Bill Russell’s appearance on spy television

Logo for It Takes a Thief

Bill Russell, one of the greatest players in the National Basketball Association, has died at 88, according to The New York Times.

The center for the Boston Celtics from the 1950s to the end of the 1960s, won 11 NBA championships over a 13-year career.

A footnote to Russell’s stellar basketball career was a part in the 1960s spy series It Takes a Thief where Robert Wagner was the star. The episode was titled The Thingamabob Heist in 1968.

In real life, Russell (1934-2022) was an important sports figure and an important civil rights figure. In addition to playing for the Celtics, he was the team’s first Black head coach toward the end of his career.

Here is an excerpt from the Times’ obituary for Russell:

He took part in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and was seated in the front row of the crowd to hear the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. He went to Mississippi after the civil rights activist Medgar Evers was murdered and worked with Evers’s brother, Charles, to open an integrated basketball camp in Jackson. He was among a group of prominent Black athletes who supported Muhammad Ali when Ali refused induction into the armed forces during the Vietnam War.

Glen A. Larson’s forays into spy television

It Takes a Thief Logo

Glen A. Larson, a prolific writer-producer of U.S. television shows, died Nov. 14, according to AN OBITUARY IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Obits for the 77-year-old Larson, centered on how he created shows such as Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica and The Fall Guy. But he also dabbled in the spy genre.

One of Larson’s first major credits was first as associate producer, then producer of It Takes a Thief, the 1968-70 spy series starring Robert Wagner. Thief was one of the last entries in the 1960s spy craze on U.S. television. Wagner played a thief employed by a U.S. intelligence agency to steal secrets from enemies of the U.S. government. Larson ended up writing 17 of the 66 episodes, according to HIS IMDB.COM ENTRY.

In 1983, Larson created another spy series, the short-lived Masquerade, which ran only 13 episodes on ABC. The show concerned U.S. spymaster Lavender (Rod Taylor) and was a cross between The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Mission: Impossible.

In Masquerade, the KGB knows U.S. spies all too well, so Lavender recruits teams of “innocents” (a major U.N.C.L.E. element) promising them a year’s salary of their day jobs, to assist intelligence operations. Each episode included a briefing sequence, where Lavender gave the audience only a glimpse of what was to happen (similar to M:I). Larson even employed William Read Woodfield, one of the major M:I writers, to work on Masquerade.

The Fall Guy, which also aired on ABC from 1981 to 1986, featured Lee Majors as stuntman Colt Seavers, a Hollywood stuntman who moonlighted as a bounty hunter to make ends meet.

The second-season premier, Bail and Bond, has Colt working as a stuntman on a James Bond-like movie filming in Brazil. It includes some music that sounds as close as you can get to The James Bond Theme without paying royalties.

At one point, Colt “borrows” some wardrobe from the movie to do a bounty hunting job. His sidekick (Douglas Barr) remarks, “That last scene with Roger won’t exactly come off if he has to play it in his underwear.” Presumably, that’s a veiled reference to Roger Moore, the incumbent film Bond at the time time.

If that wasn’t enough, the guest stars for the episode included Martine Beswicke, who played secondary female roles in From Russia With Love and Thunderball, and character Sid Haig, who was a gangster in Diamonds Are Forever (“I got a bruddah!”)

Here’s a version of Bail and Bond on YouTube. Warning: it’s “time compressed” (meaning it’s been sped up to reduce the running time).