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Old July 1 2011, 02:48 PM   #1
Warped9
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Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Recently I picked up Season 2 of this series and I've been really enjoying it. I hadn't seen this since reruns in the early '70s.

I remember when the first Tom Cruise remake came out. At the time I felt they missed the boat completely. They made the Jim Phelps character a traitor? Then it's a lot of over-the-top action and overdone explosions. I didn't bother with any of the sequels.

But I'm loving the revisit with the original series. I really like Rollin Hand and Barney. The original theme is still one of the very best ever composed for television. I love the clever ways the IMF team get the upper hand. Martin Landau is a riot to watch perform.

All that said some things have to be acknowledged. It gets easy to spot where money was saved. When cops or drug enforcement bust in on criminals I'm pretty sure there would be more than one or two guys. Rollin Hand shouldn't be able to do a McGyver and make perfect masks within a half hour or so with only the contents of a kitchen or small town doctor's clinic. And sometimes they do things with computers and even lasers that I'm not sure would have been even possible then. It's also quite repetitive the way Phelps is shown choosing his team since he's usually choosing the same people. I like it when an additional unfamiliar face is chosen for an assignment. If done for television today than I think you could get away with a smaller group of core characters and more unfamiliar faces chosen for specific assignments perhaps on something of an irregular basis. It also strikes me that some of their assignments fall out of the purview of espionage and counter-intelligence and were more straight law enforcement matters.

But even so I just find myself loving this and grinning like a fool through each episode. I like the episodic format with a complete standalone story.

I'm definitely up for ordering Season 3.
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Old July 1 2011, 02:58 PM   #2
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

I got the first 4 seasons for £2 each a few months back and am most of the way through season 1 right now - watched The Diamond last night...
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Old July 1 2011, 04:30 PM   #3
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

If you are on Netflix, they are on instant watch now. I'm on season 5 with Leonard Nimoy as Paris. I also love to watch for repeat guest villains.
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Old July 1 2011, 04:45 PM   #4
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

It's also fun to spot the Star Trek alumni particularly since the two shows were being made practically next door to each other.
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Old July 1 2011, 06:18 PM   #5
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

I remember watching it first run and loving it. May have to stream me some Netflix.
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Old July 1 2011, 07:03 PM   #6
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Candidly I wondered if I would find the show somewhat creaky after all these years. Surprisingly I don't although I acknowledge that a contemporary work would probably be faster paced. Overall I like the acting and particularly the writing. It usually feels as if they respect the intelligence of the viewer to follow what's going on and not need reams of exposition to explain every little thing.

Being shot on film rather than videotape it is gorgeous to look at with all the detail we can now see that likely wouldn't have shown up on old televisions of the time. For me it's a trip back in time because I actually remember when people dressed like that, drove those cars, and so many people smoked so casually and openly. Hell, in some shots you can see Martin Landau's yellowed fingers.
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Old July 1 2011, 08:43 PM   #7
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
It usually feels as if they respect the intelligence of the viewer to follow what's going on and not need reams of exposition to explain every little thing.
Absolutely. It's a show that demands you pay attention. As you say, no lengthy explanations, and lots of scenes of silent action. I also love the way that each plot comes together, so that the viewer only really sees how the scheme is going to work at the same time it happens on screen - it's like watching a jigsaw puzzle being put together. It is, to my mind, the single greatest tv show ever made in America. (Well, maybe next to The Fugitive...)

I'm astounded by the fact that this and Star Trek were being put together at the same time by a very minor studio, probably the two most visually arresting and technically complex shows being made at that time. It must have been a creative powerhouse at Desilu on Solow's watch.
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Old July 1 2011, 11:02 PM   #8
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

I loved watching this show in the late 60s and early 70s. Very stylish and intelligent. I especially liked the Cold War espionage stories against fictitious eastern-bloc countries. (My friend even had a black "Adventure Team" GI Joe who we pretended was an electronics whiz, that he named Barney Collier!)

