David Niven Has Left the Building

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There's something wrong with a world where we've gone nearly three decades without a Charlie Chan film but the James Bond franchise has yet to be put out of its senescent, post-Cold-War, post-sexual-revolution, post-9/11 misery. But for 007 fans (you know who you are), the latest news is that one Daniel Graig is the frontrunner to replace Pierce Brosnan as Britain's most famous spy who wasn't a Soviet mole.

Maybe it's just the Kilbeggan's talkin', but I thought Brosnan was an excellent 007, even if the Brosnan-era movies were generally pretty weak. Sadly for Brosnan, Bond-film legacy producer Barbara Broccoli is said to be looking for fresh blood, as the new version of Casino Royale is supposed to take the tired superspy back to his origins.

The choice of Craig has not yet been officially announced, and as with the year's other big job announcement, I'm holding out hope that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger might get a surprise nod. Call me a Bond maverick, but I like Moore better than Connery (Darby O'Gill and the Little People remains Connery's greatest picture), and I'm pissed that they never even considered the actor who could have taken the franchise back to the cheesetastic heights it reached in the late seventies: A few months with Body By Jake Carpet-Humping Guy* and Hugh Grant would be the greatest Bond of them all.

Isn't it time for a woman to take over the role of 007? Get the Monica Vitti version of Modesty Blaise and the Quentin Tarantino-presented My Name Is Modesty at a special Amazon price. When Helen Fielding tried out her own female James Bond, the idea flopped like the mutant offspring of George Lazenby and Timothy Dalton. After 90 years of cinematic pride, MGM, which still has some custody of the Bond franchise, died with an ignominious whimper this spring, but not before winning a Supreme Court ruling against Grokster. (As Nick Gillespie said at the time: "Fuckin' Dred Scott had more standing to sue in an American court than MGM!")

* Thanks to reader B.P. for the promotional suggestion.

NEXT: I'll Give You Something to Look Smashed About!

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  1. Too bad time has claimed Diana Rigg. Now there would be a 007!

  2. Should I be ashamed of being a Bond fan?

    I agree with Tim that Brosnan was a good Bond while the films not so great. But I thought Brosnan should have been Bond for a long time, unfortunately Remington Steele had him under contract or something. Timothy Dalton wasn’t as bad as I expected him to be. And while I have a soft spot for Roger Moore as Bond due to my age, I still have to admit that Connery was the best.

    Anyway, all opinions about fake shite anyway, so it’s all just for fun!

  3. Bond films are a complete waste of time. The series was worth a handful of Connery iterations. That’s it.

    Where’s the fucking character arch? Each film starts with Bond being a wise-ass, pretty-boy tough guy with neat toys. They end with Bond being a wise-ass, pretty boy tough guy with broken toys.

    Loud, bright explosions. Fist-fights in tuxedos. Another super-model bedded. How many times do we need to see this?

  4. Where’s the fucking character arch?

    They pulled an interesting trick in the first of the Brosnan pictures, bringing in Judy Dench as M to bawl him out, call him a chauvinist dinosaur, etc. And in another Brosnan movie they had a weird interlude where Bond was held in a North Korean prison for a year and came out looking all bearded and homeless.

    History will note that they really did try to keep it fresh in the Brosnan era. The Old Grey Mare just ain’t what she used to be.

  5. Body By Jake? What a perfect opportunity to promote the carpet humping guy.

  6. The problem with the Bond films is that they eventually stopped setting the trends and started following them (witness the new movie, where the bacarat showdown has been changed to poker to jibe with the current obsession).

    Having just finished reading Casino Royale — I’ve been a Bond film fan for decades but sadly never read any of the books until now — I wonder how much/little of the book will go into the movie. I’m always dubious of any movie that claims it’s going to “get back to the roots” of the character, because they never do. But the Bond in Casino Royale is, well, kind of a chump. For all you read about the literary Bond being cold, ruthless, and efficient, the Bond in Casino Royale was incompetent in the extreme, and constantly lamented his hurt feelings in the weepiest emo boy fashion.

    There were some attempts to remind people of Bond’s past in recent films — mentions of his wife, that sort of thing — but the problem is that to accurately reflect the personal mythology of Bond is to deal with a character who should be 80 years old now, give or take (as he was active during WWII).

