The Cosby Verdict: All That Has Been Betrayed

“Betray a friend and you’ll often find you have ruined yourself.” -Aesop

Last Thursday I was standing in the middle of bowling alley in Augusta, ME, when the news alert came through that Bill Cosby was found guilty.

I wasn’t shocked. The shock wore off years ago. Week after week, starting in the fall of 2014, until some 60 women came forward with their story of rape and sexual assault by Cosby my shock eventually just gave way to anger and dismay.

The court of public opinion convicted him long before this. But for many of us sitting in the gallery, now long after the judge’s gavel has come down, there remains the anger and dismay.

Do not misunderstand. I applaud the verdict and the victory for the women, but I am angered, still, by what this man did to these women while building up a legacy so many of us thought was worth something. I’m angered by what this man did to these women while others took risks and sacrificed to help him to be successful.

I’m angered because in the context of Robert Culp’s career, to which this site is dedicated to, one of the few things he was immensely proud of which was I SPY, is at risk of being further reduced to a mere asterisk in the footnote of television history. I’m haunted by his own words from 2007 when asked about the legacy of I SPY. “There isn’t one,” he said, without even a pause to think about it. “It’s like we never did it.”

I’m further dismayed, now, to see the postings and comments on social media. Sure, there’s the handful of dumb shit and sick jokes that people make in light of the situation but overall the common thread of the comments and reactions from people is the sense of betrayal. Cosby betrayed the women and he betrayed all of us, black and white, as viewers and audience members.  Over the past four years, the collective punishment for that betrayal has been the removal of Cosby’s shows from television and the individual declarations from people who have vowed to never watch or listen to any of his material again. Recognition for the milestone that I SPY holds in television and pop culture history is now, sadly, ignored.

I spoke of this in a previous blog post and since then my objective here with this site, insofar as I SPY is concerned, has not changed nor will it. I will continue to talk about I SPY, post images from I SPY and respect I SPY and the historical impact that it had in its time. I coudn’t care less about Cosby at this point; the man deserves everything he has coming to him. But I will not punish I SPY as a whole.

I SPY’s Invisible Standard?

On February 8th, the LA Sentinel posted an article about the History of Black Television as part of its celebration of Black History Month. The article tells a condensed chronology of important milestones in the evolution and progression of black actors and entertainers on television. Among the list of shows, of course, was I SPY.

I take issue, however, with the writer’s commentary about the show, saying, “Although I SPY was a significant breakdown of Black stereotypes it created an invisible standard for Black actors on primetime TV; Blacks are acceptable as long as they are partnered with white co-stars.”

Um, what?

I’m not sure the writer truly understands and appreciates the significance of I SPYs impact on the portrayal of black characters on television and perhaps did little to no research about the show itself, or the time period in which it came about. At the time I SPY was conceived in late ’64, blacks and whites were not supposed to be considered equals. Jim Crow and so called “separate but equal” laws existed, particularly in the south where the mere idea of a black man being shown on television as EQUAL to a white was near blasphemy.

Indeed, several NBC affiliates in the south refused to air I SPY when it first debuted in the fall of ‘65. The subtle displays of equality, things taken for granted now, were very significant at the time. Scenes showing Alexander Scott (Cosby) and Kelly Robinson (Culp) dining together, sharing hotel quarters and a wash basin together were part of the visual impact that was part of the “non-statement” statement Culp and Cosby made with the show. Color was not a factor in how the partners worked and lived together. Each had their strengths and weaknesses in physical and mental attributes that complimented each other. In fact, Scott was the Rhodes Scholar who spoke several languages and had an understanding of world history and cultures along with a mechanical aptitude that would have made MacGyver proud. Kelly, on the other hand, was the first to tell you that he was more often than not the dummy of the two. He wasn’t, necessarily, but if somebody was speaking a foreign language he always turned to Scotty for a translation.

The first episode of I SPY, “So Long Patrick Henry,” written by Robert Culp, is a story of black characters not seen on television up to that point. Subsequent Culp penned scripts such as “The Loser” and “Court of the Lion” were also black stories not seen on the television prior.

Comedian Godfrey Cambridge, who played the villain in Culp’s “Court of Lion” episode, was very clear to TV Guide in 1966: “A Negro’s always got to be the Good Guy on TV these times. I am tired of being loved. Now this king of the Zulus is the first villain I’ve been allowed to play on TV. I’m doing a black Goldfinger. Bob Culp had the guts to put me in this part. So many other people in this town would say, ‘Let’s not have an argument, let’s make the Zulu an Indian.’ But Culp says, ‘Let’s do it right.’ That’s what I like about Culp.”

In the same article, I SPY co- producer Mort Fine said, “There is a wide audience acceptance of the camaraderie between Culp and Cosby, the white man and the Negro. People want to do the right thing, white to Negro. I think it’s vicarious. They want to watch it in action.”

“Yeah,” Cambridge said sardonically, “watching I Spy on the tube provides a relationship with a Negro with no risk.”

Cambridge obviously knew different. And if there had truly been no risk, why did affiliates in the south initially refuse to air the show?

Simple. The image I SPY portrayed, the equal working relationship and friendship of Robinson and Scott, a white man and a black man, was powerful.

Very powerful.

