Review: I Spy, Season Two

See my review for I Spy, Season One here. I Spy is an action-adventure TV series from the 196os that focuses on Alexander “Scotty” Scott (played by Bill Cosby) and Kelly Robinson (played by Robert Culp), who pose as a tennis player and his trainer, but are actually secret agents for the U.S. government.

i-spy-season2What I love about season two of the show is that the characters are already established, as well as their friendship, so we dive right into new stories with the two. I felt there was a more diverse range of locations this season, from Italy to California to Spain. Kelly’s still picking up women left and right, but he’s also smoking a lot more, and Scotty’s about as straight-laced as ever, though he gets to loosen up some this season. I also found the season to be overall more political, espousing American ideals and speaking out against Communism quite a bit. There is a blend of serious episodes with more fun, romp-like episodes, and while I have a lot of appreciation for the serious ones (minus the ones that the late Robert Culp wrote, because with all due respect to him, they weren’t that great), I generally preferred the fun ones (unless they were trying to be fun and then weren’t, particularly an episode involving an Italian boy named Gino…).

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Episode Stand-Outs

The first episode I enjoyed a lot was “One of Our Bombs Is Missing,” in which Kelly and Scotty have to recover an A-bomb from an American military aircraft that crashed in Italy. There was a colorful cast of side characters that made this one enjoyable, including a man trying to hook Kelly up with his daughter (who he insists is a very good cook) and a priest.

oneofourbombsOne episode where I found the premise intriguing and would like to see done in a more modern way was “Father Abraham.” A very young rocket scientist has volunteered to be tortured and give false information to some bad guys (probably Russian Communists, but I don’t remember for certain) all to win the approval of his father. Part of me found it far-fetched, and yet, it really was intriguing because the character himself was an enigma to me, and I don’t know how to explain why. I suppose because he seemed so young, early to mid-twenties, and was a fairly attractive guy who could probably find a lady to settle down with and live a normal life, but he chose this whole other, dangerous path. I think it could be a great movie or book, and that it could expound so much more than this episode could.

fatherabraham“Child Out of Time” was interesting in that is focuses on an extremely bright girl who ends up an orphan. With this episode, I found her character more interesting than the actual story. She kept these secrets that her mother had memorized, valuable information that many people wanted, but once that’s given away, there’s nothing left for her except to go live with some nuns. She was the sort of character that I wanted to know more about (like the guy from the aforementioned episode), and it would be interesting to find out how she was doing ten years later. She formed a sweet friendship with Scotty, and I really hope he kept in touch with her.

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The last one I really enjoyed was “Night Train to Madrid,” a story that feels like an Agatha Christie novel, yet is almost light-hearted in some ways. It was definitely a good murder mystery story, and it almost entirely takes place on a night train ride.

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Groundbreaking For Its Time

As I mentioned in my season one review, this series was groundbreaking for the time, with some really great on-location shots, political commentary, and a black man and a white man working together as equals on screen (and that black man, Bill Cosby, won 3 Emmy awards for his 3 years on the show). I have to say that this show and Star Trek both did a lot for 1960s television.

But Not Perfect…

Unfortunately, women were a bit objectified at times in the series, especially in the two episodes Culp wrote for the season. I don’t even consider myself a feminist, but most of the girls were air-headed and willing to abandon everything for a man, or pig-headed but still willing to abandon everything for a man who completely disagrees with their philosophy. Thankfully, they weren’t all that way and some were actually very capable and not annoying.

Also, sometimes I am amazed by how incompetent Kelly and Scotty can be, getting captured, people figure out who they really are, or them not being armed when really, they should be at all times. But there are also times they are completely competent and get the job done!

And Speaking of Star Trek (as I was, uh, a paragraph ago)…

There are several Star Trek actors that made an appearance in this season of I Spy, from Walter Koenig (you may know him as Chekov) to Ricardo Montalban (who you may as the original KHAN!!!!) to Salmone Jens (who was an awesome character in I Spy, but less so as the Female Changeling in Deep Space Nine). There are others (mostly people who played much smaller roles in Star Trek), and it was always fun to discover someone from Star Trek on I Spy. Oh, and Opie Taylor made an appearance too!

