By Wesley Britton

Praeger Publishers (2004). 260 pages. $39.95

Reviewed by Craig Henderson

Fandom is a small community and we all like to be friends. So I’ve often heeded our mothers’ old maxim: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

But enough is enough. When someone finally writes and gets published a book that purports to survey the length and breadth of spy shows on television, a subject dear to my heart for lo these four decades now — and the author is not only a professed diehard spy fan but also an English teacher and previously published author, rather than one of the semi-literate fans who write too many movie and television tributes — and still the book is riddled with idiotic mistakes, total failures of basic research and logic, not to mention endless problems with editing, spelling and simple sentence construction — well, that’s all I can stands, I can’t stands no more.

Spy Television is a tragically disappointing mess (and, adding insult to injury, darned expensive at $40 since it was put out by Praeger, a publisher that caters to libraries; the book is not in stores, it can be ordered only from Praeger and Amazon.com).

This book easily could have been what it claims to be, the first in-depth, book-length study of 50 years of television spy shows, naturally with emphasis on the major series seen during the 1960s spy craze. It’s a subject long overdue for serious examination — and it still is. Too bad that publication of Spy Television probably has befouled the waters for anyone else hoping to cover the same subject the way it should be covered.

The book’s endless parade of factual errors, most so simple they could easily have been checked and corrected by anyone who knew how, would be laughable if it weren’t so infuriating. The inept writing and constant misspellings are unforgivable for an author who is — did I mention this? — an English teacher. A college English teacher.

But that being the case, maybe it’s not surprising that much of the book reads like a mediocre term paper, less an entertaining history and analysis of the shows in question than a string of factoids hammered into paragraphs as if by a procrastinating student suddenly faced with the end of the semester. The occasional well-written passage just makes the rest all the more puzzling and frustrating.

There are two approaches to writing this kind of book. I’m tempted to say the right way and the wrong way, but let’s call them the journalistic approach and the academic approach.

A journalist does his own primary research into the subject, using every available source of original pertinent information while remaining extremely skeptical of unverifiable secondary sources. Equally as important, a good journalist knows how to do relevant research, where to look and what to look for. He interviews the available participants in the events he’s writing about, and talks to recognized experts whose knowledge can be verified and whose opinions can be trusted.

The academic approach, on the other hand, relies heavily on citing previously published sources at the expense of primary research and interviews. The academic author, therefore, had better be thoroughly versed in his subject and able to determine who makes a reliable source, what material to cite and which questionable “facts” and opinions to ignore.

Spy Television author Wesley Britton is — I did mention this — a college English instructor, so you can guess which approach he took. And reading his book makes it painfully clear that his knowledge of television’s history and business practices is woefully inadequate, while his familiarity with spy shows in particular is superficial at best. Worst of all, his indiscriminate and unquestioning acceptance of any source of information, coupled with his own meager attempts at research, has resulted in literally hundreds of errors throughout the book.

The book also tries mightily, in that term-paper fashion, to weave everything in its path into a huge tapestry of interrelated influences. To Britton, nearly every show he mentions is “a clear precursor,” as he invariably phrases it, to some other show. But most of these “connections” are specious at best, and Britton’s ignorance of the subject at hand prevents him from making real associations.

Writing about the brilliant but largely forgotten 1963 series Espionage, for instance, he could have mentioned that the pilot episode starred Steven Hill, then an up-and-coming stage and screen actor who went on to star in Mission: Impossible three years later. And that the show’s titles were designed by Maurice Binder, acclaimed for his flashy title sequences in the James Bond movies. But Britton doesn’t really know anything about the show. So he repeats an unverifiable (and untrue) story from another book about Bond author Ian Fleming appearing on the program, and conjures up another story, equally untrue, about an episode postponed by the assassination of President Kennedy.

Britton also attempts — since he is a college instructor and Praeger is an academic press — to place spy shows in a sociopolitical context, a dubious enterprise with programs that were made as sheer entertainment. Not surprisingly, he offers no real insights of his own and again borrows heavily from the other authors he’s mining for information. The problem is, Britton also lacks the ability to accurately rewrite others. He misrepresents or completely garbles the points that cited authors were making, as well as altering the facts they did get right, adding to the general incoherence and outright errors throughout his book.

This attitude that permeates the entire text — it’s the wrong name, the wrong date, the wrong show, the wrong title, the wrong network, the wrong spelling, but hey, it’s close enough — is more appalling than the errors themselves. But however deplorable, Britton’s numerous mistakes as well as those of the writers he cited now are bound in hardcovers and sitting in libraries waiting for some future ignorant author to use this book as a source to further spread and compound these errors.

Readers also must wonder what kind of grade Britton would give a student who turned in a paper as poorly written and edited as his book is. Spy Television gets a C-minus from me, and that’s being generous.

= = =

What follows is a list of the book’s most blatant errors and screwiest conclusions. I made no special effort to dig these out of the text. Since I have some knowledge of spy shows, television production and the history of broadcasting, it was easy to spot these as I read the book. There may be even more but I don’t have time to do the research. If you bought a copy of Spy Television, you can’t get your money back now. All we can suggest is you print out this list and keep it as an addendum to the book.

Chapter 1: The Genre

Page 9—Discussing spy shows that include science-fiction elements, Britton writes, “Credit should go to Hollywood scriptwriter Danny Biederman for coining the term defining these series — ‘Spy-Fi.’” But while Biederman has made effective use of the term, dubbing his impressive collection of spy show props “the Spy-Fi Archives” and describing the collection in his book The Incredible World of Spy-Fi, that phrase was introduced by Variety in 1965 as a convenient label for the explosion of gimmicky secret-agent fantasias then appearing in movies and television.

Chapter 2: Roots

Page 19—The sultry-voiced Hungarian actress is Ilona Massey, not “Alana” Massey. The Third Man radio series starred Orson Welles as Harry Lime, just as the movie did. The show did not star Douglas Fairbanks Jr. as “a variety of federal agents.”

Page 20—The Richard Diamond radio show ran for three years until 1952, not just 1949-50.

Page 21—There were no television stations that “only broadcast from dawn until dusk.” The first TV stations were on the air in the late afternoon and early evening when they could reach the largest number of potential viewers. Perhaps Britton confused television stations with the group of AM radio stations that were licensed to broadcast only during daylight hours.

Page 22—Foreign Intrigue had five different lead characters during its four-year run; it did not feature five leads simultaneously. The series’ first lead character was Robert Cannon, not “Bruce” Cannon.

Page 23—Frederick W. Ziv, not “Frederic W. Ziff,” was the famous father of TV syndication and owner of Ziv Television, the company that produced countless syndicated series in the 50s and early 60s. His name is misspelled throughout the book.

Page 25—“OSS capitalized on the public unveiling of the actual organization’s files when the OSS was disbanded and its records declassified,” Britton writes in a typically convoluted sentence. OSS was disbanded in 1945 and few if any of its files had actually been declassified by 1957 when the TV series aired. Britton then adds that the show was “propaganda for reversing attitudes about maintaining intelligence agencies after the war. For a time, there was little support for organizations like the OSS or CIA, as some feared a new American Gestapo might be the result.” Which would have been even worse than the old American Gestapo, I suppose.

Page 26—The 1959 series Five Fingers was not “loosely based on a 1951 film of the same name.” The movie, released in 1952, was a semi-true story about a valet in a British Embassy who spied for the Germans during World War II; the series concerned the adventures of a contemporary 1959 American agent in the thick of the Cold War. The series used absolutely no characters or situations from the movie, 20th Century-Fox merely used a title it already owned (as it did again in 1966 with The Man Who Never Was). And NBC aired 14 episodes, not 15. Fox produced 16 but the network declined to air the last two after canceling the series.

In the 1960 series Hong Kong, Rod Taylor’s character was simply a reporter, not, as the book claims, a spy posing as a reporter.