I would hope that Ms. Buck, the writer of the article, will someday take some time to truly get to know I SPY, watch several episodes (I could offer some recommendations) and take a moment to learn more of the history of it and of the time period it was created in. Then perhaps she will understand that the standard I SPY set was NOT that “blacks are acceptable as long as they are partnered with white co-stars” it was that blacks were acceptable as strong, independent, intelligent, resourceful people regardless if they were paired with a white co-star or not.

For Shame NBC

Once upon a time, NBC had guts.

Back in April of 1965 Pulitzer Prize winning author and syndicated columnist William S. White wrote: “NBC-TV has guts. The network, gambling that Dixie attitudes are changing, will pioneer with a 30-minute (sic) Wednesday evening show next season which co-stars a Negro actor, Bill Cosby, with a white one, Robert Culp. They will portray secret agents on even terms in a thriller called I Spy. NBC won’t know until late summer how many of its Southern affiliates will carry the program.”

NBC pioneered the interracial pairing of black and white characters on even ground at a time in America when race relations were less than harmonious. Did you notice the last line in that statement about the Southern affiliates? Yeah, there were a few who refused to air the show at the time it debuted and there was a lot of hand wringing at NBC’s offices.

This past weekend NBC celebrated its 90th anniversary and I SPY received no mention among the clips, salutes and tributes that were made. No mention whatsoever. The historical significance of what I SPY represented at the time it debuted and the impact it had was completely ignored.

Guts? It would appear that NBC no longer has any.

~Lisa Philbrick

Trump Trackdown: Your Turn CBS

By now, most of you have heard of the “Trump Trackdown” video. For those of you who haven’t, a quick recap:

This past week, posted about the video, which was originally posted to YouTube back in November and consists of 4 minutes of various scenes from a 1958 episode Trackdown. In the episode, a con man named Walter Trump arrives in a Texas town and tells everyone that only he can save them from the end of the world, by building a protective wall around their homes (along with selling them parasols to shield them from a meteor shower).

Texas Ranger Hoby Gilman, played by none other than Robert Culp, suspects Trump is a fraud. At one point in the episode, Trump threatens to sue. Hoby doesn’t take any crap and eventually exposes Trump for the fraud that he is.

The Snopes article and video have since gone viral. This pleases me in several ways, not the least of which is the recognition and exposure Trackdown is getting, which currently runs on MeTV Saturday mornings (and also on the network Heroes and Icons) after having been absent from television for many years. The video has been shared and talked about on social media all week, with some 40,000 shares alone on Facebook as of the time of this posting. A lot of folks have never heard of the show. Many seem curious to learn more about it.

With that in mind, I wanted to point out a couple of things that I’ve noticed in comments and blog posts of recent days. First, Trackdown is NOT in the public domain. The show’s copyright and distribution rights are owned by CBS, which is the network it originally aired on from 1957 to 1959.

There is no official DVD release of the show. However, there is a DVD set that’s floating around out there, but the video quality is atrocious (to put it kindly). The source material was literally VHS recordings of the show from local TV stations and TVLand airings dating from the late 1980s. Those of us of a certain age know what VHS quality looked like.

I was thrilled when Trackdown began airing on MeTV back in October of 2016. I’ve tried to watch at least one episode on Saturday mornings on MeTV (two eps run back to back) and the film quality is exceptionally better than the cruddy DVD copy I’ve seen. The show is much more enjoyable to watch.

Which brings me to my ultimate wish (well, one of them anyway!) I’m talking to you CBS. With curiosity and interest in Trackdown increasing the more the video and Snopes article is shared, this would be a wonderful time to look at putting Trackdown out on DVD before the end of 2017.

Whatya say?

~Lisa Philbrick

Robert Culp Has Not Left Your Television. And It’s a Damn Good Thing!

With the return of Trackdown and The Greatest American Hero to TV screens it seemed appropriate to post an updated listing of where you can view these shows and others.



Trackdown can be seen on MeTV and on Heroes and Icons. Check your local listings for times and availability.




I Spy is currently not running on any television networks (although RetroTV still has a page for it on their website), but can be seen online via Hulu, Yahoo View and on the PROClassicTV streaming service.  Yahoo View is free (with occasional commercials during the episode) while Hulu and PRO require subscriptions. However, in the case of PRO, individual episodes can be viewed for .99 a piece.



The Greatest American Hero can be seen on Heroes and Icons and streaming on Hulu with subscription and for free on Yahoo View. Yes, the pilot episode is conspicuously absent from the online streaming services.



You can also find two of Culp’s Celebrity Bowling appearances at the PROClassic site, the first from 1973  and one from 1975.




Along with those shows are several shows that Culp guest starred on, such as Columbo (MeTV, Netflix), The Rifleman (MeTV, PROClassicTV streaming, Hulu and Yahoo View), Everybody Loves Raymond (TV LAND), Murder, She Wrote (COZI, Netflix) and many others. You can always check TV Guide’s online listing for upcoming episodes of shows featuring Culp.

You can also check out, which currently lists where you can find 17 Culp films and TV series’ that can be viewed online or purchased. I consider it my civic duty to warn you to NOT waste your money on National Lampoon’s Movie Madness. Just don’t. Trust me.

Otherwise, happy Culp viewing!

~Lisa Philbrick