U.N.C.L.E. script: The well-meaning villain

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) during a dramatic moment with Solo in The Shark Affair.

The Shark Affair, the fourth episode broadcast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., would feature a different antagonist — well meaning but in the end one who had to be stopped.

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) is convinced the world will soon go up in atomic war. He is kidnapping people of various talents from ships. He disables and sinks the ships while sending the rest of the passengers on their way in lifeboats. Shark’s ship is a sort of modern day Noah’s Ark.

The episode was written by Alvin Sapinsley (1921-2002), a veteran with credits going back to 1949. The Shark Affair would be his only U.N.C.L.E. script.

Sapinsley would later be a key writer on the original Hawaii Five-O series, where his contributions included the only three-part story. He also wrote Sherlock Holmes in New York, with Roger Moore as Holmes and Patrick Macnee as Dr. Watson.

Saplinsley’s script, dated June 22, 1964, is very close to the final episode. A ship in his script is called the Woonsocket. It would be changed to the Whippett for broadcast.

At the end of the episode, Captain Shark’s real name is revealed as Arthur Englander Courtney. It would be changed to Arthur Farnley Selwyn. Those changes are noted on the page after the title page. But the original names are used in the script itself.

Normally, U.N.C.L.E. writers didn’t specify act titles. Those were usually added in post-production. But Sapinsley’s script has “chapter” titles.

All match the final broadcast version except for Act I (or Chapter One as specified in the script). Saplinsley’s original is “Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax.” It would be shortened to “Of Shoelaces and Ships” in the broadcast version.

U.N.C.L.E. has been drawn into the affair after a series of ships, from various nations, have been sunk and a handful of passengers abducted. One is a librarian, Harry Barnman.

Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya (David McCallum) interview his wife, Elsa (Sue Ane Langdon), “a warm, earthy girl in her late twenties.” Later, she receives airline and ship tickets and bolts her New York apartment.

Mr. Waverly, the agents’ superior, decided to strand the agents on a raft in the path of the ship the librarian’s wife is on. But they end up being intercepted by Captain Shark’s vessel instead. Regardless, the agents are where they want to be.

An ‘Urbane’ Villain

Curiously, the script doesn’t provide much in the way of description for Captain Shark. He is “urbane, spotless, commanding” in an opening scene where he commandeers a ship.

Guest star Robert Culp, who turned 34 in August 1964, would have his hair streaked gray at the temples to make him look older. It’s not until the end that the audience is told Captain Shark/Selwyn commanded a ship in World War II, which would probably make the character a decade or so older than the actor.

After being brought aboard Shark’s ship, Solo and Illya encounter Harry Barnman, described as “a mild-mannered man of thirty.” The part would be cast with actor Herbert Anderson,, 47 at the time of production. Harry acts as “Leo the Explainer,” a character who explains things to the heroes as well as the audience.

Solo and Illya prove careless at a key moment and Shark discovers they’re with U.N.C.L.E. The captain decides to give Solo a taste of discipline. It’s here where Sapinsley’s script goes into more detail than audiences would see. Shark delivers a line about how he and Solo will get along nicely once Solo receives his discipline.

He gestures toward the deck. Immediately each of the two sailors holding Solo places a foot across his ankles, then jerk his arms forward, dropping him to the deck. They drop him into a sitting position and shift their feet to pinion him into the attitude of a crucifix, face down towards the deck. (NOTE: This is the old slave-whipping position: each man holding a wrist, one foot planted in the victim’s armpit, the other braced between his neck and shoulder.) As Shark snakes out his whip, the two sailors lie back flat against the deck, pulling Solo’s arms taut. Illya steps forward, his eyes glittering.

ILLYA
Do not do this.

SOLO (to Illya)
It’s just a spanking, Illya. Don’t make a fuss.

 

Later, Shark gives Solo a tour. They go to the ship’s library where Harry Barnman is at work. There are no books. Everything is on microfilm.

“The stored wisdom of man’s brain — from Plato’s Republic to Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams,” Shark says. “When we create the new world we’ll have this for a foundation.”

Gravitas

Nevertheless, you can’t keep good agents down. Solo and Illya are seemingly out of options. The passengers, freed from their everyday responsibilities, mostly are contented. But Solo decides to search for explosives to sink the ship, which will force everyone to abandon the vessel.