Page 27—Britton lumps the 1956 syndicated series I Spy in with children’s shows such as Captain Midnight that had stalwart American heroes battling blackhearted enemy spies. This I Spy series was an anthology Britton somewhat accurately describes as “tales of history’s spies from ancient Rome to World War II.” But then he adds this kicker: “But in all cases the spies tended to be children who accidentally participated in espionage,” a genuinely wacky statement. I Spy was a typically cheap, cheesy 50s syndicated show that tried to distinguish itself with the historical docudrama angle. It had absolutely nothing to do with underage spies. One farfetched explanation for this gaffe might be the animated kids show also titled I Spy that runs on HBO Family, but that show has nothing to do with espionage and it’s almost impossible to believe anyone could confuse the two.

As all Rocky and Bullwinkle fans know, Bullwinkle’s middle initial is J, not T. The world’s greatest no-goodnik is Boris Badenov, not “Boris Badenoff.” Sputnik was launched in 1957, not 1958.

Page 28—Again, because the error is so incredibly irritating in a book about television, it’s Fred Ziv, not “Ziff.” And Biff Baker, U.S.A. was not a “Ziff” production, it was made at Revue.

Page 29—Equally irritating, and no less excusable just because it’s recently become a common error among writers who know nothing about other cultures or who can’t be bothered to check the spelling of famous names, the veteran actor was Cesar Romero, not “Caesar” Romero.

Page 30—Ian Fleming did recycle his pilot script for “Commander Jamaica” into the James Bond novel Dr. No, but the script was written in 1956, not in 1958. Dr. No was published in 1958.

The TV-movie based on Fleming’s idea about international narcotics agents aired under the title “The Poppy Is Also a Flower.” It did not acquire that title later, as the book claims; it did not air under the title “UN Project,” as the book claims; it did not air in two parts, as the book claims.

Fleming did not meet television producer Norman Felton to discuss a TV series based on his book Thrilling Cities. Felton rejected that idea before he attended the meeting with his agents at which the meeting with Fleming was proposed.

Page 32—Obviously Laurie Johnson wrote the theme to The Avengers prior to 1966 since the series began airing in England in 1965.

The Invisible Man series ran in America in the 1958-59 season and in the summer of 1960, not from 1958 through 1961.

Page 33—“Dr. No” opened in the U.S. in May 1963, not “four months after the October 1962 Cuban missile crisis.”

Chapter 3: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Page 35—Opening the U.N.C.L.E. chapter with a quote from the unbelievably awful “Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.” TV-movie certainly is open to question. Be that as it may, the character quoted was named Justin Sepheran, not “Justin Sefron.”

Norman Felton did not meet with “representatives of Ian Fleming” in October 1962, not to discuss Thrilling Cities — a book Felton’s own agents suggested to him and which he quickly rejected — or anything else (on page 30 Britton claimed Felton met with Fleming himself to discuss Thrilling Cities).

Page 36—Britton writes, “Felton had closely watched the films of Alfred Hitchcock, especially ‘North by Northwest’ (1959), which featured ingredients he wanted to use in his project.” In fact, Felton has told interviewers that he had not seen “North by Northwest” when he was developing The Man From U.N.C.L.E. In various sources, he mentions only youthful reading of spy adventures by authors such as John Buchan and E. Phillips Oppenheim as a possible influence.

The fact that Leo G. Carroll played a spy boss in “North by Northwest” certainly had no bearing on the development of U.N.C.L.E. since the head of U.N.C.L.E. was created as an entirely different sort of character and was played by Will Kuluva in the pilot.

The title “Solo” was not something that Sam Rolfe chose much later by “ultimately deciding to simply use Fleming’s character name.” Felton called the proposed series “Solo” from the beginning.

Page 37—The long, narrated opening title sequence was used only on episodes two through seven, not “the first 13 episodes” as the book claims.

Illya Kuryakin’s middle name was spelled Nickovetch, not “Nickovitch.”

Regarding the character Napoleon Solo, Britton writes, “without question, he was clearly inspired by the Cary Grant character in North by Northwest.” Aside from the fact that Felton denied any “North by Northwest” influence, the Grant character was an innocent bystander accidentally swept up into a spy plot, one of many such characters in Hitchcock films. Solo was a highly trained, professional agent. If anything, the Grant character could only be an influence on the innocent bystanders swept up into Solo’s adventures every week.

Robert Vaughn’s earlier series The Lieutenant was not “canceled before the role of Solo became available.” It premiered in September 1963 just two months before the “Solo” pilot was filmed. Britton seems to be unaware that The Lieutenant was also a Norman Felton series, which is why Vaughn was in a position to be offered the role of Solo.

Page 38—Britton’s claim that the director of the “Solo” pilot signed David McCallum for the role of Illya shows how little he understands television production. The director may well have introduced and recommended McCallum to Felton — several people take credit for this — but he could not have signed a series regular. And no one else has ever claimed that Martin Landau already had turned down the part of Illya when McCallum was signed. Illya also had far more than two lines of dialogue in the pilot, which is all Britton credits him with.

Britton’s description of Waverly as “seedy” is baffling since the character was in no way seedy. Notes about Waverly sometimes described him as “tweedy” so this may be just another example of the book’s careless editing.

The corridors of U.N.C.L.E. headquarters were lined with computers only in the show’s abbreviated fourth season, not during the entire run of the series.

Page 39—Thrush is a proper name written thusly. It was never written as an all-caps code name, i.e., THRUSH, as Britton spells it throughout the book — although so many people make this mistake I’m almost inclined to let it go.

Sam Rolfe’s background notes for the show had Thrush using an Ultimate Computer to devise its evil plots but the machine only appeared in one episode of the series, “The Ultimate Computer Affair.” It was destroyed in that episode and was never mentioned again. It was not in the episode that Britton doesn’t name but in which he claims the Ultimate Computer revealed the presence of 2,000 female Thrush agents on America’s Pacific Coast (that was “The Nowhere Affair”). And there was never an episode that said Thrush was created by a group of businessmen after World War II, as Britton claims.

David McDaniel’s history of Thrush in his novels and his claim that the name was originally an acronym for “Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity” is strictly his own invention and was never used in the show.

The name Wasp was not substituted for Thrush in the pilot. Thrush was always in the development notes, in the pilot script, and in the pilot as it was filmed and as it was finally edited and aired. Wasp appears only in “To Trap a Spy,” the feature film that included the pilot footage. And it only appears there because the feature was in post-production in April 1964 at the same time MGM’s lawyers were pressuring Felton and Rolfe to change anything that sounded remotely like a James Bond reference — and the lawyers thought Thrush sounded too much like SMERSH. Ultimately, the only change made to satisfy the studio and the James Bond film producers was changing the series title from Solo to The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Page 40—Britton’s list of adversaries who did not work for Thrush includes Dr. Egret and Barnaby Partridge, both Thrush agents. Marion Raven was an “innocent,” not an adversary.

Mr. Allison, not “Alison,” was the original U.N.C.L.E. chief played by Will Kuluva.

The idea that Felton held back early, more humorous episodes to air late in the season is a myth. The production schedule and weekly airdates simply wouldn’t allow it, and production records show the episodes were shot more or less in the order they aired. This longstanding story — which admittedly Felton himself has often repeated — really involved only one episode, “The Brain-Killer Affair,” shot very early in the production cycle but then judged so bizarre by everyone involved that it did not air until near the end of the season (and then, of course, it became one of the most popular episodes).

Episode title is “The Never-Never Affair,” not “The Never, Never Affair.” Labeling this episode the turning point in the show’s humor is odd since the show very obviously became far more tongue-in-cheek when it moved from Tuesday to Monday, weeks before “Never-Never” aired. Britton apparently is trying to say that “Never-Never” is generally acknowledged as setting the pattern for the second season’s much more lighthearted approach.

Episode title is “The Project Strigas Affair,” not “The Strigas Affair.”

