Start with the idea that it takes a thief to catch a thief, best used a decade earlier in the terrific Moroccan caper starring Cary Grant, add in a young, handsome actor with the same flair as the dashing Grant, and throw in many exotic international locations. You end up with a show that was fairly popular and still retains a cult following.
In 1968 as a January replacement, ABC began showing the new spy drama It Takes A Thief which brought a veteran film actor to the small screen. Robert Wagner, born in 1930 in Detroit, had already been a successful movie actor since the early 50's when he played the title role in Prince Valiant. Now at 38 but still possessing incredibly good looks, he was tasked with playing a Cary Grant-style role.
The premise was simple. The world's best cat burglar, sought by many police forces around the world, Alexander Mundy was beyond capture. He was simply too good. Then he was framed by the American intelligence agency, the SIA, and one of its department heads, Noah Bain. To get out of prison, Mundy had to agree to work for the SIA in those instances where a thief was more qualified than a normal agent.
For the first year, Mundy was under 'house arrest' and could leave only when approved by Bain. That meant only when there was an assignment. In the next year, apparently having earned more trust, Mundy was given considerable more freedom of movement and Bain was out of the picture. His new semi-handler, temporarily at least, was Wally Powers but he was not around in that many missions. In the third and final season, the orders came from the strange 'Mr. Jack' who was obviously the head of the entire SIA.
It was probably a lack of cohesiveness to the plots that drove the ratings down during the last season and killed the series. Nevertheless, the shows were very enjoyable and still hold their own when viewed 30+ years later.
Altogether, there were 66 episodes of It Takes A Thief running from January, 1968 to March, 1970.
Suave, sophisticated, good looking, intelligent, and highly adventurous. Those were the main points to describe Alexander Mundy. What more did a thief-cum-spy need to succeed.
How about Fred Astaire? In the last two seasons, the role of Alistair Mundy, father and mentor to Al Mundy was played in 4 extremely entertaining episodes by that epitome of class. If you get a chance to watch them, do so.