it wasn’t picked up, Reynolds took a blooper reel with him on talk show appearances, according to the book Quinn Martin, Producer. Audiences discovered the star’s sense of humor, which gave his career momentum.

The police drama originated with a television movie, House on Greenapple Road. That starred Christopher George as the police detective.

When ABC wanted a series, Quinn Martin wanted George to reprise the role. But the actor made a pilot for another series, The Immortal, which was also on ABC’s schedule. George went with that, opening the door for Reynolds. (As it turns out Visual Entertainment also offers The Immortal.)

Anthony Spinner title card for an episode of Dan August

The day-to-day producer of Dan August was Anthony Spinner (b. 1930), who was the fourth-season producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. He also worked on a number of QM shows as a writer or producer. Spinner pushed the QM envelope on Dan August, having story lines dealing with topical issues of the day.

The Visual Entertainment series says CBS ran the show. It did, but not first-run. CBS ran it during the summer of 1973, with Reynolds now a movie star.

For more information about Dan August, CLICK HERE. It’s available for pre-order and ships Dec. 7.

U.N.C.L.E. script: A change in direction

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya (David McCallum) at the climax of The Deadly Quest Affair

The fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. would take a serious turn compared with the campy third season. The new tone was reflected in one of the fourth season’s early scripts.

The Deadly Quest Affair was written in May 1967. Some pages of the script by Robert E. Thompson are dated as early as May 2. Other pages are dated May 16, with some pages revised on June 5. However, the episode wouldn’t be seen until Oct. 30, the eighth episode actually broadcast.

Thompson had written one first-season episode, The Green Opal Affair. The new day-to-day producer, Anthony Spinner, sought to bring back as many first-season scribes as possible. Spinner, in fact, was one of them, penning The Secret Sceptre Affair.

The copy of the script the blog has is pretty close to the episode as aired. But, as often is the case, there are some interesting differences.

Originally, the villain was named Viktor Karnak. Spinner or someone else involved with the production may have felt the name was too close to the Johnny Carson character Carnac the Magnificent. He’d be renamed Karmak. Most of the pages of the script the blog retain the Karnak name.

Karnak/Karmak had tangled with U.N.C.L.E. agents Solo and Kuryakin (Robert Vaughn and David McCallum) two years before. It had appeared the villain perished (we’re told the agents had only recovered bones and a few remains). However, Karnak/Karmak really hadn’t died and is back to get even.

In the script, the villain is described thusly: “His blond haiar is cropped short. His eeyes, though masked now by dark glasses are a startling blue. Only a single scar gashed across one cheek mars the harsh, cold symetry of his features. He seems to project a vaguely Baltic loo. His accent is vaguely reminiscent of a foreigner’s overly precise Oxonian.”

The production team ended up casting brown-haired actor Darren McGavin in role, though he’d be made up with a scar.

In the pre-titles sequence, Illya is in the hospital, recovering from a concussion from a recent assignment. Solo is visiting and is “in black tie.” As filmed, he’d be wearing a suit, rather than a tuxedo. Two henchmen of Karnak/Karmak kidnap Illya after Solo departs.

The script has a scene not in the episode where KarnakKarmak asks, “The…message has been delivered?” The henchman dubbed “Steel Rims” in the script answers, “Exactly at nine o’clock.”

At U.N.C.L.E.’s New York headquarters, bossman Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll) has called Solo in. The U.N.C.L.E. chief informs Solo that Karnak/Karmak is alive. The script describes how the villain has delivered his message.

There is a shrouded, box-like object in f.g. Waverly and Solo stand in front of it. Waverly reaches out and raises the covering on the unseen side of the shrouded object. We are aware of a very slight reaction of surprise from Solo.

It turns out to be a myna bird. “Solo…Solo: Twelve o’clock at twelve…or Illya die.”

Eventually, Solo figures out, without informing his boss, that Karnak/Karmak is hiding out in a 10-block section of Manhattan that’s been condemned for re-development. We get a variation on the plot of The Most Dangerous Game, with Karnak/Karmak hunting Solo.

