Wesley Britton’s Books,
Interviews, and Media Appearances

About Dr. Wesley Britton


Spies on Film

Spies on Television & Radio

Spies in History & Literature

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Wesley Britton’s Books, Interviews, and Media Appearances ~
Spy Television

By Wesley Britton

Cover – Spy TV

Praeger Publishers ~ January 30, 2004

Format ~ Hard-bound
Pages ~ 312, including photos
ISBN ~ 0-275-98163-0
Price ~ $39.95

Spy Television is the first full-length overview of every TV spy show broadcast from 1951 to the present. Fans of series such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, Get Smart, The Wild Wild West, The Prisoner, The Saint, I Spy, The X-Files, La Femme Nikita, Alias and 24 will find information and insights to please the most die-hard expert as well as casual viewers.

Lovers of short-lived and almost forgotten series like VR5, I Led Three Lives, The Protectors, The Sandbaggers and The A-Team will learn how these shows came to be and why they disappeared. Friends of MacGyver, The Equalizer, and even Wonder Woman will learn how Hollywood saw their series as more than prime time entertainment – spy shows tell us much about how Hollywood thinks we think.

From cover to cover, Spy Television is more than behind-the-scenes information, production histories, and revelations from casts and producers. Extensively researched, Spy Television explains the contexts in which spy shows were created, explores the influence of spy TV on our culture, and points to unexpected connections between actual espionage and our feelings about undercover operatives, past and present.

Spy Television is a book for experts, fans, and students of TV, popular culture, the history of the Cold War, and what’s really going on in shadowy government agencies. Fans of science-fiction and detective shows will find surprising connections between their favorite shows and the secret worlds of secret agents.

And 007 enthusiasts will find pages and pages showing how the world’s most famous secret agent was part of TV history from the 1950s to the present.

Spy Television is for school and public libraries as well as the bookshelves of aficionados of every aspect of the genre, from the influence of old-time radio to the impact of 9/11.

What’s in Spy Television?


Chapter 1 – Defining a Genre
Chapter 2 – The Roots of a Family Tree: 1900 to 1961
Chapter 3 – Bond, Beatles, and Camp: The Men from U.N.C.L.E.
Chapter 4 – More British Than Bond: John Steed, The Avengers, and Feminist Role-Playing
Chapter 5 – Cold War Sports and Games: I Spy and Racial Politics
Chapter 6 – The Cold War and Existential Fables: Danger Man, Secret Agent, and The Prisoner
Chapter 7 – The Page and the Screen: The Saint and Robin Hood Spies
Chapter 8 – Interchangeable Parts: Mission: Impossible
Chapter 9 – James Bond on the Prairie: From The Wild Wild West to The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne
Chapter 10 – From Tongues in Cheek to Tongues Sticking Out: Get Smart and the Spoofing of a Genre
Chapter 11 – Also-Rans and New Branches: Network Secret Agents from 1963 to 1980
Chapter 12 – Reagan, Le Carré, Clancy, Cynicism, and Cable: Down to Earth in the 1980s and 1990s
Chapter 13 – The Return of Fantasy and the Dark Nights of Spies: The X-Files, La Femme Nikita, and the New Millennium
Chapter 14 – Active and Inactive Files: Alias, 24, The Agency and Twenty-First-Century Spies

Conclusion – The Past, Present, and Future of TV Espionage: Why Spies?

Photo Essay follows page 123

Endorsements from the Experts ~

Jon Heitland, author of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Book: The Behind the Scenes Story of a Television Classic ~

Britton has conducted an exhaustive analysis of a unique time in our cultural history – the spy craze of the 1960s and its subsequent ripple effects over the years. He’s left no stone unturned in digging up not only the classic entries in this genre, but also the obscure, the forgotten, and the one-season wonders. I thought I knew every entry in this genre, but his book reminded me of many I'd forgotten, and informed me on many I had missed completely. This book is the definitive history of the spy phenomenon that was a cultural outgrowth of the Cold War.

Danny Biederman, writer/director of the James Bond featurette A Spy for All Seasons; author, The Best of Bond . . . James Bond (EMI Publishing); author, The James Bond Collection (Warner Bros. Publishing); screenwriter, The Avengers: The Journey Back, Gavilan (MGM) ~

Wesley Britton has his finger squarely on the pulse of the TV spy. A wonderfully comprehensive examination of the numerous spies who have passed through our living rooms over the decades, Britton’s Spy Television covers the espionage gamut from Avengers to Wild Wild West. A must-have for anyone interested in the history of this all-important TV genre.

