Kate is playing in the school jazz ensemble this year, and one of the numbers they’re working on is the “Mission: Impossible” theme. (You weren’t expecting “Sketches of Spain” from eighth-graders, I hope.) This necessitated explanations: Yes, it was a movie, but it was a TV show first. It played into the ’60s vogue for all things spy-related, but as one-hour dramas go, it wasn’t bad at all. It was about a special force of secret agents who went around the world doing… oh, hang on. Let’s just look on YouTube.
I thought that if YouTube had anything, it should have at least one example of the opening set piece, where Peter Graves gets the mission, and all of those great pop-culture catch phrases: As always, if you or any of your IM force are caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This recording will self-destruct in 60 seconds. Good luck, Jim.
And YouTube had something, but it wasn’t the MI I remembered. It was the pilot episode. Not Peter Graves, but the old DA from “Law & Order.” Not a little tape recorder, but an LP in a featureless office where cryptic glances are exchanged. A different voice giving the mission. What the hell?
Well, the internet got me into this mess, and the internet can get me out. The usual Wikipedia caveats apply, but this sounds likely:
The leader of the IMF is initially Dan Briggs, played by Steven Hill. However, Hill, as an Orthodox Jew, had to leave on Fridays at 4 p.m. to be home before sundown and was not available until sundown the next day. Although his contract allowed for filming interruptions due to religious observances, the clause proved difficult to work around due to the production schedule, and as the season progressed, an increasing number of episodes featured little of Dan Briggs. Hill had other problems as well. After cooperatively crawling through dirt tunnels and repeatedly climbing a rope ladder in the episode “Snowball in Hell,” the following week (“Action!”) he balked at climbing a stairway with railings and locked himself in his dressing room. Unable to come to terms with Hill, the producers reshot the episode without him (another character, Cinnamon Carter, listened to the taped message, the selected operatives’ photos were displayed in “limbo”, and the team meeting was held in Rollin Hand’s apartment), and reduced Briggs’ presence in the five segments left to be filmed to the minimum. As far as Hill’s religious requirements were concerned, line producer Joseph Gantman simply had not understood what had been agreed to. He told Patrick J. White, “‘If someone understands your problems and says he understands them, you feel better about it. But if he doesn’t care about your problems, then you begin to really resent him.’” White pointed out, “Steven Hill may have felt exactly the same way.” Hill was replaced (without explanation to the audience) after the first season by Peter Graves as Jim Phelps, who remained the leader for the remainder of the original series and in the 1988–1990 revival.
For the record, I have never locked myself in my dressing room in my life. For the record, I’ve never had a dressing room. If I ever get one, maybe I’ll lock myself in, just for the hell of it. See what it feels like.
Something else I never would have known about here it not for YouTube: Tarp surfing.
And with that, it seems we have skipped to the bloggage. A few weeks ago we discussed a case here in which the local Fox affiliate played a significant role. Here’s another, far more tragic. At what point does seeking TV exposure cross the line into mental illness?
Dumb story, still funny — Joe Biden, comic icon. (You can see the Onion’s Midwestern roots here — only a Wisconsin-centric publication would give the vice president a Trans Am.)
And now I’m off to the shower, and to catch a rabbit. Thank a veteran today, or just turn everything up to 11.