MeTV’s ‘Spies Who Love ME’ concludes Sunday

metv logo

MeTV, the U.S. channel mostly featuring 1960s and ’70s shows, is ending its “Spies Who Love ME” Sunday night block of shows this weekend.

Mission: Impossible, which had been on at 11 p.m. ET Sunday, and The Saint, which has been airing at 1 a.m. Mondays, are leaving the MeTV schedule altogether for now, the channel said in an announcement about its fall schedule.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E., which has been telecast at 10 p.m. ET on Sundays, is moving to the overnight weekend schedule. It will be on at 2 a.m. ET Sundays and Mondays (considered part of the Saturday and Sunday schedules).

Get Smart will be telecast on the overnight Sunday schedule, showing at 1 a.m. on Monday. With “Spies Who Love ME,” MeTV showed two episodes of the 1965-70 comedy start at midnight.

To see the entire new schedule, which begins Aug. 31, CLICK HERE for a PDF version.

GUEST REVIEW: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2015)

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

U.N.C.L.E. movie poster

By Nicolás Suszczyk, Guest Writer

I never fully watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I wasn’t born when it was released and no DVDs (and few TV telecasts) where released in my country, at least in my teens.

As a Bond fan, of course, I enjoyed many rip-offs, from the funny ones like Get Smart, Johnny English and Kingsman: The Secret Service to the more realistic ones like Tom Cruise’s Mission: Impossible saga, the Harry Palmer films and a few modern-espionage films like The International.

Still, I barely knew about Napoleon Solo and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. except for the fact it was one of the many ingredients of the ‘60s spy phenomenon and the Ian Fleming connection with the character of Napoleon Solo. I was kind of interested, but I never ended up closely following the episodes as I did with Zorro, Batman, The Saint or other cult TV series.

So, what follows “review” of someone in the mid-20s who hasn’t properly watched the original TV series produced by Norman Felton but has an idea on it.

I had a free afternoon so I booked the tickets on a close theatre in my hometown in Buenos Aires. The screening was around 6:30 p.m. As I entered the theatre, all the seats were empty! I wondered if some of the negative reviews had such an impact on people that left Napoleon Solo a bit… “solo” (if you speak Spanish, you’ll get the word game).

A few minutes later, people appeared — not many, five or seven more, making around ten people if you count me. On a side note, I catched the SPECTRE teaser trailer before the film. I’ve always been unlucky in finding a Bond trailer on a screening, something that only happened before in 2002 when the Die Another Day trailer popped up before My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the movie my grandmother took me to watch.

And then, Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. filled the screen.

Overall, the film is enjoyable… enough to relax after a tough day at work, at least. It looks indeed as a movie set in the 1960s: a masterful work of the cinematographer, the costume designer, and Daniel Pemberton in the music department.

There’s a lot of humor like the one you’ll find in Kingsman: The Secret Service, but a lot less exaggerated, and more in the vein of the 1972 TV series The Persuaders. The Henry Cavill-Armie Hammer relationship onscreen is in a way very similar to the Roger Moore-Tony Curtis one.

A scene of Napoleon Solo (Cavill) comfortably drinking wine and having sandwiches while sitting in a truck as Russian agent Ilya Kuryakin (Hammer) gun fighting his enemies on a boat is particularly effective and funny for the inclusion of “Che Vuole Questa Musica Stasera” (sung by Peppino Gagliardi) as both events are taking place. This rivalry that slowly turns into friendship is akin to The Persuader’s pilot “Interlude.”

Other of the film’s pros is the backdrop created for the protagonists: Solo being an art thief working for the CIA on probation and Kuryakin having with anger management problems. The girls, Gaby (Alicia Vikander) and Victoria (Elizabeth Debicki), are in a way the stereotypical “good girls” and “bad girls” you’ll find in any retro spy series. They are not complex characters, but they fit very well into the film.

More into the 60s influence, the scene where Solo is tortured seems to have a small nod to the 1967 spoof version of Casino Royale, where Le Chiffre (Orson Welles) provides a “mind torture” to Peter Sellers’ Evelyn Tremble, aka James Bond 007, when uncle Rudi shows a video of the Nazi “achievements” as the hero is tied to an electric chair.

A special mention is deserved by Hugh Grant as Waverly, whose presence itself is more than welcome and adds a special touch to the film with his comic quips.

There is, however, a big negative point in The Man from U.N.C.L.E.: the editing. It tried to be artistic and it perhaps succeeded in the desired effect, but the fast camera shots, the flashbacks and the split-screen shots are very distracting. It happens, even in a more confusing way, the same that in the shakey cam shots of Quantum of Solace.

