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Old May 7 2014, 02:48 AM   #1
Joel_Kirk
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Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Any fans of the classic Mission: Impossible? I'm currently going through the episodes - when time permits - going back and forth on the seasons, as well as back and forth with the 1988 series.

I remember when the 1988 series premiered in 1988. I felt it was kinda cool to have a piece of history be on television during my lifetime. (Mind you, this was during the time of War of the Worlds, and TNG - when it still held my interest). Too, this was even before 'Batmania.'

I'm finding myself humming 'The Plot' even when I'm walking from the supermarket. (Note: 'The Plot' is the theme that plays in every single episode of the classic episodes and the remake when the crew are going through pipes or underground areas to setup 'stuff').

Thanks to Netflix (or even Youtube) I go back on some episodes to see what I missed.

(Note: There is a story about Lucille Ball - who produced the show under her company, Desilu - how she couldn't understand the program initially. It wasn't until after she actually sat down to watch an episode in it's entirety that she got the gist of the what the show's purpose was).

Like Star Trek, I think - if memory serves - Mission: Impossible was in reruns on KTLA, Channel 5 in the early 80s. I personally never understood it, being young at the time...but it stayed with me over the years.

I did see the first Tom Cruise adaptation - it was ooookay - and I only saw the 4th one because Brad Bird directed it. (It was also okaay. Paula Patton was hot). However, since I want to always get inspiration for my own stories, I thought I might go ahead and watch them

While studying in Singapore about 3 years ago, I watched the first two seasons, but currently I coming back to all of the episodes - due to distracted when I watched them initially - and really appreciating some of the acting and writing that goes into the episodes. (I mean, there is some really smart writing in many of those episodes).

Since the show was produced by Desilu, of course that was possibly a reason there were so many Trek performers. However, I also noticed there were a lot of performers I saw on Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, etc...And, the range on a lot of these performers is pretty amazing. In one episode, a performer might be made up one way as a 'hero' or benevolent individual...in another episode, that same performer may be made up as a villainous individual.

Another sidenote: As I mentioned in another post, William Shatner - for me - is noticeably short on range. Nimoy is short on range as well, but is helped by his co-stars.

I like Steven Hill's Dan Briggs, but I am used to Peter Graves' Jim Phelps. He adds a big brother/father figure to the team, the big brains. (If you notice, he always replies to team questions by using their first name during mission briefings. He doesn't necessarily do that in the 1988 series).

While I appreciate Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, I actually prefer the later seasons with Paris (Leonard Nimoy), Doug (Sam Elliott), Lisa Casey (Lynda Day George), Dana (Lesley Ann Warren)...as well as the regulars, Jim, Barney and Willy.

Third sidenote: I'm a big Mimi Davis fan, the character portrayed by Barbara Anderson in the 7th season. So, her episodes are some of my favorites.

Fourth sidenote: I've noticed, especially in regards to Greg Morris: He tends to always cock his head before he speaks, during mission briefings.

In addition to the Barbara Anderson episodes, I do find the 1st season episode 'The Frame' one of my faves as well. It's a very tense episode taking place during a mob meeting that features Simon Oakland, Joe Maross, and 'the actor that played Lt. D'Amato' in the Trek episode "That Which Survives." 'The actor' portrays a noob in this episode, and as the viewer, I was hoping he would mess things up for the IMF (Impossible Missions Force).

Some episodes weren't perfect, since there were some plot conveniences that weren't really explained. Or, there may be some episodes that may not be racially sensitive....(e.g. "Butterfly" which has Leonard Nimoy going yellowface, the Asian men villains, and the Asian women in love with white men...and with dialogue straight from a Charlie Chan film). To tell you the truth, "Butterfly" is actually the only episode that I found offensive.

As the seasons progressed, Barney Collier became more of a leader when Phelps wasn't present, and Barney had a lot more to do. On the other hand, Willy - who had minimal dialogue in early seasons - had his part grow a bit in later seasons, but was still primarily 'the muscle' of the group.

Now, how about that classic theme? On my Netflix, the next episode usually starts up if I don't pause it. Even if it is an episode I've seen, I still let the music play....just so I can hear that theme. However, I have to say I didn't really like the 'change' to the theme after the 5th(?) season. (Interestingly, it's almost as if the theme - like the lingo, and the clothes, and the hairstyles, etc. - was signifying the change from the 60s to the 70s).

