Stop me if you’ve heard this before…
Oh. Yeah, you have heard this before. About a year ago, when Fox gave the green light to Phil Lord and Chris Miller, who wrote and directed THE LEGO MOVIE and also directed a big screen version of Stephen Cannell’s 21 JUMP STREET, to film a pilot for a new take on THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO. We’ve heard nothing more since then about a script, or actors or anything.
Frankly, one might have figured the project died, but according Deadline Hollywood, it’s still very much alive and Fox is reported to be “bullish” on getting this one to American TV screens.
It’s been a year and apparently a change in writers, but a casting director has now been hired to scout out some talent. Nathan Fillion expressed some interest in playing the lead during a Q&A session at Chicago’s Wizard World Comic Con back in August, 2015.
It’s also unclear if the concept has changed. Originally, it sounded like Ralph, Pam and Bill were NOT going to be rebooted, that it would be all new original characters; an inner city teacher named Issac would be the recipient of the suit. Now, based on the recent Deadline Hollywood article, the script written by Rick Famuyiwa (DOPE), “is the story of what happens when great power is not met with great responsibility. An ordinary man, completely content with being average, wakes up with a superpower suit he never asked for and has to deal with the complications it brings his life.”
Given Hollywood’s penchant for lampooning and doing parody’s of original shows, it really doesn’t sound encouraging.
Recently I shared on Facebook several HICKEY & BOGGS articles I had written back in 2012 for the 40th anniversary of the film. One of the articles made reference to a 2007 screening of H&B at the Aero Theatre in Los Angeles with Robert Culp on hand afterwards for a Q&A session. Video of the event existed at the time of the posting in 2012 – and then disappeared some two weeks later. The source of the video, a website known as Criminally Unknown which was dedicated to discussing lesser known films, all but fell off the face of the earth at the time. The links to vids on their Facebook page disappeared, their website disappeared, and only one segment of the nearly 45 minute Q&A survived still on YouTube. It seemed the entire Q&A session was lost forever.
But lo… it was not lost! After sharing the articles I heard from a fellow Culpophile and I’m very happy to say that the vids have survived because they were saved (thanks Tatia!) and now THEY’RE BACK! And you can check them out below.
I have also updated my original 2012 posting and placed the vids there as well.
So, the last time I wrote to you, just over two years ago, I whined and cried because Robert Culp’s Saturday Night Live monologue along with the opening sketch he did with Eddie Murphy that had been available for viewing on your website had disappeared. As you may recall, we’ve had an on again, off again relationship regarding this material. But like Nancy Sinatra, who found herself another box of matches, I since found the clips on Hulu.com (which are still available) and also about a year or so ago on Yahoo Screen (also still available).
Recently, however, it looks like you’re back on my Valentine’s list NBC, as the clips are now back where they belong on your redesigned website, with what appears to be additional sketches (none with Culp) from the same episode.
So, I just wanted to say thank you for keeping this material out there via various sources. I know the internet is a fickle place, things come and go, technologies change, platforms change and all, but I appreciate that the material remains available.
I SPY, which premiered 50 years ago this week on September 15th, 1965, ran for 83 episodes and if you think it was easy compiling a Top Ten list, you’d be mistaken. Most of those 83 could probably be easily shoved into this list. My handicap in trying to come up with a list on my own is the fact that I have not seen all of season three. So I put the question out to other fans on Facebook and over at the I SPY FORUM to try to come up with The List of the 10 best I SPY episodes. These would be the ones that just stick in your mind, the ones that if you were introducing someone new to the show you would have them watch, the ones that had the best story lines, the best performances, the best use of exotic scenery, the best score by Earle Hagen – and more often than not, all of these elements would be in the same episode!
So here we go, in order of season/air date…
So Long, Patrick Henry (Season 1, Episode 1)
I SPY’s original pilot episode, “Affair in T’Sien Cha,” was already in the can, promo photos were being used by the press but NBC wasn’t happy with it. They decided not to go with “Affair” and instead, selecting from other episodes completed, they picked this one to set the tone for the series. And they couldn’t have picked a better episode. Written by series star Robert Culp, the episode features Ivan Dixon (Hogan’s Heroes) as a disgruntled US Olympic athlete who defected to China after the ’64 Olympics. Appearing to not be happy with his decision after a year, the US government is prepared to offer him a chance to come back and Scotty and Kelly are sent to deliver the message. The episode has a great mix of drama and comedy and overwhelmingly succeeded in starting the series off on the right foot.
Tatia (Season 1, Episode 10)
Kelly falls for a freelance photographer, Tatia Loring, who Scotty suspects is an enemy agent. Nearly everyone Tatia has ever photographed has ended up dead. Kelly’s feelings are strong and he doesn’t believe his partner – to the point they have a knock down drag out fight over it. Set in Japan, the episode showcases the Japanese scenery and backdrops beautifully and has an excellent mix of romance and angst.