Before the hunt begins, Solo meets up with the episode’s “innocent,” Shiela (Marlyn Mason), a “starving artist” who’s the daughter of a rich man. Now, she has to accompany Solo during the hunt. The only weapons Solo has are a hammer and chisel Shiela used to make sculptures.

The hunt begins at midnight. Solo has to find Illya by 6 a.m. or he dies. The Russian U.N.C.L.E. agent is in a tight spot. He’s in a gas chamber that will dispense cyanide gas at the appointed hour.

Toward the end, Karnak/Karmak corners Solo and Shiela. He sics his pet cheetah Bruno (who’d be called Ying in the episode) on Solo. As described, it’s not much of an encounter

A claw rips the chisel from Solo’s hand. He twists free of the animal…retrieves the chisel…turns back in time to meet another lunge from the cheetah — striking home this time with the chisel.

The scene was staged more elaborately by director Alf Kjellin. Of course, there was no way a live cheetah was going to get close to Robert Vaughn. So we have shots of the actor wrestling with a fake cheetah. Still, the scene comes across more dramatically than what was on the page.

During the fight, Shiela followed Karnak/Karmak to Illya and the gas chamber. The villain momentarily get the drop on the U.N.C.L.E. agents. With help from Shiela, the agents get the upper hand.

Karnak/Karmak “hurtles helplessly into the gas chamber — but with his hands flailing wildly, trying vainly to catch hold of something to steady himself. In his instinctive frenzy, what he grabs hold of is the door to the chamber — dragging it shut after him as he falls into the chamber.”

Of course, it’s now 6 a.m. and the poison gas fills the chamber.

At the end, we’re back at the hospital, Illya is in black tie and Solo (him arm chewed on by the cheetah) is a patient. “Illya waves  jauntily and leaves” while a nurse tries taking Solo’s temperature.

There was more drama behind the scenes than was contained in the script. Composer Gerald Fried had emerged as the show’s go-to composer during the second and third seasons. He did a score for this episode but it was rejected, apparently because it didn’t match the more serious tone that Spinner was implementing. (This became known following the release of original U.N.C.L.E. soundtracks in the 2000s.)

First-season music composed by Jerry Goldsmith (who also wrote the U.N.C.L.E. theme) was re-recorded for use in fourth season episodes. This episode would mostly use that music, although some music by Richard Shores, the primary composer this season, would be used at the end of Act I. The credit for this episode was just, “Music by Jerry Goldsmith.”

Fried, however, got a second chance. He composed a score for The Test Tube Killer Affair that very much matched the more-serious tone of the fourth season. It would be Fried’s final work for the series, although he’d be back for the 1983 TV movie The Return of the Man From U.N.C.L.E.

50th anniversary of the end of U.N.C.L.E. (and ’60s spymania)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

The symbolism of a 1965 TV Guide ad for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. came true little more than two years later. (Picture from the For Your Eyes Only Web site)

Originally published Dec. 28, 2012. Adjusted to note it’s now the 50th anniversary along with a few other tweaks.

Jan. 15 marks the 50th anniversary of the end of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. It was also a sign that 1960s spymania was drawing to a close.

Ratings for U.N.C.L.E. faltered badly in the fall of 1967, where it aired on Monday nights. It was up against Gunsmoke on CBS — a show that itself had been canceled briefly during the spring of ’67 but got a reprieve thanks to CBS chief William Paley. Instead of oblivion, Gunsmoke was moved from Saturday to Monday.

Earlier, Norman Felton, U.N.C.L.E.’s executive producer, decided some retooling was in order for the show’s fourth season. He brought in Anthony Spinner, who often wrote for Quinn Martin-produced shows, as producer.

Spinner had also written a first-season U.N.C.L.E. episode and summoned a couple of first-season writers, Jack Turley and Robert E. Thompson, to do some scripts.

Also in the fold was Dean Hargrove, who supplied two first-season scripts but had his biggest impact in the second, when U.N.C.L.E. had its best ratings. Hargrove was off doing other things during the third season, although he did one of the best scripts for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. during 1966-67.

