The wonderfulness of I Spy: A tribute to an underrated masterpiece, Jack.
Two impeccable leading men with some of the most natural and enjoyable chemistry in the history of the medium, smart, witty and hip dialogue, entertaining and exciting action sequences, organic racial diversity before it became a trend and\or something for desperate Hollywood executives to use to cover their butts and some of the most beautiful and exotic locations ever shown on television back then and even puts today’s action\adventure shows to shame using the actual locations the episode is set, all this is what made I Spy one of television’s most iconic and most ambitious shows. From 1965–1968 I Spy gave the world its coolest spies and spy show.
The Theme Song:
First we have to talk about the iconic and addictive theme song and opening titles for a moment. It’s got to be one of the all time greats alongside some other heavy hitters like the original Hawaii Five O, Taxi, The Rockford Files, Perry Mason, Mission: Impossible, Miami Vice, Hill Street Blues etc. But take a look for yourself:
Composed by the late great Earle Hagen, the I Spy opening so perfectly encapsulates the tone and essence of the show. In one minute you learn everything that you need to know about the show and how cool and badass the two leads are.
Kelly and Scotty, the ultimate tv bromance:
Agents Kelly Robinson(Robert Culp) and Alexander “Scotty” Scott (Bill Cosby) are a dream team of smooth, highly intelligent, extremely skilled agents who together can take down any bad guy that makes the mistake of messing with them. They’re in sync, they’re the yin to the other’s yang, and while alone they’re hard to beat together, they’re impossible to beat:
But they’re more than just an iconic pair of partners, they’re much more. They’re best friends and more importantly they’re brothers from different mothers. There’s not a thing they wouldn’t do for each other, there’s also not a moment where they don’t seize the opportunity to mess with each other or get into literal fist fights like real brothers do. They’re most certainly without a doubt family first and foremost, jack:
What was the true heart of I Spy was the off the charts chemistry between Culp and Cosby. It’s no surprise how big an Improviser Cosby was but he got Culp into the act and most of their scenes and dialogue were improvised by the two chums. The way they played off each other gave the most serious and dark series a great sense of fun and humor that made the show so much more enjoyable than had they cast two different actors for the parts.
Bill Cosby at his best:
Look, we all know how tragic things turned out with Cosby these last few years, but putting that aside, we can’t deny how truly amazing he was in the role of Scotty. This was a Bill Cosby most of us have never seen before, and for those who were around during I Spy’s run completely forgot about thanks to sweaters, jello pudding and Dr. Cliff Huxtable:
A black James Bond, Cosby’s Alexander Scott was part genius, part smooth operating butt kicking spy. And for anyone who dismissed Cosby’s acting abilities, he went on to win three Emmys for the role.
Breaking Ground In Equality:
I Spy did what no other show did before which is have a black actor not only as a co lead to the white actor but a true equal in every way. Scotty was no sidekick, he was just as much the heroic and cool spy that Kelly was and was a perfect foil to the gung ho, womanizing cowboy agent. They never even brought up Scotty’s race, with the idea that by not commenting on race they were actually being far more progressive and ground breaking than had the subject been thrown into the public’s faces every second.
I Spy was also one of the most expensive shows on the air because of the cast and crew actually shooting in real locations instead of backdrops or sets. This gave the show an authentic feeling that outmatches most shows like it then and now.
The show has made such an impact on television since its debut. The choice of casting Cosby and portraying an African American in such a human and endearing way helped pave the way for so many iconic Black television series and roles that might not have been given the chance otherwise. It also gave set a standard for crime dramas with intelligent writing, authenticity in locations and casting leads with perfect chemistry. Perhaps the biggest contribution is basically creating the “buddy action comedy” genre which has been a staple of film and television for many decades. Especially the black\white buddy duo. Scotty and Kelly are basically the grandfathers of many of these pairings.
As Kelly would say: “May you all have a wonderful day of wonderfullness, to you, sirs and madams. Peace, Jack.”