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I SPY

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Full Name: Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott
Codename: Domino
Nationality: American
Organization: CIA
Occupation Agent

Creator: Sheldon Leonard
Time Span: 1965 - 2002

ABOUT THE SERIES

       Kelly Robinson and Alexander Scott are agents for the CIA.
       The two men who comprised Domino, considered the best of eight pairs of agents working for the CIA around the world, were Robinson and Scott. Their cover was that of a tennis-bum and his trainer. Under that camouflage, they were able to travel to various parts of the world entering tournaments, performing exhibitions, or just relaxing.
       These men were considerably different from each other but those differences helped to complement each other rather than clash.
       Robinson was the athlete. Born in sunny California, Kelly possessed a bright, outgoing attitude which helped make the frivolous former athlete believable. His good looks and glib tongue made him a constant hit with the ladies, although his soft heart made falling in love too easy. He was highly intelligent having been a law student at Princeton before his career started. Of the two, he was the senior agent having been in the service for a few years before the pairing took place. He certainly made a number of contacts, some not so friendly, over those years.
       Scott was the intellectual. A graduate of Temple University and a Rhodes Scholar, Alexander spoke 11 languages fluently and was an expert in cryptography. More cerebral and far more introverted, Scott preferred to stand in the background, which fit beautifully with the trainer role. It also helped him be considerably more observant of what was happening around them. That did not mean, though, that he was anywhere less capable or important as his keen insight noticed facts that kept the two alive when other agent teams perished.
       There is no doubt that besides being a good and experience team, these two men have bonded over the years to be closer than brothers, men willing to give their lives for each other and willing to take out anyone who threatened the other.

BOOKS

Number of Books:8
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:2002

       As was very common in the television industry, and still exists today, if a show looks like it might be a hit, the urge to capitalize on the merchandising takes hold. This is especially true with I Spy and the book market because of the success of the Bond books and the Man From U.N.C.L.E. franchise. While many of the published works were novelizations or fluff pieces, the owners of the I Spy property went one better.
       Walter Wager was a seasoned writer who had worked both in the radio and television business as a writer and had published his own paperback detective novels. He had considerable experience and was a great choice to go to to draft novels based on the show. He used a pen-name of John Tiger for the books he wrote for the series.
       The books were, as all books based on intellectual property of another media, hamstrung by not being able to go directions that might affect or conflict with the television show and since the show was still being produced and thus directions were potentially changing there, Wager/Tiger had severe limitations as to what he could and could not do.
       Nevertheless, the books are very well crafted and worth the time to read, especially if you are a fan of the TV show.


1 I Spy I Spy
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1966

The group called itself Force I. Comprised of a strange mixture of Japanese, Chinese, and Nazis, it put together Operation Destiny. If successful, it would destroy the minds of the top men in the Pentagon, opening the country to attack. It is Kelly and Scott's job to find out who was the head of Force I, how the destruction would take place, and stop it.

2 Masterstroke Masterstroke
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1967

The title refers to the scheme the madman who wanted to strike back at the United States had for his foolproof strike at one of America's most beloved cities. Unless Domino can track him down in time, San Francisco will be no more but their only clue is the delectable Dolly Chen. Recently escaped from the villain, she must lead them back to his lair but she would rather just spend dime with Kelly.

3 Superkill Superkill
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1967

Superkill is the brainchild of the dastardly criminal organization known as Force One (previously spelt Force I), anxious to destroy half the world so they might take control of the remainder. While several Intelligence organizations stand by to step in and break up the scheme, they need vital information from Domino before they dare make a move.

4 Wipeout Wipeout
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1967

Kelly and Scott have two problems facing them while fighting the danger of Wipeout. The first is a scientist devoted to greed who has created a concoction that could destroy all life on this planet. The second is a dictator of a Caribbean island nation that wants to ensure his power for years to come. Together, these two people would make a horrible danger.

5 Countertrap Countertrap
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1967

The activity of the KGB in activating a highly successful assassin has the attention of the CIA but the stunning fact seems to be that the intended victim might be a Soviet leader and the CIA wants to prevent it. That's the job of Kelly and Scott as they get to travel to the heartland of their biggest opponent, the Soviet Union.

