I’ll bet you can hear the theme music in your head now, just at the mention of Mission Impossible.

Cast photo from the television program Mission...

Cast photo from the television program Mission: Impossible. This is the cast for its fifth season, beginning in 1970. From left: Leonard Nimoy, Greg Morris, Leslie (Anne) Warren, Peter Lupus, and Peter Graves. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m not talking about the Mission Impossible Tom Cruise movies of today, now in planning stages for the fifth installment, after its 1996, 2000, 2006, and 2011 movies –  but the original television show.

The music won its composer a Grammy for Best Instrumental Theme.

Asked why he scored it in 5/4 time, Argentine composer Lalo Schifren  explained, “things are in 2/4 or 4/4 time because people dance with two legs. I did it for people from outer space who have 5 legs.”

He also won a Grammy for Best Original Score for a Motion Picture or TV Show.

It all started on September 17, 1966.

The secret assignment was on a tape, which burned up as soon as it was played.

Each episode featured a nearly impossible situation for our heros, government secret agents, to get out of, except they were so clever they could create just the perfect tool they needed, like they were NASA engineers figuring out how tot get Apollo 13 home.

The diverse cast, in keeping with the progressive 60s – Leonard Nimoy, without his large, alien ears from his Star Trek days, African American Greg Morris as Barney Collier , Morris’ real-life son, Phil Morris, who played the Collier’s character’s son in the revival series and a series of women, such as Barbara Bain as Cinnamon Carter , Lesley Ann Warren as Dana Lampert  and Linda Day George as Lisa Casey, gave its stars tasks because of their skills, not assumptions about their gender or race.

Just after the assignment, the lead agent, Peter Graves for most of the series, had to decide who was going to be on his team.

He retrieved a folder with photos of possible team members, from whom he selected our heros and heroines, because of their various skills.

He sorted through head shots that were PR shots of the actors involved, both regulars and guest stars, but, interspersed were rejected head shots of, as it happens, various studio executives, staffers and their wives.

A TV Guide article at the time claimed it was a sign of status in the film studio hierarchy if your photo were included among the discarded team members.

Target bad guys range from vaguely-identified Eastern European governments to apartheid governments, and corrupt Latin American governments as well as neo-Nazis or corrupt politicians and crime figures in the U.S.

Whether they were an extra-CIA or an FBI front was never clear, since the FBI can, legally, only operate on crime inside the U.S. and the CIA only outside the U.S.

For all its fast action, the show rarely featured violence, preferring karma-like payback for the bad guys, though this might include bad guys being killed by their own people.

With 171 episodes, the show ran from from September 17, 1966 to March 30, 1973, a feat not surpassed on television for 35 years, until the series 24 beat it during its eighth season in 2010.

It was usually shown on Saturday or Sunday night at 9, but moved around from one season to the next, ending on Friday night at 8 for the last season.

Reruns are still shown on tv daily, in case you were wondering how the Millennials know anything about it, and the entire series is available on Netflix.

Or you can click on the title, Mission Impossible, and order it from amazon.

What was your favorite episode? Who was your favorite star?


Carol Covin, Granny-Guru

Author, “Who Gets to Name Grandma? The Wisdom of Mothers and Grandmothers




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