    Anyway, I I don’t have any real hope for the quality of new Bond films, and not even a decent screenwriter being brought on board is going to lull me into thinking the next movie will be any better than the previous bunch (for the record, I’m a Connery fan with a soft spot for the whimsical Roger Moore years, and my favorites are still From Russia with Love and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service).

    All things considered, I’d rather see money thrown behind a solid and serious Matt Helm adaptation — word is Johnny Depp has been trying for years but no one will take him up on the idea.

  7. I always thought a young Richard Burton would have made a great Bond. Watch Burton in Where Eagles Dare and he is pretty much the coolest guy on earth. Depp is a pretty good idea. The problem is that they ran out of Ian Flemming novels. They guy died. He could only write so much. The best Bond movies are the ones based on the Fleming novels. Once they ran out of novels it got pretty stupid.

  8. Loud, bright explosions. Fist-fights in tuxedos. Another super-model bedded. How many times do we need to see this?

    I think that’s the appeal. Like a Big Mac, you know exactly what you’re getting.

  9. They might have had to pin his ears back, but after seeing Eric Bana in Chopper and Black Hawk Down I think he could have done the role some justice. The Aussies can do better than George Lazenby.

  10. I think that’s the appeal. Like a Big Mac, you know exactly what you’re getting.

    I agree. However, some of the appeal is lost with an overreliance on CGI. The surf sequence in the last movie was terrible. They should take a cue from The Transporter, a series that has done a much better job of being formuliac yet entertaining. The stunt sequences is some of the old movies, such as the ski opening in The Spy Who Loved Me was classic Bond.

    And Johnny Depp, an incredible actor, would not be a good Bond.

  11. I stand by my assertion that Timothy Dalton was a fine 007, even if The Living Daylights and Licence to Kill – the latter probably the best example yet of the series following action-movie trends instead of leading them – weren’t particularly good.

    Of course, maybe I’m automatically biased in favor of anyone who was in Flash Gordon.

  12. I always thought a British spy character like Michael Caine’s Harry Parmer from The Ipcress File would be much more interesting than the one dimensional Bond.

    As far as Bonds go, I’m partial to Lazenby.

  13. Maybe it’s just the Kilbeggan’s talkin’, but I thought Brosnan was an excellent 007, even if the Brosnan-era movies were generally pretty weak.

    He was respectable, but didn’t have enough cold-bloodedness for the role, save perhaps for the scene in Tomorrow Never Dies where he ices the portly German hitman. An he did have weak materiel to work with, particularly with regards to villains. Not to mention that he had to drive a chick-mobile (BMW Z3) in Goldeneye.

    Call me a Bond maverick, but I like Moore better than Connery

    Heretic. Moore was a poor man’s Austin Powers.

  14. If Reason is serious about finding a female 007, I’m available for $100 a day, plus expenses, to be a talent scout among the “flexy” women I’m always seeing on my bookmarks in cyberspace.

    “Discerning eye. Will travel”

  15. Darby O’Gill? Darby O’Gill?

    Everyone knows Connery’s finest film was ‘Zardoz’.
    For pete’s sake.

  16. Though we’ll never have Connery play Bond as an old retired spy called back into action (and, no, he wasn’t retired in Never Say Never Again) we have Warren Ellis’ excellent comic Desolation Jones, where L.A. is a game preserve for all the retired killer spooks:
    http://www.dccomics.com/features/desolationjones/

  17. Everyone knows Connery’s finest film was ‘Zardoz’.

    No way. Sword of the Valiant. Best Connery makeup job ever.

  18. I know it’s all just acting, but of all the Bonds it seems to me that only Connery was convincing as someone who could punch out your lights or put a knife in a bad guy’s back without a second thought. The other Bond portrayals I’ve seen remind me of Cary Grant more than anything else– not necessarily bad, but not the same beast as the character Connery played.

    The Bond movie I’d like to see though would be something like a cockney Bond with an imprenetrably thick accent who has to infiltrate the camp of a Pakistani warlord. Something like that.