The Tiger (Season 1, Episode 15)
Prior to taking the role of Kelly Robinson in I SPY, Robert Culp had written a script for a pilot for a potential spy series called “Danny Doyle.” That script was reworked and became this episode. Kelly is sent on a dangerous mission to Vietnam to locate a philanthropist doctor who has gone into hiding. The doctor’s daughter, Sam Than McLean, a US government agent herself, is captured by the enemy in order to lure the doctor out. Scotty waits in the wings to assist in picking Kelly, Sam and her father up but they are under a desperate time table – the US Airforce is set to bomb the area whether Kelly and all make it out or not.
Bet Me a Dollar (Season 1, Episode 20)
The most dangerous thing Kelly can do is get bored. And he does in this episode which prompts him to challenge Scotty to “find” him. The game would be fun, except it takes on a serious turn when Scotty finds out that the knife wound Kelly suffered prior to the challenge has exposed him to anthrax. Meanwhile, Kelly befriends a young Mexican boy who accompanies him through the “game.” Kelly, however, gets sicker as the challenge goes on but refuses to let Scotty find him and it’s up to the young boy to be Kelly’s salvation.
Vendetta (Season 2, Episode 4)
What did I say about Kelly getting bored? This time he’s hanging out by the pool of the hotel he and Scotty are staying at when he spots an attractive Italian girl. She turns out to be bait for a set up and Kelly is held against his will by the family of a man who was killed during the Korean War under Kelly’s command. Kelly is accused of having shot the man in the back and is placed on trial by the family. If convicted, his sentence is death.
Bridge of Spies (Season 2, Episode 9)
Sheesh, you’d think Kelly would be more careful of beautiful women by now but…nope! This time it’s an Italian tourist guide (Barbara Steele) who sets him up so she and an accomplice can retrieve information on other agents and take them out of circulation. Scotty and Kelly’s set ups for contact with other agents are super secretive and the loss of the agents starts to make Scotty and Kelly suspicious of each other.
Room with a Rack (Season 2, Episode 21)
Quite possibly the most disturbing opening for television at the time, we see Kelly chained to a medieval rack, stretched. Subsequent images follow, making it clear that Kelly has been tortured. We then see him in a hospital, recovering – and that’s all before the opening title sequence. He’s given a 30 day vacation but at the same time the Department thinks he’s damaged beyond repair. While on break, Kelly is happy to meet an old friend but the enemy agents who tortured him have found him too. Culp’s performance is fantastic as the nearly broken Kelly, who flinches and cowers much too easily after his ordeal and falls to his knees in tears when he’s brought back to the torture chamber for the second time.
Mainly on the Plains (Season 2, Episode 22)
Kelly befriends Don Silvando, a scientist (Boris Karloff), in Spain and with Scotty must convince him to work for the US. (The Communists are attempting the same but when their agent fails to befriend the scientist they just try to go with force). When Kelly and Scotty offer to drive with the Don to Madrid they discover that his car is full of books – hundreds of copies of all the same book, Don Quixote, in multiple languages. The Don loves the story so much, and has been under quite a bit of strain as of late, along the way to Madrid he has moments of hallucination and thinks he is Don Quixote. The Don saves a damsel in distress, battles the windmills and inadvertently releases a truck load of prisoners.
Magic Mirror (Season 2, Episode 25)
Sam McLean (seen previously in The Tiger) whom Kelly has fallen for is shown to be having an affair with a vicious dictator currently in exile. The dictator plans to return to power with help from the Soviets in exchange for allowing missiles to be based in his country. Kelly and Scotty must find out what he’s up to, stop him and if need be, destroy Sam for her traitorous ways. But is she really a traitor?
Home to Judgment (Season 3, Episode 14)
Consistently a top choice among fans as a favorite, I think I can safely assume that if any I SPY fan were to be stuck on a desert island and could only take one episode with them, this would be it. Kelly and Scotty blow an assignment and escape from the criminals they had been in pursuit of who are now in pursuit of them. The boys seek refuge on an old farm that turns out to be Kelly’s aunt and uncle, whom he hasn’t seen in years. Not wanting to bring heat down on his family, Kelly and Scotty figure to move on as quickly as possible but are caught by Kelly’s Uncle Harry as the bad guys are closing in.
It’s All Done with Mirrors (Season 1, Episode 27)
Kelly is abducted by a Russian scientist (Carroll O’Connor, totally NOT Archie Bunker here) and brainwashed into believing that Scotty is a traitor and must be killed. Kelly is controlled by light reflecting off a mirror and when he fails to kill on the first attempt, the department writes him off and wants him destroyed. Scotty doesn’t believe his partner has deliberately gone rogue and manages to finagle 48 hours to bring Kelly in or otherwise dispatch him himself.
Blackout (Season 2, Episode 24)
Kelly woos a Russian ballerina in order to try to find out who in the ballet company is passing information. He wakes up in a seedy hotel in Spain, the ballerina dead and he unable to recall what’s happened. Colonel Benkovski of the KGB gives Kelly and Scotty approximately 12 hours to figure out what happened and who killed the ballerina before taking the matter to the Spanish authorities.
Laya (Season 3, Episode 3)
A Central African country, recently independent thanks to the Communists, has been receiving arms shipments from the same. Scotty is assigned to befriend an embassy clerk who has access to the information but the assignment becomes complicated when he develops genuine feelings for the woman.
