A guy at work has been going through episodes of The Man from UNCLE and convinced me that it was worth trying out. I don't remember ever having seen it before - far too young during the original run and while it almost certainly was syndicated either it didn't show in my area or I skipped it. So from Netflix comes a disc with the first three episodes.
* Illya only very briefly appears in the first two episodes with Solo instead going solo. Turns out that there was originally some idea that the series would focus only on Solo, probably one reason the show's title is singular. In this incarnation it's very Bond-ish though apparently it got campier later on.
* The whole thing is very much b-movie level though mostly with a little bit of style rather than a point-shoot approach. Richard Donner directs two of the episodes and though he never became a director of any note he at least was professional. There's often some low-angle shots, a few in near darkness (which must have been hard to see on 1964 TV sets), takes are fairly short, there's some efficient framing, etc.
* Still, the third episode breaks down on the script level with all sorts of nonsensical jumps and characters acting much dimmer than they should. The quickness of shooting becomes apparent in a few mistmatches. Most notable is a scene where Solo & Illya have landed in a helicopter only to be stopped seconds later by a partisan/smuggler - he clearly would have been visible and right next to them but Donner resolves this by simply having him walk around from behind the camera where he was supposedly not seen.
* The b-movie serial-chapter feel reminded me of Alias though clearly it's true of almost all episodic TV dramas. I've only seen two episodes of CSI (both in the Miami branch) but all these procedurals are clearly b-movie equivalents.
* It's odd to see the shapely UNCLE assistant whose sole function appears to be eyecandy - Solo openly leers at her a couple of times. Even in the story she actually sits in a bikini under a sun lamp while at work!
* And why is UNCLE headquarters "hidden" in a small NYC laundry? The very first episode shows that the bad guys know exactly where it is and the civilians that Solo meets have read about UNCLE so it's not highly secret. I know this looks cool and is probably better than them just showing up at, say, the Baxter Building for work but really the neighbors would have to notice all the activity every single day in such a tiny business.
* The guest stars are I suppose another attraction to the show. These episodes have Slim Pickens (Dr Strangelove opened that January), Anne Francis (Honey West would be the following year) and Jill Ireland (who was married to David McCallum). Variety and the ever-popular star appeal are operative though Ireland is completely wooden.
* I think this disc was as much as I need to see.