  19. Isn’t it time for a woman to take over the role of 007?
    Many years ago I picked up an issue of Stuff magazine so I could leer at pictures of Jaime Pressly and Kelly Hu. It had a throwaway “humor” bit with the “writer’s” idea for a female bisexual James Bond. I remember few details other than the idea wasn’t nearly as appealing as it sounds.

    the problem is that to accurately reflect the personal mythology of Bond is to deal with a character who should be 80 years old now
    Well a grown up version of the dreadful James Bond Jr. concept from the late 1980s could be used. As sexually active as 007 was, you think there should be a couple of little James and Jane Bonds ready to fill daddy’s shoes. Does somebody who reads the books or pays attention to the movies know if 007 has been been fixed or has Hank Hill’s narrow urethera?

    I suppose the other predictable twist with the Bond franchise is to make him black.

  20. The Carpet-Humping guy rocks!

  21. Everyone knows Connery’s finest film was ‘Zardoz’.

    No way. Sword of the Valiant. Best Connery makeup job ever.

    What no love for The Avengers?

  22. The owners of the franchise would never allow it, but a serious sexy bi-sexual female Bond might work better than you think. Finnally get to see all of the T&A that the Bond flicks just hint at. I think that is one of the things that has killed the series. Back in the day, they really were kind of racy movies, but now that sex is everywhere, they are pretty tame. I think adding some sex would make them edgier again.

  23. I feel your pain, bob, but I wonder if you realize how good Darby O’Gill is. Albert Sharpe and Jimmy O’Dea are a buddy team on par with Randall and Klugman, and the forced-perspective effects are as impressive as (though less extensive than) anything in The Lord of the Rings-and that’s before the dual-focus trick lens they use these days.

    I suppose the other predictable twist with the Bond franchise is to make him black.

    Predictable but brilliant! Hire Tony Sinclair and you solve Bond’s lingering racial issues and the gin/vodka controversy in one fell swoop! You’re a genius!

  24. A Tarintino directed Casino Royal would kick ass. There are some great torture scenes in the book he could have a field day with. A bottomless chair and a carpet duster come to mind.

    I liked Brosnan, but I hated how they turned Bond into a pussy. One, maybe two chicks a flick. He felt remorse for killing. References to his alcoholism. What’s up with that? The villains suck now too. Where are the Jaws and Odd Jobs?

    The cool thing about Bond was that he was the male ideal unleashed. He was a bad ass with cool toys that could nail any woman he wanted and kill them when they turned on him without shedding a tear. Someone said that there was no character arch. Exactly! He didn’t evolve. He just kicked ass and got laid. You know – like a real man.

  25. “He didn’t evolve. He just kicked ass and got laid. You know – like a real man.”

    ralphus,
    Have you seen some of these “flexy” women I’m talkin’ about?

  26. Herman: I’m an Avengers fan.
    I wish there was a League of Extraordinary Gentlemen-type crossover between all the great British television characters. Steed and Peel have to look into a reported Village to find disappeared agents. Steed goes to visit Diana Trent, who may have seen it during her photo-journalism days, while Emma goes to visit the retired Major at Fawlty Towers…
    At some point Patsy and Edena show up.

  27. ralpuhs – word!

  28. Sorry to say I haven’t Ruthless. Are we talking about ladies that may be packing? And I don’t mean a Walter PPK.

  29. ralphus,
    I can’t give you a link now.
    Later.

  30. Jeff P.

    Champion Bond was the League’s handler in the comics. I always assumed he was an ancestor of 007. Professor Moriarty ends up being M in those books. I’ve also read some stuff where Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s smarter older brother, was M.

    League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. Talk about Hollywood taking a dump on great source material. I think the producers literally wiped their asses with the comic pages before they gave them to the writers.

  31. The League thought Mycroft was M until Griffin discover the truth.
    For those who never read the comic, it features a pantheon of great British literary characters, and volume II sees Mr, Hyde ass-raping the Invisible Man.
    Remember: Comics are for kids!

  32. OK this Craig guy is already making me nervous:

    “Craig has said he does not like the fact that the films are more about gadgets than feelings.”

    Feelings? Just be cool, kill people and get laid. Is that so hard? If I want feelings I’ll watch Lifetime.

  33. Huh..did I read that right??

    “..Call me a Bond maverick, but I like Moore better than Connery”

    Sheer Blasphemy! Say it ain’t so Tim..