The film’s ending offers a nice cliffhanger, maybe predictable, but very similar to the current “reboot” movies where we see the inception of what has been established before. There is a word association to the last line said by Waverly to the relationship a character had with other, something that would probably get lost in translation for many non-English speaking countries.

Verdict: Love the ‘60s spy movies with lots of humor? Watch it!

U.N.C.L.E.: 2d U.S. weekend is good news, bad news

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

Logo for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie

UPDATE (Aug. 26): The final second weekend figure for U.N.C.L.E. was $7.3 million, a 45.5 percent decline from the debut weekend, according to BOX OFFICE MOJO.

ORIGINAL POST (Aug. 23): For The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, its second U.S. weekend had good news and bad news.

Relatively speaking, it was better than average in one key respect.

The Guy Ritchie-directed film will decline this weekend by an estimated 45 percent to $7.4 million, Exhibitor Relations SAID ON TWITTER. It called the results “respectible.”

A falloff of at least 50 percent between the first and second weekend is expected. A decline less than that is considered above average.

The U.N.C.L.E. movie’s cumulative U.S. box office is an estimated $26 million, Exhibitor Relations said.

The final weekend figures come out on Monday.

For perspective, the No. 1 movie at the box office, for the second weekend in a row, was Straight Outta Compton. It had estimated ticket sales of $26.7 million, a 56 percent decline from last weekend, Exhibitors Relations SAID IN A SEPARATE TWEET.

Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation, meanwhile, IS COMING IN AT NO. 2 at about $11 million. The fifth M:I film with Tom Cruise was released July 31, two weeks before U.N.C.L.E.

The U.N.C.L.E. film is in the midst of its international rollout. Variety reported in 2013 its production budget was $75 million.

‘Mr. Warner’ and creator credits

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Sam Rolfe, circa 1964

Fans of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. television series, for the most part, weren’t happy to see that Sam Rolfe — the major creator of the 1964-68 television series — didn’t get a credit with the movie that debuted this month.

Rolfe (1924-1993) created Illya Kuryakin, Alexander Waverly as well as the U.N.C.L.E. organization and format. The main element he didn’t create was Napoleon Solo, which had been hashed out by executive producer Norman Felton and 007 author Ian Fleming.

Felton (1913-2012) did receive an “executive consultant” credit in the U.N.C.L.E. film.

The series didn’t carry a formal creator credit. Instead it was either, “Developed by Sam Rolfe” or “The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Developed by Sam Rolfe,” depending on the season of the show.

While Rolfe not getting a mention is understandably disappointing, Warner Bros., aka “Mr. Warner” on this blog has an interesting history.

In the early days of Warner Bros. television, the real-life Mr. Warner (Jack) had an aversion to bestowing a creator credit. Roy Huggins didn’t get a creator credit for either Maverick or 77 Sunset Strip. Charles Larson (the person who most likely deserved one) didn’t get a creator credit for The FBI, a co-production with Quinn Martin. On the other hand, When Maverick became a Warner Bros. movie in 1994, Huggins did get on-screen recognition.

Warner Bros. also controls DC Comics. The studio gives credit for movies based on DC characters where it has an obligation. Superman movies, for example, have a creator credit for Jerry Siegel and Joe Schuster. Warner and DC only agreed to that in the 1970s as the first Superman film with Christopher Reeve was being prepared and there was a big public relations campaign for Siegel and Schuster.

Warners also gives Bob Kane the creator credit for Batman, although there’s evidence that uncredited Bill Finger really did the heavy lifting. In 2014, cartoonist Ty Templeton drew what a Batman without Bill Finger would look like. Anyway, Warners/DC also credits Charles Moulton (real name William Moulton Marston) for Wonder Woman.

Other than that, though, no creator credits. The 2011 Green Lantern, for example, movie didn’t credit John Broome and Gil Kane. The current Flash television series doesn’t credit Robert Kanigher and Carmine Infantino.

Put another way, Sam Rolfe — who wrote the U.N.C.L.E. pilot and produced the show’s first season — has plenty of company. Also that “developed by” credit probably gives the studio legal leeway in not including Rolfe in the movie’s credits.

Yvonne Craig, TV’s Batgirl, dies at 78

Yvonne Craig in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Yvonne Craig in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Yvonne Craig, who played Batgirl in the 1960s Batman series, has died at 78, according to obituaries ON HER OFFICIAL WEBSITE and on CNN’S WEBSITE.

She died “from complications brought about from breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver,” according to the obituary on her website.

Craig’s Barbara Gordon was introduced during the final season of the 1966-68 Batman series. The librarian doubled as the masked crime fighter Batgirl, whose identity was unknown to Batman or Commissioner Gordon (Neil Hamilton), her father.

