I Spy

I Spy ran on NBC from 1965 to 1968. The show broke ground by portraying a black and white partnership on equal ground – indeed, the fact that a black man would be showcased on equal footing with a white man caused several NBC affiliates in the South to refuse to air the show.  Over 50 years after its debut, I Spy remains an important milestone in television history and is as enjoyable and entertaining to watch today as ever.

Robert Culp and Bill Cosby played spies under the cover of  globe trotting playboy tennis bum Kelly Robinson (Culp) and his trainer, Alexander Scott (Cosby). The show had an excellent mix of comedy and drama and showed a spy business that despite the exotic locales and seemingly glamourous look, was constantly a gritty and merciless pursuit.

Culp wrote seven episodes for the show, directing one of them.


Why I SPY Still Matters (50th Anniversary) – Essay by yours truly, Lisa Philbrick.

Remembering I SPY (50th Anniversary) – Essay by Barbara K. Emanuele

The Top Ten Best I SPY Episodes

Check out the character biographies of Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott as compiled by Barbara K. Emanuele.

Season One

So Long, Patrick Henry (written by Robert Culp)
A Cup of Kindness
Carry Me Back to Old Tsing-Tao
Dragon’s Teeth
The Loser (written by Robert Culp)
Danny Was a Million Laughs
The Time of the Knife
No Exchange on Damaged Merchandise
Weight of the World
Three Hours on a Sunday Night
Tigers of Heaven
Affair in T’Sien Cha
The Tiger (written by Robert Culp)
The Barter
Always Say Goodbye
Court of the Lion (written and directed by Robert Culp)
Turkish Delight
Bet Me a Dollar
Return to Glory
The Conquest of Maude Murdock
A Day Called 4 Jaguar
Crusade to Limbo
My Mother, the Spy
There Was a Little Girl
It’s All Done with Mirrors
One Thousand Fine

Season Two

So Coldly Sweet
A Gift from Alexander
Trial by Treehouse
Will the Real Good Guys Please Stand Up?
Bridge of Spies
One of Our Bombs Is Missing
To Florence, with Love (1)
To Florence, with Love (2)
Little Boy Lost
Father Abraham
Rome … Take Away Three
Child Out of Time
The Trouble with Temple
The War Lord (written by Robert Culp)
A Room with a Rack
Mainly on the Plains
Get Thee to a Nunnery
Magic Mirror (written by Robert Culp)
Night Train to Madrid
Casanova from Canarsie
Cops and Robbers

Season Three

Let’s Kill Karlovassi
The Beautiful Children
The Medarra Block
The Honorable Assassins
Now You See Her, Now You Don’t
Red Sash of Courage
The Seventh Captain
Oedipus at Colonus
The Lotos Eater
An American Empress
Home to Judgement (written by Robert Culp)
Anyplace I Hang Myself Is Home
Tag, You’re It
A Few Miles West of Nowhere
This Guy Smith
Turnabout for Traitors
Happy Birthday… Everybody
The Name of the Game
Suitable for Framing
The Spy Business
Carmelita Is One of Us

15 Replies to “I Spy”

  1. I love Robert Culp and his death was a great loss to me and the whole movie industry. I particularly loved his characters in I Spy, Trackdown, Out Limits “Demon Seed” and all the other movies he ever appeared in.

    Robert Culp was probably one of a few people that had a positive impact on me and my law enforcement career. In some aspects, I even copied some of his techniques.

    I Spy was one of the leading and most accurate TV series that was true to life!

    I will never forget Robert Culp! God bless him and his Family.

  2. Thanks for the comment, John, I love hearing of the positive influence he had (on many folks). Indeed, he will not be forgotten as long as us fans have something to say about it. 🙂

  3. Greetings from Ottawa,Canada’s Capitol. I LOVED I SPY! The rapport between Culp and Cosby was sheer magic. Our whole family gathered in our TV room and everything stopped and everyone was quiet until the show was over. My dad and mom,two older sisters and my younger brother were totally captivated for the hour. I bought the Three seasons of I Spy,the minute they were available here in Canada. I have watched them many times,and love Culps,voice over commentary episodes. I have the comics and pocketbooks etc. and warmly remember being 12 and waiting for the excellent theme music to start the show. The overseas and Mexico location shoots added so much! It’s so hard,isn’t it when our heroes pass away. It really hurts. I’ll miss him. I love his work. Thank YOU for this great site! I will endeavour to find some episodes of Trackdown,if possible. – Best Wishes from Ron L.

  4. Thanks so much for the comment, Ron and for sharing what is a wonderful memory of watching the show with your family. I Spy certainly had something for everyone. How many shows, especially now, can say that not only could Mom & Dad watch, but so could the kids – all together? 🙂

  5. “No Return on Damaged Merchandise,” written by “dick van Dyke Show” veterans Bill Persky and Sam Denoff, has always been my favorite episode. The spy story is serious and exciting; the comic frame story, as Kelly writes up the adventure in an attempt to get the Pentagon to pay for his damaged watch, makes the characters of Kelly and Scott come to life. (“You think that’ll get you your three dollars?” “Did the Magna Carta free the peasants or not, Jack?”)