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ron-howard-ispy-cropOverall, it was good, and though there were a few clunkers, it was a stronger season than the first. My husband and I hope to be able to get a hold of season three sometime, but unfortunately for some reason it’s a bit pricier than the other two. I’d give I Spy season two 3.5 stars.

3.5starsIt’s definitely worth checking out, especially if you’re a fan of spy stuff and/or Bill Cosby.

Anyone else a fan of I Spy? 

Double (Review) Feature: I Spy Season 1 and Man of Steel

Today I wanted to share two reviews for two completely unrelated things… the 1960’s show I Spy (season 1) and the new Man of Steel movie.

I Spy, Season One (1965-1966)

ispy1I received Season One of I Spy one birthday or Christmas in conjunction with some Cosby Show DVDs I asked for. After my husband and I finally got through all The Cosby Show DVDs, we decided to try this out. It’s an action show from the 60’s starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp, who star as American agents Alexander “Scotty” Scott and Kelly Robinson, respectively. Kelly’s cover is a “tennis bum,” essentially a semi-professional tennis player who plays tournaments and gets to hang out with rich people, and Scotty’s cover is his trainer. Kelly is more of a James Bond type, who enjoys a good drink and seems to find a new girl to kiss in every episode, and Scotty is more straight-laced: he doesn’t drink, he rarely gets a girl, and he’s always writing letters to his mom back home.

I have to admit, it took me a little while to warm up to the show. The fact that it’s from the 60’s means it’s not as flashy as modern-day shows, obviously, but it also means that the show is written differently. There is less action and more talking than I anticipated, which would not necessarily bother me, but in one episode there was, what felt like, a ten minute conversation with a drug addict about how she could choose a better life. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………………

But it got better as the season progressed. I think the biggest shift occurred when the show was moved from Asia to Mexico (more about the locations later), as the stories became more interesting and the two main characters (especially Scotty) developed more. I think the comrade between the two developed as well, and I especially loved how their relationship plays out in the last few minutes of the season finale.

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One thing that I really liked about the show from the start is that every episode is shot on location in a foreign country (except in season 3 apparently there are episodes set in California), and some of the B-roll shots they include I found beautiful and groundbreaking for the time. This season included episodes set in Hong Kong, Japan, one in Vietnam, and Mexico. One other great thing about the show is that there is literally no mention of race relations in it. Here it is, the 1960’s, with a black and a white man working equally as partners, and no one says a words, because there’s no reason to.

After we finished the season, I found I was sad we didn’t have the next two seasons to continue the series, but we plan to get them before too long. I’d give I Spy Season One three out of five stars.

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Favorite episode: “Bet Me a Dollar“: Scotty sportingly bets Kelly a dollar that he is capable of tracking down his friend anywhere in Mexico within a week. But the hide n’ seek game becomes desperately urgent after Scott learns Kelly has unknowingly been infected with anthrax that will kill him if not treated within 24 hours. (Synopsis from IMDB)

Man of Steel (2013)

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As I have mentioned before, Superman does not interest me much, based largely on my experience with the mediocre Superman Returns movie in 2006. But I had to see this movie, as it was produced by Christopher Nolan. And thankfully, the more story that was revealed in the trailers, the more interested I actually became in it. And I have to say, I was pretty surprised by how much I did like it.

I think the number one thing that sold this Superman story for me was the flashbacks to his growing up years. This truly showed Clark’s humanity. You saw him struggling with his abilities growing up, his parents doing their best to guide him. It is after an incident where Clark is able to save a bus full of kids by pushing it out of the water when his father reveals to him where he came from.

Man of Steel

As much as I got out of seeing the struggles Clark faced growing up, I loved seeing how that shaped him as a person, and I also really enjoyed the dynamic between his Earth parents and him. Diane Lane and Kevin Costner did such a fabulous job as Martha and Jonathan Kent, as well as the scriptwriters, in terms of what they did for Clark’s parents. They are loving and supportive in every scene, though their family is not always perfect. Jonathan Kent was portrayed as wise and discerning when it came to how Clark should use or not use his abilities, and  Martha Kent was always supportive and strong. I strive to be a parent like that one day. Hands down, these little snippets of their lives as a family were my favorite.

