Top Five TV Shows about the Cold War (I’ll stop now)


Alex Guinness as George Smiley.

Just to beat the topic from yesterday totally into the ground, here are my Top Five TV Shows About the Cold War:

  1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy — The Alex Guinness version, of course.
  2. Smiley’s People — The sequel to Tinker, Tailor. I have both series on DVD at home.
  3. Game, Set and Match — A series cobbled together from the first three novels in a Len Deighton trilogy of trilogies. It took some liberties, and I seem to recall hearing that Deighton hated it. This is possibly because the character that Ian Holm created for the series was quite different — a more tormented, stressed-out character — from the Bernard Samson in the novels. But I enjoyed the series anyway.
  4. The Missiles of October — Worth watching if only for Martin Sheen’s version of Bobby Kennedy.
  5. The Day After — A huge TV event at the time when it came out. Sort of the Cold War equivalent of “Roots.”

There’s sort of a lack of variety in this list, I’ll admit — the first three are spy series, and two by le Carre with the same chief protagonist. But I have to work with what TV gives me. And I really believe the first two are among the best things ever made for the tube.

"The Day After" -- nuclear apocalypse in Kansas.

“The Day After” — nuclear apocalypse in Kansas.


9 thoughts on “Top Five TV Shows about the Cold War (I’ll stop now)

  1. Norm Ivey

    I Spy
    The Avengers
    Man from U.N.C.L.E.
    Get Smart

    While not exactly US vs Them, none would have existed without the Cold War, I think.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      That sounds like another category we could do — movies and TV shows that were inspired by the Cold War, but not about the Cold War.

      Sometimes James Bond was dealing with the Soviets, but as often as not he faced freelance madmen who wanted to take over the world for their own purposes. U.N.C.L.E. fought against THRUSH, not the Sovs. Maxwell Smart’s adversary was KAOS.

      Really sort of odd, looking back…


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