A&E’s massive “The Spy Collection” is both a good deal and a bad deal. On the plus side, it allows you to sample four British spy series of the 1960s and 1970s, with a generous helping of episodes spread across 14 discs. On the minus side, if you find any or all to your liking, none of the series are presented in their entirety, so prepare to shell out extra dough.
Or not. The only certifiable TV classic here is “The Prisoner,” Patrick McGoohan’s groundbreaking, sci-fi-tinged mind-warper which helped pave the way for modern-day serials like “Lost,” but only three of its 17 episodes are here, leaving you with only the first taste of the ongoing story.
“The Persuaders!” is not deserving of its exclamation point, being a rather dated, jet-set, freewheelin’ pairing of Tony Curtis and Roger Moore, with a swank campiness that had to influence Mike Myers’ “Austin Powers.” Here, you get roughly half of its 24-show run.
I’d put “The Protectors” alongside it, quality-wise, with Robert Vaughn pulling a post-“Man from U.N.C.L.E.” job with an awfully goofy feel amid superficial action. It’s a little easier to take than “The Persuaders!,” however, given each ep’s half-hour running time. Its first season is in whole here; its second is absent.
The hidden gem is “The Champions,” a rather fun romp about three globetrotting agents with heightened powers. Injecting a touch of the supernatural into espionage makes for a blast, leaving one hungry for the series’ other half.
Extras are minimal, mostly relegated to “The Prisoner.”