By Don Stuart
---- — I’ve become completely infatuated over the past few weeks with a gift I received a few Christmases ago. It was a completely unexpected gift from one of my big brothers: a set of “Mission: Impossible” DVDs. No, not home videos of me begging my kids to clean up their bedrooms. I’m talking about the complete first season of the 1960s secret-agent TV show, “Mission: Impossible.”
Even you younger readers probably capeesh the whole “Mission: Impossible” vibe, thanks to the major money-making “M:I” motion pictures featuring Nicole Kidman’s ex-husband.
But the “Mission: Impossible” TV show was nothing like the movies. I watched this show regularly as a child, always tautly tense as the Impossible Missions Force maneuvered through adventures fraught with tense tautness.
Watching the shows today, I realize my threshold for excitement was when I was a kid was very looooow. Call me jaded, but these adventures generate precious little tautness. Well, except for some of the clothes agent Cinnamon Carter wore.
I suppose those who didn’t spend Saturday nights in the late ‘60s in states of taut tension might need an introduction to Cinnamon, and her fellow members of the Impossible Missions Force. Let’s start with Dan Briggs, as in “Good morning, Mr. Briggs.”
That’s right. Really avid “M:I” fans – and until I got the DVDs, I wasn’t one of them – know what I’m talkin’ ‘bout: During the first season, the guy who received the IMF team’s orders was not Peter Graves as “Jim Phelps,” but “Briggs,” played by Steven Hill. You may know Hill from his decade-long role on “Law & Order: Not A Spinoff, But The Actual ORIGINAL One.”
Note: I submitted this column with several long and hilarious paragraphs, placed right about here, describing the stock opening scene, where the impossible mission was revealed. Unfortunately, Republican editor Aaron Kirchoff tells me that five seconds after going to press, these paragraphs self-destructed. Hmmm.
So we’ll have to move on to the second stock scene: Briggs sorting through a bunch of dossiers to choose the agents needed for that week’s mission. The dossiers were kept in a super-secret attaché case, etched with the super-secret words “Impossible Missions Force” in subtle eight-inch high letters. But there was no danger of detection by nosy visitors or housekeepers; Briggs always hid the case in his super-secret sock drawer.
The standard “M:I” team featured the same players: femme fatale Cinnamon (played by Barbara Bain), electronics expert Barney Collier (Greg Morris), muscleman Willy Armitage (Peter Lupus) and impersonator extraordinaire Rollin Hand (Martin Landau).
As Briggs selected their dossiers, something always puzzled me: Cinnamon’s contained the cover of “Elite” magazine, featuring her picture and the headline “Model of the Year”; Willy’s featured the cover of some sports magazine, and noted some weightlifting world-record he’d just set; and Rollin’s included a piece of promotional literature touting his world-famous impersonation and magic act. So, if all these people led such high-profile “real” lives, how come not one single person they encountered during their impossible missions EVER recognized them?
Sometimes I secretly hoped someone WOULD recognize Rollin, and imprison him. This was due to my big crush on Bain, who was Landau’s real-life wife. They starred together in other shows besides “M:I,” but they eventually divorced. Most Hollywood insiders trace their breakup to low self-esteem issues they faced after appearing together in the 1981 film, “The Harlem Globetrotters on Gilligan’s Island.”
I eventually “dumped” Cinnamon to devote myself exclusively to Doris Day, and even started hoping that Cinnamon and Rollin would develop an on-screen romance; the other team members could’ve referred to the duo as “Cinnamon-Roll.”
A gag like that might’ve even made Peter Lupus laugh. Lupus’ Willy (his character, that is) was a monosyllabic strongman with the emotive range of a coat rack. Apparently, he’s still monosyllabic, but he’s also still really strong. Consider this: in 2007, he set a world weightlifting endurance record by lifting 77,560 pounds over the course of 24 minutes, 50 seconds. Oh, and when he did this, he was 75 years old!
Now you’re probably thinking, “Everything I’ve lifted in my entire LIFE wouldn’t even come close to weighing 76,280 pounds!” But you might be surprised. Take me, for example. I hold a record for my age group: I’ve hoisted a lifetime total of 76,293 pounds. Of cinnamon rolls.