By Tom Gliatto
March 10, 1997 12:00 PM

ABC (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET)


By the early 1960s, Cold War tension was getting everyone bummed. The nation had already been dragged through a decade of spy hysteria: the McCarthy hearings, the Rosenbergs, the U-2 incident. Then, in October 1962, came the Cuban missile crisis. Apocalypse seemed to stride right to our front door and lift its fist to knock. The following spring, the first James Bond movie, Dr. No, was released in America. The public, sick of worrying, took to the notion of espionage as glamorous fun, naughtily enjoyable as foreplay. TV was soon filled with shows about agents, all beautifully mod and sleek: The Avengers, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I Spy, Mission: Impossible, even Get Smart.

Spy Game, a new hour-long ABC series, is a happy rehash of any or all of those. Linden Ashby and Allison Smith play employees of a secret government outfit, E.C.H.O. (Emergency Counter Hostilities Organization). Headquarters are concealed behind a brick wall that opens only if you race your sports car toward it at 100 mph. In the premiere, they fight Ashby’s old mentor, who became a terrorist after being fired during budget cutbacks in the ’80s. The violence—and it’s considerable—is of the chop-socko martial-arts kind. Sam Raimi, who had a hand in the knowingly dumb-funny Hercules: The Legendary Journeys and its spinoff Xena: Warrior Princess, is an executive producer here. Spy Game is dumb-funnier still.