Mid-century TV shows such as Dragnet, Bewitched and My Three Sons are rich in sartorial eye candy. But rarely does a show provide the perfect combination of great writing, great acting, and great tailoring.

Get Smart is often lauded in this regard, but it is really little more than slapstick.

Those seeking a more serious program for their vintage TV fix will strike solid gold with I Spy, the espionage adventure series starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby, which ran for only three seasons after its premier in 1965.

Culp plays Kelly Robinson, a playboy tennis star turned agent who uses his tennis career as a cover. Cosby portrays Robinson’s partner Alexander Scott, a quick-witted, multi-lingual Rhodes Scholar who poses as his compatriot’s personal trainer.

Filmed at the height of Bond mania, I Spy assumed a more realistic, gadget-free approach to espionage drama than its English cousin. It was also a groundbreaking series in its own right, as the first American TV drama to feature an African-American lead, as well as being the first show to film entirely on location. Episodes were filmed in Athens, Rome, Madrid, Venice, Tokyo, Mexico City and Hong Kong, to name but a few.

The show also showcases the best of ’60s Ivy style: Slim-cut suits, narrow lapels, and trousers worn with no break. Robinson and Scott masquerade as sportsmen, and their wardrobes provide the perfect cover for the athlete-turned-spy, simultaneously relaxed yet razor sharp.

In the following clip, dig the guy in the poplin sack with pink oxford and silk knit tie, Culp’s gorgeous ice-blue sack, and Cosby’s superb three-piece.

You can also catch I Spy‘s first and second seasons in high definition for free at Hulu.com.— ZACHARY DELUCA

5 Comments on "Spycatcher"

  1. The show did a lot for wheat jeans and tennis shoes, too!

  2. Mighty Max | April 11, 2009 at 5:41 pm |

    “You can also catch I Spy’s first and second seasons in high definition for free at Hulu.com.”

    If in the US.

  3. I’ve always admired Sgt. Friday’s (Jack Webb’s) exemplary collar roll on Dragnet episodes. I thought it was just me — revealed to see you’ve referenced it. Great website, by the way.

  4. Lest we all forget, of course it’s English and not American, The Avengers. John Steed is a bulwark of style.

  5. Slight correction – the show didn’t film entirely on location. Exteriors were shot on location, but interiors were shot on a soundstage in LA. Still, you are correct in that it is the only TV show that ever even attempted (and accomplished) that feat – shooting 1/3 of its scenes overseas and the remaining 2/3 in the US.

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