TBS (Sun., Nov. 29, 8 P.M. ET)
As a prelude to a James Bond movie marathon taking place over the next 007 nights, the channel has excavated the very first dramatization involving Ian Fleming’s fictional secret agent. This is an early, all-live episode from CBS’s drama series of the ’50s Climax.
The first man to play Bond was American Barry Nelson, who had starred opposite Joan Caulfield on the early TV sitcom MY Favorite Husband. His portrayal takes some getting used to—and it’s not just the accent or the modified Johnny Unitas buzz cut. This 1954 Bond drinks scotch and water, not martinis. And everyone refers to him (sacrilege!) as Jimmy.
His mission: to best a ruthless Soviet agent (Peter Lorre), who is gambling in a European casino with pilfered Communist Party funds, at the game of baccarat. Along the way, Bond must rescue a beautiful double agent (Linda Christian). This three-act adaptation is clumsy and overwrought (golden age of television, my foot), but as an artifact it’s worth savoring.