Open Channel D…2012 brings a new Man from U.N.C.L.E.
Sometimes, it amazes me how a super popular Baby Boomer show can be completely out of the consciousness of New Millenials (basically, people born in the 1980s, 1990s, and maybe 2000s).
It wasn’t cool in the 1970s to like 1940s culture. In the 2010s, though, it’s fine to like the 1980s (and farther back). That’s due, in part, to the availability of that older pop culture, and definitely, digital is part of that (along with genre-TV channels, and multiple ways to consume culture).
I work with people of a lot of ages, and I don’t mind making references that are dated…that’s kind of endearing. I can count on people (even New Millenials) getting a Gilligan’s Island reference, or the original Star Trek, of Leave it to Beaver).
Since I teach technical stuff to medical people, I deal with a lot of acronyms. In my situation, you want to make jokes about your geekiness, to disarm that thought (which they are going to have) that you don’t understand non-technical people. I tell them (again, jokingly) not to ask me for a website address, because what I hear in my head is “hyptertext transfer protocol colon whack whack”… I also tell them I did it as a kid. I look around the room to size up the generations a bit, and ask who knows The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I’ll get nodding heads from the Boomers, blank looks from the New Millenials.
I tell them I knew that it was the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement. I tell them the bad guys were THRUSH: Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and Subjugation of Humanity…and how they later became Microsoft. 🙂 Undesirables in that scenario, I tell them, are Mac users. I just always thought that sounded like a great name for Microsoft.
I’m not 100 percent sure why there isn’t more awareness of Napoleon Solo and Ilya Kuryakin. There was a reunion TV movie in 1983 (although the New Millenials were at best toddlers at that point), and one of the stars (David McCallum) is on the highly rated NCIS.
I suggested recently that1960s afficionado Johnny Depp could play Napoleon Solo…and David McCallum could play the boss, Mr. Waverly, who was played by Leo G. Carroll in the original series.
So, I was both pleased and surprised to read a story that George Clooney was dropping out of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie due to back issues (which meant it was filming now or soon).
It turns out its being directed by Steve Soderbergh (Clooney’s Ocean’s 11 movies, among other things). It’s being co-written by Scott Z. Burns, who wrote Contagion and The Bourne Ultimatum.
So, what would be part of a Man from U.N.C.L.E. movie?
Napoleon Solo is an American (although Robert Vaughn always seemed a bit British) secret agent, but the agency for which he works is global. He is partnered in the original by Ilya Kuryakin, a Russian agent (played by Scottish David McCallum. While Ilya wasn’t originally intended to be a partner, he hit immediately with audiences. That might have been a surprised…remember, the Russians were the bad guys at the time. To have that same impact, I suppose if it’s set today, Napoleon Solo could partner with an agent from the other side of the “War on Terror”, but I doubt they’ll do that.
Their boss was Mr. Waverly, and I expect him to return (although they could play with that role…I thought about a woman playing it, but that’s just too much like M in the new James Bond…and Soderbergh hasn’t minded doing testosterone driven movies).
They had special communicators, most famously a pen. If this was set contemporaneously, that wouldn’t be much over a SmartPhone, of course.
They also had a special gun…I expect we’d see that back.
I’m sure there’d be some reference to the bongo-infused Jerry Goldsmith score.
The episodes were also titled the “Such and Such Affair”, so I think we’ll hear that (even unofficially).
Other things? Maybe an oblique reference to April Dancer, the main character in the spin-off series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. They may also get into the secret headquarters through a tailor shop.
Now, what about the tone? That’s a tough one. It startad out more serious, got campy, and got serious again. That’s often the tricky part with doing movies based on successful TV series…the series aren’t static while they are broadcast, and it can be tough to pick the right pieces.
One ancillary effect I’d like to see is the e-book publication of the Man from U.N.C.L.E. novels, including the unpublished The Final Affair. That novel has been out in fandom for a while, but I haven’t read it. I enjoyed the ones I have in paperback.
If you know the Man from U.N.C.L.E., how would you replace Clooney? Who should play Ilya (and I’m presuming they’ll go that way)? Feel free to let me know.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.