Craig also appeared in various 1960s spy shows and movies. She had a supporting role in The Brain Killer Affair, a first-season episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., as a woman whose brother is the key to a plot hatched by villain Dr. Dabree.

The actress was brought back to appear in extra footage for movie versions of U.N.C.L.E. episodes. Her biggest such role was in One Spy Too Many, where she played Maude Waverly, niece of U.N.C.L.E. chief Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). None of her scenes appeared in the television version, Alexander the Greater Affair.

Craig also had a supporting role in In Like Flint, the second Derek Flint film starring James Coburn.

You can CLICK HERE to view a very brief Q&A with the actress done in the late 1990s.

Finally, here’s a 1974 public service announcement with Craig again playing Batgirl. Adam West declined to participate, so Dick Gautier played Batman instead. The video isn’t very good, unfortunately.

Guy Ritchie says Brad Pitt was his choice for (older) Solo

Brad Pitt

Brad Pitt

Director Guy Ritchie, talking on A PODCAST, says Brad Pitt was his first choice to play Napoleon Solo in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie.

Had Pitt, 51, been cast, his version of Solo would have been older compared to a younger Illya Kuryakin, Ritchie said. The American actor “told me to piss off,” the director said of Pitt.

Ritchie didn’t provide a time frame when all this occurred. He confirmed (as he did in other interviews) that Tom Cruise, 53, was indeed considered to play Solo before opting to concentrate on Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation.

“Mission: Impossible interfered with the process,” Ritchie said. “He (Cruise) was occupying too much of the same space.”

Also, as he has done in other interviews, Ritchie says actor Henry Cavill, 32, was considered to play Kuryakin, but the director felt Cavill didn’t look right with blonde hair. Armie Hammer, who turns 29 this month, ended up with the role. Also, in the Ritchie-directed movie, Solo and Kuryakin were depicted as being roughly the same age, the same as the 1964-68 original series.

One other notable quote about the U.N.C.L.E. movie from Ritchie: “We’re more about (Harry) Palmer than we are about (James) Bond.”

To listen to the podcast, CLICK HERE. The U.N.C.L.E. quotes occur after the 31:00 mark.

Final thoughts about the U.N.C.L.E. film

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

Bus for participants in U.N.C.L.E. movie press junket in Rome

With The Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie now in U.S. theaters and heading for international screens over the next few weeks, we conclude (for now, at least) our coverage of the return of Solo and Kuryakin with these observations.

It’s a miracle the movie even got made: The new version of U.N.C.L.E. got off to a disappointing start in U.S. theaters, getting steamrolled by Straight Outta Compton. But three years ago, many U.N.C.L.E. fans be happy there was even a film to be steamrolled.

For decades, it seemed like there was a curse. Various attempts were made to revive U.N.C.L.E. to no avail. It finally happened. It’s not a hit in the U.S. That’s show biz. But the project survived many obstacles.

Marketing a movie is really hard: Warner Bros. (or “Mr. Warner” as we like to jokingly refer to the studio) was faced with a challenged property.

The original U.N.C.L.E. fan base is aging. There hadn’t been an U.N.C.L.E. production (The Return of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. TV film) since 1983. The studio had to reach out to a broader public.

Mr. Warner tried a lot. U.N.C.L.E. was part of Warner Bros. activities at the San Diego Comic Con. The studio had a press junket in Rome. It flooded broadcast and cable television with advertisements. It flooded social media for at least the last month.

Warner Bros. also had test screenings in 2014, trying to see if younger viewers would be interested. It appeared to test well. But it’s a different deal from letting people in for free for a testing screening compared with expecting people to spend their own money.

The studio wasn’t helped when rival Paramount shifted Mission: Impossible Rogue Nation to July 31, two weeks before U.N.C.L.E. For Warners there were two choices: shift U.N.C.L.E. to a third release date or make a stand on Aug. 14. It’s hard to argue, except with hindsight, Mr. Warner made the wrong choice.

This should also be a reminder that what Walt Disney Co.’s Marvel Studios is pretty remarkable. Marvel has interested audiences in Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant Man, in addition to its more familiar characters such as Iron Man and Captain America. It bears repeating: Marketing a movie is really hard.

Don’t mistake intensity for numbers: Some U.N.C.L.E. fans believed the movie would benefit from actor Henry Cavill’s intense fan base.

Cavill fans like their guy. A lot. And they’re fine folks. We’ve communicated with them quite a bit via social media. But it takes more than an intense fan base to turn a movie into a hit. To become a hit, a movie has to reach out to the broader public.

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