Hargrove, however, quickly learned the Spinner-produced U.N.C.L.E. was different. In a 2007 interview on the U.N.C.L.E. DVD set, Hargrove said Spinner was of “the Quinn Martin school of melodrama.”

Spinner wanted a more serious take on the show compared with the previous season, which included a dancing ape. Hargrove, adept at weaving (relatively subtle) humor into his stories, chafed under Spinner. The producer instructed his writers that U.N.C.L.E. should be closer to James Bond than Get Smart.

The more serious take also extended to the show’s music, as documented in liner notes by journalist Jon Burlingame for U.N.C.L.E. soundstracks released between 2004 and 2007 and the FOR YOUR EYES ONLY U.N.C.L.E. TIMELINE.

Matt Dillon, right, and sidekick Festus got new life at U.N.C.L.E.'s expense.

Matt Dillon (James Arness), right, and sidekick Festus (Ken Curtis) got new life at U.N.C.L.E.’s expense.

Gerald Fried, the show’s most frequent composer, had a score rejected. Also jettisoned was a new Fried arrangement of Jerry Goldsmith’s theme music. A more serious-sounding one was arranged by Robert Armbruster, the music director of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Most of the fourth season’s scores would be composed by Richard Shores. Fried did one fourth-season score, which sounded similar to the more serious style of Shores.

Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin, however, weren’t a match for a resurgent Matt Dillon on CBS. NBC canceled U.N.C.L.E. A final two-part story, The Seven Wonders of the World Affair, aired Jan. 8 and 15, 1968..

U.N.C.L.E. wouldn’t be the first spy casualty.

NBC canceled I Spy, with its last new episode appearing April 15, 1968. Within 18 months of U.N.C.L.E.’s demise, The Wild, Wild West was canceled by CBS (its final new episode aired aired April 4, 1969 although CBS did show fourth-season reruns in the summer of 1970) and the last episode of The Avengers was produced, appearing in the U.S. on April 21, 1969.

NBC also canceled Get Smart after the 1968-69 season but CBS picked up the spy comedy for 1969-70. Mission: Impossible managed to stay on CBS until 1973 but shifted away from spy story lines its last two seasons as the IMF opposed “the Syndicate.”

Nor were spy movies exempt. Dean Martin’s last Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew, debuted in U.S. theaters in late 1968. Despite a promise in the end titles that Helm would be back in The Ravagers, the film series was done.

Even the James Bond series, the engine of the ’60s spy craze, was having a crisis in early 1968. Star Sean Connery was gone and producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman pondered their next move. James Bond would return but things weren’t quite the same.

Anthony Spinner: In-demand writer-producer

Anthony Spinner’s title card for Survival, the final episode of The FBI

One in a series about unsung figures of television.

Anthony Spinner, if anything else, didn’t lack for work as a writer and producer of television series.

His IMDB.COM ENTRY lists more than 20 producer credits and writer credits for more than 30 shows over decades.

Quinn Martin, the head of QM Productions, had an up-and-down relationship with Spinner. But Martin often turned to Spinner. As The FBI ended a nine-year run (with Spinner its producer for the final season), Martin immediately switched Spinner to produce Cannon.

At one point in the 1970s, Martin had Spinner produce two series at the same time — Cannon and Caribe, a kind of mix of Hawaii Five-O and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Caribe was a Miami-based police unit (Five-O) with jurisdiction throughout the Caribbean (multi-nation, similar to U.N.C.L.E.).

Still, Spinner had jobs beyond QM. Most notably, he took over as producer of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in what would be its final season (1967-68). The episodes he produced took on a much more serious tone compared with the show’s campy third season.

Among U.N.C.L.E. fans, Spinner draws a mixed reaction. For some, his episodes represent a revival. For others, those episodes are too humorless compared with the show’s first season.

Spinner was also story consultant and later producer of Search, a one-season series on NBC (1972-73).

Search concerned a private organization, but the show had elements of spy shows of the 1960s. Operatives played by Hugh O’Brian, Doug McClure and Tony Franciosa took on cases while being monitored by monitored by crabby Cameron (Burgess Meredith).

