“Star Wars” did it. So did Marvel. And DC Comics, too. They’ve all turned their big-screen franchises into TV shows. So, when will James Bond — or Moneypenny, or any of 007’s many, many villains — finally arrive on the small screen? According to 007 producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, the answer is never. And feel free to say that again.
“From our point of view, we try to focus on making good James Bond pictures and that takes a lot of time and thought — it takes a couple of years working on the script with a director,” Wilson explained during a recent interview with The Wrap. “If we had to make a TV series on top of that and put that same amount of energy into 10 or 20 hours of content, that’s a big commitment. So, we’d have to delegate. And we’ve been very reluctant to delegate.”
Actually, 007 has done TV before. In fact, his very first screen appearance was on CBS, in a 1954 teleplay adaptation of “Casino Royale” for “Climax Mystery Theater” that starred American actor Barry Nelson as crewcut-sporting Jimmy Bond (an aging Peter Lorre played Le Chiffre, the baddie Bond beats at the baccarat table).
Clearly Bond creator Ian Fleming didn’t have a problem with the tube. Before he died in 1964, he pitched a spy show to NBC, “Ian Fleming’s Solo,” but then the original Bond producer, Cubby Broccoli, talked the author out of slumming for television. Fleming ended up selling his TV concept to NBC — for a grand total of one British pound — and the network turned it into “The Man From U.N.C.L.E,” a swinging secret-agent series that ran from 1964 to 1968 (with Fleming’s name conspicuously missing from the credits).
More recently, in the early 1990s, there was “James Bond Jr.,” a syndicated cartoon in which 007’s young nephew and his prep school pals (IQ, grandson of gadget master Q, and Gordo Leiter, CIA agent Felix Leiter’s son) battled an evil SPECTRE-like organization called S.C.U.M. That animated spinoff lasted about a year.
Of course, now that Amazon is in the process of purchasing MGM, Bond’s longtime studio, the pressure will be on to give TV another shot. And there is a case to be made for the Bond franchise to go where “The Mandalorian” and “Loki” have gone before, especially as the continuing pandemic keeps older audiences away from theaters. Bond fans have historically skewed a bit older and continue to do so to this day (57% of the first-weekend moviegoers for “No Time to Die” was over 35). Still, good luck convincing 007’s current-day producers.
“We’re not a factory,” Barbara Broccoli noted. “Our movies are all hand-made. We’ve always been a family business and it will remain a family business, so long as we keep breathing.”