I Spy

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Name: I Spy
Creator: Sheldon Leonard
Date(s): September 1965 - April 1968
Medium: television
Country of Origin: USA
External Links: epguides, IMDb, wikipedia
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I Spy was a spy show from the 1960s.

It starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby.

There was also a 2002 movie remake.

Show Overview

I Spy was one of several spy shows in the 1960s, but stood apart in many ways.

It was a true buddy show, with both partners as complete equals. More astonishingly for the time, one partner was black -- and still a complete equal with his white partner. This was unheard of at the time, and rather than making a big deal of it or calling attention to it in any way, the show dealt with it by simply taking it as a given, putting it years ahead of its time.

The show also went for as much realism as it could; no gadgets, no gimmicks, no noble heroes who were always right -- people got beaten, tortured, and killed, and it wasn't always the bad guys doing it.

Last but not least, I Spy was also one of the first shows to shoot on location, all around the world, with amazing scenery. The result was a show unlike any other on TV at the time.

The leads were Kelly Robinson (played by Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott ("Scotty", played by Bill Cosby -- yes, that Bill Cosby), career spies who'd been partnered for several years by the time the show starts. The chemistry between them was intense and genuine, most notably in their trademark banter (much of it ad-libbed by the actors).

Their cover story was that Kelly was a professional "tennis bum", playing on the international tennis circuit, and Scotty was his trainer. This allowed them to travel around the world with very few questions asked.

I Spy Fandom

"I Spy" fandom is small but active.

It's focused exclusively on the 1960s tv show; most fans completely ignore the 2002 movie remake.

The fandom is split between gen and slash, with very little overlap; while slash fans may hang out in gen spaces, they tend to only talk gen there.

The slash side of the fandom is (almost?) universally OTP about Kelly/Scotty, the two leads.

There's remarkably little fanfic -- maybe a couple dozen stories, scattered around the web, with next to no fic in zines, either -- and even less in the way of fanart and vids. Most of the fandom is discussion-based instead.

Fan Comments


I read an article on I Spy recently and it blew my mind; I never realized it was such a landmark show. Producers chewed their fingernails to the elbows over such issues as whether it was okay for both the heroes to sit in the front seat of a car, or to share a hotel room. It was set in those cheesy "foreign" locations in order to dodge such problems. After the pilot was accepted, there was a lot of pressure to dump Bill Cosby. Robert Culp stood firm though ~ he refused to do it without Cosby. He'd had his own series back in the fifties and thus had some pull. He used his influence to force the studio to accept Cosby ~ and now all people remember about I Spy is "that show with Bill Cosby and some white guy"!


Robert Culp said in an interview that he saw his relationship with his costar as "a marriage." (He told Cosby this, and Cosby looked at him "like I wanted to do weird things to his body...") Culp wrote several of the episodes and put a lot of emphasis on characterization and relationships. Or so he claims. [1]


I Spy caught me when I was in my teens and never let me go, and again, I don't understand why the fandom is so tiny. Gorgeous leads! Adventure! Spy stuff! Banter and jazz talk and broccoli in spades! There's angst and love and loyalty, shared hotel rooms, canonical rubdowns, shortie silk kimonos and tight white pants and cool, cool sunglasses. I think the thing that grabbed me most right from the getgo was the way they speak their own private language, marking them as an "us" in giant blinky neon letters (with everyone else in the world a "them"). I have a huge weakness for any sort of private communication like that, whether it be vocabulary or in-jokes or a particular way of looking at each other, and Kelly and Scotty do it all. I love how close they are; I love that Kelly calls Scotty's mother "Mom" and writes her letters just like Scotty does; I love how they trust each other so incredibly much, no matter what. [2]


One of the most active "I Spy" communities is the I Spy Forum, a message board with messages going back to December 2001; the board's previous home can still be accessed on the Wayback Machine (click any link from 2000 or 2001 for a snapshot of that month's most recent posts; unfortunately, the WB only grabbed the front page each time, so the extended archive has been lost). The forum is mainly gen and het; while slash gets mentioned occasionally, it's generally as an oddity[3].

For the slash side of things, there's a mailing list on Yahoo Groups: TrueTrue, created and owned by Dorinda.


Notable Fanworks



  1. ^ from Strange Bedfellows (APA) #9
  2. ^ from Dear Yuletide Writer, posted by Arduinna, November 12, 2009
  3. ^ For example, this thread on the I Spy forum expressing surprise at the existence of slash fic for I Spy, dated November 16-18, 2006. Accessed July 8, 2009.