Page 42—The Avengers episode title is “The Girl From Auntie,” not “Girl From A.U.N.T.I.E.”; the film title is “The Man Called Flintstone,” not “The Man Called F.L.I.N.T.S.T.O.N.E.”; and the “Man from Glad” plastic-wrap commercials certainly didn’t refer to the product as G.L.A.D.

The house pseudonym for the authors of the monthly U.N.C.L.E. pulp novels was Robert Hart Davis, not “Roger Hart Davis.” And Davis was not credited with writing the juvenile hardcovers published by Whitman, as Britton claims he was.

Page 43—Felton did not design the U.N.C.L.E. gun, as the book claims he did, and the gun’s various attachments did not include a bipod, as the book claims. And calling the gun “rarely used” is certainly open to debate.

Page 45—Fans just love to take umbrage at the second season’s writers guide quoted here, describing U.N.C.L.E. as a “preposterous” organization — “a concept far removed from Felton’s and Rolfe’s concepts” as Britton puts it. Unfortunately for the author and all those apoplectic fans, the guide was simply boiled down from notes Rolfe left for his successors, notes which included this comment: “UNCLE is, of course, a preposterous organization.” As indeed it was to writers who considered themselves serious dramatists.

Harlan Ellison wrote only one script for Star Trek.

Page 46—Britton credits U.N.C.L.E.’s silly third-season episodes with being “prophetic” because Mikhail Gorbachev visited New York 20 years after “The Jingle Bells Affair” showed an Eastern Bloc premier in the Big Apple to address the United Nations. That character was such an obvious parody of Nikita Khrushchev that it’s difficult to believe Britton doesn’t get it. But he also believes the nasty TV talk show seen in “The Pieces of Fate Affair” predicted the coming of Jerry Springer, when it clearly was spoofing the 60s talk shows fronted by belligerent hosts such as Joe Pyne and Alan Burke, people Britton apparently has never heard of.

Episode title is “The Cap and Gown Affair,” not “The Caps and Gowns Affair.”

Page 47—Mark Slate as played by Norman Fell in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. pilot was hardly “elderly,” as Britton describes him. He was clearly shown to be a middle-aged man who was still an active field agent, albeit a little slower than he used to be. And he did not leave retirement to work with April Dancer — to the contrary, he was trying to avoid the retirement mandated by the script’s idea that field agents were kicked upstairs to desk jobs at age 40.

In the series, April was played by Stefanie Powers, not “Stephanie” Powers, as her name is misspelled throughout the book.

Britton claims that Sam Rolfe received no credit on The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. spinoff series and further claims that Rolfe was “extremely unhappy” about it. But in fact Rolfe did receive a credit every week in The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. — so here the author hasn’t made just another factual error, he’s also invented a reaction for a man he never knew to an event that never happened.

Page 48—Actress Dorothy Provine did not star in Naked City. She was a regular in The Alaskans and The Roaring 20s.

Page 49—Jerry Goldsmith’s first-season scores were not used throughout the fourth season; there are a number of episodes with original scores by Richard Shores and Gerald Fried.

Leo G. Carroll played a bartender standing behind a bar in the premiere of Laugh-In, not a busboy pushing a cart.

Page 50—Britton describes the home-video release of U.N.C.L.E. episodes as “overpriced, taken from chopped-up syndication copies, and [they] quickly became unavailable after low sales.” In fact, the first and second groups of two-episode tapes sold for $19.95 each and the price dropped to $14.95 each for a third batch, prices comparable to other video releases at the time. The episodes were complete and uncut, not chopped-up syndie prints. And they were available for years in stores or by mail order.

Michael Sloan was not the first script writer on The Six Million Dollar Man (see the list of errors in chapter 11).

In Sloan’s crummy “Return of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.” TV-flick, Illya’s design firm is called Vanya’s — probably the only good joke in the show — not “Uncle Varnia’s.”

Page 51—It was not the head of Thrush who asked Solo how he still looked so young, it was the henchman played by Keenan Wynn.

Robert Vaughn’s British series was titled The Protectors, not “Protectors.” It ran for two years, 1972 to 1974, not just 1972-73.

Lew Grade was not “the head of all commercial television in Britain.” He headed ATV, one of the major production and broadcasting franchises in the commercial network. ATV made most of the British adventure series seen in America, through its famous ITC production and distribution arm.

Page 52—As Britton notes, half-hour dramas had seen their day — but of course early-70s junk like The Protectors was produced only to fill the half-hour timeslots opened by the Prime Time Access Rule, something else Britton seems unaware of.

Tom Jones did not sing The Protectors theme song. That was Tony Christie, a singer largely unknown outside of Britain but who was clearly listed in the closing credits every week.

The A-Team episode title is “The Say Uncle Affair,” not “The Say U.N.C.L.E. Affair.”

Page 53—Granada Television, not “Grenada,” is another franchise in Britain’s commercial network.

Page 54—The Saint’s mythical automobile was a Hirondel, not a “Hironpel.”

Chapter 4: The Avengers

Page 58— Jon Rollason, not “John” Rollason, played Dr. King, Steed’s sidekick in three episodes of The Avengers after Ian Hendry left the show.

Hendry’s series Police Surgeon ran only in the fall of 1960, not in 1959.

Page 62—Of Steed’s other new assistant, singer Venus Smith, Britton writes: “Smith appeared in a number of adventures, but she was dropped, as using the singer meant Steed had to run across her accidentally to involve her, and the producers decided this would result in too many coincidences.” In the six episodes in which Venus appeared, Steed deliberately involved her in his cases, just as he deliberately involved Dr. King and Mrs. Gale.

Page 64—“Death of a Great Dane,” not “The Death of a Great Dane,” is the episode title with Mrs. Gale. The remake with Mrs. Peel does not have that title, as the book claims it does (the new title was “The £50,000 Breakfast”), and while the two episodes obviously have the same plot they are not “virtually identical.”

Page 65—Beginning with the Mrs. Peel series the show was filmed, not taped.

Page 66—The Mrs. Peel series debuted in the fall of 1965, not in September 1966. And of course that was in Britain, not the United States, something the book doesn’t specify.

Page 67—Episode title is “The Girl from Auntie,” not “The Girl from A.U.N.T.I.E.”

Page 68—Actually, ABC bought the show in 1965, not in 1966 when it went on the air. Britton claims here that ABC had no spy shows before The Avengers, but of course it did — and he describes the shows in later chapters. Amos Burke, Secret Agent already had come and gone, while Blue Light, The Baron and The Double Life of Henry Phyfe had been on the air for more than two months when The Avengers debuted.

Page 69—Another beloved myth among spy fans is the one about “A Touch of Brimstone” being so racy it was banned from American television. The truth is nowhere near as sensational. ABC scheduled The Avengers in lieu of reruns of the canceled Ben Casey series. The show premiered March 28 after Casey aired its final original episode. ABC scheduled its new fall shows to debut the first week of September 1966. That did not leave enough time to air all 26 episodes of The Avengers, so five never ran on the network (leading some writers to claim that all five were “banned”). Now if five episodes had to be chosen to go unaired, certainly “A Touch of Brimstone” would be one of them, allowing the network to avoid any negative reaction to Mrs. Peel’s “queen of sin” costume. But the episode was not “banned in America.” The American networks frequently failed to run every episode of the British shows they bought. And “A Touch of Brimstone” went into syndication in 1969 with every other episode of The Avengers, including the other four that ABC never ran, and aired weekday afternoons to absolutely no comment.

Page 70—There were eight Diana Rigg color episodes remaining after the 1967 U.S. season, not 10.

Page 71—Gordon L.T. Scott, not “Gordon L. Scott,” was the new executive producer.

Page 72—The episode introducing Tara King was titled “The Forget-Me-Knot.” It was not titled “Forget-Me-Not.”

Naturally the show used British spelling, so the episode title is “Super Secret Cypher Snatch,” not the hyphenated “Super-Secret-Cipher-Snatch.”

