“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Jim.”
“Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it” was a popular line narrated by actor Bob Johnson, who was best known for instructing the Impossible Missions Force (IMF) on their next secret assignment in CBS’ 1966 drama, Mission: Impossible. And, this covert team always accepted their mission!
As a happily nerdy teen who watched this hallmark series when it aired, I’ve now been re-watching the episodes from Netflix. Mission: Impossible had a great run from 1966 to 1973, then returned from 1988 to 1990. I loved this show because it was so, so clever and the teamwork was incredible! In real life, we could accomplish so much if our work teams performed as they did! Everyone knew what they had to do…and just did it!
Mission: Impossible introduced us to sophisticated missions that always required faking out the bad guys: convincing them that they were on a real train trip, or that thirty years had passed, or that they were talking to their friend, when in reality, they were talking to Landau under major makeup. I relished the “reveal” part when Landau would peel off his mask at the end of an episode!
The first couple of years, the show maintained a fairly regular cast: Leader Peter Graves (Jim); make-up artist Martin Landau (Rollin); top fashion model Barbara Bain (Cinnamon); electronics expert Greg Morris (Barney); and strongman Peter Lupus (Willie). By the way, after Landau left the series in 1969, a similar-looking actor named Leonard Nimoy replaced him for a couple of seasons, all while playing Spock in Star Trek.
The show had an amazing list of guest stars. To name a few: William Shatner, Mark Lenard, and George Takei (Star Trek); Sam Elliott (Tombstone); pro boxer Sugar Ray Robinson; Larry Linville (Major Burns, the man you love to hate in M*A*S*H), a young Robert Conrad (TV’s The Wild, Wild West), and accomplished actor Martin Sheen (The West Wing).
The show’s main musical theme is famous! It was written by Lalo Schifrin, an Argentine composer, who won two GRAMMYs and two Emmys for his music. Many well-known composers also worked on the show. A strange fact: the theme was composed in 5/4 time. Per Schifrin, “it was for people from outer space who have 5 legs.”
Talented Bruce Geller, who gave us TV shows like Mannix and Have Gun – Will Travel, wrote and produced Mission:Impossible. Currently, Geller is writing for the Tom Cruise Mission: Impossible movies, which are based on this series.
Well, back to my show…I’m only on season three, episode 18!