  34. I agree with Ayn Rand’s obituary of the franchise: it was all downhill after “Dr. No.”

  35. The cool thing about Bond was that he was the male ideal unleashed. He was a bad ass with cool toys that could nail any woman he wanted and kill them when they turned on him without shedding a tear.

    Which is exactly why a female Bond would never work.

  36. Jeff P

    You’re right. It’s been awhile since I?ve read them. My favorite twist is the cold that kills the War of the Worlds Martian invaders was actually bio warfare.

    Phillip Jose Pharmer’s Wold Newton gemology has Mycroft listed as the first head of MI6. If you’ve never read any of his stuff you would dig it. Pharmer made a living playing with other authors? universes. I think it was a major inspiration for Moore. Pharmer linked every pulp, and comic hero to one genetic line that was affected by a meteor crash in Wold Newton England. The first books it appears in are “Tarzan Alive” and “Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life.”

    Here’s a link to a site that has taken the Wold Newton Genealogy and ran with it. They link Tarzan to Bond to Bruce Wayne to Kirk to Mulder.

    http://www.pjfarmer.com/woldnewton/Pulp.htm

    It’s quality geek stuff.

  37. I think an 80-year old Bond would be cool – he could spend the movie hunting equally decrepit Nazi war criminals in Argentina, while lugging around a super-sophisticated portable dialysis machine… (thanks, Q!)

  38. peachy,

    Throw in a turbo Rascal with an ejector seat and flamethrower plus a walker that shoots poison darts and I’m there on opening night.

    Instead of Bacarat it’s BINGO.

  39. It would be cool to see Christopher Walken play another Bond villian.

    Or Sean Connery.

  40. “Ensure – shaken, not stirred.”

  41. Oh Brother – A Female Bond? Roger Moore was the Best?
    How obviously contrarian. blecch…

  42. Man who fling mud lose ground.

  43. To the poster that felt the Bond of Casino Royale was too weepy and emotional, I have two seperate and completely inconsistent rebutals. First, Casino Royale was not written with the intent of creating a serial character. Flemming was trying to do the exact opposite. He wanted to downplay the individuality of the character as much as possible (he choose the name Bond because it was the most simple and boring he could think up) and to focus on the story. But beyond that, you have to remember that though it wasn’t intended to be an origin story, it did end up becoming an origin story. Bond isn’t like the Bond of the movies or even the later books in Casino Royale because the events of Casino Royale are what made him James Bond what he is. The final half of Casino Royale is devoted to Bond’s inner struggle of who he is and whether he really even believes in what he is fighting for. Vesper’s betrayal resolves this inner struggle. From “the bitch is dead” line on till the end or the series Bond never again questions either the morality of the cold war, the rightness of his country, his devotion to the finer things in life, or his commitment to purely sexual, short term relationships with as many women as possible.

  44. Tim Cavanaugh, I’d be careful if I were you; anyone who takes ad money from The Bald Fury and then mocks him, risks waking up one morning to find their carpets pregnant.

  45. Okay, ralphus and lurkers, here’s my link:

    http://www.naturistville.com/gymnast/introavs.htm

    If there isn’t a future 007 in there, I’ll eat my… um, used tissues. Gulp.

  46. crimethink,
    I wouldn’t worry. My carpets are already pregnant. Either that, or the Little Woman is forgoing the dustpan again.

  47. Jesus Ruthless. Time to clean the browser history beofre the wife gets home. Not to mention my shorts.

  48. “Ensure – shaken, not stirred.”

    peachy,
    Those of us mainlining prunes here are not amused.

  49. ralphus

    The cool thing about Bond was that he was the male ideal unleashed. He was a bad ass with cool toys that could nail any woman he wanted and kill them when they turned on him without shedding a tear.

    If you like Bond, you’ll love Zed. Who else could seduce a woman who was trying to kill him by quoting one line of Nietzsche and telling her “If I live, we will live together.”

    Even Bond wouldn’t impregnante half a dozen women and then put them on horses and tell them to ride east through the wall.

    Remember: The gun is good, the penis is evil.

