Thursday, July 21, 2011

"Rome, Italian Style" Track of the Day: The John Gregory Orchestra, "It Takes a Thief"

Robert Wagner originally provided the voice of Charlie in ABC's upcoming Charlie's Angels revival before he had to quit the show. I wonder if there's a stipulation in the contract for the actor who will do Charlie's voice that says he must allow his voice to always be piped through that disco-looking white speakerbox from both the old show and the 2000 movie. Yeah, I said '2000 movie' instead of 'the two movies' because let's just pretend Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle doesn't exist.
Song: "It Takes a Thief" by The John Gregory Orchestra
Released: 1972
Why's it part of the "Rome, Italian Style" playlist?: British bandleader/arranger John "Chaquito" Gregory's cover of Dave Grusin's slick It Takes a Thief theme lacks the funky bass playing and urgent percussion that I love so much about Grusin's third-season arrangement of the theme. But Gregory's rendition is the only cover of the theme that's available (it's also the only recording of the theme that's available), so it'll do.

The It Takes a Thief theme is my favorite Grusin tune. It's the perfect opener for a '60s espionage procedural I've often found to be more enjoyable than most '60s American spy shows because it has a criminal as its hero, which is more interesting to me than the company man types who were frequently the leads in '60s spy shows. Plus, as Alexander Mundy, Robert Wagner was the epitome of cool and quite skilled with the show's moments of light, not-too-campy-like-the-worst-seasons-of-U.N.C.L.E. comedy. This ease with comedy was a skill that the future Number Two later put to great use when he literally made a mess of his debonair image in the funniest thing he ever did, the 1989 SNL "Sloppy Eater" sketch (Parks and Recreation has got to find a way for Rob Lowe to work in his amusing and dead-on Wagner impression, which he's done in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me and on talk shows).

In 2006, Universal announced that Will Smith was attached to a big-screen version of It Takes a Thief, which hasn't been made yet. Nah, I can't see him playing a smooth thief like Mundy. Smith is more entertaining when he's playing a fish-out-of-water hero like in the original Men in Black and Hancock and is less entertaining when he tries to be suave. Mundy is more of a Taye Diggs or Idris Elba role or a role for Michael Weatherly, whose onscreen dad on NCIS happens to be Wagner himself.

Pushing for more Asian Americans as leads on screen or in fiction is an uphill battle that I continue to be passionate about, so why not think outside the box and get Sung Kang from Justin Lin's Fast Five, who looked like he was channeling Mundy in that surprisingly good heist flick, to play him? Just rename him Alexander Moon.

Then again, why make an It Takes a Thief movie when the USA show White Collar is currently doing a better job at channeling Wagner's old show than whatever the movie version would have attempted to do?

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