This series passes with flying colors the most difficult of all challenges -- the test of time! This landmark program holds up very well in 2009, it is still a thinking person's show with stimulating nuances and humor. Granted, some of the themes may be dated as they're Cold War subjects but nevertheless the plots are still mostly relevant.
There is no doubt that this was the first of the "buddy" series and movies. Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were perfect partners and they were brilliantly cast. At the time Cosby was an upstart comedian and despite NBC's objections series producer Sheldon Leonard insisted on casting Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott, a bold move not only because of Cos' newbie factor but also because Bill being Black portraying an intelligent, positive, government agent was unprecedented in TV history.
Another seminal factor of this series was the budget required to film in locations around the world as well as its ample use of minority actors and extras including several prominent guest stars from the jazz world like Nancy Wilson and Eartha Kitt. I was 13, 14 and 15 years old during the series' initial run yet I Spy was my favorite program. Now over 40 years later as I watch the episodes in chronicle order again, I am amazed how sophisticated the show remains. Using a word introduced to the world by Bill Cosby in this series, the "wonderfulness" of I Spy shines as brightly now as it did in the mid-1960s.
Really the only bad thing you can say about "I Spy"
is that it spawned the awful Owen Wilson/Eddie Murphy movie. The series itself is a classic and stands head and shoulders above most of its contemporaries.
Robert Culp isn't a typical TV ladies man; he's a little too tall and angular. But he's a convincing man of action and has a great wry delivery. Pairing him with the rising star Bill Cosby was genius. When "I Spy" premiered, Cosby was in the middle of his streak of Grammy-winning comedy albums - it must have been quite a surprise to see him exercise his dramatic chops on TV. Cosby is not used for ridiculous comic relief in the way that most comedians in action movies are today. He and Culp are equals - Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott are both highly intelligent, capable agents and it's nice to see that racial dynamics in the US didn't force Cosby into a "sidekick" role.
The scripts are layered and complicated - they tend to be far more interesting than a simple "catch the bad guys" routine. Often, "I Spy" forces Kelly and Scotty into tough moral spots. For them, the spy business isn't glamorous; it's rough, violent and frequently depressing. Some of the best scripts are written by Culp himself - one of the first instances of a star writing for his own series.
Because of the down-to-earth quality of most of the scripts, "I Spy" isn't as much fun to watch as, say "Mission: Impossible" or some of the other 60s era espionage shows, but it's a better overall series.
Producer Sheldon Leonard took a big gamble with this series when it premiered on NBC back in October of 1965. Leonard,who at the time was producing shows like "Andy Griffith",and "Gomer Pyle", as well as "Dick Van Dyke at the time over at a rival network, was the first to present Bill Cosby (his series debut) as the first African-American to star in a prime-time series which was a milestone back then in a time of civil rights, and at the height of the Vietnam War. "I Spy" centered around two American agents who were sent in exotic places around the world as they face espionage adventures during their travels (which was also the first series to be filmed in very exotic places around the world like Japan, Mexico, Spain, and Greece). Kelly Robinson was the international tennis star (played by Robert Culp) who was a secret agent for the government along with his trainer Alexander Scott (played by Bill Cosby). These agents used their skill, and sometimes offbeat humor to crack cases or to spy on certain individuals.
The show was so quick and witty (and sometimes hilarious) with its cool and campy sort of humor, but it also had a dramatic side of it as well. The show ran on the NBC network from 1965-1968,and it was a great series giving Bill Cosby two Emmys for his work on the show.
Back in sixth and seventh grade, when I Spy was orginally on the air, I used to love this show. Primarily, it was because of the sharp tongued wit of Scotty. Scotty was "cool". Kelly's romances, on the other hand, often seemed to bog things down. Still, it was fun to see what exotic locale would be the focus of each weekly adventure.
Looking back on it, now, the warts are a bit more obvious. The "action" is clumsy and even tedious. The storylines seem to take forever to work their way to a conclusion. And all those exotic jungles seem awfully full of plastic and rubber plants on loan from some Irwin Allen adventure epic. Nevertheless, even though I have never ever liked a single other thing done by Bill Cosby, Scotty is still "cool".
A great detecive show starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp. This was more than a pretty good television series. As is normal with good television shows, this one did not last long enough. This is a show that I would suggest watching if you get the chance. Check the bargain bins at Wal-Mart, the online movies sites (Amazon.com and such) and all of the cable channels that run old shows. Nick at Nite and TV Land are great for theses kind of shows. They will even do a week long spot for shows that only had 6 or so episodes. Then you have your super stations. They run a bunch of old shows too. All in all a pretty good show that did not get a good enough chance. Sometimes it is a simple as the show it is up against. Look at Law & Order. It is one of the longest running shows on TV. They moved it to go up against Lost. After about 2 weeks of getting pounded in the ratings it was moved back to it's original time slot. Shows like this should be given more of an opportunity
This is one show that fed my travel-fever, especially to anywhere in gorgeous Asia!
I had a crush in my teens on Robert Culp and wanted to speak languages and throw off cool like Bill Cosby. Plus, they seemed to enjoy themselves and where they were, which is a plus when you spend an hour with folks, even through a tv show!
As I've grown older, the tight scripts, the sometimes dark humor, and the mostly realistic violence has kept me a fan through the years.
Another thing I've enjoyed as I've gotten older, is the plethora of very strong female characters that we got to experience over the three seasons of this drama. Enemy agent, teenager, older agent, or down-home diplomat, the odds of a gal that couldn't hold her own was rare. they could be in trouble, but not because they didn't try to help themselves.
I'd gush more, that that's just unseemly. I just have to recommend this highly to anyone who enjoys a good spy drama, lovely scenery, buddy series, or either of the leads, Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.
Please read the following before uploading
Do not upload anything which you do not own or are fully licensed to upload. The images should not contain any sexually explicit content, race hatred material or other offensive symbols or images. Remember: Abuse of the TV.com image system may result in you being banned from uploading images or from the entire site – so, play nice and respect the rules!