5 Classic TV Shows Inspired by James Bond

by Craig Garrett

Sean Connery’s James Bond films inspired classic tv spy series of the late sixties, a legacy we are still seeing nearly six decades later. Connery debuted as the suave M16 agent 007 in 1962’s Dr. No. The film was quickly followed by a series of sequels. From Russia with Love (1963), Goldfinger (1964), and Thunderball (1965). Bond kicked off a spy craze, with a score of imitators and tributes. Johnny Rivers even recorded the spy-influenced song “Secret Agent Man”, which reached #3 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in 1966.

Of course, it wasn’t long until James Bond clones made their way to tv. One of the first was on American television, with the Bond lampoon, Get Smart. The comedy starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon debuted in 1965 and ran until 1970. Adams played Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 in the spy organization CONTROL. His most famous gadget was probably his shoe phone, something of a cell phone prototype. Smart also welded the “Cone of Silence”, which prevent folks from overhearing top-secret conversations. The series was co-created by comedy legend Mel Brooks and future The Graduate writer, Buck Henry.

James Bond’s Creator Had a Direct Influence on One Classic TV Show

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. debuted in 1964. The show’s star, Robert Vaughn, reportedly even described it as “James Bond on television.” The series follows the exploits of secret agents Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, who work for the U.N.C.L.E., a top-secret international counterespionage and law enforcement agency. Vaughn’s character, Napoleon Solo, was even named by Bond author Ian Fleming. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.’s creator, Norman Felton, hired former Navel Intelligence officer and novelist Fleming to come up with the show’s characters and premises. The series’ working title was Ian Fleming’s Solo. Fleming also had a hand in creating the spin-off, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

Two More Shows with Bond DNA

The Avengers premiered in 1961 on the United Kingdom’s ITV channel. However, as the James Bond films rolled out, the series was clearly influenced by them. American audiences didn’t even see the series until it began airing on ABC in 1966. By then, the series was led by Patrick Macnee as dapper secret agent John Steed. Macnee went on to star as a Bond ally in 1985’s A View to Kill. Steed’s most well know partner was Emma Peel, played by Diana Rigg. She went on to play Bond’s only wife to date, Tracy Bond in 1969’s On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Another Steed partner, Cathy Gale, was played by Honor Blackman. She went on to play Pussy Galore in 1964’s Goldfinger.

The Saint was another show clearly influenced by James Bond’s success. The Saint is a British television espionage thriller series that aired on ITV between 1962 and 1969. It was based on the literary persona Simon Templar created by Leslie Charteris in the 1920s, and he has appeared in numerous novels throughout time. Roger Moore played Templar in the television adaptation. Of course, Roger Moore went on to be the actor to play Bond the most times, with 7 outings between 1973 and 1985. He was reportedly offered the role while on The Saint but was forced to turn down the role due to his tv commitments.