  50. The villains suck now too. Where are the Jaws and Odd Jobs?

    Ralphus has unwittingly tapped a paradox of Connery snobbism*. Everybody agrees Jaws was among the greatest of the Bond heavies, Herve Villechaize was the greatest of the Bond comic reliefs, Christopher Lee and Michael Lonsdale were among the greatest villains, Barbara Bach and Brit Ekland were among the greatest of the women (Ekland was the best as far as I’m concerned), Live and Let Die was probably the best movie all around, and so on, but nobody ever notes what all these elements have in common: They’re all from the Moore era. To say that Moore just happened to be there for all that good stuff is like saying Barry Bonds just happens to be batting when the homerun is due to happen. For these things to work, you need a star who creates the right atmosphere. So while Connery is certainly a better actor and undoubtedly gives more of an impression that he could punch a guy out (you should see his big fight in Darby O’Gill and the Little People), Moore gives a more important impression: the impression that he wouldn’t piss on the James Bond series if it were on fire. In a franchise that’s all camp, an actor has two options: total, Hestonian commitment or raised-eyebrow irony. Moore went with the latter, and like Colt 45, it worked every time. If you want a Bond who never evolved, never emoted, never got deep or questioned the mission or did anything except be a suave toff, get laid, and have adventures, Moore was your man.

    * I’m not implying that Ralphus is a Connery snob.

  51. I actually like them both for different reasons. James Bond is tough and cool, each actor played up different aspects. Connery’s Bond was tougher than the commies and cool. Moore’s Bond was cooler than the commies and tough. Connery was clearly the better actor, but like Lowdog my age bracket makes Moore my sentimental favorite. The Spy Who Loved Me is the first Bond flick I remember seeing. The opening ski chase with the Union Jack parachute escape still ranks as the best in my book. And, with the exception of Kreb and Odd Job, Moore did have the better villains. Even though they went to the Jaws well one too many times in the 80s. No disrespect to the great Richard Kiel.

    I think the switch to camp in the 70-80s fit with where the Cold War was in most people?s minds at the time. The further you get from the Cuban Missile Crisis, Korea and Viet Nam the less your average citizen took the Cold War seriously. The threat was there, but it seemed less realistic. Either that or they were just tired of taking it so seriously. Remember the day after? Moore’s take on the character just fit with the times. He lightened things up and told us don?t worry, we?re going to beat the Russians because we?re cooler and have cooler toys.

    For my generation at least, Russians were cartoon villains. The guys you killed when you were playing Red Dawn in the backyard. Ivan Drago getting his ass kicked by Rocky. They weren?t real to us, so a less realistic Bond worked just fine.

    Now on to a deeper question. Who would win in a bad karate fight? Moore’s Bond or Captain Kirk?

  52. No doubt I’ll look back on that line with regret in my declining years… but, alas, I’m still just a pup – and, damn it, geriatric Bond would be a blast. (He could swipe the famous Abe Simpson line and wonder if the bikini-clad beauties of Buenos Aires were looking for some TLC – that is, “tired liver-spotted coot.”) And the best part of it is they could bring back Connery…

  53. Ruthless wrote: “Okay, ralphus and lurkers, here’s my link: http://www.naturistville.com/gymnast/introavs.htm

    No…. No words…. Should have sent a poet….

  54. Everybody agrees Jaws was among the greatest of the Bond heavies, Herve Villechaize was the greatest of the Bond comic reliefs, Christopher Lee and Michael Lonsdale were among the greatest villains, Barbara Bach and Brit Ekland were among the greatest of the women (Ekland was the best as far as I’m concerned), Live and Let Die was probably the best movie all around, and so on..

    Uh…No.

  55. Tim I bet you love the Adam West TV show and Batman & Robin as well. 😛

  56. “Tim Cavanaugh, I’d be careful if I were you; anyone who takes ad money from The Bald Fury and then mocks him, risks waking up one morning to find their carpets pregnant.”

    I just spit diet coke all over my screen..

  57. “There’s something wrong with a world where we’ve gone nearly three decades without a Charlie Chan film”

    I agree. The Charlie Chan films are unfairly tagged as racist today simply because the character was played by white actors when in fact the plots were very subversive of mainstream racial politics in the 1930s-40s. Think about it: Chan, a Chinese-American, was the smartest person in the films, solved crimes that white police detectives were clueless about, and most of his cases involved busting rich white people. Consequently, I’ve championed the idea of relaunching the Charlie Chan series for years. (Chow Yun Fat is my current choice to play Chan since the character should be middle-aged.)

