Thursday, March 25, 2010

"It's always darkest just before it goes pitch black": R.I.P. Robert Culp

The keg pump is at half mast for the passing of veteran actor Robert Culp. A lot of people from my generation remember him as FBI Agent Bill Maxwell from The Greatest American Hero. I have to confess that I've never seen the show (At the time I was still taking superheroes too seriously.) but in more recent years I've become a fan of his earlier performances as "Kelly Robinson" on the groundbreaking 60's espionage series I Spy. (This post's title comes from one of his character's lines.)

Coming out during the post James Bond secret agent craze, I Spy was unique in many ways. As Culp's partner "Alexander Scott", Bill Cosby was the first African American to have a lead role in a television series. Also, while most TV shows depicted foreign countries by shooting on stages or around L.A., I Spy actually did location shoots in it's exotic locales. Finally, while similar secret agent shows were long on gadgets and camp, I Spy was fairly down to earth and gritty with it's humor deriving from the comedic chemistry between Culp and Cosby. Culp brought a breezy offhand charm to his portrayal of a spy posing as a tennis bum that seems way ahead of it's time. (It's also worth noting that Culp himself wrote several episodes, including the first.)

I should note that the full series can be watched online in it's entirety here. Goodbye Robert Culp and thanks for all the (As his character would put it) "Wonderfullness".

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