Page 73—Frequent Avengers writer Terence Feely, not “Terence Field,” wrote the Avengers stage play with Brian Clemens.

Page 77—“Escapade,” the attempt to produce an American version of The Avengers, was a one-hour pilot, not a TV-movie. It aired in 1978, not 1980.

Page 78—A&E ran The Avengers, including the first American telecasts of the Honor Blackman episodes, in the 1990-91 season, not in 1994.

Chapter 5: I Spy

Page 82—Episode title is “Court of the Lion,” not “Court of the Lions.”

Britton’s description of Fouad Said’s Cinemobile — “a portable camera and movable soundstage” — is laughably inaccurate. The Cinemobile was a van Said outfitted to hold all the equipment used for location shooting.

Describing I Spy producers Mort Fine and David Friedkin as “two writers with radio experience in high-adventure shows” is certainly giving them short shrift. When I Spy started they had just written the screenplay (and won the Writers Guild award) for the acclaimed film “The Pawnbroker.” They’d written and produced two earlier features that Friedkin also directed; created the 1960 series The Case of the Dangerous Robin; and written for many of the leading TV series of the 50s and 60s. They were Emmy-nominated for writing one of the first episodes of I Spy, “A Cup of Kindness.” Friedkin also won the Directors Guild award for the celebrated Dick Powell Show episode “The Price of Tomatoes.”

Britton notes that Fine and Friedkin wrote “over fourteen” I Spy episodes. Uh, yeah, they wrote 15.

Earle Hagen did not write the Perry Mason theme; that was Fred Steiner’s work.

Page 83—Regarding the casting of I Spy, Britton writes, “After signing Culp, Leonard saw Cosby on The Tonight Show, when it was hosted by Jack Paar, and knew he had his man.” Not likely, since Paar left The Tonight Show in March 1962, two years before Sheldon Leonard was developing I Spy and many months before Bill Cosby ever appeared on television. Leonard actually saw Cosby on Paar’s weekly prime-time show in 1964 (although Leonard’s own not-too-reliable autobiography refers to the show as a Paar “special”).

Page 84—A typhoon, not a “monsoon,” hit Hong Kong, and it hit while the pilot was being filmed, not prior to filming.

Page 85—I almost hate to smack the author with this one since, in one of the few instances in which he actually contacted someone who worked on one of the shows he’s writing about, he was given completely erroneous information. I Spy composer Earle Hagen sent Britton an e-mail message discussing production of the show. In it, Hagen rather vehemently claims that I Spy was filmed entirely overseas and that no interiors were shot in Hollywood. And that’s just dead wrong — the exteriors were shot overseas and the interiors were filmed at Desilu. Why Hagen would say such a thing is unknowable. Unfortunately, Britton has no idea Hagen is wrong and, in his amateurish style, makes no attempt to excerpt relevant quotes — he simply drops Hagen’s entire, embarrassingly inaccurate message into the book verbatim.

Page 86—The first episode is not the Canadian agronomist story.

Page 87—Another recurring myth in spy fandom is that no one knew who Kelly and Scotty worked for — even though they constantly referred to the Pentagon or “the department” as their employer, and they and their bosses were always shown in the Pentagon in Washington scenes, making it pretty easy to infer that “the department” was the Department of Defense or some intelligence department within DOD.

In another example of the academic approach, Britton writes that “some sources” claim the show was never a ratings success but “others” say it was a hit for two seasons then declined in the third season’s new timeslot. Apparently it would never occur to him to find out which is true — or bother to tell his readers. (I Spy was generally in the top 20 throughout its first two seasons. In its third season, moved to Monday nights at 10, it was creamed by the new Carol Burnett Show on CBS. Ratings dropped until I Spy was steadily coming in around 75th place in the Nielsens, even getting beaten by The Big Valley on ABC. And again Britton misses a real connection, failing to point out that NBC’s collapsing Monday night schedule included The Man from U.N.C.L.E. at 8 p.m. The network dropped U.N.C.L.E. at mid-season, then canceled I Spy at the end of the season.)

Page 89—Singer Barbara McNair, not “MacNair,” was a guest star. Britton writes that I Spy “allowed other African American actors, such as Barbara MacNair and Godfrey Cambridge, to play friends or foes without calling attention to skin color.” That’s a very odd conclusion since Cambridge played a character claiming to be Africa’s last Zulu king, while McNair and nearly every black actress and singer working at the time appeared on the show to give Scotty an occasional love interest — all of them obviously cast because of their skin color in a period when it was simply unthinkable to give a black male character a white girlfriend.

Series title is Spenser for Hire, not “Spencer for Hire.”

Page 90—Diahann Carroll, not “Dianne” Carroll, appeared in Julia.

Chapter 6: Danger Man and The Prisoner

Page 94—Frederick Forsyth, not “Forsyte,” is the author of several spy novels. Lew Grade was not a director and he did not create Danger Man. David Tomblin, not “Tomlin,” was assistant director on the series but he also did not create Danger Man.

Page 95—Ian Hendry appeared in an episode of the later, one-hour version of Danger Man, not in the original half-hour series being discussed here.

Page 97—Now discussing the superior scripts and gadgetry of the hour-long Danger Man, Britton offers the example of “a rifle assembled from innocent looking car parts” in the episode “Time to Kill.” But “Time to Kill” was a 30-minute episode and the rifle parts were simply hidden throughout the car.

Regarding the sale of the revived Danger Man to CBS, Britton writes, “to appeal to the American audience, the show was retitled Secret Agent.” This statement makes no sense. Why would changing the title to Secret Agent make the show more appealing to American viewers?

Page 98—The new series that used the Secret Agent theme song was titled Secret Agent Man and had absolutely nothing to do with Secret Agent.

Secret Agent did not air continuously from April 1965 to September 1966, and it did not always air Saturdays at 9:00. CBS dropped the show at the beginning of the new season in September 1965. It returned in December, airing Saturdays at 8:30.

Claiming that “Largely due to the popularity of the theme song, Secret Agent had an immediate following” also is nonsense. No one had heard the theme before the show started, it didn’t become a hit record until the following year, and it takes a lot more than a catchy theme song to make a series popular.

The two color episodes of Danger Man, “Koroshi” and “Shinda Shima,” were shot in 1966, not 1967. They first aired in Great Britain in February 1967, not in June. Again we must assume Britton means they aired in Britain in June as he doesn’t specify which country he’s referring to. And apparently he is unaware that the two episodes, cut together into the TV-movie titled “Koroshi,” aired in the U.S. on ABC in 1969 and 1970.

Page 99—Again, Lew Grade was not the head of ITV.

Page 101—The Prisoner started production in September 1966, not in December.

Page 103—Episode title is “The Chimes of Big Ben,” not “Chimes of Big Ben.”

Page105—Episode title is “The Schizoid Man,” not “Schizoid Man.”

Page 106—Episode title is “Fall Out,” not “Fallout.”

Page 108—Hank Stine, not “Stein,” was one of the authors of Prisoner novels.

Chapter 7: The Saint

Page 111—Cable channel referred to is Turner Classic Movies, not “Turner Movie Classic.”

Page 113—Radio private eye referred to is Michael Shayne, not “Michael Shane.”

The veteran actor who played Simon Templar in several movies was George Sanders, not “George Saunders” as he’s referred to throughout the book.

Page 115—Roger Moore played Beau Maverick, not “Bo” Maverick.

Britton writes, “At first, The Saint was filmed in black and white, as there were few color sets in England.” Actually there were no color sets in England since there was no color broadcasting in England until the conversion to PAL began in the late 60s. ITV did not begin color broadcasting until November 1969. A few British series were shot in color beginning in 1966 so they could be sold to the American networks that refused to run black-and-white shows after going full-color in September 1966.

Page 116—The NBC station in New York aired The Saint late Sunday nights, not Saturdays.

