Saturday, September 17, 2016

Mission: Impossible at 50

Was 1966 the greatest season in TV history? It may seem that way, as we have already noted that Star Trek and The Monkees both made their debuts in September 1966. This week we look at one last classic from the Class of 1966: the iconic spy thriller, Mission: Impossible! 

Of these three TV series, Mission:Impossible had the most "up-front" success. It stayed on the air for seven years, during which time it received more than five Grammys including Best Drama 1966 and 1967, Best Writing, 1966 (Bruce Geller), and Best Actress (Barbara Bain) for three years in a row, 1966-1969.  The theme song is instantly recognizable, as are the catch phrases, "Your mission, should you decide to accept it," "Good morning, Mr. Phelps," and "This tape will self-destruct in five seconds."
Of course, Mr. Phelps wasn't part of the cast in the first year. Peter Graves, who became "the face" of the series, did not join the cast until its second year. Steven Hill, who recently passed away at age 94, was the original lead.

The series was cancelled in 1973. Given its first-run success, it's ironic that it had less success in syndication than The Monkees and Star Trek. It was syndicated, however, as I remember watching the earliest episodes when I was in high school. A revamped series, filmed in Australia, played for two years 1988-1990. Then the Tom Cruise film series began in 1996. It seems like those may go on for awhile.

1966-1967 Cast
with Steven Hill as leader Dan Briggs
Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter
Greg Morris as Barney Collier
Peter Lupus as Willy Armitage
Martin Landau is a Special Guest, 
not an actual signed cast member

1967-1969 Cast
Peter Graves is cast as the new leader, Jim Phelps
Martin Landau is officially part of the cast as Rollin Hand

1969-1970 Cast
Landau and Bain are out; 
Leonard Nimoy is in as Paris (no other name ever given)
No full-time actress was signed to take over for Bain. 
Guest agents included Lee Meriwether, Sally Ann Howes, 
Anne Francis, and Barbara Luna 
(who later famously killed one of the 1988 IMF agents)

1970-1971 Cast
Lesley (Ann) Warren as Dana Lambert joined as the "permanent" female agent
A very young Sam Elliott joined as Dr. Doug Robert

1971-1973 Cast
Nimoy, Warren, and Elliott were out: Lynda Day George as Casey was in

1988-1990 Cast
Phil Morris, Thaao Penghlis, Peter Graves, Tony Hamilton; 
Terry Markwell was in the first 12 episodes, 
but was replaced by Jane Badler for the rest of the run

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