Spinner also was the subject of an in-joke on Mannix. Writer Stephen Kandel, who had worked for Spinner on the QM series Dan August, named a hit man after Spinner.

The two would work together again on Cannon. One of their highlights: Spinner and Kandel worked together to rescue Cannon scripts during a fire at the Samuel Goldwyn Studios, according to the book Quinn Martin, Producer by Jonathan Etter.

Caribe: QM tries to cross Five-O and U.N.C.L.E.

Advertisement for Caribe's premiere in early 1975.

Advertisement for Caribe’s premiere in early 1975.

Producer Quinn Martin enjoyed a lot of success in the 1970s with Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco and Barnaby Jones. Caribe was not a high mark, however.

The veteran producer, in effect, was doing a cross of Hawaii Five-O (police drama in a tropical setting) and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (Caribe, like U.N.C.L.E. was multi-national, although Caribe’s  jurisdiction only extended throughout the Carribean).

Unfortunately for QM Productions (and ABC, the network which televised the show), it ran only for a half-season, from February through May of 1975. The show’s IMDB.COM ENTRY only has episode titles and no plot summaries.

The Spy Commander actually watched the series regularly. I can tell you it included international intrigue (the way Five-O did on CBS). I also have a vague memory of an episode where a military coup against the United States was foiled.

The problem is the show has rarely been seen since its original ABC run. The main source of information about the show is Jonathan Etter’s 2003 book Quinn Martin, Producer.

Martin assigned the project to producer Anthony Spinner, who was simultaneously producing the private eye drama Cannon. According to the Etter book, Spinner envisioned Robert Wagner in the lead. Martin sent word that Stacy Keach would be the lead instead.

“And my head was swiveling like in The Excorist,” Spinner told Etter. “I said, ‘Quinn, I’ve written nine shows for R.J. Wagner — all slick, sophisticated, superficial, wise-guy charm, with millions of girls. How does Stacy Keach play R.J. Wagner? I’ll have to rewrite every single script now.'”

Rounding out the cast was future director Carl Franklin as Keach’s sidekick and Robert Mandan as the boss who sent Our Heroes on their assignments. Mandan , up until this time, was primarily a dramatic actor (including guest star appearances on other QM shows), but he’d become most famous for the (deliberately) goofy 1977-81 series Soap.

Caribe was based out of Miami, similar to how Five-O was based out of Honolulu. The original plan, according to Etter’s book, was to actually film elsewhere in the Carribean but that proved logically impossible because of obtaining visas, etc.

That perhaps shouldn’t have been a surprise. Thirteen years earlier, the first James Bond film, Dr. No, had a difficult shoot in Jamaica that put the movie well behind schedule. And Caribe faced tighter deadlines than Dr. No had. In any case, Miami and vicinity would double for the whole Carribean.

Despite the efforts of Spinner and others, Caribe didn’t survive its only half-season. Today, it’s hard to find evidence of the show’s existence. Even a talented producer such as Quinn Martin has his off days.

Meanwhile, author and television writer-producer has posted an audio copy of a Caribe main titles, including voice work by QM announcer Hank Simms.

5 U.N.C.L.E. stories to watch this weekend

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

The original U.N.C.L.E.s

With the passing of actor Robert Vaughn, a natural reaction for fans would be to view some episodes of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

This list was originally devised last year ahead of the 2015 movie version. It was intended for people not familiar with the series.

It’s still a good list of episodes to view, even for long-time fans.

These aren’t necessarily the very best episodes. But the list was intended to include examples from all four seasons of the show. Stories told over two episodes are listed as a single entry here.

The Quadripartite Affair/The Giuoco Piano Affair: These two episodes were filmed together but presented as separate, but related episodes.

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Solo verbally jousts with Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelen) in The Giuoco Piano Affair

Quadripartite was the third episode broadcast. It’s also the first episode where Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) function as a team. There’s plenty of good “bits of business” for both characters.