The plan works. The explosion goes off in the middle of a big party on the ship. As the ship is ready to go down, it sets up a chance for some moralizing by both Solo and Shark. (An early example of how Solo, co-created by Ian Fleming, has more of a moral core than Fleming’s James Bond.)

SOLO (moving forward)
Room for one more, Captain
(no answer)
I want to help you.

SHARK
Help me? You’re like all the others — the leaders, the parliaments, the senates and houses of government! When you see something that’s good and useful, you must step in and destroy it. I tried to create a safe harbor —

SOLO (interrupting)
There is no safe harbor, not here, not anywhere. The only safety lies in agreements between people. Now I want you to come with me.

SHARK
No, my friend. Yours is a world I don’t believe in. Perhaps only the optimists, like yourself, can go on living in it. I don’t know which of us is the right one…or which is the strong one. I only know that I must sail this dream to wherever it takes me.

SOLO
It’s not a dream, it’s a nightmare. Abandon it.

SHARK
I can’t!
(stiffens, lifts gun)
I will stay with my ship.

Solo hesitates, but the ship begins to list dangerously. Finally, as the smoke almost obscures Shark from this view, he realizes saving the man is impossible — the Captain’s dream has disintegrated and he wishes to perish with it. Solo starts away, but hesitates as:

SHARK
You’ll see! They’ll destroy your world! Soon! A few months. At most three or four…
(muttering)
Three…four…

SOLO (softly)
…Shut the door…

To be clear, this episode is escapist entertainment. But the Sapinsley-scripted scene provides it more gravitas even at this early point in the series than audiences were used to. At this point in a 1960s Eon-produced James Bond film, Sean Connery’s Bond would be impatient to make out with the female lead ahead of the end titles.

At the end of the Act IV, Mr. and Mrs. Barnman are back in their New York apartment. Mrs. Barnman (who loves to cook) has whipped up a large dinner while Mr. Barnman (who can’t keep up with his wife’s cooking) gets to take an evening off while Solo and Illya (the latter always enjoying a large appetite) get ready to chow down.

Not Quite the End

However, that’s not where the script ends. The Shark Affair was among the early U.N.C.L.E. scripts that included never-filmed introductions that break the fourth wall, as detailed in THIS POST.

Sapinsley also wrote an unused epilogue with Solo again breaking the fourth wall to show previews of the next episode. To be hones, had it been filmed it probably would have ruined the mood of the episode’s ending.

FADE IN:
EXT.-LIFE RAFT-SOLO

It is bright and clear now. Solo in foreground looking into CAMERA. In b.g. we see the girl.

SOLO
Well — too bad about Captain Shark — but as Mother always said — “Never put off until tomorrow what you can do today.”
(beat)
Let’s see what kind of trouble we have for our next adventure —

SERIES OF SHORT SCENES FROM SHOW TO COME

BACK TO SOLO

He picks up oars, saying:

SOLO
Well — I guess it’s time to shove off — I’ve got a two thousand mile row back to headquarters — Tired, lonesome — and thirsty — but it’s all in the day of the life of a dedicated U.N.C.L.E. agent —-

The POP of a cork makes Solo react slightly. HOLD on his reaction, then he shrugs it off and begins to row again. CAMERA MOVES PAST Solo and we see the girl with a bottle of champagne and two glasses. She pours the wine — MOVE IN on her face as she gives the CAMERA a big wink.

FADE OUT.

THE END

U.N.C.L.E. breaks the fourth wall

The original U.N.C.L.E.s, Robert Vaughn and David McCallum

In the early days, The Man From U.N.C.L.E’s production team had a notion of its characters breaking the fourth wall and talking to the audience.

It began with the pilot. A black and white version with the original title of Solo includes a short segment after the end titles. It wasn’t intended for broadcast. It was aimed at network executives and would-be advertisers.

“My name is Robert Vaughn,” the series star begins, looking into the camera, “but when that camera rolls, well, Napoleon Solo is the name and espionage is the game.”

Vaughn mentions cast members, including Will Kuluva as “my boss, Mr. Allison,” and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin. Illya, Vaughn says, “is an interesting young man — you’ll see him often.” That would certainly turn out to be the case.

The actor says U.N.C.L.E. is located in “the East Fifties” of New York City rather than the East Forties. He also says the organization has nothing to do with the United Nations. “It’s merely a code. We call it UNCLE.”