Britton’s observation that “Until the advent of independent cable stations, The Saint was the only series aired coast to coast in syndication in prime time broadcasting” is ridiculous. Not only were there numerous nationally syndicated series before, during and after the run of The Saint, Britton himself describes many of them in other chapters of the book.

Page 118—Moore’s production company was called Bamore, not “Bamoore.” Britton writes, “NBC now made The Saint part of its regular programming,” but NBC used the series only as summer or mid-season replacement programming.

Page 119—Terence Feely, not “Terence Feeley,” is the British TV writer. Gayle Hunnicutt, not “Gail Hunicutt.” is the actress.

Page 121—Describing The Persuaders lead character Lord Brett Sinclair as “feminine” is certainly a poor choice of words.

Roger Moore did not “accept second billing under [Tony] Curtis’s name” on The Persuaders; a unique equal billing was created that read simply “Curtis + Moore.”

When Judge Fulton explains his background and motivations to Wilde and Sinclair he says nothing about being a judge at the Nuremberg trials, as Britton claims. Wilde and Sinclair were not “secret agents.” Episode title is “The Long Goodbye,” not “Long Goodbye.” Moore’s son is Geoffrey, not “Jeffrey.”

Chapter 8: Mission: Impossible

Page 125—Regarding the ritual opening scenes of Mission: Impossible, Britton writes: “After describing the dilemma, the taped voice would end the message saying, ‘As always, if you choose to accept this mission and any member of your Impossible Mission Force is caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. Good luck. This tape will self destruct in five seconds.’ Invariably, five seconds later, smoke emerged from the player. The viewer then sees a match being struck, a fuse lit, and hears the opening strains of the signature Mission: Impossible theme.”

So the question here is: How could anyone write a book about spy shows and so badly misquote the famous Mission: Impossible taped message? The phrasing was repeated word for word, week after week. And it’s Impossible Missions Force, not Impossible “Mission” Force. And it was only during the show’s fifth and sixth seasons that the tape scene took place in a teaser preceding the main title — not in the first four years that wrote in stone the format everyone remembers.

Britton then writes, “In the first season…it was the affable, chunky Dan Briggs (Hill) who retired to his black-and-white decorated apartment to scan over a pile of dossiers, choosing which team members of the Impossible Mission Force (IMF) would join him in the operation.” Affable and chunky? Affable and chunky?! And in another example of the book’s sharp editing, the actor who played Briggs is identified only parenthetically as “Hill” — any previous mention of Steven Hill being the original star of the show evidently having been cut.

Page 129—Britton writes of Bruce Geller, creator of Mission: “Geller enjoyed good fortune, as he was working for Lucille Ball’s powerful and independent Desilu Studios. Unlike other series of the era, Geller thus had little network influence until after CBS had bought the series. As it happened, Desilu was somewhat desperate and needed to sell shows beyond the flagship Here’s Lucy, starring the studio owner.”

Well, let’s see — the second sentence makes no sense whatsoever, and the third directly contradicts the first, but at least it’s more accurate. Desilu was not particularly powerful in the early 60s. It survived by renting space to other production companies and didn’t have anything successful on the air except The Lucy Show (not Here’s Lucy, which didn’t start until 1968 and was not produced by Desilu). Series creators like Geller were not employees of the studios that backed their shows, so he was not “working for” Desilu, his company was in partnership with Desilu.

Page 132—Herb Solow, not “Herb Solo,” was a Desilu executive, not a producer. Variety is the show-biz trade paper, not a magazine. Geller did not produce the “Call to Danger” pilot that Peter Graves appeared in before joining Mission, as Britton claims he did. Graves also had just appeared in the 1966 series Court Martial; Britton lists his only previous network series as Fury. Graves also starred in Whiplash, a British series seen in first-run syndication in the U.S.

Page 135—Regarding Mission storylines, Britton writes, “Typically, in the third act something would go wrong with the original plan, and the team would be forced to improvise and create last-minute solutions.” That was sometimes true in the first several months when the show took a varied approach to tackling missions and choosing agents, but not so in the classic Mission formula that gelled later in the first season and prevailed in the second, third and fourth seasons. In the series everyone remembers, the absurdly intricate plans went off like clockwork. During the show’s fifth-season shakeup, some scripts finally returned to the original idea that the mission might require some seat-of-the-pants adjustment along the way.

Page 137—The show’s mainstay writer and script consultant was always billed as William Read Woodfield, not “William Woodfield.” His partner was Allan Balter, not “Alan” Balter. Paramount’s production executive was Douglas S. Cramer, not “Douglas J. Cramer.” Woodfield and Balter left the show after a fight with Geller, not with Cramer. Barbara Bain was fired just before winning her third Emmy, not as she was being nominated. She did not denounce Cramer by name in her bitter acceptance speech.

Page 138—George Takei, not George “Takai,” appeared on Star Trek and Mission; Mark Lenard, not Mark “Leonard,” played Spock’s father Sarek, not “Sarak.” Actress Lesley Ann Warren billed herself as Lesley Warren during her year on Mission and in other work during that period. Her version of “Cinderella” first aired in February 1965, not in 1966.

Page 139—Abbey Lincoln, not “Abby” Lincoln, is the singer-actress.

Page 140—Geller also did not produce Lynda Day’s series The Silent Force, as Britton claims he did.

Britton writes, “By the final year, the IMF was focused on criminal activity alone…this change resulted from both budget cuts and worries that viewers might associate the IMF with the growing Watergate scandal.” The format change that ended overseas missions and counterespionage work to focus solely on domestic crime syndicates came at the beginning of the sixth season, which went on the air in September 1971 and started production months earlier — more than a year before the Watergate break-in. But the idea that viewers would associate Mission with Watergate even in the show’s final season is ludicrous. The Watergate scandal didn’t begin to penetrate public consciousness until well after the 1972 election, when Mission was nearing the end of its seventh and final season, and the true extent of government malfeasance was not revealed until long after Mission was off the air.

Page 141—Presumably, “American Movie Channel” is actually a reference to the American Movie Classics cable network.

Britton writes that on “February 9, 1973, the show was canceled under uncertain circumstances, apparently part of a network dispute that had nothing to do with ratings, program quality, or studio squabbles.” In fact, it was reported at the time that Paramount elected to end the series even before CBS officially canceled it, so the studio could sell syndicated reruns and begin recouping the money poured into the long-running and expensive show. On the network side, Mission was canceled for the usual reasons — after seven years it had run out of gas creatively and the ratings were way down. CBS tried the show Saturdays at 10 p.m. and Fridays at 8 p.m. The ratings continued to decline in both timeslots. Mission finished the season rated 57th in the Nielsens out of 75 shows. Other long-running series such as Bonanza, Laugh-In and The Mod Squad had slightly higher ratings than Mission and were canceled that year.

Page 142—Again, David Tomblin, not “Tomlin,” did direct a few episodes of Space: 1999 but had no ongoing production role. Martin Landau played Count Zark, not “Zarg,” in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Page 143—The 1988 revival of Mission used only four scripts from the original series, not seven.

Chapter 9: The Wild Wild West

Page 148—Britton writes of series stars Robert Conrad and Ross Martin: “Both had come to a measure of television prominence in 1959 in roles that were clear precursors to their WWW characters. Conrad had starred in Hawaiian Eye, a fusion of two detective romps, 77 Sunset Strip and Adventures in Paradise…Martin was a master of disguises as a costar in the popular Mr. Lucky, a New York based police drama. Very much in the spirit of Artemus Gordon, Martin used his special knack for dialects and disguises to get his friends out of trouble, leaving the tough action for the other leads.”

That all would be very interesting if any of it were true. But Adventures in Paradise was not a detective show and Mr. Lucky certainly was not a police drama, nor was it New York-based. It couldn’t even really be called popular since it lasted only one season. And Martin’s character Andamo was absolutely not a Gordon-like master of disguise and dialect (he was from some unnamed Latin American country so Martin did play him with an accent).

