TV Tuesday: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Today I’m debuting a new feature post series: TV Tuesdays. I love TV as much as I love cinema, though my taste in television is far more narrow than it is in movies. I’m going to use this feature to look at different aspects of shows: a particular episode I love, a miniseries, maybe a summary of a whole show, a tribute to a particular character, looking at the design and what-not. Anything that takes my fancy, really. Today, it’s more of a general look.

For the inaugural post I’m going to focus on a ’60s show, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., to go along with my Sixties September challenge.

mfu2

This is actually my third time trying to watch The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (MFU). The first time I got through one and a half seasons but lost steam and then forgot everything I watched. So, I tried again and didn’t get very far. About a month ago, I became determined to finally get through it. (Since starting this post I’ve strayed back to murder mysteries as I was feeling quite tired and MFU requires a lot more energy/concentration).

It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed it  – quite the contrary – but ’60s shows (aside from Star Trek and comedies) seem a lot more difficult for me to watch. I think this is largely because, at least in the case of MFU, there’s not as much dialogue and so I have to pay more attention than I normally do with modern shows. A lot happens through action, which I love, but it means re-training myself to leave my phone alone and watch the TV. But MFU is worth it.

the shark affair 1

This show has nearly everything I could want: witty banter, handsome men, cute frocks, strong, interesting women, wacky escapades, diabolical schemes and, of course, charming, entertaining spies. Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin are just great characters that I love spending timing with.

vulcan affair 1

I’d forgotten in the intervening years since first watching this, is how funny it is. Robert Vaughn and David McCallum have great comic timing – they also, naturally, have great chemistry, which has been one of the enduring appeals of the show.

One of the other most appealing features, and likely one of the reasons there’s such a large female fanbase, is the way everyday women are often part of the story. They’re brought in by our favourite agents, who show a lot of faith in their ability to help. Using everyday people – both men and women – as guest characters was a clever way to get people watching at home involved in the show. They could, and we still can, imagine themselves in their places – that they, too, could help Agents Solo and Kuryakin save the world! And still get to go home at the end of the day.

I also really like how the fight scenes are choreographed. They’re a little more rough and tumble than I’m used to in older stuff. Sure, the stunt doubles are laughingly easy to spot but it’s part of the charm and the fights themselves fit the tone of the show.

mfu4

It’s fun seeing guest stars who would go on to become famous for their own shows or movies (William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, a very young Kurt Russell, Tura Satana in a fabulous cow-print coat) but even those I didn’t recognise have been great to watch. (Actually I’ve had quite a lot of fun spotting ‘crossover’ (guest) actors between this and Star Trek, including James Doohan aka Scotty, Ricardo Montalban aka Khan, and Jill Ireland, McCallum’s wife, who was Leila in the TOS episode “This Side of Paradise”).

mfu3

So far, this time through, my favourite episodes are: “The Dove Affair”, “The Finny Foot Affair”, “The Project Strigas Affair” (Shatner! Nimoy!) and maybe “The Quadripartite Affair”. But they’re all great. This show is full of fun romps, sarcastic quips, swanky soirees and sparkling gowns, and courageous capers. What could be better than that? I’m looking forward to delving back into more episodes and, hopefully, finally finishing the show.

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9 thoughts on “TV Tuesday: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

  1. I was a teenager when this show debuted. Spy shows were abundant and GREAT, following the success of Bond, James Bond. The Avengers and Secret Agent Man were British like Bond (don’t tell Patrick McGoohan I said that). They all had terrific theme songs; the MFU had the best weapons (I owned a plastic replica of the handgun that converted to a rifle with a scope as a kid); Napoleon Solo also had the best hair. I shaved mine back in a vain (no pun intended) attempt to simulate his widow’s peak. Now I have a real one. The Kelly Robinson character of I Spy had the best name and the coolest cover and the best show opening action. I loved tennis, and I told girls I met that my name was Kelly. It was half true anyway. I have collected all episodes from three of the four shows, SAM being the exception. One day… I think I loved its theme song more than the show itself; it was a bit too sophisticated for me at the time. Anyway, thanks for going there! I look forward to future output on the subject through the eyes of someone from your generation.

    • I forgot to mention that I instantly fell in love with Diana Rigg: the combo of smarts, martial arts, bravery, beauty and tight leather pants were the food for far too many fantasies…

    • Sorry to take so long to reply! Yeah, I have The Avengers and Danger Man (Secret Agent Man) to watch after I eventually finish this but I’ve seen, and loved, bits and pieces of both before 🙂
      I do love the weapons and gadgetry of MFU – they’re so cool. How fun to have had the replica! I have one of the novels they put out that I found secondhand somewhere a few years ago.

      And thanks for the comment! 🙂

      • sorry as well, Andi. for some reason, I got no notification of this response… a few years ago, I looked up and found people selling some of the MFU gadgetry. managed to fight off the temptation (expensive stuff!!!) ;-p p.s., unrelated: have you seen the Cult of JT Leroy on S/N or elsewhere? I’m amazed it’s drawn so little critical attention!

  2. Pingback: September 2016 Roundup | The Sofa Cinephile

  3. “Retraining myself to leave my phone alone”!! That’s my problem too! I really struggle to concentrate on this series, and a lot of similar stuff from this era, but I still enjoy it a lot.

    • It’s hard, isn’t it? And, yeah, I think there’s just a different quality to the shows from this era. I think I mentioned it in the post, but there’s often less dialogue for bigger chunks of time than in modern shows! But, yes, I enjoy it a lot too. It’s worth it 🙂

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