It’s perhaps a little hard for anyone under the age of Fifty to appreciate just what a huge hit the American TV show The Man From Uncle was. Maybe it’s because of this that the death of Robert Vaughan, who took one of the two lead roles as an impossibly cool super-spy working for UNCLE, seems to have hardly touched the media, mostly run as it is these days by interns cribbing their stories off each other’s websites.
Back then the long running weekly Man From Uncle shows were must see TV for young kids and many parents, able to appreciate the tongue in cheek aspect of the show which went over our young heads.
And you were nobody at school without a plastic Man From Uncle pin-on triangular badge, a Man From Uncle chew or a packet of the bubble gum cards ( a set of 55 mini publicity photos with “genuine” autographs in blue ink. And that all important stick of gum!). For those able to save up, the Man From Uncle invisible pen set was a stroke of marketing genius from Platignum; a regular fountain pen with a set of invisible ink refills. Beyond that came the irresistible Corgi made Thrush Buster model car (Thrush being the name of Uncle’s deadly enemies!).
One you’d got these basics, there was any amount of merchandise to enthrall children, toy UNCLE cap guns, rifles, games, annuals and even whole spy kits in a replica suitcase at impossible (for most) prices.
For adults, twenty or more of the scripts were converted to paperback form (and when I came back from America, it was a second-hand set of the US versions of these I brought back rather than the usual tourist tat!). Plus there were spin off vinyl albums of the often genius music (see ST33 for some of the sleeves.)
And that nifty mirror shoot up in the recent Bond reboot? We’d seen it all before in the opening sequence to The Man From Uncle five decades earlier.
I have to say the slick Robert Vaughan character was a real star for most lads, the girls generally going for his blonde David McCallum spy-partner instead. So groovy guys, gorgeous girls and great gadgets PLUS the coolest TV series logo of all time (which is still being referenced today.) Few TV shows from that era had anything like the same impact. No wonder I feel a part of my youth has gone with Robert’s passing.