Page 149—Giving West’s and Gordon’s train a name, “The Wanderer,” is another bit of revisionist fan history. In four years on the air, no one on the show ever referred to the train as anything but “the train.”

Britton writes, “To keep costs down, Conrad wished to do his own stunts.” Actors don’t do their own stunts to keep costs down, they do them when they think they’re athletic tough guys who enjoy horsing around with the stunt men, as Conrad did. If anything, stars doing stunts cause costly delays if they’re injured, which is exactly what happened to Conrad.

Britton also writes, “CBS was considering canceling the show when Conrad made the request [to do his own stunts], and he won this battle as the network then felt it had nothing to lose.” But Conrad did stunts from the beginning of production, and after the show started airing it was so popular that there was no period in its first three seasons when CBS considered canceling it.

Page 150—Actually, episode titles always began with the words “The Night of”; they didn’t “usually” begin that way, as the book says.

Britton describes the lead character as “former U.S. Calvary Officer Capt. James West.” It’s disturbing that a college English teacher doesn’t know the difference between Calvary and the U.S. Cavalry, or realize how redundant “Officer Capt.” is. But the book is filled with such awkward phrasing and misused words.

Page 151—The primitive motion picture referred to would be a kinetoscope, not a kinescope, which is a filmed recording of a television broadcast.

Episode title is “The Night of the Red-Eyed Madmen,” not “Night of the Red-Eyed Madman.”

Page 152—Britton refers to the use of “famous guest stars, including the young Richard Pryor, Carroll O’Connor, Boris Karloff and Agnes Moorehead,” but of course Pryor and O’Connor were not famous then.

Britton notes that “In the fall season that year [1967], few new spy shows were offered.” If by few he means absolutely none, that’s correct. He then notes that “After the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the networks also began toning down television violence…Robert Vaughn recalled NBC sending…dictums to the U.N.C.L.E. producers.” But The Man From U.N.C.L.E. went off the air in January 1968, months before either assassination. Britton also notes the “National Association for Better Broadcasts” targeted The Wild Wild West for its violent content. The group was actually called the National Association for Better Broadcasting.

Page 153—Britton writes that “Gordon occasionally wore casts when Martin broke limbs in stunt accidents.” Martin broke his leg once during the four-year run of the series.

Page 154—Character quoted in “The Wild Wild West Revisited” was Hugo Kaufman, not “Kaughman.” Britton notes the casting of Paul Williams as Miguelito Loveless Jr. in “The Wild Wild West Revisited,” but fails to note that the producers of this reunion telefilm were so unfamiliar with the show that the character was billed as “Michelito.” His sister was Carmelita, not “Carmenita.”

Page 160—Britton writes, “The most famous antiviolence statement of the era came from John F. Kennedy’s appointed head of the Federal Communications Commission, Newton Minnow. In May 1961, he told the National Association of Broadcasters that television was ‘a vast wasteland of violence, boredom and banality.’”

What Minow — not “Minnow” — actually said in his speech at the NAB convention was: “I invite you to sit down in front of your television set when your station goes on the air and stay there without a book, magazine, newspaper, profit and loss sheet or rating book to distract you, and keep your eyes glued to that set until the station signs off. I can assure you that you will observe a vast wasteland.” He was condemning the stunning banality of day-to-day commercial programming, not making an anti-violence statement.

Britton then notes that watchdog groups were counting violent incidents in programs and that “Senator John Pasteur condemned the figures,” whatever that means. Britton does not identify “Senator Pasteur” in any way, leaving his readers to assume he’s referring to Sen. John O. Pastore (D-R.I.), then chairman of the Senate Communications Subcommittee and a well-known critic in the 1960s and 1970s of what he considered television’s excesses in the sex and violence areas.

Chapter 10: Get Smart

Page 163—There was no series called The Sid Caesar Hour. Britton obviously is referring to Caesar’s Hour — although that was a television show, not a radio show, as Britton labels it.

Page 166—Top Brass, the product Barbara Feldon appeared in commercials for prior to Get Smart, was a men’s hairdressing, not a cologne.

Page 167—Hymie the robot was invented by an evil scientist who sold him to KAOS as the perfect assassin, not by “a doctor on the side of good.”

The doddering old first chief of CONTROL played by William Schallert was Admiral Hargrade, not “Hargrave.”

Page 168—Britton thinks “the opening narration of Get Smart’s pilot poked fun at U.N.C.L.E.’s voice-over introducing the agents and the organization.” That is such a reach it isn’t even funny. However, Britton seems unaware that David Susskind’s photo was among the possible agents in the show’s Mission: Impossible spoof — and that finding Susskind’s photo there was funny — because Susskind owned Talent Associates, the company that produced Get Smart.

Mad’s goofy mascot is Alfred E. Neuman, not “Newman.”

Page 170—One of the guest stars on Get Smart was Cesar Romero, not “Caesar Romero.”

Discussing The Double Life of Henry Phyfe, Britton writes, “comedian Red Buttons played Henry Wadsworth Phyfe, an exact duplicate of a recently deceased CIS government agent who was code-named U-31.” In keeping with his style of dropping strange names and explaining nothing about them, Britton leaves his readers to wonder if Phyfe could possibly have worked for the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States. But that can’t be it. In this case, CIS means Central Intelligence Service, the show’s version of U.S. Intelligence. And U-31 was a foreign spy, not a CIS agent.

Britton never even explains the show’s basic premise: Mild mannered, fumbling accountant Henry Phyfe is recruited by the CIS to impersonate the suave and deadly U-31 — who, unbeknownst to his foreign masters, was killed in a traffic accident on his first day in America. CIS Chief Hannahan planned to use Phyfe to penetrate the enemy spy ring (and the producers planned for hilarity to ensue, though it rarely did).

Page 171—99 did not give birth to the twins on the show’s CBS debut. She announced she was pregnant, and that idea was played for laughs until she gave birth in a November two-parter.

In “Ice Station Siegfried,” the episode in which Bill Dana as Agent Quigley stepped in for Max, great pains were taken to emphasize that Quigley was a CIA agent, not a CONTROL agent as Britton identifies him.

Britton notes that Get Smart continues to be a success in syndication, “although fans continue to complain that up to three minutes are cut from each episode.” Yes, that’s infuriating, but every damn show in syndicated reruns is cut, not just Get Smart.

Page 172—Britton writes, “For some observers, 99 can be seen as a prefeminist who still deferred to men, unlike April Dancer, Honey West, or Emma Peel, all of whom made their TV debuts after 99.” It may be a minor point but Honey West premiered the night before Get Smart’s debut.

Chapter 11: Also-Rans

Page 179—Describing the 1963-64 series Espionage, Britton writes, “Using stories from WWII and the Cold War, twenty-four episodes were taped on 35-millimeter black-and-white film and aired on Saturday nights on ABC.” I’ll leave it to others to attempt to explain how the show could be “taped on film.” But I can tell you it aired Wednesdays, not Saturdays, and it ran on NBC, not ABC. And the settings for this anthology of spy stories ranged back to World War I, the 19th century and the American Revolution.

Page 180—Britton also notes of Espionage, “The final episode, ‘A Camel to Ride,’ aired on March 28, 1964, after being postponed from its original air date of November 23, 1963, the day after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.” But this clearly is untrue since both of the dates mentioned are Saturdays and the show aired Wednesdays. It would be interesting to know where Britton dug up this story.

Finally, he mentions that “According to Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh’s 1999 The Complete Directory to Prime [sic] Network and Cable TV Shows, Ian Fleming was an extra in one scene, but I was unable to confirm this.” I guess not since that Ian Fleming was a British actor, not the James Bond author credulous spy fans mistake him for. Brooks and Marsh should know better, but so should Britton.