Reviews ~

Midwest Book Review (MBR): Internet Bookwatch, “Reviewer’s Choice” – October 2004 ~

Two excellent titles deserve ongoing recommendation as excellent college-level references for specialty libraries . . . Wesley Britton’s Spy Television (0275981630, $39.95) is the latest addition to “The Praeger Television Series” and deserves ongoing mention as a powerful contribution not only to Praeger’s television collection, but to television analysis as a whole. For half a century, television spies have been trained pros and businessmen alike who have featured the spy lifestyle in television sitcoms and presentations. Spy Television considers the history of spy shows on the screen, why they succeeded or failed, and how fact and fiction have been molded by them. Britton earned his doctorate in literature and has established himself as a critic and columnist over the years, making him the perfect choice for an in-depth analysis such as Spy Television provides.

Midwest Book Review (MBR): Internet Bookwatch, “Reviewer’s Choice” – September 2004 ~

From the early 1960s, TV spies were presented in light of anti-Communist propaganda, and through the years this model has developed to cover murky motives and adventures fraught with international intribut. Spy Television considers how both popular and obscure spy shows came to TV, analyzes how and why the shows either succeeded or failed, and examines how fact and fiction have been incorporated into the genre. Britton earned his Ph.D. in American Literature and his penchant for uncovering sources and roots readily shines.

Library Journal – May 1, 2004 ~

Britton has produced a comprehensive guide to the many espionage-oriented television series that have aired in the United States from the 1960s to the present . . . Offers a fascinating window into an understudied genre. The first entry in a new series on television, this work is recommended for academic libraries that support television and popular culture programs and public libraries.

American Library Association, Choice Reviews Online – September 2004 ~

Britton has written the Baedeker of spy television films and series, an encyclopedic history of this popular television genre. . . Public libraries; comprehensive academic collections supporting coursework in the history of television.

American Library Association; Booklist Online, “Top 10 Performing Arts Books: 2004”, by Ray Olson – November 1, 2004 ~

The most sidely recognized of all artists are indisputably the performers of music, plays, and dance. One sign of that recognition is the fact that every year brings several very good new books about them, such as the following 10 starred review titles from the last 12 months’ worth of Booklists. And don’t cry foul about the books on choreographers, for, rising from the ranks of fellow dancers, they are among the most strenuous performers of all . . .

Britton, Wesley – Spy Television. 2004. Greenwood/Praeger, $39.95 (0-275-98163-0). Britton packs as much as possible into this in-depth exploration of spy shows, from The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Mission: Impossible, I Spy, Get Smart, The Avengers, and The Prisoner to Alias, 24, and, hey, even Britain’s terrfic The Sandbaggers.

Booklist Online – April 1, 2004 – starred review ~

Here, for all television addicts, is a much-needed, long-overdue, in-depth exploration of one of the medium’s more enduring genres: spy TV. Britton begins before the beginning, with radio and movie serials depiciting spies, but moves on quickly to early spy television in the 1950s and then to the show that brought the genre into the mainstream, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which debuted in 1964. From there, the hits just keep coming, from Mission: Impossible, I Spy, Wild Wild West, Get Smart, and The Avengers to the new millennium with Alias and 24.

All of these classic series are discussed in considerable detail, but what makes the book such a resounding success for fans of the genre is the coverage of the forgotten show or the curious fact, stuff other books miss but devotees love. For example, until now, readers could look in vain for any substantive discussion of the terrific British series The Sandbaggers; similarly, no discussion of the genre would be complete without a mention of Patrick McGoohan’s late-sixties series The Prisoner, but how many other writers take the trouble to point out that, nearly a decade after the show left the air, McGoohan did a riff on his character in an episode of PrisonerColumbo?

It is Britton’s broad knowledge, and his commitment to packing as much detail as possible into his book, that makes this an indispensable addition to any television buff’s reference shelf. If you love spy TV, this book is, well . . . thrilling.

How to Get Spy Television ~

Spy Television is available in bookstores everywhere, as well as these on-line merchants. To go to the order page, just click on the link.

Amazon U.S.
Amazon Canada
Amazon U.K.
Barnes & Noble
Powell’s Books