This week's issue of Entertainment Weekly has a feature titled "25 Best TV Spies of All Time." (Unfortunately, no link is available right now.) There are some odd selections, like Johnny Depp's undercover cop from "21 Jump Street," but overall it at least identifies the obvious choices.
(1) Sydney Bristow ("Alias") - definitely belongs on the list, but #1??? I thought Jennifer Garner did a great job on this show, but it was highly derivative of USA's "La Femme Nikita," except that it regrettably added a heavy dose of mumbo-jumbo mysticism involving the Nostradamus-like figure Rambaldi.
(2) Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 ("Get Smart") - I loved watching this when I was a pre-teen, but I'm skeptical that it holds up all that well now. It does air on MeTV, so I should check it out again.
(3) Jack Bauer ("24") - should have been number 1!!
(4) Carrie Mathison ("Homeland") - I don't get Showtime so I've never seen this show.
(5) Boris and Natasha ("Rocky and Bullwinkle") - very odd.
(6) Emma Peel ("The Avengers") - better than Uma Thurman....
(7) Jim Phelps ("Mission: Impossible") - the MeTV reruns are just over a week from getting through the first season, which did not feature Phelps but rather Dan Briggs before actor Steven Hill was dumped. Peter Graves had an amazing ability to deliver corny-sounding lines with utter seriousness.
(8) MacGyver ("MacGyver") - I guess he was kind of a spy. I let me son watch the pilot episode of "MacGyver" when he was 7. I pointed out how MacGyver was able to solve all these problems because of his knowledge of chemistry and physics.
(9) Nikita ("La Femme Nikita") - I would've had her much higher. I didn't like the show as much the first season, but once the writers got out of the habit of making her a honeypot in every episode, it got much better.
(10) Elizabeth & Phillip Jennings ("The Americans") - I'm one season behind (have all 13 episodes of season 2 on my TiVo), but they're quite an impressive team. Too bad they work for the bad guys!
(11) Number Six ("The Prisoner") - all I remember of the few episodes I've seen of this very weird show is a giant rubber ball that chases dissidents and suffocates them.
(12) Steve Austin and Jamie Sommers ("The Six Million Dollar Man"/"The Bionic Woman") - when I was a preteen, I thought this was the coolest show on TV. Years later, I saw one of the revival movies with . . . Sandra Bullock as a bionic teen. I wouldn't say it ruined the show for me, but it wasn't good.
(13) Rowan Pope ("Scandal") - Olivia's daddy is definitely someone to be very afraid of. Can you imagine if he got to give Jack Bauer orders???
(14) Chuck Bartowski ("Chuck") - I've only seen one episode of this (on a plane) and wasn't impressed. I was, however, quite impressed by co-star Yvonne Strahovski's turn as Kate Morgan on "24: Live Another Day."
(15) Alexander Scott and Kelly Robinson ("I Spy") - I never got to watch this show, but I did like actor Robert Culp in "The Greatest American Hero."
(16) Napoleon Solo ("The Man from UNCLE") - another show I never watched.
(17) Sterling Archer ("Archer") - I've never watched this cartoon.
(18) Black Spy and White Spy ("Spy vs. Spy") - I never knew this was a series. I did like the cartoon in Mad Magazine.
(19) Lancelot Link ("Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp") - not only have I never watched this show, I've never even heard of it.
(20) Mrs. King ("Scarecrow and Mrs. King") - I never watched this.
(21) George Smiley ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy") - wasn't this a miniseries? I guess it was "on" TV, but that's not quite what I was expecting.
(22) Marya ("Hogan's Heroes") - I never watched this.
(23) Michael Wiseman ("Now and Again") - I have watched this underrated series, and besides the John Goodman's brain in Eric Close's genetically engineered body plot, it's got Dennis Haysbert (aka President Palmer from "24") as a supercilious scientist.
(24) Michael Scott as Michael Scarn ("The Office") - huh?
(25) Tom Hanson ("21 Jump Street") - see above.