One of the best examples of ITC's 1960's successful stable of spy/action series. Originally broadcast from 1967-1968, Man in a Suitcase boasted a charismatic performance by imported American star Richard Bradford as McGill, a disgraced former CIA operative wrongly accused of treason, exiled to England and forced to make a precarious living in a dirty and thankless job as a freelance trouble-shooter/private investigator.
What set the series apart from other notable entries in the genre being produced at the time was the approach taken to the subject matter by series devisers Richard Harris & Dennis Spooner. In the character of McGill the viewers are presented with a hero much closer to the tarnished knight image of Raymond Chandler's classic Phillip Marlowe, than we are to the slick, almost cartoon sophistication of James Bond or Roger Moore's urban Simon Templar. McGill is world-weary, cynical and possessed of a hair-trigger temper which often leads to sudden unexpected shocking outbursts of violence. There's no colourful megalomaniacs attempting to take over the world in the shadowy by-ways and seedy London drinking clubs he frequents, just flawed human beings whose greed, jealousy, and hate provide him with the $300-600 per week (plus expenses) needed for a reasonably comfortable survival in the world's most swinging city.
Excellent writing, no-frills direction and a top drawer string of guest stars made Man in a Suitcase powerful entertainment, equal - if not superior - to many of the more glossy, light-weight offerings of the time, added to which it also benefited from one of the best remembered and catchy theme tunes to be composed by the talented Ron Grainer. So it comes as a disappointing surprise that at the time of its release the series was greeted with little enthusiasm from TV critics, with one writing under the headline "Low Grade nonsense" (referring to Lew Grade who commissioned it). It was better received in the USA (Grade always had an eye on the American market) but unfortunately it was scheduled at the same time as Star Trek. Rather than put it against less weighty opposition ABC in the US simply let the series play out and as a result of no further interest from the lucrative American market Man in a Suitcase was not renewed at the end of its 30 episode run. Modern online reviews of the DVD release are far more favourable and the series appears to have picked up something of a cult status. Along with a repeated run on UK digital television this proves that this is a series which, years later, still stands up to repeated viewing.
Published on January 2nd, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus & SRH (1999) for Television Heaven.