Hyberbole? Perhaps a little. (Can one have only a little hyperbole?)
But I have to say I was surprised in reading and discussing I Spy: A History and Episode Guide to the Groundbreaking Television Series with its author, Marc Cushman, about how many ways in which this little ol' TV show was truly groundbreaking.
Marc delved into three main points:
1) The truly groundbreaking effect on Civil Rights in the USA. At a time when whites and black were not even sharing drinking fountains in some parts of the country, I Spy put a black man and a white man into the same hotel room. Sharing a bathroom.
Sheldon Leonard, the producer, and Robert Culp, the established star, held the line about keeping Bill Cosby on the show, even though there had never been a black actor in a starring role in a network show.
Bill Cosby, in his first starring role as an actor, was truly surprised and pleased he would not be expected to hold the coats or hide in the bushes...
2) The invention of the Buddy Genre. Prior to this, if there were two men or women who shared starring roles, they were pitted as enemies, not friends, or one was subservient to the other. In fact, Robert Culp and Bill Cosby were friends offscreen as well as on, and despite what one would think would be difficult circumstances - Culp vs. Cosby for an Emmy every year, Culp was thrilled when Cosby won.
3) The book goes into why this show was important technically. Tech talk generally makes me start nodding off, but I found it fascinating how much this little series impacted movies and television that followed it, the devices that were invented, like the wireless microphone, the CinemaMobile,and let us not forget the sweatbox...
How does one film a project, in so many exotic locations, anyway? What if there are problems, like, oh, a military coup in Greece?
Marc also discussed his next project, Star Trek....
Yes, Marc's a friend. Of course we always want to support our friends, but even if he wasn't a friend - this is an excellent book.
If you care about the buddy genre, film technology, the history of civil rights and television, or the personalities involved: Sheldon Leonard, Robert Culp, and Bill Cosby - or if you just like some nice juicy stories about Hollywood in the sixties, you need to get a copy of this book. Available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.