Warped9 wrote: View Post
It's also fun to spot the Star Trek alumni particularly since the two shows were being made practically next door to each other.
Whitfield's The Making of Star Trek talks about the TOS set decorators scavenging from Mission: Impossible's trash. Take some foam packaging, turn it upside down, paint it gold, and voila! alien art. Or even better, some piece of electronics became high-tech or alien equipment.
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Old July 1 2011, 11:03 PM   #9
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Today it seems as if the heroes' "plan" has to be explained for the audience to be in on it and understand when things go wrong. Yet here in M:I we only got some vague idea of what they wanted to do and had to follow it along. Wonderful stuff!
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Old July 1 2011, 11:22 PM   #10
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Warped9 wrote: View Post
Recently I picked up Season 2 of this series and I've been really enjoying it. I hadn't seen this since reruns in the early '70s.
I reviewed the first two seasons on my blog a while back. Haven't gotten around to the third yet. I feel the first season was the strongest; oddly, the showrunner seemed determined to embrace a formula that suppressed the character development and flexibility of format that made the first season so much more interesting. It quickly reached a point where nothing ever really went wrong with the team's plans except for minor problems that cropped up 30 seconds before a commercial and were resolved within 30 seconds afterward. Anytime the plan seemed to be going awry, it turned out to have been part of the plan all along. No surprise that the strongest 2nd-season episodes included the two formula-breaking ones where they weren't on a formal mission but dealing with a crisis they stumbled into, and had to improvise more. Along with "Trial by Fury" (with Paul Winfield and shot on the Hogan's Heroes sets), a mission that relied more on psychological persuasion than the usual gadgetry and precision timing.


I remember when the first Tom Cruise remake came out. At the time I felt they missed the boat completely. They made the Jim Phelps character a traitor? Then it's a lot of over-the-top action and overdone explosions. I didn't bother with any of the sequels.
The movies are nothing like one another. Despite the shared title and lead character (or two, Cruise and Rhames), each movie is very much characteristic of its own director's distinctive style. The first is a Brian DePalma spy thriller full of deceit and intrigue, the second is a John Woo spy thriller full of over-the-top action, and the third is a J.J. Abrams spy thriller that's basically Alias, a mix of larger-than-life, sexy spy action and reasonably engaging character drama. So you can't really use any one of the films as a precedent for judging the others. M:I:III is definitely the best of the three (or rather, the only good one), and the most faithful by far to the original, though mostly in the first half.


Rollin Hand shouldn't be able to do a McGyver and make perfect masks within a half hour or so with only the contents of a kitchen or small town doctor's clinic.
In the series pilot, the masks were treated fairly realistically; Rollin was brought on specifically to imitate someone he closely resembled already, and when he had to double Dan Briggs (Phelps's predecessor) later, it was a far more imperfect doubling and he had to wear sunglasses and avoid speaking so he wouldn't give it away. But the masks were treated more and more fancifully as time went on, so that by the late first season, an enemy spy was able to use a mask to impersonate another man for weeks, eating, sleeping, sweating, and even undergoing shock therapy through the mask, all without damaging it in the slightest.


It's also quite repetitive the way Phelps is shown choosing his team since he's usually choosing the same people. I like it when an additional unfamiliar face is chosen for an assignment. If done for television today than I think you could get away with a smaller group of core characters and more unfamiliar faces chosen for specific assignments perhaps on something of an irregular basis.
That was the original idea, and there was a lot more team variation in the first season. At the very start of the series, it seems as though the intent was that each episode would have a featured guest team member or two who would be the dramatic focus of the episode -- Martin Landau and Wally Cox in the pilot, Albert Paulsen in episode 2 (as an alcoholic friend of Briggs's whose reliability was in question), Mary Ann Mobley in episodes 4-5 (as an old friend and romantic interest for Briggs). (The dramatic focus in episode 3 was the villain, played by Fritz Weaver.) But Landau's initial guest spot went over so well that he was promptly brought in as a near-regular and quickly became the de facto lead, especially once Steven Hill (Briggs) began having conflicts with the producers and scheduling problems due to his Orthodox Judaism (he wouldn't work at all on the Sabbath). Still, there were a number of first-season episodes that only had 2 or 3 team members aside from Briggs, and a number where Briggs just did the setup and didn't come along. There was one episode, "Elena," where Rollin and a guest of the week were the entire team (particularly striking given that Landau was still technically a recurring guest star), and another, "A Spool There Was," that just had Rollin and Cinnamon in the field.