As for the 1988 series: I thought it was cool Phil Morris was cast as his father's onscreen son. And, I thought it was interesting to see an IMF character get killed off; one of the 'women' of the show. (We always saw 'close shaves' previously, but the team always managed to get by).

Something else, I thought was interesting: John De Lancie was actually the first villain to show up in the series. (Trek and Mission: Impossible really go together! Barbara Luna, who showed up in one of the classic M:I episodes, would also show up one of the 1988 series episodes).

Of course, I would have liked to have seen Barbara Anderson return - She actually returned in a television movie 'The Return of Ironside' around the same time - seeing a more mature Lisa Casey (portrayed by Lynda Day George) was cool too. Indeed, Barney Collier shows up in three episodes...(and would also show up as a possessed military base commander in a War of the Worlds episode).

I've rambled enough.

Looking to get some thoughts on the classic series, the 1988 series, and even thoughts on the movies.
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Old May 7 2014, 04:37 AM   #2
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

As it happens, I've just begun a rewatch of the 1988 revival for my blog, following up on the complete review series I did for the original show. Unfortunately Netflix only has season 1 of the revival available so far.
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Old May 8 2014, 07:46 PM   #3
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

I got into the original Mission: Impossible a couple years ago during grad school. I finished watching the whole season of Mad Men but wanted to continue that 60s aesthetic, so I chose this particular show.

I very much appreciate the first premise of the show, which was to have the regulars joined by one or two experts/guest protagonists, in the field. That way, there'd be some variety to the missions, but also show that the commander considered every avenue of the mission.

Like most folks, Phelps is most synonymous with the show, but I grew to appreciate Briggs. He wasn't as friendly as Phelps, and he was certainly more distant, but he and his team were the pinnacle of 60s professionalism -- cool, calm, in-and-out. The characters weren't very fleshed out, but I also liked that they didn't waste time -- had the show been created with a later mindset, we'd probably get cliches like Plucky Comic Relief and Overcompensating Firepower teammate.

my biggest pleasure is the fundamental difference between the show and the movies. I liked the last two movies well enough, but the one thing that all four of them have in common are the bombastic action scenes. The show, on the other hand, portrays the team as espionage surgeons, planning phases right down to the second, going in and out without anyone detecting them. That premise meant plenty of tension for the build up, plenty of patience to see the plan unfold, and one big breath of relief once the mission was complete.

By coincidence, I found this piece by the AV Club a couple days ago about 10 episodes that sum up Mission: Impossible. I think it's a fair write-up, and I'm happy to say that it includes one of my favorite episodes in all of television: season 2's The Town, in which Phelps, who is completely paralyzed except for his eyelids, must find a way to escape a sinister community.

http://www.avclub.com/article/10-epi...re-formu-96894

Joel_Kirk wrote: View Post
Some episodes weren't perfect, since there were some plot conveniences that weren't really explained. Or, there may be some episodes that may not be racially sensitive....(e.g. "Butterfly" which has Leonard Nimoy going yellowface, the Asian men villains, and the Asian women in love with white men...and with dialogue straight from a Charlie Chan film). To tell you the truth, "Butterfly" is actually the only episode that I found offensive.
Yeah, that's extremely unfortunate. I remember liking the season 1 episode with George Takei. Considering that this is 60s television, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that:
1. He was a guest agent, not a henchman
2. He could hold his own in the field
3. He was the only IMF agent on the scene who didn't engage in martial arts

So very much in a sense, his character was playing against standard racial cliches and tropes of the day (and even today, to an extent). It provided the audience with an Asian American character who wasn't automatically foreign or different, and indeed he was a colleague of the rest of the team. If anything, it's like Butterfly undid all that progress that Takei and Co. put forth
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Old May 8 2014, 08:12 PM   #4
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Christopher, I'm pretty sure season 2 is on DVD, if you want to go that route.

I'm watching season 1 on-and-off, and the 80s video graphics are killing me. Otherwise, the show is just fine, if a slightly poorer shadow of its 60s self.

