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I Spy is one of the best TV shows ever to hit the airwaves. Unfortunately, it's also one of the hardest to find in reruns or videos these days.

I Spy was the tale of two Pentagon agents who traveled the world on exotic adventures in the guise of a world-class tennis player and his trainer. Robert Culp (Kelly Robinson) and Bill Cosby (Alexander Scott) were born to play these roles. They fit their characters beautifully, and seemed to have an enormous amount of fun globe-trotting their way through the sordid world of espionage.

Kelly Robinson was the consummate tennis bum -- a drinker, a smoker, a womanizer. He was born in Ohio, raised by a single mother, and joined the intelligence service early in life. In a job that could have hardened him, he was never at a loss for a quick witticism and seemed always on the lookout for a good time.

Alexander Scott, or Scotty, was a Temple University graduate and a Rhodes Scholar. He didn't drink or smoke, and was endlessly dedicated to his mother and sister in Philadelphia. He was multi-lingual, and generally the more serious of the two -- although he was quite a quick wit himself.

The show has the distinction of being the first drama series on American television to cast a black man in a starring role, and it is the series that launched Bill Cosby's acting career. The great thing about this show, though, was that the "color" issue was never an issue. Scotty was Kelly's partner and best friend, and that was that. Race never entered the picture for them nor for anyone around them. It's wonderfully refreshing, even today, and absolutely astounding for a series filmed in the mid-Sixties at the height of the civil rights movement.

Although I was too young to pay any attention to it during its original run, I developed my appreciation for the series when it ran on Nickelodeon's "Nick At Nite" in the mid-Eighties. And although it was a series about a couple of spies always on the brink of disaster, this show was funny! Many of Bill Cosby's early comedy routines can be found in this series somewhere (and I couldn't begin to tell you which came first -- the routines or the series). But I do know that most of the comedic parts had to be ad-libbed, because no one could have written some of their exchanges.

The series was smart, funny, poignant at times, and even the worst episode of this show rivals the best of many others. Until you experience I Spy, you don't know what you're missing.

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I Spy

Release Date:
November 1st, 2002

Cast: Eddie Murphy (Kelly Robinson), Owen Wilson (Alexander Scott), Famke Janssen

A secret agent, Alexander Scott (Wilson), recruits professional boxer Kelly Robinson (Murphy) to help him recover a missing jet.

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