Mission: Impossible and Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)
Mission: Impossible (1988-1990)
Type: Series Revival
Group: 18

   "Hello Mister Phelps. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to read the following entry on the television programs titled Mission: Impossible. Should you fail in your mission we, will disavow any knowledge of you and your mission. We will also wonder about your level of literacy. I mean, come on, your mission is just to read a stinking web page. Its not like were asking you to diffuse a bomb while fending off Russian spies or something. What are you stupid idiot I... uh, getting a little off track there. Sorry. Didn't mean to... I mean THIS WEB PAGE WILL SELF DESTRUCT IN 5 SECONDS!"

   Who am I kidding. This page self destructed the minute I caved in to the requisite Mission: Impossible parody intro. The above paragraph more or less mimics the intro to every episode of Mission: Impossible.

   Mission: Impossible was one of a number of TV shows from the sixties (also including The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy) to focus on the dangerous world of espionage and spies. You know how things go in trends? All of the sudden every network has a gritty cop show or every network has a "Friends" rip off. Well, in the sixties the trend was spies (Actually can we get that trend going again? Spy shows are cool).

   CBS's Mission: Impossible featured a team of spies. Every week their leader, who for the majority of the series was Peter Graves playing James Phelps, would receive a tape recording laying out his team's next mission. It would also warn him that should they fail in their mission or should any of the team be killed, the Impossible Mission Force would disavow any knowledge of them and their mission. Then after five seconds the tape would self destruct, smoking and burning away.

   The team had various members over the course of the series but the members all fit set roles: the team leader, the electronics expert, the master of disguise and the beautiful and all around talented female agent. Jim and his team of specialists would then jump into action with an elaborate and intricate plan.

   As I pointed out above, the team members changed over the years. Mission: Impossible had this element in common with the currently popular show Law And Order. On both shows the characters were enjoyable but not nearly as important as the story being told. Thus you could rotate new actors in to replace old ones without hurting the show too much. Also in both cases a side benefit was that bringing in new characters actually helped to constantly reinvigorate the show and keep it feeling new. But keeping any show on the air forever is truly an impossible mission. After seven seasons the show self destructed.

   But the I.M. Force returned to prominence in 1988 when ABC needed them to undertake a new impossible mission: to help the network cope with a strike by television industry writers. In 1983 ABC had brought The Odd Couple out of mothballs using a new cast and reusing the same old scripts to get around a writers strike and now they were trying the same thing with Mission: Impossible. There was a critical difference this time though: it actually worked, probably because in the end Mission: Impossible actually did use new scripts.

   The new series had an all new cast except for Peter Graves returning to play team leader Jim Phelps. Having retired, he returned to active duty upon the death of Thomas D. Copperfield, the team's current leader and Phelp's former protege.

   It being the late 80's, Jim now received his instructions on a self destructing computer CD capable of carrying all the info Jim would in the past have received in a file folder. For the most part though everything else was the same. There were new team members but doing the same jobs.

   In another nod to the old show, the new electronics expert Grant Collier, played by Phil Morris, was the son of the team's original electronics man Barney Collier. In real life Greg Morris was also Phil Morris real life dad. Greg Morris reprised his role from original series in several guest appearances on the new one as did Lynda Day George, returning for an episode as operative Lisa Casey.

   While the new Mission: Impossible did last for awhile, it didn't meet with the same success as the original. After two seasons it was canceled.

   Even though this is a TV crossover page, mention must be made that the series now continues as a series of major theatrical films starring Tom Cruise. Directed by Brian DePalma, the first film was full of exciting visuals but was plagued with plot problems. Despite these problems the film was a major hit. Team leader Jim Phelps returned but was now played by Jon Voight. Did Peter Graves not play Jim Phelps because of the script problems? Because he was too old? More likely he stayed away because...


... the heroic Jim Phelps was turned into a traitor, betraying his team for his own selfish gains. Say it ain't so Jim! Say it ain't so! It was needed so that Phelps could be replaced as team leader by star Tom Cruise's Ethan Hunt.

   The second film in the series also starred Cruise and was directed by Hong Kong action director extraordinare John Woo. Apparently each film will feature a new top notch director taking a crack at the series. Not a bad idea.

Other Mission: Impossible (1966-1973) Crossover Links
Mission: Impossible and Diagnosis Murder

Click here to return to main Crossover List

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