Meanwhile, Vaughn says  “the viewers of television” will be part of the series, just like Patricia Crowley’s “innocent” character in the pilot. “So what do you have to lose, except your boredom?” Vaughn says, smiling. “Or your lives?”

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo in the early moments of Act I of The Iowa-Scuba Affair

The Iowa-Scuba Affair: This was was the first episode to be produced after the pilot. An opening was scripted, but apparently not shot, of Robert Vaughn as Solo talking to the audience.

It’s very much in the same spirit as the segment attached to the end of the pilot.

INT. THE CAVE – FULL SHOT – NIGHT

SOLO is kneeling on the ground between the Pressure Suit and the Scuba Suit. He is examining the suits. A pretty girl is wearing each suit, striking a modeling pose. Solo ignores the girls throughout. He glances around, looks directly INTO THE CAMERA. He swings around, sitting amiably between the two suits.

SOLO
Good evening. My name is Napoleon Solo…or have we met? Here we are, tonight, in Iowa…
(indicates cave)
…land of corn and hogs…
(points downward)
underwater scuba suits…
(points upwards)
high altitude pressure suits for up in the stratosphere…
(does a small take at the suits)
Oh, aren’t these on your list of clothing to take along on a trip to Iowa? You’ll need them tonight.
(rises, brushing himself clean as he talks)
In a minute you’ll meet what seems to be a nice, bright young American soldier. Don’t get to know him too well…he won’t be staying around long. There’ll be a wealthy oilman with suspicions about me. A young lady’s maidenly aunt who views me with suspicion for…uh…other reasons. There’s a lovely lady from the continent to the south. A little old scrubwoman…with some unique ideas how to scrub me out.
(indicates suits)
There’ll be the men who wear these suits…and the bizarre reasons they have for wearing them. I hope you’re in good shape. We’ll have to run for our lives, hunted through the woods by strange men with strange weapons.
(sudden thought)
Oh…and since this is farming country we’re in, we’ll need a young, fairly attractive farm girl. One that smells of country soap…
(looking over the audience)
…one of you will be fine. Do hear any volunteers?

As he smiles:

WHIP PAN TO:

Hit with TITLES

Captain Shark (Robert Culp) during a dramatic moment with Solo in The Shark Affair

The Shark Affair: The episode concerns an antagonist (Captain Shark, played by Robert Culp) who is convinced the world will soon go down in flames from nuclear war. He’s abducting people of special skills from ships so mankind can go on after the war comes.

The unused scripted introduction has Solo on a raft with a parakeet in a cage. He again introduces himself and mentions elements of the upcoming story.

“A mystery ship, naturally. A rather odd-ball Captain aboard the mystery ship? Of course — Some strange characters in the crew? You bet — And — let’s see — what else have I forgotten.”

Just then, a woman in a bikini comes out of the water and boards the raft.

SOLO
Ah yes —
(indicates parakeet)
Sam, here — a parakeet from the Bronx.

Fugitive Nazi scientist Volp is about to drain Napoleon Solo of his blood in The Deadly Games Affair.

The Deadly Games Affair: Originally titled The Stamp Affair, U.N.C.L.E. is seeking Volp, a fugitive Nazi scientist. Volp had a collection of very rare, very valuable stamps. Those stamps are showing up at auction. Apparently, Volp is selling them off to finance…what? The villainous organization Thrush also is on Volp’s trail.

The unused introduction has Solo inside a coffin with a plexiglass top. A woman opens the coffin and Solo steps out.

“This one seems to fit,” he tells the woman. “I’ll take it. Have ‘Napoleon Solo’ inscribed upon it.”

The woman moves off “to take some notations in an order book.” Solo finds the camera and begins addressing the audience.

“I thought I’d make my selection now since I might an abrupt need for one. My work, you know.”

Solo notes he’s an agent for U.N.C.L.E.

“My organization is involved with all sorts of evil all over the world. Sometimes we encounter an outfit named Thrush…they rate number one on our ‘evil outfits’ list. I’m going to meet one of their more attractive members tonight. Along with some free-lance evil types. Some history is involved in this escapade. So I think I’ll take along a couple of college students. Are you ready?”

Instead of these scripted openings, the production crew filmed a sequence that would be used to introduce the second through seventh episodes. Solo and Illya enter U.N.C.L.E. headquarters through the security entrance at Del Floria’s. They reach Waverly’s office. Each talks to the audience.

