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October 30, 2014

Robert Culp on 'I Spy': Three Memorable Moments

by David Hofstede, posted Mar 25th 2010 9:00AM
Robert CulpBill Cosby received most of the accolades, including an Emmy Award, for his groundbreaking work on the action/espionage series 'I Spy.' However, it was co-star Robert Culp, who played Kelly Robinson opposite Cosby's Alexander Scott, who was the series' true MVP. Not only did Culp hold his own in the comedic banter that helped make 'I Spy' a hit that ran for three seasons, he also wrote several episodes that rank among the series' finest shows.

The dashing Culp, who also appeared in classic episodes of 'The Outer Limits' and 'Columbo,' and costarred in 'Greatest American Hero,' died yesterday at the age of 79. For those wishing to remember him in his signature role, here are three 'I Spy' episodes, also scripted by Culp, to get you started.Robert CulpBill Cosby received most of the accolades, including an Emmy Award, for his groundbreaking work on the action/espionage series 'I Spy.' However, it was co-star Robert Culp, who played Kelly Robinson opposite Cosby's Alexander Scott, who was the series' true MVP. Not only did Culp hold his own in the comedic banter that helped make 'I Spy' a hit that ran for three seasons, he also wrote several episodes that rank among the series' finest shows.

The dashing Culp, who also appeared in classic episodes of 'The Outer Limits' and 'Columbo,' and costarred in 'Greatest American Hero,' died yesterday at the age of 79. For those wishing to remember him in his signature role, here are three 'I Spy' episodes, also scripted by Culp, to get you started.

1. 'The War Lord' (Feb. 1, 1967)

Assigned to rescue a beautiful young English girl (played by Jean Marsh) being held hostage in Southeast Asia, Robinson and Scott are stunned when they find her, and to discover that she refuses to leave. 'The War Lord' is a fascinating time capsule from the era when school children were taught to fear the threat of Communist-ruled China, but Culp's balanced script also features a cultured Chinese warlord, educated in England, forging his own path between his ancient heritage and the modern world.

2. 'Magic Mirror' (Mar. 15, 1967)

The "hero falls for the wrong woman" story is a staple of series television, but Culp puts a fresh spin on an old cliché in this episode. Kelly Robinson learns that the woman he loves (France Nuyen) is linked to the exiled dictator he and Scott are assigned to investigate. Mixing elements from pulp fiction, vintage cold war thrillers and classic tragedy, Robert Culp's script balances entertainment with a lesson in global politics that most series of that era wouldn't touch.

3. 'Home to Judgment' (Jan. 8, 1968)

One of the 'I Spy's' most tension-filled episodes has Robinson and Scott on the run from five assassins. The duo is accustomed to outwitting rather than out-fighting the villains and saboteurs they hunt, but this chase across the American Midwest is made more challenging by Kelly fighting an illness and having his legs shackled. Will Geer and Robert Donner guest star in this exciting cat-and-mouse tale.

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