Friday, August 3, 2012


I will say upfront that my biggest pet peeves with people talking about pop culture is when they claim an older song, musical group, movie or TV show is ten times better than a current song, musical group, movie or TV show. Many times, it is for no reason other than to advance some "return to the good old days/take America back" political agenda. Often what they are comparing is apples to oranges, like this asinine Facebook poster comparing the Andy Griffith Show to Jersey Shore that all my doofus classmates from junior high and high school keep posting (I really need to get some new friends).

With that said, I am going to do to compare a recent TV show with one from the 1960s. Of course, if you remember my focus is never some preachy, self-righteous blather that will win me support form little old ladies, stay-at-home moms or Mike Huckabee. As with the 21 Jump Street/Mod Squad comparison, I'm going to tell you why the older show was cooler. I also do this with a show that has a fan base that is made up of the type of people I love to make mad. I am about make plenty of people mad, especially in the Ozarks, when I say that The Man from U.N.C.L.E is a cooler show that 24.

First off, let me say that U.N.C.L.E agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) were much more efficient at their job than CTU agent Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland). Between September 22, 1964 to January 15, 1968, Solo and Kuryakin foiled plans of the evil terrorist organization Thrush and other criminals in 99 instances, or as they called them "Affairs."  In eight years (November 6, 2001 - May 24, 2010), Jack Bauer only foiled nine terrorist plots. That is 90 plots less that Solo and Kuryakin took care of in three and a half years.

The writers of The Man from U.N.C.L.E came up with great titles for the episodes, such as: "The Brain Killer Affair," "The Sort of Do-It-Yourself Dreadful Affair," "The J Is For Judas Affair," "The Test Tube Killer Affair" and "The Deadly Smorgasbord Affair." 24 episodes have titles like: "9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.," "Day 2: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.," "Day 3: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.," and "Day 4: 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m." That is just the first four seasons. Not creative and not very exciting, if you asked me.

One of my problems with 24 is the main character, Jack Bauer. He is a very unpleasant character, who seems to be either yelling at people, shooting people or torturing people.  On the other hand, Napoleon Solo is a cool as an ice cube. He remains calm and keeps that sly smirk on his face while being tied up or shot at.

Some of this may have to do with the fact that unlike 24, Man from U.N.C.L.E episodes are loaded with beautiful women. Really Solo and Kuryakin have the same dynamic as Tonto and the Lone Ranger, Kuryakin gets beat up while Solo flirts with women. U.N.C.L.E headquarters is mainly staffed by attractive women that Solo flirts with during working hours. You might say Napoleon Solo is closer to Don Draper than Jack Bauer. Let's face it, did Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Joan Collins, Carol Lynley, Tura Satana, Mary Anne Moberly, Jill Ireland, or Sharon Tate ever appear on 24 (Okay, okay, Jill Ireland and Sharon Tate had a good excuse for not being on 24, but you get my point)?

Part of the concept of Man from U.N.C.L.E was for Solo and Kuryakin to take an average person with them on their "affairs." It could be a child, housewife, teacher, doctor, waitress or the villain's ex-wife. Jack Bauer is such a snob he doesn't take anyone with him.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E was perfect for kids to pretend at playtime, because it featured the Bondonian "_____ disguised as _______." After all Solo and Kuryakin had communicators that looked like ink pens, guns in briefcases that shot "sleep darts" (which sounded like a toy gun), umbrellas with daggers, cameras in tie clips and other gadgets that looked like common items. Bauer uses a regular cell phone, regular desktop computers and regular gun. Parents don't let their kids play with a cell phone or gun, but a kid might pretend that dad's tape measure is really a cell phone or the attachment to mom's vacuum cleaner is really a ray gun. Another thing that Solo and Kuryakin has over Bauer is that they got their faces on a lunch box (an drawn by Jack Davis of Mad magazine).

The last thing I will mention that makes The Man from U.N.C.L.E cooler than 24 is the music. You might not think about it, but incidental music and a score can make or break a movie or TV show. Theme music of 24 is a somber symphonic dirge that sounds like it was leftover from a commercial for the Marine Corp. The Man from U.N.C.L.E score doesn't have depressing strings, it has what all good spy music of the 60s had stripper horns, wailing saxophones, heavy bass guitar, bongo drums and vibraphone. The underscore was usually the main theme as a jazzy bossa nova. I really believe I would find me more attractive if I had vibraphone, bass guitar and bongo drum music everywhere I went like Napoleon Solo. That music just makes Solo look cooler.

Of course, Jack Bauer doesn't have cool music with him. HE HAS THAT STUPID AND ANNOYING CLOCK THAT GOES "eeek-eeek-eeek-eeek" ALL THROUGH THE SHOW! On the other hand, I was watching a clip from 24 with the theme music in it. A military plane lands and soldiers escort Jack Bauer out in handcuffs (?) with the theme music swelling, as if to say "Here is that cranky, depressing guy that people think is so great to watch on TV. He is back to torture people and scream at them."

"Open Channel D" was the phrase most often heard on the Man From UNCLE, next to "We can't let this device fall into the wrong hands." On 24, the most heard phrase is "Damn It!"   

Supposedly, there will be a 24 movie. I watched about five episodes of the show as research for this post. It is five hours of my life I won't get back. On the other hand, I bought the complete Man from U.N.C.L.E on DVD when it came out in 2008. I have watched several of the shows over and over. If you aren't aware, Kuryakin is now employed with NCIS under the name Ducky Mallard. Solo does commercials for various law firms around the country (Here is Springfield, MO it is Tolbert, Beadle and Musgrave). Maybe I should call them and have them sue the Fox Network for inflecting 24 on us. You might say Jack Bauer tortures the people watching him too.

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