6 Doomdate Doomdate
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1967

The Nazi organization known as ODESSA is active again, once more secreting former Nazi SS officials out of prison and to freedom. This time, however, the evil freed men are being used to help an Arab dictator increase his power to achieve his ultimate goal of being the main force in the Middle East. Domino must stop them to stop him.

7 Death-Twist Death-Twist
Written by John Tiger
Copyright: 1968

The leader of the Latin American nation of Costa Verde has a plot to increase his influence about Central America by decreasing the influence of the United States. This will be accomplished by wrecking the honor of the American government unless Kelly and Scott can stop him.

8 I Spy I Spy
Written by Max Allan Collins
Copyright: 2002

This is the novelization of the movie starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. Scott and Robinson must sneak into the fortress of a billionaire and retrieving a stealth fighter.

YOUNG ADULT BOOKS

Number of Books:1
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:1966

       Western Publishing made a good business during the 50s-70s capitalizing on the merchandizing of television shows. One of its imprints was Whitman which brought out many hardcovered books, often illustrated, aimed at the young adult market, ages 10-15. They usually put out one or two only as that was what they perceived was the most they would find an audience for.
       The sole Young Adult book about I Spy was not very good as it would seem the author likely had never viewed an episode or had any blueprint to go on. The characters are not at all like the show.


1 Message From Moscow Message From Moscow
Written by Brandon Keith
Copyright: 1966

unknown

MOVIES

Number of Movies:2
First Appearance:1994
Last Appearance:2002

       Two I Spy movies were made after the celebrated television series left the air and they could not have been more different.

       The first was a made-for-tv movie which was also released in parts of the world as a big screen event. It depicted the lives of the two operatives a quarter century later. Alexander Scott (Cosby) had left the business to make his mark in academia while Kelly Robinson (Culp) had become the head of the Department for which they had both worked.
       The reunion came about when their children, now fully grown, had become agents themselves and were heading out on their first mission together. Worried about their safety, the two old-timers brush off their cloaks and sharpen their daggers to make sure the kids survive what turns out to be a pretty hair-raising assignment. Scotty and Kelly may have gotten a lot older but the affection and the banter and the ease of companionship were still there in full force.

       The other movie was a re-invention of the I Spy brand made for the big screen and starring two big names in the movie business. The roles were reversed in this version. Alexander Scott (Owen Wilson) is the white guy. He is a highly trained experienced agent. Kelly Robinson (Eddie Murphy) is the black guy and is the athlete this go around, although he is a boxer instead of a tennis pro.
       In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was hip to take shows from the 50s-70s and revive them for movie fodder. Almost always that meant poking fun at the original shows as if to say "I am cool. You were not."
       That was the style that made up the one movie from the series. It was totally unlike the series and it could easily have been. The television series was cool and hip and just needed brushing off. Instead, the producers went for a comedy. It was not I Spy.
       It was fun, though.


1 I Spy Returns I Spy Returns
Director: Jerry London
Writers: Michael Norell, Morton Fine, David Friedkin
Actors: Robert Culp as Kelly Robinson, Bill Cosby as Alexander Scott, George Newbern as Bennett Robinson, Salli Richardson as Nicole Scott
Released: 1994

When their oldest children take on the family business and become agents of their own, both worrisome dads cannot sit back and let them at it - they have to follow to make sure the kids are safe.

2 I Spy I Spy
Director: Betty Thomas
Writers: Marianne Wibberley, Cormac Wibberley, Jay Scherick, David Ronn
Actors: Eddie Murphy as Kelly Robinson, Owen Wilson as Alex Scott, Famke Janssen as Rachel, Malcolm McDowell as Gundats
Released: 2002

A super-secret, high-tech jet has gone missing and agent Alex Scott needs the services of boxing champion Kelly Robinson to provide a cover identity to get it back.

