Robert Culp, half of the team of I Spy and a third of the trio from The Greatest American Hero, has passed away at the age of 79. He was known best for his role in a groundbreaking series, as well as a groundbreaking film, but did his share of writing and directing over the years as well.
I Spy aired from 1965 to 1968, and in that time it was a groundbreaking show. Not only did it creatively combine action and humor, but it also was the first to feature racially integrated stars, with an African American in the lead. This opened the way for Diahann Carroll to become the first African American woman in a non-stereotypical role (on Julia). Culp appeared on the show as tennis player Kelly Robinson, who was hiding his true identity of being a spy. He wrote seven scripts throughout the show’s three seasons, and also directed an episode. He was nominated for an Emmy Award for the series three separate times, but each time lost out to Cosby.
Additionally, Culp also starred in Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, with Natalie Wood, Elliott Gould, and Dyan Cannon. The movie reflected the openness of the times regarding people’s sexual habits, as one of the two couples (Bob and Carol) were swingers. When they all traveled to Las Vegas together, Ted admitted to an affair of his own, and Alice insisted that they share their mates on the trip so that she gets to have a little fun as well.
He spent three seasons co-starring on The Greatest American Hero. He played zealous FBI Agent Bill Maxwell who’s paired with teacher Ralph Hinkley (William Katt) who receives a specially-powered suit from aliens. The duo fight bad guys together, often with the help of Ralph’s girlfriend, attorney Pam Davidson (Connie Sellecca).
When that series ended, Cup continued with smaller roles in films and guest starring roles, including as Ray Romano’s father-in-law on Everybody Loves Raymond. He hadn’t acted since 2007 (voicing his Hero character for Robot Chicken), save for a role in an upcoming movie called The Assignment.
Out for a walk today outside his home in Hollywood, Culp fell and hit his head. He was found by a jogger and taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His son was told he had suffered a heart attack.
Contacted about his former co-star’s death, Cosby said Culp was always like an older brother to him. “The first born in every family is always dreaming of the older brother or sister he or she doesn’t have, to protect, to be the buffer, provide the wisdom, shoulder the blows and make things right. Bob was the answer to my dreams.”