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Classic TV Revisited: The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

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The Man From UNCLE was a spy serial inspired by James Bond, about agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement saving the world from the crime syndicate THRUSH. Basically an American James Bond-clone, with a tongue-in-cheek sense of humour.

Appearance?
Spy yarn in which agents of the United Network Command for Law Enforcement saved the world from the crime syndicate THRUSH.

Why was it so good?
The brilliant pairing of Robert Vaughn and David McCallum as agents Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin and their irritable boss Alexander Waverly (Leo G Carroll).

How did it start?
Prompted by the film success of James Bond, his creator Ian Fleming was invited by US TV bosses to pen a small-screen spy serial.Fleming, who created Napoleon Solo, died before filming began and his work was completed by producer Sam Rolfe.At the height of the Cold War, Rolfe dreamed up the idea of an American agent and a Russian working together in harmony.

What was it about?
The organisation’s HQ was hidden by the secret wall of a New York tailors from which Solo and Kuryakin would emerge each week to tackle a different case.It always involved some innocent in peril at the hands of the crime empire THRUSH – The Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity.Inevitably, the fate of the world would rest on Solo and Kuryakin being successful.

Didn’t it annoy the head of the FBI?
Papers recently published reveal that J Edgar Hoover loathed it as he received thousands of letters from UNCLE fans convinced it was a real organisation.

Did Hoover brush this mail under the carpet?
In a way. He dispatched terse rejection letters to young fans saying: “There’s no government agency which performs the functions portrayed in this programme.”This type of activity must be left to authorised, competent and highly-trained police officers.”

Distinguishing features?
There was plenty of spoof gadgetry used by Solo and Kuryakin who spoke the show’s most most famous line “Open Channel D” while using their radio-receiver pens.There was also the UNCLE Special Pistol which converted into a rifle or machine-gun. The dynamic duo drove around in a blue two-seater Piranha coupe.Jerry Goldsmith composed the catchy theme which was performed differently in each of the four series.

What happened to Robert Vaughn?
Vaughn was already a star from The Magnificent Seven when he made UNCLE.Later came The Protectors with Nyree Dawn Porter in the 1970s followed by dozens of films, including The Towering Inferno and later TV series Hustle.

What about David McCallum?
The Scots-born star of The Great Escape, teamed up with Joanna Lumley in Sapphire And Steel and starred in TV’s The Invisible Man. He’s found a nice little niche in long running crime drama NCIS.

Who else was in it?
Guest stars included Joan Crawford, Boris Karloff, Joan Collins and Star Trek duo William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

How long did it last?
It ran for 105 episodes. Each episode had the word Affair in the title.

Such as?
The My Friend The Gorilla Affair; The Yo-Ho-Ho And A Bottle Of Rum Affair; The Concrete Overcoat Affair and The Indian Affairs Affair.

Not to be confused with
The Man From Auntie, Auntie’s Bloomers.

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