Lately whenever I have trouble sleeping, instead of counting sheep, I turn on the television and watch late night reruns of the original Mission Impossible series with Peter Graves. The show begins as Mr. Phelps gets his mission (if he should choose to accept it… and he always does). The implausible scenario for the show is presented on small tape recorder and at the end of the tape the message self-destructs in a cloud of smoke. Next (a good time to grab a snack) we get to the lame part of the show (actually the opening credits) where the main character Jim Phelps, carefully selects the members of his Impossible Mission Force… Hey, it’s the same four people as last week… and the week before that… and… Actually, they do switch it up once in a while, probably at the beginning of each season. As a bonus (or a relief) there are all those fabulous character actors… I mean, “Guest Stars.”
The body of the show consists of a lot of close ups of Barney (the brains of the operation) and Willy (the muscle) turning nuts and screws on things like elevator controls, alarm system connections and heating vent covers. No they are not the same little heating vents grills you have in your home. These vents are big enough for a football player to crawl through and provide easy access to any and all high security areas of secret government facilities. There are also a lot of non-approved drugs administered to hapless puppet dictators, security guards and foreign policy advisors, along with a healthy dose of psychological torture and misdirection. The bad guys usually turn on each other by the end of the show and someone almost always gets shot (off camera) but not by the “good guys.”
My favorite part of the show is when the Impossible Mission team makes their swift but orderly escape in an old style Mercedes sedan or an unmarked utility truck. The escape scene culminates in a motion blurred freeze frame often taken from an acute camera angle. Really, it’s the best moment of the show and when I am finally able to drift off to sleep with complete espionage closure and a smile.
Good night Mr. Phelps. The world is safe again but only until your next episode.