Without reading the very long OP (I'm at work) - yup, I'm a big fan of the 60s series, and did a rewatch (1 ep a week over Sunday lunch) just a few years ago. Young Leslie-Ann Warren still makes my chest go all tight and fluttery.
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Old May 8 2014, 08:16 PM   #5
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

^I still can't get over the sheer yellowness of Barbara Bain's teeth. And she was the team's first femme fatale!
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Old May 8 2014, 08:25 PM   #6
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Speaking of Barbara Anderson, Shatner guest-villained in an M:I episode she featured in, giving Kirk another shot at Lenore Karidian:

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Old May 8 2014, 08:27 PM   #7
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Cyke101 wrote: View Post
^I still can't get over the sheer yellowness of Barbara Bain's teeth. And she was the team's first femme fatale!
I know, right?! It was ghastly! If she kept her lips shut she was downright breathtaking, but, just don't bare those chompers! gah!
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Old May 8 2014, 08:27 PM   #8
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Cyke101 wrote: View Post
I very much appreciate the first premise of the show, which was to have the regulars joined by one or two experts/guest protagonists, in the field. That way, there'd be some variety to the missions, but also show that the commander considered every avenue of the mission.
What interested me about the very early episodes is that they implied something that the rest of the series, the revival, and especially the movies abandoned. Think about the setup: A lone agent (who in the pilot is implied to be retired from the agency) gets a secret briefing about a sensitive mission that he has a choice whether or not to accept. He recruits various civilians with appropriate skills rather than government agents. He briefs them in his apartment rather than an agency headquarters. And it's made clear that if they're compromised, the government will disavow them; they have no backup and are entirely on their own. What that tells me is that these were meant to be completely off-book, unofficial missions -- so sensitive that the CIA couldn't risk doing them itself, so they used a retired agent to run a freelance garage-band operation so the government would have deniability. And so dangerous that they were strictly optional and volunteer-only.

I think that's an interesting premise, but the show itself never developed it. In time, they were getting open cooperation from government agencies and local authorities, and in the final two seasons they abandoned the spy format altogether and made it a show about busting the mob. Which rendered the whole conceit of the secret tape drops superfluous, nothing more than a gimmick kept out of habit. (Although they did drop the "Secretary will disavow" line for the stateside mob-busting missions.)

What's interesting about the '88 revival is that the first few episodes it remade were all crimebusting stories rather than spy stories -- two of them US-based episodes that were transposed to foreign settings but otherwise largely the same. Which seemed like an odd way to begin the revival.


my biggest pleasure is the fundamental difference between the show and the movies. I liked the last two movies well enough, but the one thing that all four of them have in common are the bombastic action scenes. The show, on the other hand, portrays the team as espionage surgeons, planning phases right down to the second, going in and out without anyone detecting them. That premise meant plenty of tension for the build up, plenty of patience to see the plan unfold, and one big breath of relief once the mission was complete.
I like to say that M:I on television wasn't a spy thriller so much as a spy procedural. In fact, I find it reminiscent of CSI, in that both shows rely heavily on extended, dialogue-free sequences of the lead characters doing meticulous work, with heavy dependence on the musical accompaniment in those scenes.

Although it was really more of a caper/heist show, inspired by the film Topkapi. It was basically a series about con artists and thieves pulling scams, but since network standards at the time wouldn't let them portray criminals as heroes, they had to say the con artists and thieves were acting on behalf of national security and under government sanction (however unofficial). The modern equivalent of M:I is not a spy show like Alias, but rather TNT's Leverage, in which the protagonists were explicitly thieves and grifters, breaking the law for the greater good Robin Hood-style.


By coincidence, I found this piece by the AV Club a couple days ago about 10 episodes that sum up Mission: Impossible. I think it's a fair write-up, and I'm happy to say that it includes one of my favorite episodes in all of television: season 2's The Town, in which Phelps, who is completely paralyzed except for his eyelids, must find a way to escape a sinister community.

http://www.avclub.com/article/10-epi...re-formu-96894
I can't believe they relegated "The Submarine" to the honorable mentions. That's probably my favorite episode ever.


If anything, it's like Butterfly undid all that progress that Takei and Co. put forth
Still, it could be worse. At least "Butterfly" actually cast Asian actors as the Japanese characters, rather than white actors in yellowface (despite the implausibility of Paris's yellowface convincing real Japanese people). And at least M:I never visited an Asian country except in that one episode, so it didn't have many chances to perpetuate racial stereotypes. In the past year I've tried watching The Man from UNCLE, and its constant indulgence in degrading stereotypes of every ethnic group it could get its hands on (even Eskimos) got so tiresome by the end of the second season that I'm not sure I can stand to continue with the third (even aside from what I've heard about the quality of the third season). I've seen most of the '60s spy shows by now, and I can't recall any of the others being as racially insensitive as TMFU. In fact, M:I, like I Spy, was quite progressive in having one of its regulars be a highly intelligent and capable black man.


