Mission: Impossible, Season One Review

Good Morning Dopers,

The DVD you have just removed from the manila envelope is Season One (of seven seasons total) of the 1966-1973 television program Mission: Impossible. You may be surprised to discover, once you view these 28 fictional narratives concerning the Impossible Missions Force, that Jim Phelps was not the original leader of the group.

One Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill (now perhaps more famous for his ten-year portrayal of Adam Schiff on Law and Order), originally led the group, called in preproduction Briggs’ Squad. Hill, championed against the network’s wishes, by series creator Bruce Geller (whose curly-haired, bespectacled visage appears often in the group of photographs of potential agents discarded by Briggs in favor of the ubiqitous Rollin Hand, Cinnamon Carter, Barney Collier, and Willy Armitage) was a devout follower of Orthodox Judaism and his series contract specifically stated that he would not work on the Shabbat, must be provided kosher clothing, etc. When Friday overtime, and demands for reshoots on Saturday began, Hill refused, and either asked to be let out of his contract for breach by the studio, or was fired, thus paving the way for Peter Graves’ Jim Phelps.

This season set the tone for the program though, and is a fairly accurate template of what the show was, though Hill is a very understated/underplayed type of actor, often seeming to throw all his lines away and pales somewhat beside the more charismatic Landau and Bain. Greg Morris is his usual nononsense Barney, and Peter Lupus pretty much existed from the get-go to lift heavy objects and ask the “plot point” questions that the audience needed to know.

Though some may not like it, it is a totally plot-driven program, the characters serve the story, and we learn little about them. Once the villains have been dispatched, the IMF gang rush out of the building, pile in their car, hit the gas, and the scene FREEZE-FRAMES for the final credits. No lolly-gagging around, contemplating their navels.

Highly recommended for what it is, a “howcatchem.”

Your thoughts on the program welcomed.

And as always, should any Dopers be captured or killed while replying to this topic, Cecil Adams will disavow any knowledge of your actions.

This thread will sink within ten posts.

Sir Rhosis

Hard to find a better music intro in all of TV:

(Intro music, first season)

Opening to first episode:

I liked the show. I have the theme in my ‘Spy Tunes’ playlist. It’s out on DVD, eh? I guess it will have to go onto my ‘buy’ list.

The first season was very good, although the series probably was a little better in its second and third seasons.

Although Steven Hill was the first listed star, he soon ran into trouble with the producers over his work schedule (he observes the Sabbath and I think he’s an Orthodox Jew) and started showing up less and less. There is one episode in the first season where Cinnamon Carter (Barbara Bain) listens to the taped instructions because Hill walked out and refused to work on the episode.

And now Steven Hill and Martin Landau compete for the same “Old Jewish Guy” roles.

Barbara Bain had to do a whole lot of seducing that first season. Peter Lupus was always good for one or two lines of dialog per episode.

I think I’ve only ever seen one episode from the first season.
Teh Show’s creator, Bruce Geller, was apparently inspired by reading a book about old-time con men–the same book that later inspired David S. Ward to write The Sting.

The first season of M:I was by far the best. Stephen Hill was the perfect leader: a brainy mastermind who put together just the right people (the impression was not that the same five were used all the time; Briggs was always going over photos to decide who was right for the case). Also, the plots were cleverly done, and it was fun watching them improvise as things went wrong.

Peter Graves was too cliched – the typical American hero type, as though he were a brother of James Arness on Gunsmoke.* I lost interest immediately.

Finally, not only was “Zubrovnick’s Ghost” the best episode of the entire series; it was one of the top ten best TV show’s in its genre** ever aired.

*Yes, I know.
**No, not the spy genre. Watch it.

I didn’t really care for “Zubrovnik’s Ghost” that much, but if you’re looking for something non-spy like, then I see your point.

My favorite from the first season was “The Carriers.”

As a spy episode, “Zubrovnik’s Ghost” is just so-so. But it’s the best Twilight Zone episode ever made (outside of the Twilight Zone).