The rest of the Season One crew are still in place, and Martin Landau has been promoted from "Special Guest Star" status to full-time cast member. His Rollin Hand remains the scene-stealing performance, the flashiest and–at this point–most indispensable IMF member. Greg Morris is again excellent, and his character of Barney Collier becomes more fleshed out in Season Two. Peter Lupis is still generally under-utilized as strongman Willy Armitage, but ably handles whatever little business the episode demands of him. Barbara Bain remains a joy to watch as she inhabits dozens of different characters to seduce and con dozens of foreign generals, diplomats, arms dealers and crooks. She also looks better this season, though she’ll still never convince me as the sex bomb her character of Cinnamon Carter is supposed to be. This classic line-up would only be together for two of the show’s seven seasons, and the cons are all still relatively fresh at this point (except for the one where Bain plays some sort of psychic/astrologer/swami. That one’s already kind of been done to death...) so I can’t imagine that Season Three manages to top Two.
The tedious team selection comes next, and it’s not really necessary this season, as Jim almost always selects the same four members! (It is kind of funny to see who he rejects each week though. I wonder if those 8x10s are of network execs or producers’ pals or some sort of inside joke?) Then we get Jim’s briefing to the team, and they concoct the elaborate scam or heist they’ll be running this week, giving us enough glimpses of it to tantalize, but not enough to figure it out. As I said in my First Season review, Mission: Impossible is more a heist or con show than an espionage one, but these unsavory jobs are sanctioned by "the Secretary," so it’s alright. Today, with shows like Thief and Hustle, audiences no longer demand the same moral high ground of their television heroes that they did in the Sixties, but back then, the guise of a spy show was pretty much the only way to watch and root for basically criminal activities week after week (see also: It Takes A Thief, in which Robert Wagner was a cat burglar pressed into service by the US government). In its time, it was an ingenious concept.
The planning stage usually involves electronics wiz Barney showing off some sort of Q-like gadget, and Rollin rehearsing an ingenious slight of hand. Everyone learns their roles and we’re off on the impossible mission, which usually begins with Cinnamon using her feminine wiles to ensnare some evil sad-sack schlub.
Despite such a stringent structure, such a predictable formula, the writers were amazingly adept at keeping each episode fresh and interesting. While you always know they’re going to pull it all off somehow, you’re on the edge of your seat as to how. And the actors make the how a joy to watch.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Seventh TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Sixth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fifth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Fourth TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The Third TV Season here.
Read my review of Mission: Impossible: The First TV Season here.
Read my review of Peter Graves in Whiplash: The Complete Series here.