I loved the TV series Mission: Impossible. In fact, it's still one of my all-time faves. The show shows its age and is is dated in reruns, but still a lot of fun, even if more as a period piece. That it's of another time, so what. It's generally well-plotted, and done with great flair.
(I'm speaking only of the TV show. I hated the first movie so much -- even offended by it -- that I haven't seen any of the sequels.)
I haven't watched reruns all that much over the years, but occasionally it's popped up in Los Angeles. It's shown nightly on the MeToo channel, but I don't get that in my area -- hopefully this will change -- but MeToo does air on the cable service my dad gets, so I'm able to catch up with it there.
As I said, I love the show, even with all its unlikely, plot contrivances that stretch credibility. But I accept that they're able to set up these maniacally intricate missions and pull them off. But there's one issue that struck me a few years ago (finally...), and I have to admit it's harder to accept that all the others. I do accept it, because a) one pretty much has to, and b) it's an unnecessary thing to have set up, and the show works perfectly well without it (like when they eventually changed the cast and therefore who the characters were). But of all the deeply unlikely and improbably things going on, it's the most unbelievable.
At the beginning of most episodes, Jim Phelps goes through his dossier to decide on which agents he wants to use in this week's particularl mission. When he decides on Cinnamon Cater and Rollin Hand (played by Barbara Bain and Martin Landau), he tosses their photos on his mission pile.
Fine, swell. Except --
You see, the thing is, if you look closely, Cinnamon Carter isn't just a model -- or even just a model successful enough to get on the cover of a magazine...she's so successful and renowned that (look again at her photo) she is...the "Model of the Year"!!
Models don't work in seclusion. Successful models get their picture plastered all over. And a Model of the Year -- they transcend even that and becomes a popular culture goddess. So, how in the name of all that is holy is Cinnamon Carter traveling over the world, getting involved with all these missions...and no one in the world ever recognizes her??? No one ever says, "Hey, you're that woman who sells the washing machine we bought!" Or, "Wait, you're Cinnabun Cramer! Can I have your autograph?!"
I suspect there's an argument that maybe everyone wouldn't recognize her when the mission team is in the fragile South American republic of El Cordoba. I don't believe that argument, mind you, since if you you're the Model of the Year you're not only wildly famous, and probably modeling around the world, but you've been doing this for years, so at least some of the people and most especially the sophisticated leaders of Third World and small Iron Curtain countries who have an awareness of Life Around Them (particularly because their deeds could ruin their country's relationship with America) would recognize her. But beyond that, and on a far more basic level, a lot of episodes took place in the United States, and for not one single person in the U.S. to recognize her -- ever...well, she has to be the most unknown Model of the Year in the history of mankind.
Rollin Hand is a different case, though only slightly. He doesn't seem to be a Big Star in the movies, TV and stage, but rather a character actor. And he's a master of disguise, a "Man of a Million Faces" his photo resume says. But that's not an excuse for people not recognizing him -- most of the time he's not in total disguise (so total that another actor is playing Martin Landau), but instead looks just exactly like himself. And sounds like him. And to say, "Well, he's just a character actor, no one would know him," simply isn't the case. People around the world may not know the names of character actors...but they sure know the actor. "Say, aren't you the guy who was in that movie about the thing, you know the one I'm talking about? Him. You know the one." Or, "Wait, I know that voice. Aren't you that guy I love?!" Audiences recognize the actor, and if not from a specific role, then because they look SO familiar. Like they're an old friend, or past acquaintance, or business associate. "Where do I know you from?? Agghh, it's on the tip of my tongue. Were we in Freshman English together?" And from Rollin Hand's 8x10 glossy above, that's no start-up wannabe, trying to break in. It's clear he's been around and done a lot. Dashing, debonair, in a tux. Hey, after all, he's the Man of a Million Faces. He's probably been in a hundred movies and TV shows and been working for many years to build up all those credits. Indeed, while the Model of the Year would probably be much more known, it's possible that such an accomplished character actor would be even more recognized around the world, since Hollywood movies and TV shows are American's biggest export. Even in the rain forests of Kuala Lumpur. They might not buy Cinnamon Carter's washing machines in San Cristobal, but they absolutely show Rollin Hand's movies and TV show episodes there. And then, again, there are all those missions in the good old U.S. of A.
And yet, no one recognizes him. Not one person. Anywhere in the world. That's not blending into the scenery, that's hiding behind it.
I still love Mission: Impossible. I still accept the outlandish, wildly unlikely plots. And I am required to believe that no one in the entire world recognizes either the gorgeous cover girl Model of the Year or one of Hollywood's most successful character actors. Week after week. Year after year after year. Ever. Fine, and so I do. After all, they show would work fine if Cinnamon Carter wasn't even a model, and Rollin Hand wasn't an actor, it's just an unnecessary conceit built into the backstory of who the characters are. But...it is who the characters are. And believing it, that's the most impossible mission of all.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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