  58. Ralphus,
    Nobody beats Spencer Tracy when it comes to bad karate. See “Bad Day At Black Rock.”

  59. I like the Charlie Chan remake idea as well, though I think it would have to be done as a ’30s period piece for there to be much point (not much novelty to a Chinese American detective today).

    The biggest obstacle is that “parlor” mysteries have been dead as a movie genre for decades. It’d have a better shot as a TV series.

  60. Everyone knows Connery’s finest film was ‘Zardoz’.

    Time Bandits?

    There were some attempts to remind people of Bond’s past in recent films — mentions of his wife, that sort of thing — but the problem is that to accurately reflect the personal mythology of Bond is to deal with a character who should be 80 years old now, give or take (as he was active during WWII).

    The solution is “Crisis with Infinite Bonds” bring Connery, Moore, Lazenby, Dalton and Brosnan all together as they fight a threat to destroy not just the universe but all universes.

    Then hit the reboot button. Everyone will remember the before Bonds, but no one will ever talk about it. Except Psycho-Pirate.

  61. Scott: your point about the Bond character in Casino Royale is taken. I was working under that assumption and admitting my own ignorance (I just starte dreding Live and Let Die last night). I think as far as literary spies, however, I still side with Matt Helm (and to clear up a point — Johnny Depp wanted to create a new Matt Helm franchise, not play James Bond), although it’s fairer to compare him to Harry Palmer than James Bond. Of course, if you can put all three of them in a film together, and add a little Derek Flint to the mix…

    I also want to defend the Connery villains: Adolfo Celli was great as Largo, and Robert Shaw was top notch as well. They’re probably two of the only villains in the whole franchise you really believe could kick Bond’s ass (ok, Yaphet Kotto too, but he turned intoa giant balloon and popped, which is a silly way to die). And maybe Sean Bean, but while most of the Connery villains were good and the Moore villains were delightfully over the top, the Dalton/Brosnan villains were forgettable.

    Oh, and how can we forget telly Savalas? The only Blofeld I ever thought was genuinely threatening (despite the fact that Pleasance become the iconic Blofeld).

    Despite my preference for Connery’s films, I still really like most of the Roger Moore movies. The series became cartoon camp then, but so what? Why try to mimic Connery when you can have a different take. My favorite quote from Roger Moore regarding his philosophy about playing Bond was that, basically, here’s a secret agent where everywhere he goes, everyone knos who he is and what he does. What kind of secret agent is that? If the premise is that ludicrous, what’s the point of playing the rest of it seriously?

    And The Moore movies did give me my all-time favorite Bond Girl. Carole Bouquet…mmmm…Carole Bouquet with crossbow…

  62. Everybody agrees Jaws was among the greatest of the Bond heavies, Herve Villechaize was the greatest of the Bond comic relief

    Ditto.

    Christopher Lee and Michael Lonsdale were among the greatest villains

    Lee was great. Lonsdale took himself way too seriously given the content he was working with. Arguably worse than every Connery villain save for the flake they dug up for Never Say Never Again.

    Barbara Bach and Brit Ekland were among the greatest of the women

    Bach was alright, and might deserve to be remembered for being the first feminist-era Bond girl. But Ekland is best forgotten. Though the “Phu Yuk” scene (“’74, sir”) was good for a laugh.

    Live and Let Die was probably the best movie all around

    You mean dullest, right? There are two or three films in the series that are more painful to watch for various reasons, but none flat-out bore me to the degree that Live and Let Die does.

    As I mentioned a while back, the Connery-Moore debate hinges a lot on what kind of movie you want out of the series. Personally, I figure that if I want to see a spy flick chock of moments of unapologetic parody (as compared with the fine line that Connery occassionally walked), it’s better to go full-tilt and follow the exploits of Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth. Or for that matter, the highly underrated Derek Flint.

  63. Adolfo Celli was great as Largo, and Robert Shaw was top notch as well.

    Shaw was great, but Celli was Eurotrash writ large (no pun intended).

    the Dalton/Brosnan villains were forgettable

    Most of them, yes. But Robert Davi was pretty good as far as Latin American drug lords go.

    Oh, and how can we forget telly Savalas?

    Agreed – you can’t top Kojak.

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