A dream project, and one long in the making: the reissue of Earle Hagen’s two I Spy LPs: the original Warner Bros. album and the second volume on Capitol. FSM producer Lukas Kendall managed to do the impossible, getting permission to put both on a single disc. I interviewed Earle often over the years, and drew on his memories of working on the series along with lots of fun research watching these terrific, lighthearted 1960s spy shows with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. I was proud to be present, with members of Earle’s family, when he was posthumously inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame in 2011. This album contains over an hour of Hagen’s terrific, jazzy, sometimes dramatic, sometimes touching music, and I highly recommend it.
Earle Hagen, who composed the iconic themes for The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show, I Spy and many other TV classics, died at his home in Rancho Mirage, Calif. I knew Earle well and I loved the guy. We first met when I was writing my first book, on TV themes; he allowed me to audit his BMI film-scoring class; and I consulted on the writing of his autobiography, Memoirs of a Famous Composer Nobody Ever Heard Of. Here is the obituary I wrote for Variety; here‘s a longer appreciation I created for The Film Music Society; and here is the five-hour interview we did together in 1997 for the Archive of American Television. I was glad to contribute a few quotes to the Los Angeles Times obit on Earle, too.
The release of the misbegotten film version of I Spy served as a springboard for a piece about why filmmakers can’t seem to get big-screen versions of classic ’60s spy shows right. Detective-show historian Ric Meyers, veteran TV critic Matt Roush and pop-culture specialist Robert J. Thompson all chimed in when I called. I was irritated by the trashing of The Wild Wild West, The Avengers and Mission: Impossible — and worried about what might happen with a Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie (see Roush’s great quote at the end).