So in the first season, the dossier scenes in the opening served a purpose, establishing the different team compositions in each episode. In the second season, though, the team composition became much more standardized, so the dossier scenes became redundant, and were dropped at the very end of the season, rarely if ever to be used again. (The 1988 revival series had a dossier scene in the first episode, and that was it.)


It also strikes me that some of their assignments fall out of the purview of espionage and counter-intelligence and were more straight law enforcement matters.
In later seasons, as spy stories became less popular due to espionage scandals and such, the focus of the show shifted almost exclusively to crimefighting, with the Voice On Tape constantly explaining that the villains of the week were beyond the reach of "conventional law enforcement."


Warped9 wrote: View Post
It's also fun to spot the Star Trek alumni particularly since the two shows were being made practically next door to each other.
No "practically" about it. They were shot on literally adjacent soundstages, and used the same Forty Acres backlot in Culver City (at least when they were at Desilu).
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Old July 2 2011, 02:21 AM   #11
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

I'm working my way through Season 1 on Netflix; this season was rarely in syndication so I'm not as familiar with these episodes. They are not nearly as formulaic as those of later seasons: besides "Elena" and "A Spool There Was," mentioned upthread, "Zubrovnik's Ghost" actually had a touch of the supernatural.

One thing I had almost forgot: how smoking hot Barbara Bain was in those days. Hubba!
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Old July 2 2011, 03:12 AM   #12
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

Christopher wrote: View Post
In the series pilot, the masks were treated fairly realistically; Rollin was brought on specifically to imitate someone he closely resembled already, and when he had to double Dan Briggs (Phelps's predecessor) later, it was a far more imperfect doubling and he had to wear sunglasses and avoid speaking so he wouldn't give it away. But the masks were treated more and more fancifully as time went on, so that by the late first season, an enemy spy was able to use a mask to impersonate another man for weeks, eating, sleeping, sweating, and even undergoing shock therapy through the mask, all without damaging it in the slightest.
I guess we can still cling to some hope that the Jim Phelps in the first movie is somebody else wearing a Phelps mask.
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Old July 2 2011, 03:44 AM   #13
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

CaptMurdock wrote: View Post
I'm working my way through Season 1 on Netflix; this season was rarely in syndication so I'm not as familiar with these episodes. They are not nearly as formulaic as those of later seasons: besides "Elena" and "A Spool There Was," mentioned upthread, "Zubrovnik's Ghost" actually had a touch of the supernatural.

One thing I had almost forgot: how smoking hot Barbara Bain was in those days. Hubba!
Suprised her nicotine stains aren't visible becasuse she was also a very heavy smoker at the time (though she did also do anti-cancer ads, the filming of one made her late or something which lead to her being sacked from the series).
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Old July 2 2011, 03:58 AM   #14
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

DrCorby wrote: View Post
I loved watching this show in the late 60s and early 70s. Very stylish and intelligent. I especially liked the Cold War espionage stories against fictitious eastern-bloc countries.
Which always had a language (called Gellerese after series creator Bruce Geller) that vaguely resembled Czech, or Polish, or Hungarian, or Serbo-Croatian, but could be read just like English — a trope that was satirized in Airplane! with the “bilingual” warnings (FASTEN SEAT BELTS/PUTANA DA SEATBELTZ).

(I was just Googling Bruce Geller. Never knew that he died tragically in 1978 at the age of 47 in the crash of his small private plane.)

CaptMurdock wrote: View Post
One thing I had almost forgot: how smoking hot Barbara Bain was in those days. Hubba!
Frankly, I never found her all that appealing. I thought she was pretty in the same way a department-store mannequin is pretty. YMMV.
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Old July 2 2011, 06:25 AM   #15
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Re: Mission: Impossible (original series)...

I have never seen the original M:I TV series (I did catch a bit of the late 80's sequel though) so every time I hear the name Peter Lupus, I think of Police Squad!.

You know the role I mean.
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