Quotable Callan

My new favorite guilty pleasure is the old British TV show Callan, from the late ’60s-early ’70s, with Edward Woodward as a wound-up, bitter spy railing in Shakespearean tones against his superiors and the system. The show combines soap operatic acting with some surprising nimble dialogue that rises to (or at least aspires to) the finely calibrated insider upper-echelon double-speak of John LeCarré’s bureaucratic spy masters. In one episode, Callan ventures a sour joke at the expense of a colleague, only to have his imperious superior promptly strike him down with the observation that “levity is not the soul of wit.” That’s a line good enough for Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.

I am also taken by the wardrobe sported by one of Callan’s fellow spies, Cross (he of the Patrick Mower of the majestically flaring nostrils and wolf-boy hair). On occasion, Cross has been known to show up in a white sheep-skin lined jacket with an enormous collar that must have decimated an entire flock of Merinos and two gigantic button-down side pockets. This amazing garment should no doubt make a comeback now, some 40 years later, when we have at last found a use for such limitless carrying capacity: a place to store our iPads.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find a photo of the jacket, so this closeup of cross in action will have to suffice.

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