THE SENTIMENTAL AGENT. ITC Entertainment; ATV Production. September 28, 1963 through December 21, 1963. 13 episodes @60 minutes. Carlos Thompson as Carlos Varela, Burt Kwouk as Chin, Clemence Bettany as Miss Suzy Carter, John Turner as Bill Randall. Executive Producer: Leslie Harris. Producer: Harry Fine.

   It is not uncommon for a great series to decline as time goes by, but The Sentimental Agent might hold the record for how fast a great series can turn into one of television’s worst.

   The Sentimental Agent began as an episode of another ITC series, Man of the World. The episode entitled “The Sentimental Agent” introduced the character Carlos Barella (Carlos Thompson), owner of an import-export business.

   Man of the World featured the adventures of Michael Strait (Craig Stevens), world famous photographer-reporter, as he traveled around the world with his assistant Maggie (Tracy Reed). When Michael was arrested in Cuba, Maggie goes to Carlos for help. The story focused on Carlos as the series regulars spent most of their time off screen.


   The episode was one of Man of the World’s best and led to the character Carlos getting his own weekly series. Carlos Barella became Carlos Varela, owner of Mercury International import-export business. He moved to London and lived in a fancy office-home above the company’s warehouse.

   His staff was introduced. Chin, Carlos’ Chinese servant, had endless contacts (cousins), enjoyed gambling on horse races, and ruled with absolute power over what clothes Carlos wore. Miss Carter was the usual loyal pretty young efficient secretary. The interaction between the three characters added to the series charm.

   The highlight of the series was Carlos Thompson’s portrayal of Varela. Carlos had the charm to con anyone including the viewers. Varela was entertainingly too perfect. He knew everything and everyone. Confident, irresistible to beautiful women, he was always one step ahead of everyone else. He avoided violence, preferring to outsmart his opponents.


   Each week Carlos would be in a different part of the world on business only to be caught in the middle of danger and intrigue. The writers made creative use of Carlos’ occupation. Stories ranged from Cold War spy plots (“Express Delivery”) to adventures in exotic lands (“Scroll of Islam”). The series worked best featuring the light escapism of such episodes as “May the Saints Preserve Us.”

   In that episode, future Monty Python’s Flying Circus favorite female, Carol Cleveland played a young beautiful headstrong heiress from Texas who wanted Mercury International to ship her Northern Ireland ancestral castle to her home in Texas. The story used the expected twists as MacGuffins, action that bordered on the silly, and dialog full of humor.

   Even in the beginning the series had its flaws. Stock footage filling in for the exotic locale of the week was overused and obvious. Direction was average. And a warning, after repeated listening, the theme music “Carlos’ Theme” can get stuck in your head and refuse to leave.


   Reportedly, ratings were not as good as expected, but far worse was the alleged problems with the star. Carlos Thompson’s performance was near perfect, yet it is claimed the Spanish-speaking actor had problems with his English. Thompson lasted eight episodes (plus the final episode in perhaps the worst use of stock footage in television’s history).

   Replacing Thompson was John Turner as Bill Randall. The storyline had Randall filling in for the absent Varela who was away on business and no doubt having more entertaining adventures than the ones Randall had. The audience suffered through five episodes featuring Bill Randall. He was the complete opposite of Carlos. Randall was a dull, clueless, average looking Englishman. It was as if they had replaced James Bond with Felix Leiter.

   The switch of leads was rushed and clumsy. It wasn’t until the final episode, “A Box of Tricks” written by story editor Ian Stuart Black, that the character of Randall, and how Chin should fit in, was finally figured out. The episode also gave all the characters a happy ending.

   A special treat of watching old television shows is seeing future stars. “A Very Desirable Plot” written by Brian Clemens (The Avengers) featured the first television appearance of Diana Rigg.

   The Sentimental Agent is worth watching. The Carlos Thompson episodes are entertaining, at times brilliantly so. But avoid any episode with John Turner, it would just spoil any fond memories you have of this series.



Double O Section. (Warning to spoiler-phobics. This review has spoilers.)

Note:   A DVD set (Pal Only) of the 13-episode season has been released, but no longer carries it. A five minute clip from an episode called “The Beneficiary” can be seen here on YouTube.