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The Man from U.N.C.L.

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Man From UNCLE

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The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is an American television series that was broadcast on NBC from September 22, 1964, to January 15, 1968. It follows the exploits of two secret agents, played by Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who work for a fictitious secret international espionage and law-enforcement agency calledU.N.C.L.E. Originally co-creator Sam Rolfe wanted to leave the meaning of UNCLE ambiguous so it could be viewed as either referring to “Uncle Sam” or the United Nations.  Concerns by the MGM Legal department about possible New York law violations for using the abbreviation “U.N.” for commercial purposes resulted in the producers clarifying that U.N.C.L.E. was an acronym for the United NetworkCommand for Law and Enforcement.  Each episode of the television show had an “acknowledgement” credit to the U.N.C.L.E. on the end titles.

Premise

Solo and Kuryakin.

The series centered on a two-man troubleshooting team working for U.N.C.L.E.: AmericanNapoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn), and Georgian (Georgia-URSS) Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum). Leo G. Carroll played Alexander Waverly, the British head of the organization (Number One of Section One). Barbara Moore joined the cast as regular character Lisa Rogers in the fourth season.

The series, though fictional, achieved such cultural prominence that its artifacts (props, costumes and documents, and a video clip) can be found in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library’s exhibit on spies and counterspies. Similar U.N.C.L.E. exhibits reside in the museums of the Central Intelligence Agency and other US agencies and organizations engaged in gathering intelligence.

U.N.C.L.E.’s chief adversary was a vast organization known as THRUSH (originally named WASP in the series pilot movie). The original series never divulged what the acronym THRUSH stood for, but in several of the U.N.C.L.E. novels written by David McDaniel, it appears as the Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity, and is described as having been founded by Col. Sebastian Moran after the death of Professor Moriarty at theReichenbach Falls in the Sherlock Holmes story, “The Final Problem“.

THRUSH’s aim was to conquer the world. Napoleon Solo said, in “The Green Opal Affair”, “THRUSH believes in the two-party system — the masters and the slaves,” and he stated in the pilot episode (“The Vulcan Affair”), THRUSH “kills people the way people kill flies —a reflex action —a flick of the wrist.” So dangerous was the threat from THRUSH that governments—even those most ideologically opposed, such as the United States and the USSR—had cooperated in the formation and operation of U.N.C.L.E. Similarly, on those occasions when Solo and Kuryakin held opposing political views, the friction between them in the storyline was held to a minimum.

Though executive producer Norman Felton and consultant Ian Fleming had conceived the character of Napoleon Solo, it was producer Sam Rolfe that created the U.N.C.L.E. hierarchy. Unlike nationalistic organizations like the CIA and James Bond‘s MI6, U.N.C.L.E. was a global organization of agents from many countries and cultures. The character of Illya Kuryakin was created by Rolfe as just such an U.N.C.L.E. agent, one from the Soviet Union.

The creators of the series decided that an innocent character would be featured in each episode, giving the audience someone with whom they could identify.  Despite the series’s many changes over the course of four seasons, this element of “innocence” remained a constant — from a suburban housewife in the pilot, “The Vulcan Affair” (film version: To Trap a Spy), to those kidnapped in the final episode, “The Seven Wonders of the World Affair”.

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