Thursday, July 26, 2018

Thursday Movie Picks - TV Edition: Spies

Written as part of the weekly blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join in the fun by picking three movies (or TV shows, as the case may be) that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

Let's get down to business (to defeat the huns). TV spies... GO!

Get Smart (1965-1970) Maybe my favorite "classic" TV show, I used to live for whenever this would show up on Nick at Nite or TV Land. Maxwell Smart is the most bumbling secret agent who ever lived, but he still has a job because somehow he always ends up saving the day. There are so many wonderful gadgets in this show (who doesn't want a shoe phone?), marking it as a near-perfect parody of the James Bond movie franchise. It's just goofy good fun, and when I'm feeling really down in the dumps, an episode of this will always set me right.

Alias (2001-2006) I was OBSESSED with this show when it started. Sidney Bristow is just a regular college student, approached by the CIA with a job as an agent. Her job? A field agent for a secret "black ops" division of the CIA known as SD-6. But she (stupidly) tells her boyfriend that she's a spy, and SD-6 kills him. She then finds out that not only is her father, Jack, also an agent for SD-6, but SD-6 isn't part of the CIA at all! So she becomes a double agent, working to destroy SD-6 from the inside. The action sequences on Alias were unlike anything seen on TV before at the time, and most of them still hold up, mostly because of the driving force of star Jennifer Garner (who has rarely been better). The plotting got WAY more convoluted down the line, but the action sequences and amazing cast (Victor Garber! Ron Rifkin! Michael Vartan! LENA OLIN!), not to mention Garner's mind-blowing array of disguises, keep it entertaining.

The Americans (2013-2018) This year, we said goodbye to the best series on TV (with an episode fittingly titled "START"). Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are superb as married Russian spies living undercover as model American citizens.... they own their own business (a travel agency), they have two kids, they have a nice house in Fall's Church, VA... and their new neighbor across the street just so happens to be an FBI agent. At height of the Cold War. Amazingly suspenseful, the series revels in "old-school" spycraft and period trappings, but at its heart is the story of a marriage, and how secrets can unite and destroy us. For such a thrilling show, it's often very quiet, but that's part of what makes the show work - those quiet moments cause us to feel for these characters even more, so that when the suspense sequences come, we're even more invested and on the edge of our seats. Superb on every level, The Americans is required viewing.


  1. Nice choices though the only one I've seen with any regularity was Get Smart. That show is just a brilliant parody with spot on work by Don Adams, Edward Platt and the fabulous Barbara Feldon who is right up there with Diana Rigg as the coolest women of the 60's TV landscape.

    The problem for me with both Alias and especially The Americans is that I let too much time go by before giving them a look and then was so hopelessly behind I figured I'd never catch up. But both always sounded interesting and with The Americans had the added inducement of Matthew Rhys who I loved as Kevin on Brothers & Sisters. Maybe now that its ending I'll binge watch the earlier seasons and catch up.

    I went all 60’s this time since it was a wonderland of this sort of series thanks to the success of James Bond. All three have singular memorable opening music and credits as well.

    The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968)-A two-man troubleshooting team, American Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) work for multi-national secret intelligence agency U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) under the direction of Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). Week after week they combated the evil forces of THRUSH (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity) alternating between throwing around villains and bon mots. Immensely popular in its day it spawned a spinoff series The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. as well as much merchandising. A stylish film version came out in 2015.

    Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)-The Impossible Missions Force (IMF) lead a group of secret agents (including over time Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau and Sam Elliott) lead by Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) in the first season and after that by Jim Phelps (Peter Graves) are given covert assignments each week via a self-destructing device. Using stealth and cunning as well as disguise much more than action they battle evil empires and crime lords. Tom Cruise has bastardized the franchise in a series of empty soulless action vehicles that have nothing to do with the original intelligent conception of the series.

    It Takes a Thief (1968-1970)-High living but currently imprisoned cat burglar Alexander Munday (Robert Wagner) is released into the custody of Noah Bain (Malachi Thorne) head of the government’s Secret Intelligence Agency (SIA) with the understanding that he will steal whatever necessary (documents, formulas, etc.) to ensure national security. More of a high fashion romp than a tension fueled spy thriller this still had many intricate plots and a terrific chemistry between its two leads. It also had a fantastic array of guest stars including Bette Davis, Suzanne Pleshette (as a temperamental opera diva in one of the series best episodes), Leslie Nielsen and in the final season Fred Astaire as Mundy’s mischievous father, master thief Alistair.

  2. I'm definitely going to check out The Americans eventually. I missed out on Alias which I kind of regret. I watched Nick at Nite all the damn time and I never remember seeing Get Smart on there. lol Apparently I missed that too.

  3. We match with Get Smart! I love this show and find it a great parody. Alias was great with a kick ass Jennifer Garner and Hubba Hubba, Michael Vartan. I did find it became a bit too heavy handed later on but still enjoyable. I have yet to see The Americans but it looks really good and it takes place during my fun hey days of the 1980's

  4. Get Smart sounds good! Way better than that awful movie with Carell.

  5. Another match with Get Smart and Alias. Loved both of those shows. Not familiar with The American.

  6. I really should check out the Americans one day, heard so many great things about it!

  7. I've only seen an episode or 2 of The Americans. It was ok. I think because it is a slower suspenseful drama, needs a while to get into.