Forbin wrote: View Post
Christopher, I'm pretty sure season 2 is on DVD, if you want to go that route.
It is, but I don't have a lot of discretionary income to throw around, and I'm not sure I'll like season 2 enough to want to own it. If I were getting paid to do my blog reviews, that would be another matter, of course, but since it's just for recreation, I'm not that determined.


I'm watching season 1 on-and-off, and the 80s video graphics are killing me. Otherwise, the show is just fine, if a slightly poorer shadow of its 60s self.
Yeah, those do lend it a certain cheesiness. But so far, I find it interesting how faithful it is to the approach and feel of the original, even once they get past the remakes.
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Old May 8 2014, 08:39 PM   #9
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

The biggest perpetrator of yellowface was Hawaii 5-0. Marc Leonard as a Japanese spy, Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese crime lord, various Italian-America actors as native Hawaiians. They did hire local Hawaiians, and plenty of Asian actors in secondary roles, but (at least in the first few seasons), they usually cast a non-Asian Hollywood actor to play the Asian lead. And some of the eye makeup was downright laughable.

Christopher, the 3rd season of Man From UNCLE made me stop my rewatch for several months. It's roughly the same dramatic quality as the 60s Batman show. It even had similar music by Nelson Riddle himself! pretty much unbearable. Even Robert Vaughn reviled it in the DVD extras. They tried to pull it back and be serious in season 4, with some reasonable results. But it never had the heart season one had.
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Old May 8 2014, 10:09 PM   #10
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Forbin wrote: View Post
Christopher, the 3rd season of Man From UNCLE made me stop my rewatch for several months. It's roughly the same dramatic quality as the 60s Batman show. It even had similar music by Nelson Riddle himself! pretty much unbearable.
The '60s Batman show was awesome (at least in season 1-2), and Riddle's music was one of the most awesome parts of it. And "dramatic" doesn't come into it -- it was one of the most innovative sitcoms of an era full of innovative sitcoms.

I know that season 3 went for camp to emulate Batman, but camp is a genre, not a level of quality. Camp can be done well, like Batman, or terribly, like seasons 2-3 of Lost in Space (which was also trying to copy Batman).
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Old May 8 2014, 10:35 PM   #11
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Cyke101 wrote: View Post
By coincidence, I found this piece by the AV Club a couple days ago about 10 episodes that sum up Mission: Impossible. I think it's a fair write-up, and I'm happy to say that it includes one of my favorite episodes in all of television: season 2's The Town, in which Phelps, who is completely paralyzed except for his eyelids, must find a way to escape a sinister community.

http://www.avclub.com/article/10-epi...re-formu-96894
Thanks for posting that!

A couple listed are ones I've seen and enjoyed.

Cyke101 wrote: View Post
Joel_Kirk wrote: View Post
Some episodes weren't perfect, since there were some plot conveniences that weren't really explained. Or, there may be some episodes that may not be racially sensitive....(e.g. "Butterfly" which has Leonard Nimoy going yellowface, the Asian men villains, and the Asian women in love with white men...and with dialogue straight from a Charlie Chan film). To tell you the truth, "Butterfly" is actually the only episode that I found offensive.
Yeah, that's extremely unfortunate. I remember liking the season 1 episode with George Takei. Considering that this is 60s television, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that:
1. He was a guest agent, not a henchman
2. He could hold his own in the field
3. He was the only IMF agent on the scene who didn't engage in martial arts

So very much in a sense, his character was playing against standard racial cliches and tropes of the day (and even today, to an extent). It provided the audience with an Asian American character who wasn't automatically foreign or different, and indeed he was a colleague of the rest of the team. If anything, it's like Butterfly undid all that progress that Takei and Co. put forth
Very true.

Thankfully an episode like "Butterfly" wasn't repeated and we're able to look at it as a unfortunate misstep. Especially, as we acknowledge Takei's performance in "The Carriers"...and look at the series as a whole.

Forbin wrote: View Post
Speaking of Barbara Anderson, Shatner guest-villained in an M:I episode she featured in, giving Kirk another shot at Lenore Karidian:

Shatner hammed it up greatly in this episode, but the story was interesting.

Of course, I watched it to see the hot Barbara Anderson, who coincidentally - again - portrayed a sexy female character who fooled an easily seduced male...portrayed by Shatner.