Staring with the eighth episode, The Double Affair, the series shifted to an “action introduction” based on the pilot. We see the shawdow of a mysterious intruder (in real life, George M. Lehr, who had the title assistant to producer) at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. He fires at Solo standing behind the bullet-resistant screen.

Solo about to address the audience at the start of The Deadly Decoy Affair.

This would be used for the rest of the first season. However, there was one episode with one key change.

The Deadly Decoy Affair was the first episode aired in a new time slot, 8 p.m. eastern time on Monday. The “action introduction” proceeds as normal until Solo comes out from behind the screen with the “spider web” pattern after being struck by bullets.

“Good evening,” Solo says into the camera. “Tonight, we of the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement have an affair involving Thrush. Now of course you remember Thrush…that nasty international band of renegades. Well, let’s see how nasty they’re going to be tonight, hmm?”

Garry Marshall dies; wrote an I Spy episode

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

Garry Marshall (1934-2016)

Garry Marshall, a veteran writer-producer on television series as well as a movie director, has died at 81, according to AN OBITUARY PUBLISHED BY VARIETY.

On television, his credits included developing The Odd Couple as a TV series and creating Happy Days. His movie credits including directing 1990’s Pretty Woman.

For the purposes of this blog, we just wanted to note that Marshall, with his then-partner Jerry Belson, wrote a quirkly I Spy episode titled No Exchange on Damaged Merchandise.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks as U.S. agent Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) writes up a report to his superiors, seeking reimbursements for expenses from an assignment.

His partner Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) wants Kelly to forget it. But Robinson is so annoyed with the bureaucracy, he’s determined to get the reimbursement.

The viewer doesn’t get the entire story until Robinson is about to complete the report. Along the way, Scott was almost killed. Meanwhile, the duo was forced to improvise a prisoner exchange with a corpse.

 

Stephen Kandel: Have genre, will write

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Stephen Kandel from an interview about The Magician television series.

Another in an occasional series about unsung figures of television.

Stephen Kandel, now 89, was the kind of television who could take on multiple genres and do it well.

Science fiction? He wrote the two Star Trek episodes featuring Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel), one of Captain Kirk’s more unusual adversaries.

Espionage? His list of credits included I Spy, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible, It Takes a Thief and A Man Called Sloane.

Crime dramas? Hawaii Five-O and Mannix, among too many to list here. His work included a Cannon-Barnaby Jones crossover, The Deadly Conspiracy, a 1975 two-part story airing as an episode of each series.

Not to mention the occasional Western, drama, super hero series (Batman and Wonder Woman) and some shows that don’t easily fit categories (The Magician, MacGyver).

Writer Harlan Ellison in 1970 referred to Kandel as “one of the more lunatic scriveners in Clown Town.” In a column reprinted in The Other Glass Teat, Ellison wrote that Kandel was assigned to write an episode of a drama called The Young Lawyers that was to introduce a new WASP character.

According to Ellison, ABC opted to tone down socially conscious stories among other changes. Kandel wasn’t a fan of the changes. He initially named the new WASP character “Christian White.”

“It went through three drafts before anyone got hip to Steve’s sword in the spleen,” Ellison wrote.

Other in-joke humor by Kandel that did make it to television screens.

One was a 1973 episode of Mannix, Sing a Song of Murder. Kandel named a hit man Anthony Spinner. Kandel had earlier worked for Spinner on the QM series Dan August.

Presumably Spinner didn’t mind. Kandel ended up working for Spinner on Cannon.

Another bit was Kandel’s script for A Man Called Sloane episode titled The Seduction Squad. Robert Culp played a Blofeld-like criminal, except he carried around a small dog instead of a cat.

Kandel wrapped up his television career with MacGyver. Today, somewhere in the world, there may be an episode of some series written by Kandel being shown.

 

50th anniversary of U.S. TV spymania

Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in an I Spy publicity still

Bill Cosby and Robert Culp in an I Spy publicity still

This week marks the 50th anniversary of spymania in the United States, when three spy television series premiered.

I Spy (Sept. 15): The hour-long drama on NBC was the most serious, least escapist spy program on U.S. television. Its greater significance, however, was having an African American actor receiving equal billing with a white star.

