December 12, 2007


A favorite 'U.N.C.L.E.': The mid-'60s super-agent spy show, considered the first of its genre on American TV, is being released in a huge 41-disc DVD set. (Tirdad Derakhshani, 12/11/07, Philadelphia Inquirer)

The suspenseful-yet-ironic series, just released in its entirety in a mondo 41-disc DVD set by Time Life, has been broadcast in more than 60 countries since its first run. (The collection costs $249.95 and is currently available only via mail order. Information: 1-800-950-7887 or [...]

"It was a truly groundbreaking show," says University of Southern California film and media scholar Leo Braudy. He said the show, which debuted Sept. 22, 1964, on NBC, is considered to be the first spy series on America TV. It anticipated countless others, including Mission: Impossible and Get Smart.

Braudy, who grew up in West Philly, points out that U.N.C.L.E. eschewed the rampant jingoism of the time. The villains here do not represent nations, but are what Braudy calls "megalomaniacal criminals and terrorists" who belong to a secret cabal of evil-doers named Thrush. They have no allegiance to a faith or ideology, but are "motivated by [the] greed for money and power."

For all its accomplishments, U.N.C.L.E. abruptly ended in the middle of its fourth season. McCallum has maintained he was floored when he found out - from the Los Angles Times - about the cancellation. "I'm still waiting for somebody to call me up and tell me, 'Hey, we're not doing U.N.C.L.E. anymore,' " he quipped.

In his opinion, U.N.C.L.E. went off the rails in its third season, when, in a desperate attempt to copy the success of the spoof Batman, the show became a farce.

"We went to sillier plots, and that's why it failed," says McCallum, who currently stars as Donald "Ducky" Mallard on CBS's NCIS.

That's one theory. Here's another: U.N.C.L.E. was simply too cool for television.

We're gonna need bigger stockings....

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 12, 2007 8:31 AM

U.N.C.L.E. eschewed the rampant jingoism of the time.

Rampant jingoism? In 1964? You sure you grew up in the same timeline as me?

Posted by: Mike Morley at December 12, 2007 9:38 AM

Seems like a pretty steep price for 105 episodes, espeicially considering how the series declined as it aged. Actually the decline was underway in the second season. The following episode likely was in response to "Batman", which premiered 12 January 1966:

The Bat Cave Affair - 1 April 1966
Count Zark, a Thrush agent, operates out of Transylvania and has developed a worldwide menace involving bats. Meanwhile, UNCLE is checking out a young woman who seems capable of reading the minds of others. Solo and Kuryakin discover how both events are related.

Posted by: George at December 12, 2007 12:46 PM

U.N.C.L.E was silly. The only one I watched was "I Spy", which for some reason is not rerun nor available on DVD.

Posted by: jd watson at December 12, 2007 4:35 PM

I Spy is on DVD, though not in complete seasons.

Posted by: oj at December 12, 2007 5:04 PM