The Lotus Eater (Season 3, Episode 12)
Scotty loses contact with Kelly for 10 days eventually finding him on a Greek isle, literally enjoying wine, women and song. Kelly claims he’s quit the service, has taken up light housekeeping with a pretty Greek girl and dances at the local tavern smashing plates over his head. Scotty suspects something’s up and when he’s jumped by two thugs who work for Sorgi (Sheldon Leonard, previously seen in “Three Hours on a Sunday Night”) he has no doubt. Kelly’s dependence on Ouzo isn’t by accident.
Think there’s an episode that should have been on this list? Let me know in the comments below!
Guest post by Barbara K. Emanuele
When my friend casually tweeted “What should I write about,” I spent forty five minutes trying to convince him why I Spy should be remembered in its fiftieth anniversary year. The 144 character conversation ended with him apologizing that he couldn’t because of “the Cosby thing.” And therein lays the problem. We’ve known about “the Cosby thing” since 1997, but it’s social media for better that has convicted him and for worse condemned innocents who didn’t know they danced with a demon.
Though every book of faith warns against worshipping false idols, Bill Cosby was always considered safe to worship because he was one of the “good guys.” He is an educated, self-made man, with a loving wife and family. He is also funny as all get out. I switched tenses to describe him because he is still all of those things, though now we understand he is another character played by William H Cosby, Jr.
Now we understand this man may be one of the most dangerous psychopaths we have ever known.
There is no negating what he has done. Countless women were victimized daily by him: at the time of the initial “seduction” when he got them to trust him, at the moment of the violent act, and every day thereafter when these women were denied their rightful justice because no one could believe that Alexander Scott / Fat Albert / Cliff Huxtable could do this.
Because we forget that actors are not their characters.
There is no question he needs to be punished. The Statute of Limitations must be done away with when it comes to sexual crimes, so the victims can come forward when they have made a safe place for themselves to do so. Perhaps that may be his final act for us, to be the impetus for such legislation. In the meantime, the only recompense these victims have is knowing he is guilty in the court of public opinion, and maybe in civil court. Perhaps that will help them; it will not hurt him.
Psychopaths cannot be hurt because they cannot feel.
But in the void of his lack of feeling are pawns who find their collective legacy being wiped out by his.
I Spy was one of the few correct and true things NBC has ever done. The nation needed to see in a non-proselytizing manner that all men are created equal. We were given in a weekly fifty minute non-statement, two men literally equal in size and stature sharing a meal, a room, a mirror, a bathroom. Nothing mattered as long as they got the job done and had fun. The end. This steady dose of Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott walking side by side, living life together was absorbed subliminally and obviously and hearts began to change. Self-doubt about whether it was really OK to sit next to your classmate and eat off each other’s plates, finish their drinks, go camping with them, was obliterated. Ninety episodes later Alexander Scott made it clear to young men they no longer had to fear being the nerd who had done so well scholastically because being so didn’t negate your ability to be a man. To be a good human being.
Mr. Sulu and Lt. Uhura would not have journeyed through Star Trek without Alexander Scott.
Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh would not have their Lethal Weapon without Alexander Scott.
Without I Spy and executive producer Sheldon Leonard’s desire to film the series in those exotic locations the script called for, there would have been no reason for Fouad Said an Egyptian American, to create many of the technical advances that made filming on the big and small screen much easier. Said gave us the Cinemobile, the wireless mike, among many other improved or completely new devices. Filming for TV and cinema didn’t just move forward, thousands of dollars were saved making overseas filming possible when costs would otherwise have been prohibitive.
This equipment also threatened to push out the antiquated cameras, lights, mikes, and men that had been Hollywood staples for years, and no one was happy about that. For most of the time I Spy was filmed Said could not join the unions you would have expected him to be a highly valued member of. That came only as the series was ending, as did other breakthroughs.
Robert Culp made Clint Eastwood and Ben Affleck possible. Culp was one of the first actors who also wrote and directed his own material, and ticked off many suits in the business for doing so. He took the first generation of anger so the second and third generations win their Emmys and Oscars. And when Alexander Scott appeared on our television screens, the words that came out of his mouth were the best Culp could make possible. When Cosby won his Emmys, Emmys Culp was nominated for, the latter didn’t mind. It was a win for him, for the show, for humanity.
Remember and celebrate the series for what it has given us. Removing it from the airwaves, trying to wipe it from our collective consciousness, does not in any way harm a predator. We are harming ourselves because we are forgetting how we got to where we are.
I Spy didn’t gently break through glass ceilings of stereotypes. It took a jackhammer to the concrete nonsense that Hollywood created to make itself pretty and in the chaos created true beauty. Its crew did this. Its writers, directors, musicians and producers did this. Its actors and actresses did this. It did this when the country wanted to bury its collective head in the sand and pretend all was well when it knew change had to come but was too painful to look at. I Spy did all of this and can do it again if we allow it to.
One truly disturbed individual cannot be permitted to undo it.