The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV Poster Image
Classic espionage drama is dated but still hits the mark.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The series runs with the concept that evil organizations operate throughout the world, killing those who get in their way. There's a lot of duplicity at play, on both sides of the divide between right and wrong. Women feature prominently in the stories, mostly upholding gender roles of the time but sometimes demonstrating abilities that are less traditional. Characters from far-flung nationalities collaborate for the good of the whole world. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Solo and his coworkers stand for justice and seek to protect all peace-loving people across the globe, but to do so they're forced to misrepresent themselves and even kill people. Their adversaries are short on morals, usually motivated by greed or power and willing to eliminate anyone who stands in their way. 

Violence

Shoot-outs and chase scenes, and some dead bodies shown but not bloody. People are handcuffed, held prisoner, and knocked out by gas. Explosions and fires. 

Sex

Some kissing and lots of wink-wink moments shared between adults. Some women are shown in swimsuits. Flirting in the workplace, as when a man calls a woman his "little agent provocateur."

Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults drink and smoke in keeping with the show's 1960s setting. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Man from U.N.C.L.E. is a spy drama from the 1960s, so cultural differences are prominent throughout the show. Female characters factor in but definitely tend toward the traditional, usually cast as devoted housewives, accommodating flight attendants, and self-deprecating coworkers. Despite the collaboration between American and Soviet agents, the political setting hints at the Cold War tensions of the time as well. You'll see plenty of shooting and some dead bodies but no blood, and perilous predicaments are mostly short-lived and end happily for the good guys. Wink-wink moments between men and women will go over tweens' heads, and there's no sexy stuff beyond that to worry about. 

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What's the story?

THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. stars Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo, a top agent with the secretive agency called United Network Command for Law and Enforcement, or U.N.C.L.E. for short. Solo's partner is Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum), a Soviet collaborator who joins Solo on missions against their main adversary, T.H.R.U.S.H., at the direction of the agency's head, Alexander Waverly (Leo G. Carroll). Tasked with uncovering and sabotaging plans of government takeovers and high-profile assassinations throughout the world, Solo and Kuryakin work out of an undercover New York office disguised as a tailor shop. In many cases, they employ the help of local citizens while they're on location. 

Is it any good?

More than half a century after it first aired, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. still manages to entertain, even with its rudimentary effects and significant cheese factor in comparison to the modern caliber of dramas. Much of its appeal can be attributed to Vaughn, who's exceptional in the leading role, and his working relationship with his able Soviet counterpart. Their cooperation was groundbreaking in the '60s, given political tensions at the time, but now it's just another quality feature of this long-respected series.

The Man from U.N.C.L.E. also shows its age in pristine content that's unburdened by any strong language, minimal sexuality (mostly suggestions), and violence that's mostly blood-free. Yes, people are still killed (always the bad guys), but it's pretty sanitary viewing. What does stand out are the interactions between men and women, which usually are laced with sexual suggestions and knowing smiles. Even so, if you're looking for a spy drama that's safe to share with your tweens, this classic might fit the bill. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what differences stand out between the world in the 1960s (as it's presented in this show) and the world now. How has technology changed how we combat danger? Are we safer now because of it, or does it raise new threats? 

  • How are women portrayed in this show? Do you think it's an accurate representation of how they were received in the workplace and in the home during this era? Have we reached true gender equality of late?

  • This series draws clear distinctions between the good guys and the bad guys. Is such a distinction less obvious in real life? Have you ever taken someone at his or her word only to be hurt by your trust? How, if at all, does something like that change how you relate to people? 

TV details

For kids who love spy stories

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