Cover image for Spy television
Spy television
Britton, Wesley A. (Wesley Alan)
Publication Information:
Westport, Conn. : Praeger, [2004]

Physical Description:
viii, 280 pages : illustrations ; 25 cm.
Defining a genre -- The roots of a family tree : 1900 to 1961 -- Bond, Beatles, and camp : the men from U.N.C.L.E. -- More British than Bond : John Steed, The avengers, and feminist role-playing -- Cold War sports and games : I spy and racial politics -- The Cold War and existential fables : Danger man, Secret agent, and The prisoner -- The page and the screen : The saint and Robin Hood spies -- Interchangeable parts : missions: impossible -- James Bond on the prairie : from The wild wild West to the Secret adventures of Jules Verne -- From tongues in cheek to tongues sticking out : Get smart and the spoofing of a genre -- Also-rans and new branches : network secret agents from 1963 to 1980 -- Reagan, le Carré, Clancy, cynicism, and cable : down to Earth in the 1980s and 1990s -- The return of fantasy and the dark nights of spies : The x-files, La femme Nikita, and the new millennium -- Active and inactive files : Alias, 24, The agency, and twenty-first-century spies -- Conclusion : the past, present, and future of TV espionage : why spies?
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PN1992.8.S67 B75 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



This comprehensive guide to television's spy genre covers 50 years of programs ranging from The Man From U.N.C.L.E. to Alias .


It Ain⿿t All Bad takes you on a personal and adventurous journey through twelve never-before-heard Steve Wariner songs written and collected over the past several years, featuring great singing and picking from the four-time Grammy winner.

Author Notes

WESLEY BRITTON earned his Ph.D. in American Literature from the University of North Texas. Since then he has taught college-level English in Texas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania, and has published poetry, book reviews, scholarly, encyclopedia entries, and newspaper columns in various books and periodicals.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Here, for all television addicts, is a much-needed, long-overdue, in-depth exploration of one of the medium's more enduring genres: spy TV. Britton begins before the beginning, with radio and movie serials depicting spies, but moves on quickly to early spy television in the 1950s and then to the show that brought the genre into the mainstream, The Man from U.N.C.L.E, which debuted in 1964. From there, the hits just keep coming, from Mission: Impossible, I Spy, Wild Wild West, Get Smart, and The Avengers to the new millennium with Alias and 24. All of these classic series are discussed in considerable detail, but what makes the book such a resounding success for fans of the genre is the coverage of the forgotten show or the curious fact, stuff other books miss but devotees love. For example, until now, readers could look in vain for any substantive discussion of the terrific British series The Sandbaggers; similarly, no discussion of the genre would be complete without a mention of Patrick McGoohan's late-sixties series The Prisoner, but how many other writers take the trouble to point out that, nearly a decade after the show left the air, McGoohan did a riff on his Prisoner character in an episode of Columbo? It is Britton's broad knowledge, and his commitment to packing as much detail as possible into his book, that makes this an indispensable addition to any television buff's reference shelf. If you love spy TV, this book is, well . . . thrilling. --David Pitt Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

An English professor who does freelance writing, Britton has produced a comprehensive guide to the many espionage-oriented television series that have aired in the United States from the early 1960s to the present. Clearly enamored of his subject, he provides near blow-by-blow descriptions of the shows' production aspects, including interesting details about casting, network politics, the demands of a television audience, production schedules, and the like. Britton also brings contemporary shows such as 24, Alias, La Femme Nikita, and The X-Files into historical context by comparing them with earlier shows like The Prisoner, I Spy, The Bionic Woman, and The Scarecrow and Mrs. King. Despite some occasionally clumsy writing, the final product offers a fascinating window into an understudied genre. The first entry in a new series on television, this work is recommended for academic libraries that support television and popular culture programs and public libraries where demand exists. Andrea Slonosky, Long Island Univ., Brooklyn, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Britton (an independent scholar) has written the Baedeker of spy television films and series, an encyclopedic history of this popular television genre. He briefly traces the early stories of spies and secret agents from 1900 to 1960 and then plunges into an examination of the craze for television spy shows through the remainder of the 20th century. He provides a detailed description of every spy show seen on American television; how it came to the screen; its directors, writers, and cast; behind-the-screen negotiations and internal disagreements; and its rise and fall in popularity. He even provides a context of the Cold War and American foreign policy. The prodigious amount of detail becomes tiring, but fortunately Britton ends with a chapter exploring various theories that explain the popularity of this media phenomenon. This book's primary audience will be spy television cult followers and trivia buffs. ^BSumming Up: Optional. Public libraries; comprehensive academic collections supporting coursework in the history of television. R. Cathcart emeritus, CUNY Queens College

Table of Contents

Defining a Genre The Roots of a Family Tree Bond, Beatles, and Camp
The Men from U.N.C.L.E More British than Bond
John Steed, The Avengers, and Feminist Role-Playing Cold War Sports and Games
I Spy and Radical Politics The Cold War and Existential Fables
Danger Man, Secret Agent, and The Prisoner The Page and the Screen
The Saint and Robin Hood Spies Interchangeable Parts
Impossible Bond on the Prarie
From The Wild Wild West to the Secret Adventures of Jules Verne Tongues in Cheek to Tongues Sticking Out
Get Smart and the Spoofing of a Genre Also Rans and New Branches
Network Secret Agents from 1963-1980 Reagan, Le Carre, Clancy, Cynicism, and Cable
Down to Earth in the 1980s and 1990s The Return of Fantasy and the Dark Nights of Spies
The X-Files, La Femme Nikita, and the New Millennium Active and Inactive FILES
Alias, 24, The Agency and 21st Century Spies Conclusion The Past, Present, and Future of TV
Espionage: Why Spies?
Chapter Notes