That African American actor was Bill Cosby. Cosby has been in the news since last year for numerous accusations of rape, the subject of a notable cover of New York magazine this summer.

A half century ago, Cosby’s presence on I Spy was a major breakthrough for U.S. television. The show debuted in the midst of  the Civil Rights Movement.

Robert Culp, the show’s other star, also wrote episodes that gave Cosby’s Alexander Scott plenty to do and Cosby ample opportunity to show his acting ability.

“People writing…said that I was the Jackie Robinson of television drama,” Cosby said during a 2010 appearance. “I say to all of you if this true that Robert Culp has to be Eddie Stanky, Pee Wee Reese.” He said Culp’s “contribution in I Spy was very valuable in terms of civil rights.”

Besides the show’s social significance, I Spy also had extensive location filming. The lead actors accompanied a small crew that actually traveled to places such as Hong Kong and Tokyo to film exteriors. That footage would be paired with interior scenes shot at stages leased from Desilu Studios.

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

Robert Conrad, right, in a publicity still with Ross Martin for The Wild Wild West

The Wild Wild West (Sept. 17): The show was originally pitched to CBS as something like “James Bond and cowboys.” It became something much greater.

The series concerned the adventures of ace U.S. Secret Service agents James West (Robert Conrad) and Artemus Gordon (Ross Martin). They traveled in style on a train.

They traveled a lot taking on, among other foes, a 19th century cyborg (John Dehner); Dr. Loveless (Michael Dunn), a short scientist with major plans, such as wiping out the world’s population to restore ecological balance; and Count Manzeppi (Victor Buono), a villain whose magic tricks might not be tricks at all.

Highlights included Conrad frequently fighting a roomful of thugs. In reality, it was usually the same group of stuntmen and it took ingenuity to disguise that fact from the audience. Also a highlight was Martin donning various disguises.

The Wild Wild West really was catching lightning in a bottle. Attempts to recapture the magic (made-for television movies in 1979 and 1980 as well as a 1999 feature film) fell short.

Cast of Get Smart on a TV Guide cover

Cast of Get Smart on a TV Guide cover

Get Smart (Sept. 18): The half-hour comedy created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry originally was developed for ABC with Tom Poston in mind. The network rejected it. NBC, looking for a show for Don Adams, snapped it up.

Brooks and Henry revamped the script to adapt it for Adams. For example, Adams had already perfected his “would you believe?” bit, using it on The Bill Dana Show situation comedy series. Thus, it was incorporated into the Get Smart pilot.

Adams’ Maxwell Smart was a force of nature. He bumbled his way through his adventures but, always confident in himself, emerged triumphant. It helped to have Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) on his side.

Get Smart, naturally, parodied the spy genre, including one episode that did a takeoff on I Spy. But the series had other targets, including an episode that parodied The Fugitive. There have been various attempts over the decades to revive Get Smart, most recently a 2008 feature film with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.

Real life intrudes on a legacy of the ’60s spy craze

Bill Cosby with Victor Buono in an I Spy episode

Bill Cosby with Victor Buono in an I Spy episode

As 2014 draws to a close, one of the proudest accomplishments of 1960s spy entertainment may be forgotten because of a scandal.

The scandal? The numerous allegations of rape against Bill Cosby, now 77. The accomplishment? How I Spy, the 1965-68 television series, had a major social impact in the United States.

To recap: In the fall of 1965, an African American (Cosby) starring along side a white actor (Robert Culp) on television was a huge deal. I Spy was the least glamorous, most somber, of the American spy series. The show reflected a major social movement. It was more than another television series. After I Spy was canceled by NBC, Cosby’s career advanced to many levels of success.

But, by the end of this year, Cosby was depicted as a fallen icon. The New York Times, IN A DEC. 28 STORY by Lorne Manly and Graham Bowley examined how Cosby’s legal team dealt with the allegations.

As accusations of sexual assault continue to mount against Mr. Cosby — more than two dozen women have gone public, the latest last Monday — the question arises as to why these stories never sparked a widespread outcry before. While many of the women say they never filed police complaints or went public because they feared damaging their reputations or careers, the aggressive legal and media strategy mounted by Mr. Cosby and his team may also have played a significant role.

The final outcome of the allegations remains to be seen. Still, what had been one of the high points of the 1960s spy craze may never be looked at the same way. Real life has a way of intruding — and is always more serious than fiction.