The story involves a power-hungry woman, Gervaise Ravel (Anne Francis), whose lover, Harold Bufferton (John Van Dreelan), is one of the world’s richest men and who’s more than willing to finance her plans. That’s not unlike the new film, where Elizabeth Debicki, is the lead villain.

Giuoco Piano (the seventh episode broadcast) is even better than Quadripartite, showing how manipulative Solo can be. The title comes from a chess gambit that symbolizes Solo’s plan. If James Bond is the blunt instrument, this story demonstrates how Solo is the sharp operator.

Both episodes were written by Alan Caillou, who did intelligence work for the British in World War II. Think an Ian Fleming, who actually went out into the field. Caillou’s two scripts helped define the Kuryakin character. Sam Rolfe, who wrote the pilot, envisioned Kuryakin as a large, massive man. Caillou provided McCallum with the material so the actor could make Illya his own.

Also, the two episodes were directed by Richard Donner, who’d become an A-list film director in the 1970s.

The Never-Never Affair: Through the first season, the show tried to find the right balance of drama and humor. Never-Never, aired late in the season, became the model for future episodes.

Solo and Illya during the theater shootout in The Never-Never Affair

In the story, Solo feels sorry for U.N.C.L.E. translator Mandy Stevenson (Barbara Feldon), who yearns for an adventure. He sends her to get pipe tobacco for U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll), while telling her she’s acting as a courier. However, she accidentally is given a valuable microdot covered by the villainous organization, Thrush.

The episode includes a memorable set piece, where a Thrush assassin is firing through a movie theater screen at Solo and Kuryakin, who are having to deal with other Thrush operatives. A high percentage of the jokes work, and writer Dean Hargrove would become one of the main scribes of the series. It was the second episode of show helmed by Joseph Sargent, one of the best directors on the series.

Vincent Price and Patricia Medina as rival villains in The Foxes and Hound Affair.

Vincent Price and Patricia Medina as rival villains in The Foxes and Hounds Affair.

The Foxes and Hounds Affair: A breezy episode that aired early in the show’s second season. The new movie’s tone is supposed to be similar to the second season and Foxes and Hounds is one of the season’s better entries.

U.N.C.L.E. and Thrush are both after a mind-reading machine. That’s pretty fantastic, but no more so than what can be seen in a Marvel Studios film of the 21st century. Both Solo and Kuryakin get chances to shine. We also see that Waverly is perfectly capable of being cold blooded. On top of everything else, Vincent Price is a very good villain who has to watch his back for attacks from a rival in Thrush (Patricia Medina).

The Concrete Overcoat Affair: This two-part episode was edited into a movie for international audiences called The Spy in the Green Hat. Thrush has another ambitious plan that U.N.C.L.E. is trying to foil. But some retired gangsters end up becoming involved and act as a wild card.

This ran during the third season, when the drama-humor balance got out of whack in favor of humor. This Joseph Sargent-directed story reins that in to an extent. There’s also a good scene early in Part II where Solo wants to go save Kuryakin but Waverly disapproves. The U.N.C.L.E. chief relents, but only reluctantly. It’s an unusual moment of drama in a season where that was in short supply.

The Test Tube Killer Affair: In the fourth season, new producer Anthony Spinner wanted to dial the humor way back. This episode, early in the season, is one of the better entries produced by Spinner.

Christopher Jones, center, one of Thrush's

Christopher Jones, center, as Greg Martin, in The Test Tube Killer Affair.

Thrush’s Dr. Stoller (Paul Lukas) has been raising young men from childhood to be the perfect killing machines, able to turn their emotions on and off as needed. Stoller’s prize pupil, Greg Martin (Christopher Jones), has been chosen to blow up a dam in Greece. It’s strictly an exercise and the dam has no strategic importance but many will die if Martin succeeds.

Meanwhile, the young killer is highly intelligent — intelligent enough where it appears Solo and Kuryakin may have met their match. The episode has a less-than-happy ending, something not common on the show.

