THR: "When 'The Man From U.N.C.L.E.' Hit TV in 1964"
by THR Staff
8/11/2015 12:04pm PDT
"The show was intended to be James Bond for television," recalls Robert Vaughn.
In 1964, The Hollywood Reporter wasn’t quite sure what to make of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. The reviewer seemed confused as to whether the NBC drama offered straightforward action or a tongue-in-cheek spoof of spy movies.
At the time, THR compared U.N.C.L.E. (the initials stood for United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) to old-time Saturday matinee serials where villains are defeated in the nick of time, in U.N.C.L.E.’s case by agents from a too-cool-for-school “super-secret organization dedicated to combat all anti-American forces regardless where and how they crop up.”
In a casting move that went against Cold War expectations, American agent Napoleon Solo (played by Robert Vaughn) was paired up with Soviet sidekick Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) to fight evil around the world. Though the premise was clearly farcical, Vaughn says he was told some viewers contacted the United Nations to inquire about joining U.N.C.L.E. The series went on to have a four-year run that included 15 Emmy nominations (albeit with no wins), one week atop the ratings and a 1965 Golden Globe for best TV show.
“The show was intended to be James Bond for television,” says Vaughn, now 82. “But the last year, the producers decided to be more over-the-top, like Batman with clowns shooting cupcakes out of cars. U.N.C.L.E. went from being camp to being goofy, and from being number one to being off the air.”