Forbin wrote: View Post
The biggest perpetrator of yellowface was Hawaii 5-0. Marc Leonard as a Japanese spy, Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese crime lord, various Italian-America actors as native Hawaiians. They did hire local Hawaiians, and plenty of Asian actors in secondary roles, but (at least in the first few seasons), they usually cast a non-Asian Hollywood actor to play the Asian lead. And some of the eye makeup was downright laughable.
*shiver*

Wow.

Forbin wrote: View Post
Without reading the very long OP (I'm at work) - yup, I'm a big fan of the 60s series, and did a rewatch (1 ep a week over Sunday lunch) just a few years ago. Young Leslie-Ann Warren still makes my chest go all tight and fluttery.
Sorry for the long read.

I'm kinda going through a little fanboy phase, and I wanted to get all my initial thoughts in...before the discussion started.

Yeah, Lesley Ann Warren was lovely and mysterious...much like Lynda Day George in her role.
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Old May 8 2014, 11:11 PM   #12
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Actually Lesley Ann Warren (or Lesley Warren, as she was billed) never impressed me that much in her time on M:I. She was not bad and not unattractive, but didn't wow me either in looks or talent. Actually I thought her acting was reasonably good at first, but there was a certain sameness to it as the season went on.

Although she was certainly better than Terry Markwell, the first female lead of the revival series. I remember that when I watched the revival in first run back in '88-'89, I found her quite stunning, but this time around her looks aren't impressing me quite as much (though she has her moments) and her acting isn't impressing me much at all. Although there haven't been many episodes where she's really been given anything to do. In at least half of the eight episodes I've seen so far, she's just sort of hovering in the background rather than playing a central role. Though she's done an adequate job when she has been given something significant to do, like in "The Killer" (the series premiere) and "The Cattle King." But I'm not surprised that they


Although I'm also rather unimpressed with Thaao Penghlis, who's filling the Martin Landau/Leonard Nimoy role. He's demonstrated a total inability to alter his voice or accent, relying entirely on other actors' voices dubbed over his. It was a very odd choice to cast someone so lacking in versatility in the "master of disguise" role. Ironically, Tony Hamilton, who was cast to fill Peter Lupus's strongman role, has proven to be a better actor and roleplayer than either Penghlis or Markwell.
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Old May 9 2014, 12:04 AM   #13
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Forbin wrote: View Post
The biggest perpetrator of yellowface was Hawaii 5-0. Marc Leonard as a Japanese spy, Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese crime lord, various Italian-America actors as native Hawaiians. They did hire local Hawaiians, and plenty of Asian actors in secondary roles, but (at least in the first few seasons), they usually cast a non-Asian Hollywood actor to play the Asian lead. And some of the eye makeup was downright laughable.
Ohhhhhh, yeah. Not long after the reboot series started, I did a binge-watch of the original Hawaii Five-O, which I'd never seen before. "To Hell with Babe Ruth" (the episode with Marc Lenard as a comatose ninja/spy) was not just embarrassing for its use of yellowface, but was also a crappy hour of television in general.
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Old May 9 2014, 12:35 AM   #14
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

Well, I'd been curious about whether I wanted to check out the original Hawaii Five-O, but now I'm less inclined to try.
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Old May 9 2014, 04:22 AM   #15
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Re: Classic Mission: Impossible and 1988 Sequel Series...

cardinal biggles wrote: View Post
Forbin wrote: View Post
The biggest perpetrator of yellowface was Hawaii 5-0. Marc Leonard as a Japanese spy, Ricardo Montalban as a Japanese crime lord, various Italian-America actors as native Hawaiians. They did hire local Hawaiians, and plenty of Asian actors in secondary roles, but (at least in the first few seasons), they usually cast a non-Asian Hollywood actor to play the Asian lead. And some of the eye makeup was downright laughable.
Ohhhhhh, yeah. Not long after the reboot series started, I did a binge-watch of the original Hawaii Five-O, which I'd never seen before. "To Hell with Babe Ruth" (the episode with Marc Lenard as a comatose ninja/spy) was not just embarrassing for its use of yellowface, but was also a crappy hour of television in general.
Yeah, I'm pretty grateful for the current show, when one considers how it seems to be regarded as a rather good bastion of Asian/Pacific Islander diversity on television. They even had an episode about the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and really, how many television shows ever tackle THAT topic? Kudos to them.

Of course, the original had its own achievements, which helped push for deeper and more honest portrayals of Asians as time went on, but it wasn't without its missteps.
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