TELEVISION


Number of Episodes:83
First Appearance:1965
Last Appearance:1968
Network:NBC

REGULAR CAST
Robert CulpKelly Robinson [ 1-3 ]
Bill CosbyAlexander Scott [ 1-3 ]

       In 1965, television producer Sheldon Leonard combined an established star and an up-and-comer in a unique spy drama and had a hit. While the show lasted only three seasons, which in the business is better than most series but not as good as hoped, it became a cult hit and the characters became part of Americana.
       He had been working on the idea of a television spy series, working with Desilu Productions and the creative team from Three F Productions, Morton Fine, David Friedkin and Fouad Said. While Leonard would be given creative credit and executive producer position, Fine and Friedkin would become co-producers and head writers. They also contributed 16 of the 82 scripts.
       Leonard had been an accomplished actor for many years, often taking the role of gangster or heavy, but his true talents shown best behind the camera. He had been a producer on such giants as The Andy Griffith Show and The Dick Van Dyke Show, among others. He wanted something to enjoy the success of other spy series on both the big and small screens and he found it in I Spy.
       One reference I read said that even as Leonard was working on the premise of his show, Robert Culp approached him with his own idea. Leonard stuck with his idea but liked the idea of Culp being one of the agents. Robert Culp was already a veteran of many television shows, both as an actor and as screenwriter. He had become best known to millions on the western Trackdown as well as guest starring on a wide variety of other dramas. He was also getting into the creative end with scriptwriting.
       Bill Cosby was making a name for himself as a stand-up comic, taking breaks from the comedy circuit to appear on the Tonight Show as well as making several highly successful comedy albums. While Leonard had at first planned that the other member of the duo would be an older agent playing the part of a mentor, when he saw one night Cosby do his standup routine, he had an inspiration and changed his mind totally.
       While there was some controversy in certain areas of the country over an equal partnership between a white man and a black man, to the credit of the actors and the creative staff, the racial differences played no part in the show. Scott and Kelly were equal partners just as Cosby and Culp were.
       Together they would create a pair of agents who would defend the nation through 82 different missions from September of 1965 to April of 1968. They would also reunited in February of 1994 for a reunion.


COMIC BOOKS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS

Number of Stories:6
First Appearance:1966
Last Appearance:1968

       Gold Key, a subsidiary of Western Publishing, had the largest piece of the television-comic tie-in business during the 50s-60s. Their paper was usually not as good as the other two major comic players, DC and Marvel, but they did have good artists who were able to, when legally allowed, captured the likeness of the actor playing the character on the small screen.
       Not many issues were published about the Domino team of Scotty and Kelly. That is a shame because they were not bad.

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PARODIES, SATIRES, AND PASTICHES

Number of Entries:1
First Appearance:1967
Last Appearance:1967

1 Why Spy? - Hang-Up In Hong Kong Why Spy? - Hang-Up In Hong Kong
Published by EC
Contributors: Stan Hart (writer), Mort Drucker (artist)
Copyright: 06/1967

Printed in MAD Magazine #111 and from the 'Caustic Agents Dept.' A parody satire of the TV series with Robert Culp as Killy and Bill Cosby as Scoot that travel to Hong Kong posing as tennis pros to find the kidnapped atomic scientist that's also a part-time swimsuit model.
Click here to read the story.

GAMES

Number of Games:2
First Appearance:1965
Last Appearance:1966

1 I Spy Game I Spy Game
Boardgame
Ideal
Copyright: 1965

Each player is a secret agent with his/her own mission. The goal of the game is to finish the mission before the others finish theirs.

2 I Spy Mini-Board Card Game I Spy Mini-Board Card Game
Cards & Peg
Ideal
Copyright: 1966

Object of game is to skillfully play ones cards to be the first "Spy" to finish the assigned mission. Winner is the player that gets a peg from start to finish. Includes Cards, 2 Colored Pegs for 2 players and the Peg Board.

MY COMMENTS

       One of the best television shows dealing with espionage was, without a doubt, I Spy. The stories were entertaining, the dialogue spiffy, and the rapport between the two stars was fantastic. It would be normal to worry that the atmosphere so important in the show would not transfer well to the printed page.
       If the writer had not been the extremely qualified John Tiger (Walter Wager), the results would have been disastrous. These books are not perfect but they are good, especially if you are an I Spy fan.

GRADE

My Grade: A

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