Friday Five: Spy TV

By Peter SM Fri, August 14, 2015

It's been a while since we've had a Friday Five post, so what better way to jump back into some pop culture goodness than with the theatrical release this weekend of the big screen adaptation of the small screen spy show The Man from U.N.C.L.E.?

Take a look at the stylized update from director Guy Ritchie:


Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to watch these other Spy TV shows so you're up to speed on the genre.

Mission Impossible Mission: Impossible

One of the first spy tv shows to make the leap to the big screen was Mission: Impossible. Catchy intro music rivaling the James Bond theme? Check! Dapper spies in 60s suits and ties? Check! Femme Fatales? Check! International super villains? Check! Action and Suspense? Check! For a television show filmed and produced during the 1960s and 1970s, the look of the show and the quality of the storytelling were pretty ambitious. Once the big blockbuster movie franchise began with star Tom Cruise? Well, the missions truly did begin to look absolutely impossible.

Alias Alias

A television series full of wigs, secret identities, duplicitous family, weird mythologies, and surprises galore. Jennifer Garner stars as Sydney Bristow, a CIA double-agent posing as an operative for the secretive SD-6 organization. The ending of the series was somewhat nonsensical and a let down for longtime fans (we never did learn what the "Rambaldi device" was ever really about). You could say series creator J.J. Abrams lost us once again (see what I did there? ; ) Everything up until the final season is high action and suspense storytelling though and definitely worth a watch.

Get Smart Get Smart

Another classic must-see spy tv show is the Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created Get Smart. Another memorable theme song is associated with this program, as well as an equally memorable title sequence (which those jokers over at Mystery Science Theater 3000 would "borrow" years later). For all intents and purposes, it was one of the very first spoofs of the serious spy genre. Bumbling Maxwell Smart (played by Don Adams, also later the voice of Inspector Gadget), Agent 86 for CONTROL, and his partner Agent 99, battle the forces of KAOS. This hilariously great show was unfortunately made into a pretty dreadful movie starring Steve Carell a few years ago. You could say they "missed it by that much!"

Burn Notice Burn Notice

One of the best modern day spy tv shows was the Miami set Burn Notice. The title of the series refers to the term "burn notice", issued by intelligence agencies to discredit and dismiss agents and spies who are considered to have become unreliable. When Michael Westen wakes up in Miami, he has essentially no identity whatsoever. He calls on an old Navy SEAL buddy and his ex-girlfriend to help him get back on track. The show used very cool voice-over exposition throughout each episode and also very detailed descriptions of MacGyver-esque techniques for spies to get out of sticky situations. Bonus points for employing the legendary character actor with a chin that can kill, Bruce Campbell.

Archer Archer

The lone cartoon entry on this list, and definitely not for kids, is the raunchy spy spoof Archer. For an animated series, there are a surprising amount of action-packed spy sequences that would rival most action and adventure television shows and movies. Sterling Archer is the stereotypical jet-setting playboy spy, but taken to the nth degree as an unabashed womanizing alcoholic with an itchy trigger finger and a quirky quip always at the ready. The supporting cast includes Archer's mother, his ex-girlfriend and fellow spy operative, Lana Kane, fellow operative Ray Gillette, accountant Cyril Figgis, Human Resources Director Pam Poovey, dimwitted secretary Cheryl Tunt, and Applied Research head Doctor Krieger; all with their own character flawed filled baggage to contend with and hilariously annoy each other.

This blog post will self-destruct in 10 seconds... so start watching these great television shows and more from our vast collections in our catalog!

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television show 1964
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. television show 1964

Leave this field empty

Add a Comment to Friday Five: Spy TV

(Your email is kept private and will not be shown publicly)
(Example: Philadelphia, New Jersey, South Philly, Germantown)