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As the 'Spooks' movie arrives, a look back at the series

There’s a movie I’m excited about this weekend, and it’s not Avengers: Age of Ultron. May 8 is the release date for Spooks: The Greater Good, the feature-film continuation of the BBC One spy thriller (known as MI-5 during its broadcast in the United States). I’m thrilled to see the return of Peter Firth as tireless spy boss Harry Pearce, Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington as his latest expert operative, and Scorpion star Elyes Gabel playing a terrorist instead of a super-genius.

If that paragraph made no sense to you, let me educate you on why you, too, should be a Spooks fan.

Spooks ran on BBC One—and erratically on A&E, PBS, and BBC America—from 2002 to 2011, during which time it was the British answer to 24 in the sense that its bad-guy-hunting exploits were equally likely to scare the hell out of you. Just as in CTU, the agents of MI-5 were all at risk, and they became increasingly expendable as the show went on. Every season, at least one person died—and there were countless close calls, betrayals, and reveals that routinely stung the audience. This was espionage in the trenches, although the beautiful locations of the UK and the talented directors made even the toughest scenes look like works of art.

At the same time, the show always served as a home to some of Britain’s best acting talent and a few future stars. The original main cast included veterans Firth and Jenny Agutter, who oversaw a trio of names yet to become big: Matthew Macfadyen (Ripper Street, Pride & Prejudice) as top operative Tom Quinn, with Keeley Hawes (Ashes to Ashes, Doctor Who) as Zoe Reynolds, and Golden Globe nominee David Oyelowo (Selma) portraying Danny Hunter. This initial group was as good as you could ask for to begin a series, and really helped ground Spooks‘ challenging exploits, giving the show a heart that made the series worth watching for more than its whiz-bang spycraft. Audiences were as invested in Tom, Zoe, and Danny as we were in whether or not they’d catch the terrorist of the week.

In the second series, audiences met Nicola Walker (Touching Evil) as Ruth Evershed, followed by series three bringing us Rupert Penry-Jones (Black Sails) as Tom’s replacement, Adam Carter, and Olga Sosnovska (All My Children) playing Adam’s wife and colleague, Fiona Carter. Adam and Fiona couldn’t have been more different from Tom and Zoe, but they shared the most important quality—that the audience was able to fall in love with them. Other shows have died when leads have been replaced, but Spooks stayed on top when its main characters rotated out—and that was just the beginning.

Other folks who were series regulars? Raza Jaffrey (Smash), Anna Chancellor (The Hour), Miranda Raison (24: Live Another Day), Hermione Norris (post–Wire in the Blood, which wasn’t a bad show either), Sophia Myles (Moonlight), and Lara Pulver (Sherlock). Richard Armitage (Robin Hood, The Hobbit, Strike Back, Into the Storm) gets his own separate mention because he’s Richard Armitage, who makes everything awesome when he turns up. This is particularly true when he’s playing Adam’s successor, Lucas North, who was possibly Spooks‘ most complicated character and gave the show a shot in the arm when he was hired in series seven. If your show can go from Matthew Macfadyen to Rupert Penry-Jones to Richard Armitage, you are doing something very right.

Then there are the show’s many guest stars, including (but very much not limited to) Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock, Star Trek), Andy Serkis (Lord of the Rings), Hugh Laurie (House), Anthony Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), and Star Wars‘ Ian McDiarmid. Emperor Palpatine was on this show, guys.

All of these people elevated Spooks from just an entertaining spy thriller into a quality drama that was able to sustain itself for 10 series. They crafted deep characters, wrung everything they could out of the show’s many plot-twisty moments, and provided the substance that set it apart from the would-be thrillers we seem to see every TV season. Between the writing, which really kept you guessing (and/or shouting or crying) and the ability to watch such an excellent collection of actors, it was no wonder this show lasted almost a decade. It was truly some of the best of British television. If you’re an Anglophile, you’d better have seen it.

So it’s a bit fantastic that the show is getting a second life through The Greater Good, which looks to uphold the high standard of its TV predecessor. Why? Probably because it’s written by the show’s last head writers, directed by the man who helmed the pilot episode, and involves several returning characters. This is all on top of the fact that Jon Snow and Walter O’Brien are going to slug it out. Check out the trailer:

It’ll likely be a while before the movie makes its way to American shores, and I can spend a Friday afternoon trying—and probably failing—to not throw popcorn at a cinema screen. But I feel confident that the film is going to do at least some justice to what was a fantastic thrill ride. And if the arrival of the movie means we can get more people to check out one of TV’s best spy capers, then that’s the best part of all.

Spooks: The Greater Good premieres in UK cinemas this Friday. A U.S. release date is TBA. The complete Spooks/MI-5 series is available on DVD through BBC Home Entertainment.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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