  6. “No Return…” is a great episode. And the scene with the puppet was spoofed in the episode of “Cosby” when Cosby’s character falls asleep on his couch during an I Spy marathon and dreams he’s Scotty teamed up with Kelly again. 🙂

  7. What great info. At home with a broken leg since last November, I am thrilled that I Spy is available on the Cozi and RTV networks. I had forgotten that I had such a crush on Bob Culp but it didn’t take long to remember. I am saddened to know that he passed away so long ago. I also regret not sending him a letter telling him how much I admired him. I actually ordered the first two seasons of that series and cannot wait till I can watch him over & over. Thank you for this site.

  8. I got to watch them film the episodes that they did in San Francisco. Culp and Cosby were cooler than Napoleon and Ilya and I never thought of Cosby or Scotty as being black, just Scotty.

    I never missed an episode and even though I have them on dvd, I still watch them on Cozi.

    watch out for those snakes on the floor at all times.

  9. I just discovered “I Spy” about 6 months ago, and it is now one of my favorite series of all time. There is a saying in sports (American sports, at least), “The great ones make it look easy”, and nothing could better epitomize Bill Cosby, Robert Culp, or the entire “I Spy” series. I watch a lot of “spy TV series” – “The A-Team”, “MacGuyver”, “Burn Notice”, “My Own Worst Enemy”, “The Green Hornet” (1966) [Yes, I’m counting Britt and Kato!], etc. – and Domino (Alexander Scott and Kelly Robinson) are among the best and they do, indeed, make it look easy. Listening to “Buck, Buck”, “Street Football”, and “Noah” by Bill Cosby after “I Spy” puts all of Bill Cosby’s career in a different light for me.

    Robert Culp died about 2 1/2 years before I discovered “I Spy” (a short time before by some metrics, given that I was 42 when I discovered “I Spy”), a fact for which I feel truly sad. I had seen _This Gun for Hire_ with Alan Ladd for the first time a month or 3 before I discovered “I Spy”, and it seemed to me that with the right ‘esprit de corps’ and perhaps handler or something, Philip Raven could have been “rescued” to become Kelly Robinson. Domino (Alex & Kelly) is a constellation in the “spy TV series” night sky.

  10. This was my first exposure to Bob Culp…not through the original airings, of which I was too young to grasp (I was born in 1964), but the first syndication run…it ran here in Cleveland on WUAB, Channel 43, not long after the station commenced operations. I used to go over to a friend’s house (actually, my brother’s friend, but we have a lot of mutual friends from the old neighborhood) where his folks would be watching the show, and I would be running around, imitating the moving silhouette at the beginning of the show and causing all sorts of havoc (I was a VERY hyper child!).

    Now that I’m old enough, I can appreciate the series…I’ve seen it on cable and have a number of episodes on DVD, including my favorite, “Weight of the World” (love the scene where he almost burns down the apartment with a cigarette and a glass of rum).

    This was the ‘gateway drug’ for my becoming a Culp fan…Outrage, which I remember seeing in its initial airing, helped seal it, Greatest American Hero cemented it, and the Outer Limits and Columbo episodes reinforced it.

    I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a guest appearance I saw only once (on CBN, now known as ABC Family Channel) on Ben Casey…the episode was entitled “The Sound of One Hand Clapping”. Culp played a Korean war vet who entered the hospital to have shrapnel removed from his leg. A believer in Zen, he wanted to have the operation done without anesthetic, claiming he could ‘train’ his body not to feel any pain. The problem is with the impressionable kid in the next bed, played by Richard Evans (who was about 29 then, but looked 16), who was in for a more serious operation and wanted to follow suit. At that point, Casey had to talk to Culp and straighten him out and convince the kid that he really needed to be knocked out for his operation. Great show!

  11. I was eleven when the show first aired and I watched it with my 18 year old brother. I enjoyed the humor but was a bit too young to find Culp sexy. (Later on I certainly did.) He and his friends thought Kelly and Scotty defined cool and copied them. Kelly’s signature look of sweater, white canvas jeans and soft soled shoes drove our mom nuts. Kelly could dive to the ground, roll over then bounce up with his gun out and remain immaculate. My brother would walk from car to house and be covered in grass stains. I am surprised Clorox wasn’t a sponsor as the look required a lot of bleach.
    I have favorite shows for different facets of the show but I think my overall favorite is Bet Me a Dollar. They made full use of the Mexican location, the relationship between Scotty and Kelly is a great blend of competition and concern plus we see the sweet side of Kelly. First in the discontent he feels about the girl he lost at the beginning- that she was too nice for the kind of temporary relationship that is all his job allows him to offer and then in his friendship with the shoe shine boy.

  12. Roz, I too watched it at age 11, when it first aired, and was SO in love with Kelly! I’m now 59 and watching it with two of my children, 23 and 25, who love the show just as much as i do! (And I’m still in love with Kelly!) It just shows – this show is 50 years old and can still hold it’s own against modern stuff! Robert Culp is a hero and always will be!

  13. This show brings back so many memories. I was just a little girl and I would watch this with my Dad. Robert Culp was such an awesome actor/writer/director. He should have won so many awards. Happy Anniversary and will be watching So Long Patrick Henry later.

  14. Oops — the “No Return” episode wasn’t written by Persky & Denoff, but two other Dick van Dyke alumni, Garry Marshall and Jerry Belson. Marshall we know from the other TV series he created like “Happy Days,” and as an actor in TV and movies.

    (As Scotty might have said to Kelly, “If you’re gonna be pedantic, sir, at least try to be *right*!”)

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