As for “A Camel to Ride,” I don’t know why Britton thinks it’s even worth mentioning. But just for the record, this episode was set to air Nov. 27. In the wake of the assassination, the networks took a second look at everything scheduled to run that week and pulled a number of episodes with plots and titles that suddenly seemed inappropriate. “A Camel to Ride” included an armed uprising against the young president of a foreign country, and that was enough to make NBC programming execs decide not to air it two days after JFK was buried. Another episode was substituted and “Camel” was rescheduled, airing three weeks later on Dec. 18, 1963.

On Blue Light, David March’s confederate was Suzanne Duchard, not “Susan.”

Jericho, according to Britton, “was clearly influenced by the earlier British effort, Four Just Men, which featured agents of four countries battling evil after WWII.” Once again reaching way out for a connection that isn’t there, Britton ignores the obvious (and why can’t he spell out World War?). Jericho was about a three-man World War II commando team made up of an American, an Englishman and a Frenchman, the big three Atlantic Allies. What could be more obvious (or cliché)? They also were officially sanctioned Allied operatives, whereas The Four Just Men (in the TV version) were adventurers who took it upon themselves to travel the world righting wrongs years after the war ended. And the four stars alternated stories, never working as a team. So what possible influence does Britton see here?

The Baron did not run during the 1966-67 season, it aired from January to July in 1966. Britton notes, “This series revolved around John Mannering (Steve Forrest), the title character who drew his name from his family’s manor in Texas.” What’s that? The family home is called The Baron? Or is it called John Mannering? Actually this is another example of Britton’s inability to accurately rewrite something he read, probably something about Mannering acquiring his nickname because he was originally a Texas “cattle baron.”

Britton also notes, “The series quickly disappeared, although it spun off one feature film in 1968, Mystery Island, using the original TV cast.” The TV cast was present because “Mystery Island” is just a syndicated TV-movie made from a two-part episode of the series. And in fact there were two TV-movies made from two-parters; the other is titled “The Man in a Looking Glass.”

Page 181—Craig Stevens’ British series Man of the World was “seen only in England” according to Britton. In fact, it aired in first-run syndication in the United States. Britton also writes that Department S was seen only by “British viewers,” but it too was broadcast in America in first-run syndication.

Page 182—The Man Who Never Was is not Robert Lansing’s second series. He starred in 12 O’Clock High as Britton notes. Before that he was in 87th Precinct, the 1961-62 cop show. On The Man Who Never Was he played agent Peter Murphy and deceased millionaire Mark Wainwright, not “Wainright.”

Richard Levinson and William Link were neither the producers nor the creators of Burke’s Law.

Page 183—The episode of The Dick Powell Show that introduced Amos Burke was titled “Who Killed Julie Greer?” (not “Grier”).

Levinson and Link also were not the creators of Honey West, as the book claims they were. The idea that Honey West was in any way based on Honor Blackman’s role in The Avengers is unlikely in the extreme. Anne Francis, not “Ann” Francis, played Honey West. Honey was not “the daughter of a police officer who opened her own private detective agency,” she was the daughter of a private detective who inherited the agency when her father died. Her partner Sam Bolt was played by John Ericson, not John “Erickson.”

Page 184—Britton notes that “Unlike her British inspiration, a man invariably bailed West out in the last act.” This observation is triply untrue: there’s no evidence the character was inspired by Cathy Gale; Honey frequently bested the villain without any help from Sam, or they worked as a team; and Steed rescued Mrs. Gale and Mrs. Peel as often as they rescued him.

Britton then notes that “The stories enjoyed the humorous touch of writer Ken Kolb, who also scripted some of the better Wild Wild West adventures.” This is another peculiar observation since Kolb wrote only two episodes of Honey West. Levinson and Link wrote more than that. So did veteran detective-show scripter Tony Barrett. Series creators Gwen Bagni and Paul Dubov wrote the pilot seen on Burke’s Law and 10 episodes of the series so obviously they were the major writing influence, not Kolb.

Describing Gene Barry’s syndicated series The Adventurer, Britton writes, “Barry played Jim Bradley, a multimillionaire who pretended to be an international film star in order to work on secret missions near film locations or pleasure resorts.” However, the character’s name was Gene Bradley, not “Jim.” And as Britton rightly points out, “How does one pretend to be a film star, Barry’s ostensible cover?” Well, one doesn’t. The show’s premise, dubious as it may have been, was that Bradley really was a well-known actor who also was a secret agent.

Of Man in a Suitcase, Britton writes that it “aired from September 1967 to April 1968 in the U.K., and it was syndicated in the United States throughout the following year.” Apparently he’s unaware the series ran on ABC in the summer of 1968 before entering syndication in the U.S.

He also notes that Suitcase was “produced by Lew Grade’s ITV Studios.” Grade’s company was ATV, its production arm was ITC, the British commercial network is ITV. Britton uses these names interchangeably throughout the book.

Page 185—Describing Alexander Mundy of It Takes a Thief as a “jewel crook” is a priceless example of the maladroit phrasing found throughout the book.

“The Magnificent Thief” is not really the title of the pilot for It Takes a Thief. That was an early working title for the series. The uncut pilot, obviously made for a two-hour timeslot, was put into syndication in the 70s and released on video in the 80s as “Magnificent Thief” (sans the article). For the 1968 series premiere the pilot was cut to fit a 90-minute timeslot and retitled “A Thief Is a Thief Is a Thief.”

Mundy was incarcerated in San Jobal Prison, not “San Jobel.”

Page 186—In a single sentence demonstrating several of the book’s problems, Britton writes, “Originally intended to be set in Munich, according to some sources, the Assignment: Vienna’s location was changed after the September 5, 1972, ‘Black September’ attack at the Munich Olympics.” Grammar and copy-editing problems aside, this is an absurd statement whether or not it’s attributed (as so many of the book’s weird claims are) to “some sources.” The show premiered three weeks after the attack at the Olympic games. It would have been impossible to change the show’s setting because of the attack. And the series was in production in Vienna — and scheduled to air under the title Assignment: Vienna — months before the attack.

Page 187—Britton can’t decide if the superspy agency in A Man Called Sloane was written UNIT (yes) or Unit (no).

Page 188—UNIT’s computer voice was provided by actress Michele Carey, not “Michelle.” Veteran actor Roddy McDowall, not “McDowell,” appeared in an episode. The enemy organization was KARTEL, not “The Cartel.” Peter Allan Fields, not “Allen,” wrote for U.N.C.L.E. and Sloane.

Search premiered in 1972, not 1973. Hugh O’Brian, Tony Franciosa and Doug McClure were the rotating stars of this NBC series, which Britton sums up: “All worked for a Washington, D.C.-based organization called Probe (later changed to the World Security Organization) headed by V.C.R. Cameron (Burgess Meredith). These agents carried transmitters in their ears, implanted monitors under their skin, and cameras in rings and tiepins…Dr. Barnett (Ford Rainey) was the Q-like research director, providing all the marvels that meant the agents never had to track down leads…O’Brian starred in half the episodes; the other two leads plied their wares from time to time in the other half.”

In fact: The corporation was always called World Securities (not “the World Security Organization”). Probe was a division of the company. It was based in New York, not Washington. Dr. Barnett, not Cameron, was the head of the corporation. Cameron, not Barnett, was the inventor of all the Probe gadgetry. O’Brian did not star in half the episodes, though admittedly that was the announced plan. Each of the three leads actually got eight episodes, but when the series was canceled the 24th episode was not produced, so McClure wound up with only seven.

Page 189—In describing The Champions, the name of one of the lead characters, Craig Stirling, is twice misspelled “Sterling” on this page but is spelled correctly on the next page. The name of the female lead character is misspelled “Sharon Macready” on this page, then misspelled “Sharron McReady” on the next page (her name was actually Sharron Macready).

Page 191—Alan Caillou did not write the pilot for The Six Million Dollar Man. Kenneth Johnson was not the show’s first producer. Lionel E. Siegel, not “Leonard Siegal,” became the series’ producer in its second season but he also was not the first producer. The popular actor Monte Markham, not “Monty Markum,” appeared in the “Seven Million Dollar Man” episode.

