The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

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The original cast with an original globe

“The name is Solo, Napoleon Solo because I want to be left alone.”

~ Napoleon Solo

“There was no sex on screen but we made up after at the wrap parties”

~ Napoleon Solo

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was an American TV show from the 1960s that first revealed the existence of the Deep State. Purportedly dealing with dangerous criminal masterminds, the show featured men running around in sharply cut suits, with a boss whose face was craggy enough to go up on Mount Rushmore. Female agents wore tight skirts and high heels to blend in with the normal folk. They eventually got their own series, The Filly from A.U.N.T.I.E. Some defected from the Agency and became Charlie's Angels, while the more ruthless ones joined the Wagner Group.

With its riffy opening titles and a lot of dashing around the world (or at least a smörgåsbord of movie backlots), The Man from U.N.C.L.E was a hit, like a home version of James Bond minus the bedroom scenes. Later, individual episodes were stretched into feature films. In the end, the show was cancelled when episodes went either surreal or bat-shit stupid. There were two more appearances of the show in a 1983 made-for-TV "movie", by which time the main leads were flabby and/or dead. A 2015 "reboot" film starring Superman Henry Cavill and Armie Hammer flopped.


"I'm running down those stairs."

Chief Deep State operative Alexander Waverly, played by Lewis "Leo G." Carroll when he was not writing drug-induced children's books or "acting" in films, was a British agent for MI6. Waverly conceived of a multi-national enforcement agency to be known as United Nations Central Logistics and Eugenics (U.N.C.L.E.).[1] Waverly had regular run-ins with the CIA and FBI. However, Waverly's reputation was enhanced when he was able to crack a dirty microfilm smuggling ring lead by Phillip Vandamm (father of actor/karate champion Jean-Claude Vandamme) with the help of British double agent Cary Grant. In that film, Waverly is called simply "the professor", though revealing neither his area of "study" nor alma mater.

U.N.C.L.E. was overshadowed in the world of espionage by a revitalized MI5, in which James Bond cleared up a lot of bad and mad people in the early 1960s. Waverly, who had already retired to prune his roses, was eventually brought back when his successor died in a mysterious cast change very early on. The show ran for 105 episodes from 1964 to 1968 with an encore in 1983, with John Steed (Patrick McNee) of The Avengers as the boss. This led to speculation that U.N.C.L.E. would merge with the agency employing the Avengers to pursue full-fledged fantasy investigations. However, the TV executives decided that U.N.C.L.E. was really Old Maid by now.[2]


Napoleon Solo. U.N.C.L.E recruited Franco-American actor Robert Vaughn after he saved a Mexican village from bandits in The Magnificent Seven. Though he apparently dies on screen, he actually crawled off the set and spent the next couple of years developing a sneer and a clipped delivery. Napoleon Solo was a G-rated version of James Bond, ending each show with his arms around at least one pretty woman.

Russian-Scottish cool

Ilya Kuryakin was a Russian operative, born in Scotland but growing up in Kyiv fighting the Nazis. Kuryakin pledges loyalty to U.N.C.L.E. but often returns to Russia to help the KGB suppress dissent. Kuryakin's shifting allegiances meant the CIA and FBI held a huge dossier on him, but their attempts to have the "Russkie" deported were always overuled by President Lyndon B. Johnson, as top aide Robert McNamara feared that deporting this favorite of fans (especially women) would affect the president's popularity. Kuryakin was a closet homosexual, but the show skated over that trait; no one was officially gay in the 1960s.

Though many uncredited "skirt" guest stars appeared in the show, there were no regular women characters until the last series. Nor was there a regular enemy organization such as T.H.R.U.S.H.[3] Hiding in plain sight as a genital infection, T.H.R.U.S.H. was dedicated to spreading sophisticated organized crime. It was also known as W.A.S.P. for agents' bright yellow jackets, which only became useful in espionage when the series went into full color in Season 2.

Season 1

"So, you like my holiday photos at the naturist club, Miss Toke?"

For reasons best known to NBC, the pilot episode was shot in color, with a different head of U.N.C.L.E., a "Mr. Allison" played by Will Kuluya,[4] Alexander Waverly rendered temporarily out-of-favor for failing to prevent the assassination of President John F. Kennedy because of his fondness for recruiting Russian agents. When MGM commissioned the first season, Waverly got the corner office back.

The rest of the first season was shot as 29 black-and-white episodes, each titled an "affair" to finesse the actual mission of U.N.C.L.E. Entrance to the agency's New York City headquarters was through either a tailor's shop in Manhattan or a seedy nightclub known as The Masque. The New York Police were suspicious about both addresses, due to reports of people entering both and never seen coming out. They often raided both properties as part of a "vice crackdown". MGM always paid them off and never told them what was really going on.

Season 2

Season 2 was shot in garish "living color".

The second season left behind both murky black and white and New York City, shooting 30 episodes in bright California sunshine. The only allusion to New York was brief stock footage of the city from 1965.

"You boys need to catch a starship?"

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. also veered away from its foundation in TV noir and moved toward fantasy/science fiction, as both Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock started doing cameo appearances.

Season 3

The third season began as the television version of Batman drew huge audiences, whom U.N.C.L.E.'s producers saw a need to attract. Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin refused to wear either latex suits or utility belts, but the plots turned so spoofy and stupid as to put off the legacy audiences.[5] When viewership tanked, the producers shelved the campy themes, except for an occasional speech balloon to render exclamations during fistfights. But they righted the ship too late.

Season 4

Sonny and Cher in the show, a doubly toe-curling appearance in an episode from season 3 titled The Hot Number Affair. It's all about a bloody missing dress.

The declining viewership necessitated cost reductions at The Man from U.N.C.L.E. The head office in New York City was sold and the Masque Theatre was turned into a pornography cinema. Coincidentally, a defector gave Waverly all the information he needed to finally destroy evil T.H.R.U.S.H. With that job done, U.N.C.L.E. had no raison d'être — nor did the TV show, which ended after 16 episodes. The bureaucracy lived on, at a lower level — thus becoming the modern "Deep State".

Attempted revivals

Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin reappeared together in two further televised investigations, but the magic between them had gone. Thanks to plastic surgery, Solo/Robert Vaughn kept his trademark slicked, side-parting hair, but was now too old to play a chasing/firing/running special agent. Solo could occasionally still bed down a girl, but needed a stunt double to run after her and catch her.

Kuryakin had become morose as it was evident the U.S.S.R. was collapsing. He was spending too much time behind the vodka bottles. He befriended a certain Vladimir Putin, who is now President of Russia. Putin loved to hear the stories of Kuryakin's glory days as a Russian super-spy and pin-up. "Pootie Poot" even wrote to U.N.C.L.E. to encourage them to revive their activities so his mercenaries could crush them. But nothing doing.

The Girls from A.U.N.T.I.E. (Adult United Nations Tie Dye Entertainment) lasted only one year. Attention turned to Get Smart because it featured advanced spy technology, such as the Cone of Silence.


The Man from U.N.C.L.E. avoided stereotypes.

Men in Black, obviously.


  1. This was hardly his crowning acronym, as he would go on to assemble words that would spell out U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T.
  2. Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin came out of retirement as U.N.C.L.E. agents in an episode of The A-Team in 1986, and the less said of that, the better.
  3. Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity
  4. Episodes of the show would later be edited for general release, which is where all the sex was allowed. Sadly, these versions were never released those on video, DVD, or on-demand.
  5. For example, The Abominable Snowman Affair and The Apple a Day Affair

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