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His Krypton parents, played by Russell Crowe as Jor-El and Ayelet Zurer as Lara (not a very alien name but whateves…) were also loving and strong parents, choosing to send their son Kal-El to Earth that he may do good there, as their planet is dying without hope. We get to see a representation of Jor-El’s consciousness throughout the film and I really liked him. My husband said he feels this is probably his favorite role he has seen Russell Crowe in.

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I liked other aspects of the story as well. Amy Adams did well as Lois Lane, and Henry Cavill was a perfect fit for this Superman role. Instead of being a boring, vanilla “good guy” like Brandon Routh’s Superman in 2006 (which I blame more on the writing than on his performance), he was an interesting and complex “good guy.” The idea of the villain, General Zod from Krypton, was also fascinating.

But there were some problems with the movie. First off, Clark seems awfully trusting. He has been spending his young adult life roaming, trying to blend in, and one day he finds a Krypton craft, meets Jor-El who tells him he is his father and explains where he came from. I suppose I might believe him too, all things considered, but then it literally takes Clark five seconds to decide to put on the suit Jor-El is giving him and use it to fly around and save people. After he’s been trying to hide his powers. Hmmm… OK. It just felt really rushed.

It also takes him very little time to trust Lois Lane, a nosey reporter, who could have easily done things differently than she did. But luckily for Clark, she decided to keep her story about him more secret than originally intended.

Thankfully, he listens to his dad and does not trust General Zod, though he does willingly surrender to him when asked. Speaking of General Zod…

general-zodI liked the idea of him. On Krypton, he was born specifically for the task of protecting his planet at any cost, and it is with that in mind that he comes after Kal-El, who possess the power to bring back the people of Krypton. I think Michael Shannon did well in his performance, and I did not dislike him as the villain, but it also did not ring 100% true for me, and I am not sure if I can place my finger on why. His motive made complete sense, but… Maybe it did not help that both Jor-El and the Krypton council failed to kill him when they really should have, so the whole idea of him being alive seemed absurd. (Side note: According to a comic I believe, General Zod was banished from his planet well before the planet was dying. This makes sense. In the movie, it’s while the planet is dying. So as soon as the planet dies, which is basically the next day, he’s set free. It’s an amazingly illogical plot hole.)

And the fighting in this movie came down to practically invincible people throwing each other into dozens and dozens of buildings, over and over again. I cringed at the amount of destruction. I mean, yes, it’s obviously going to be a messy affair, but it got to a point of ridiculousness. All I could think of were how many people were dying thanks to all the crashing buildings. Couldn’t Clark try to find a way to move the fight to corn field or outer space?

I did like the ending pretty well, with Clark going to work at The Daily Planet (which was destroyed I’m pretty sure, so somehow they found an identical new office building…). But there was that whole thing of him putting on the glasses and suddenly people who got a good look at him earlier don’t recognize him, except Lois of course and hopefully the boss Perry White (played by Laurence Fishborne), which I thought was a little silly. But the idea was a nice way to cap off the introductory story.

Despite its flaws, that was something to remember while watching the film, that it was an introduction to a character: the way his world works, and the people in it. And honestly, as an introduction super hero movie, this might be among the best, with such a strong characterization of Clark coming to know himself as Kal-El and then transforming to Superman.  It seems that these introductory superhero stories are getting stronger and stronger since Christopher Nolan released Batman Begins. How this franchise will continue, if it continues, remains to be seen, but it was certainly a strong back story and beginning to a character I honestly did not know much about.

clark-capeThe emotions of this film and the feeling of hope certainly ring true. I got misty-eyed a few times in the movie, I came to love Clark’s character and his parents, and I cared about the world he lived in. I wanted to see it all end well. That connection is what Superman Returns lacked. But this Superman feels real, as does his family and his story. With that in mind, I give Man of Steel four out of five stars.

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If you’ve seen I Spy or Man Of Steel, let me know your thoughts!

Other Man of Steel reviews worth checking out:

House of Geekery’s Review

The Viewer’s Commentary’s Review

Matthew Rushing’s Review (Contains Spoilers)