Hugh O’Brian dies at 91

TV Guide cover with the stars of Search, Hugh O'Brian (lower right), Tony Franciosa, middle, and Doug McClure, top

TV Guide cover with the stars of Search, Hugh O’Brian (lower right), Tony Franciosa (middle), and Doug McClure (top).

Actor Hugh O’Brian died at age 91, according to an obituary posted by the Los Angeles Times.

O’Brian was best known for starring in The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, a 1955-61 television series. But he also made a try at a spy-related show, Search, which ran on NBC during the 1972-73 season.

Search concerned a private organization, the World Securities Corp. Its operatives were equipped with the (then) latest high-tech gear, including miniature cameras that enabled operations chief Cameron (Burgess Meredith) to stay in contact constantly.

O’Brian starred in the two-hour TV movie pilot, titled Probe, as Hugh Lockwood, the top agent for World Securities. It was written and produced by Leslie Stevens, who had also created The Outer Limits television series.

When the now-titled Search went to series, the format was changed so the show rotated O’Brian, Tony Franciosa and Doug McClure as World Securities operatives. Meredith, as the cranky Cameron, was the one constant.

The initial day-to-day producer was Robert H. Justman, who had been associate producer on the original Star Trek series. Anthony Spinner, producer of the fourth season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., was the story editor.

Justman departed before the end of the season and Spinner, who was a veteran at QM Productions, took command. Meanwhile the show’s roster of writers includes the likes of Norman Hudis, Irv Pearlberg and Richard Landau, who had all contributed to 1960s spy shows.

Search is available from Warner Archive. Here’s a preview clip of an episode featuring O’Brian.

Fidelity-Bravery-Integrity: The FBI’s 50th anniversary

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a first-season episode of The FBI

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. in a first-season episode of The FBI

The FBI, which celebrates its 50th anniversary on Sept. 19, was an idealized version of the real-life U.S. agency that symbolized the motto “fidelity, bravery, integrity.”

The series would go on to be the longest-running show for producer Quinn Martin. To do so, it would face challenges not faced by most television series.

According to the 2003 book Quinn Martin, Producer, the QM FBI endured a lot of scrutiny by its real-life counterpart.

Among those who underwent FBI background checks were star Efrem Zimbalist Jr.; William A. Graham, director of its first episodes (who served in U.S. Naval intelligence in World War II); Hank Simms, another World War II veteran and announcer for the show’s main titles; and Howard Alston, a production manager for the series.

What’s more, the bureau had veto power over guest stars, which cost The FBI the services of Bette Davis, a fan of the show.

Initially, the show emphasized the personal side of Zimbalist’s Inspector Lewis Erskine. He was a widower (his wife perished during an attack intended for Erskine) with a daughter in college. That fell off, in part because of audience reaction.

Quinn Martin & Co. quickly shifted to providing more detailed back stories for villains and other characters (not subject to the same scrutiny from the bureau), giving guest stars the chance to well-rounded characters.

It also helped that Martin paid about twice the going rate at the time for guest star roles ($5,000  versus the normal $2,500 for an one-hour episode).  Actors such as Charles Bronson (primarily a movie actor by 1966), Louis Jourdan, Gene Tierney and Karin Dor (a one-time James Bond actress) signed up to play guest stars on The FBI.

The show’s producer for the first four seasons, Charles Larson, frequently rewrote scripts (usually without credit), keeping the show on more than an even keel. Larson exited after the fourth season, with the slack picked up by Philip Saltzman for another four seasons and Anthony Spinner for the series’ final ninth season.

The FBI heavily featured espionage stories, especially in its second and third seasons, as Erskine and his colleagues tracked down foreign agents. That trailed off over time, with three espionage stories (out of 26 total) in the seventh season and only one in the eighth. There were no spy stories in the final season.

The show never had a big following in U.S. syndication. Still, the series had a fan base. Warner Archive began offering The FBI on a “manufactured on demand” basis in 2011. There was enough demand the entire series was made available by the end of 2014. The last two seasons came out after the May 2014 death of star Zimbalist at age 95.

For more information, CLICK HERE to view The FBI episode guide. The site is still under construction but reviews have been completed for the first five seasons.