Mad Men meets 007 (not once, but twice)

Mad Men, the popular drama on cable network AMC, had its season finale on June 10, which included not one, but two, James Bond references.

The most noticeable was how the episode ended with Nancy Sinatra’s rendition of You Only Live Twice, written by John Barry and Leslie Bricusse. The fifth 007 film made by Eon Productions premiered premiered 45 years ago this month.

However, there was an earlier Bond reference, albeit a brief one. Near the episode’s conclusion, Jon Hamm’s Don Draper was in a movie theater. While no images of the movie were shown, the first several notes of Burt Bacharach’s main theme to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, could be heard. That film had its 45th anniversary in April.

The Sinatra song has an interesting back story, familar to many, if not most, 007 fans. Namely, Barry and Bricusse wrote two versions. The first, performed by Julie Rogers, was deemed not good enough. The second, the Nancy Sinatra version, is a 007 fan favorite though Sinatra was so nervous, the song had to be cobbled together from multiple takes. If Mad Men fans are curious (and don’t already know the story), a 2006 special on U.K. television about the 007 theme songs provides the details:

This isn’t the first time Mad Men referenced 1960s spy entertainment. In 2010, the popular show included a clip from a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

UPDATE: Time magazine’s review of the episode picks up the You Only Live Twice connection and runs with it.

11 U.N.C.L.E. facts for fans of Mad Men

Thanks to a clip shown on the most recent episode, fans of AMC’s Mad Men series have either discovered or re-discovered The Man From U.N.C.L.E. So here are 11 U.N.C.L.E. facts for fans of the show. Why 11? Check out reason No. 1:

1. Napoleon Solo, the title character of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. wore badge 11 while at U.N.C.L.E. headquarters. Fellow agent Illya Kuryakin’s badge number was 2 and Alexander Waverly, Number One of Section One, apparently first among equals of U.N.C.L.E.’s five regional headquarters, wore the No. 1 badge.

2. Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, was involved with U.N.C.L.E. for a short time. He contributed the character names Napoleon Solo and April Dancer. Under pressure from 007 producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, he bailed out of the project and signed away any rights for one British pound.

3. U.N.C.L.E. has no “created by” credit but Sam Rolfe received a “developed by” credit. He wrote the pilot script and produced the first season of Man (including The Hong Kong Shilling Affiar, the episode shown on the Aug. 22 episode of Mad Men).

4. While Rolfe created Illya Kuryakin, Number Two of Section Two (Operations and Enforcement, where Solo was Number One of Section Two), the character was refined, and perhaps even defined, by writer Alan Caillou (1914-2006), who wrote seven Man episodes including the first with significant Illya time (The Quadripartite Affair), the first Illya-centric episode (The Bow-Wow Affair) and two episodes where he also appeared as an actor (The Terbuf Affair and The Tigers Are Coming Affair) He bailed out during the second season, a loss for the series.

5. Man was threatened with cancellation in its first season. It initially aired on NBC Tuesday nights and couldn’t overcome Red Skelton’s variety show on CBS. Midway through the first season, it got moved to Monday nights (which incuded the episode seen on Mad Men) and ratings improved. It also helped that Goldfinger, which had its U.S. premier in the U.S. in December 1964, boosted the market for spy-related entertainment.

6. NBC was keen for a spinoff featuring an U.N.C.L.E. woman agent even if Man stars Robert Vaughn and David McCallum were hostile to it. Thus, The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. was born, running just one season, 1966-67.

7. Man’s best season for ratings was its second campaign, the 1965-66 season, when it aired at 10 p.m. Fridays on NBC>

8. NBC twice pre-empted Man to show specials (The Incredible World of James Bond and Welcome to Japan, Mr. Bond) promoting the James Bond movies Thunderball and You Only Live Twice. That’s ironic, because Broccoli and Saltzman had previously sued to try to prevent Man from ever going on the air, claiming that the dashing Napoleon Solo would be mistaken for the gangster Mr. Solo, who got killed by Oddjob in the film version of Goldfinger.

9. The papers of Man executive producer Norman Felton (b. 1913) and veteran Bond screenwriter Richard Maibaum (1909-1991) are both stored at the University of Iowa.

10. Man, a little more than three years after its debut, was canceled, with its last episode appearing in January 1968. The very next week, on Jan. 22, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-in debuted featuring Leo G. Carroll, in character as U.N.C.L.E. boss Mr. Waverly.

11. There have been various attempts at an U.N.C.L.E. revival: a 1977 project featuring a Sam Rolfe script that was never filmed; an early 1980s project intended as a feature film in which Bond production designer Ken Adam was interested in doing the sets; and a 2005 (or so) project where the producer involved was found by a jury of being guilty of fraud.

The only revival project to actually be produced, to date, was a 1983 television movie called The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: The Fifteen Years Later Affair, which aired on CBS but didn’t result in a new series. The cast included George Lazenby, the one-time 007, as “JB,” a British spy who comes to the aid of Napoleon Solo in Las Vegas.

To look at various other ties between U.N.C.L.E. and 007, just CLICK HERE, in which you’ll see a photograph of a famous actor who just celebrated his 80th birthday and another Scotsman who was seen on the Mad Men episode.

To see many, many stills from The Hong Shilling Affair episode shonw on Mad Men, you can CLICK HERE.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. meets Mad Men

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the 1964-68 spy series, had a one-evening revival — as a 1960s cultural reference on the acclaimed cable-television series Mad Men. Here’s how Vanity Fair’s James Walcott described the reference:

What was even more harshly cruel about the Sally’s shaming was that she was only responding naturally to the sight and plight of The Man of U.N.C.L.E.’s Illya Kuryakin. All the little girls loved Illya Kuryakin with his blonde bangs and black turtlenecks, and the older girls too. That’s how it was then–for a season or two, in adolescent hearts across America, Illya was the Fifth Beatle.]

To read all of Walcott’s post on Vanity Fair’s Little Gold Men blog, just JUST CLICK HERE.

The U.N.C.L.E. scene is from the first-season episode The Hong Kong Shilling Affair, in which agent Kuryakin is tied up along with Glenn Corbett as the episode’s “innocent.” There might have been a shot of Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo also, but it’s hard to tell; by that point, Mad Men’s camera is away from the television set. For more details and a review of the U.N.C.L.E. episode, just CLICK RIGHT HERE.

An U.N.C.L.E. friend pointed out the Walcott blog. We’re going to watch the entire Mad Men episode now.