"I Spy" cannot be denied its contributions to history, both in television production and the Civil Rights movement. As documented in the book, "I Spy: A History of the Groundbreaking Television Series," this was the first series to cast a black actor opposite a White, with equal status and billing. And, by doing so, Bill Cosby become the first Black to win an Emmy - and he would win three in a row, as Best Lead Actor in a Drama for his work here. During that first year, show business trade magazine Variety wrote that "I Spy" was a "test show," putting NBC southern affiliates "on the spot," and that the series would show "which way the winds were blowing in Dixie." The door swung open in September 1965, and, within one year, black performers were finding regular work with non-stereotypical roles on "Mission: Impossible" and "Star Trek," and, just a couple years after that, being cast as series leads, with equal or greater status than Whites, in shows such as "N.Y.P.D.," "Room 222," and "Julia." TV, and the world, changed that quickly.
"I Spy" was also the first series to shoot around the world, introducing the technology needed to achieve this. And many believe that this is where the "buddy picture" began. Series such as "Starsky & Hutch" and "Miami Vice," and even movies like "Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid," certainly took their lead from "I Spy."
This historic series proved that sometimes television can do more than just entertain.
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