Mar 17, 2014

I Spy Gets Yet Another DVD Release

It doesn't seem that long since the last time I Spy was released on DVD. (Though I guess it was actually six years ago) But apparently those three season sets from Image are now out of print. So for the fans who didn't buy the original individual snapper case releases, the later 3-volume slimline box sets (actually the first release ever in that now ubiquitous format), or the season sets in multi-disc flippers from Image, there's a new option. TV Shows On DVD reports that Timeless Media Group will release I Spy: The Complete Series, collecting all three seasons of the groundbreaking Robert Culp and Bill Cosby 1965-68 spy series on June 24. The 18-disc set will include a booklet and retail for $129.99 (though Amazon's got it listed for pre-order at $90.99). For that price, I hope it's a hell of a booklet! Or that the discs contain some new bonus material. (They better at the very least include the Culp commentaries from the various Image releases!) The last releases were priced at $12.99 a season, meaning you could have gotten the whole series then for around forty bucks, making this new one seem kind of egregious. (You can actually still get Season 2 new for that original price on Amazon, though third party sellers are charging premiums for Season 1 and Season 3 nowadays. But there are a few cheap ones still out there to be got if you act fast.) At any rate, I'm glad I snagged the season sets, even if they did employ some ill-chosen clip art of a 90s Ferrari for no apparent reason. Speaking of artwork, it's cool that the Timeless set is at least the first I Spy DVD release to take advantage of one of the coolest pieces of art ever created for a spy TV show... but then they botch it by cropping the original image (see below) and using only the actors' faces. Sigh. Extras have not yet been announced, so maybe it's possible there will be some new ones beyond the booklet.

Anyway, complain as I might about price point and artwork, it's good news that this seminal series will be back in print. Not only is it socially important for being the first non-ensemble series to feature a black actor in a lead role, but it's also notable among the many spy shows of that era for being the only one to shoot on location all around the world. Instead of the Paramount lot standing in for Eastern Bloc nations on Mission: Impossible or L.A.'s Griffith Observatory being identified as "somewhere in the Swiss Alps" on The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (despite the obvious palm trees surrounding it), I Spy actually took you to the exotic settings it portrayed. Excepting the occasional special circumstances (like Scarecrow and Mrs. King's Season 2 European road trip), it remained the only American spy series to do that up until USA's Covert AffairsI Spy is essential viewing for both the easy camaraderie and crackling banter between Culp and Cosby and the stunning travelogue elements, so I'm glad to see it back in print at any price.

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