Britton describes the series genesis: “The concept was first tried out as two ninety-minute movies produced by Glen Larson, who made the films with a Bondian flair in mind, surrounding the suave, sophisticated Steve Austin with beautiful women. Michael Sloan, later the producer for ‘The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E.’ and The Equalizer, was given credit for the two scripts, the first film starring Martin Landau, the second Robert Lansing. The movies didn’t get much viewer response, so producer Harve Bennett was called in to see if he could resuscitate the project in the same way he had reenergized the Star Trek franchise with the second feature film, ‘The Wrath of Khan.’”

Let’s see now: Britton fails to explain, or fails to realize, that the 90-minute episodes were not free-floating TV-movies. They were segments of the ABC Suspense Movie, a weekly series of 90-minute made-for-TV flicks inspired by the network’s success with its Tuesday and Wednesday Movie of the Week series (and another example of going to the well once too often; the Saturday night Suspense Movie flopped). The 90-minute Six Million Dollar Man episodes were scheduled to appear once a month on Suspense Movie. At that time, ABC was enamored of its “floating series” concept, series that ran throughout the season but did not appear weekly or in a regular timeslot. Kung Fu and Wonder Woman, among others, also started that way. However, only two of the six planned 90-minute episodes of The Six Million Dollar Man were produced before the network decided to make it a one-hour, weekly series.

Also: Michael Sloan did not write the 90-minute episodes (Larson wrote the first one; Larry Alexander, Michael Gleason and Alan Caillou wrote the second). Martin Landau did not appear in the first one (David McCallum and Britt Ekland did). Robert Lansing did not appear in the second one (Maurice Evans and Luciana Paluzzi did). Harve Bennett did replace Larson as executive producer when the show went weekly in January 1974 — but obviously not because of his work on the second “Star Trek” feature that was released eight years later.

Page 192—OSI, the secret government agency that spent six million dollars putting Austin back together, stands for Office of Scientific Investigation, not “Office of Scientific Information.”

The show was not canceled at the end of its first season then suddenly revived on Sunday nights, as Britton writes. It returned for a second season still in the same Friday night slot and was moved to Sundays in January 1975.

Jaime Sommers, the Bionic Woman, was introduced in the show’s second season, not its third. She did not die in a skydiving accident after becoming bionic — she was critically injured in a skydiving accident, received bionic parts, then died when her body rejected the bionics (of course they decided later she hadn’t really died).

Page 193—The actresses mentioned are Sally Field, not “Fields,” and Stefanie Powers, not “Stephanie.”

Page 194—ABC did not cancel The Bionic Woman after one season. The show ran two seasons on ABC, then a third on NBC. The Six Million Dollar Man and The Bionic Woman both went off the air in 1978, not 1979.

Page 195—Britton describes The Invisible Man series, with David McCallum as Daniel Westin, the scientist who discovers invisibility: “After using himself as a guinea pig, Westin learned the process had one major flaw: visibility could occur at any time without advance warning.” That was not the premise of the pilot or the series, which had Westin rendered permanently invisible and seeking a way to return to normal.

NBC aired 11 episodes of The Invisible Man, not 12.

Page 196—The Invisible Man ran Monday nights, not Tuesdays.

Page 197—The second Wonder Woman pilot aired in 1975, not 1976. The title was “The New, Original Wonder Woman,” not “The New, Original Adventures of Wonder Woman.”

Page 198—The Carol Burnett Show was not canceled in 1975. Lyle Waggoner left that show to appear in other projects, including the Wonder Woman pilot.

After describing the pilot, Britton writes, “One year later, Wonder Woman and her secret-identity alter ego moved to NBC and forward in time to the 1970s as an agent for I.A.D.C. (Inter-Agency Defense Command).” He therefore fails to mention anything about the show’s run on ABC. After airing the pilot in November 1975, ABC aired two hour-long episodes in April 1976, then ran 11 episodes — retitled simply Wonder Woman — as a floating series during the 1976-77 season. In September 1977, the show moved to CBS — not NBC — and, as Britton fails to note, was retitled again, becoming The New Adventures of Wonder Woman.

Page 205—Ken Adam, not “Adams,” was production designer on the James Bond movies.

Page 206—Scarecrow and Mrs. King was one of the few spy shows set in Washington, D.C., but it was not “filmed in Washington, D.C.”

Page 209—Briefly mentioning the short-lived and deservedly forgotten series Cover Up, Britton describes the premise (“a fashion photographer who had been married to a government agent” teamed with “a former Green Beret”) as “a clear update of I Spy.” What?

Page 210—One of the co-stars of The Equalizer was blaxploitation vet Ron O’Neal, not Ron “O’Neil.”

Page 211—Britton notes of The Equalizer, “The first episode aired September 18, 1985, but a full season hadn’t yet been shot.” Well, so what? That’s true of any series.

Page 215—The third Harry Palmer movie was titled “Billion Dollar Brain,” not “The Billion Dollar Brain.” The title of Palmer’s 90s revival was “Bullet to Beijing,” not “Bullets to Beijing.” That film and its sequel, “Midnight in St. Petersburg,” were shot in 1994, not 1995, by the Showtime pay-cable network. The company intended to release “Beijing” in theaters then follow up with “St. Petersburg” as a Showtime original. After a long and fruitless search for a distributor, Showtime shunted both films over to its sister network The Movie Channel, where “Bullet to Beijing” premiered on April 5, 1997 and “Midnight in St. Petersburg” first appeared Feb. 28, 1998. The films did not debut on “the American Movie Channel,” whatever that is.

Chapter 13: Fantasy Series

Page 221—James Bond Jr. premiered in September 1991, not in 1992.

Page 233—The 1998 “X-Files” feature film is not the only movie based on a TV series to be produced with the TV cast and released while the series was still on the air. Other examples include “Dragnet” (1954), “Our Miss Brooks” (1956), “McHale’s Navy” (1964), “Batman” (1966), “Munster, Go Home” (1966) and “House of Dark Shadows” (1970).

Page 236—John Sacret Young, not “John Sacret,” was executive producer of VR.5.

Page 238—The abominable UPN series Secret Agent Man debuted in March 2000, not in May 2000. It mercifully ran only one season, not two.

Chapter 14: 21st Century

Page 243—Secret Agent did not debut in America in the fall of 1965. It first appeared in the U.S. in April 1965.

Page 244—Kim Philby was not Russian, he was a British traitor who spied for the Russians.

Page 252—Again, what is the American Movie Channel?


Page 262—In the first note for chapter 8 regarding Mission: Impossible, Britton writes, “To be fully accurate, in the first season, the tapes didn’t self-destruct.” Well, to be fully accurate, they did. In some episodes, Briggs was ordered, as Britton notes, to “dispose of this recording in the usual manner.” But the pilot and many other first-season episodes had tapes and other types of recordings that did self-destruct.


Page 265—Burl Barer, not “Beryl Barer,” is the author of The Saint, a Complete History in Print, Radio, Film and Television (the book’s correct title).

Erik Barnouw, not “Eric,” is the author of Tube of Plenty. He is cited incessantly throughout the book and his name is misspelled throughout.

The correct title of the TV series reference by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh is The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. For some reason, Britton always omits the word “Time” from this title.


Yes, even the index. A number of names are not in alphabetical order. An even greater number of names are misspelled, including those of Jane Badler, Daniel Benzali, Frederick Forsyth, David Friedkin, Lynda Day George, Earle Hagen, Antony Hamilton, Jon-Erik Hexum, Laurence Heath, Steven Hill, Laurence Luckinbill, Peter Lupus, Monte Markham, Hugh O’Brian, Stefanie Powers, Ron Randell, Cesar Romero, George Sanders, Leslie Stevens, David Tomblin, Lesley Ann Warren and Dana Wynter. And strangely enough, some names are misspelled in the index the same way they are misspelled in the text, while others are spelled correctly in the text but are misspelled in the index.