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Spy Vs. Spy: Power Ranking TV's Favorite Spooks And Secret Agents

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | March 8, 2013 | Comments ()


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What factors played into today's highly scientific Power Ranking that I spent a lot of time mulling and didn't at all dash it off in my hotel room so you would have something to distract you on a Friday afternoon? Uhhhhh. The best spies have a facility with foreign languages, are masters of disguise and deception. They can keep calm in tense situations and, above all else, look good carrying a weapon. Enjoy. I've saved my current TV obsession for last.

Michael Westen -- "Burn Notice": Have you ever tried narrating mundane activities in Michael Westen's signature droning voice-over? It's obscenely fun. "When you're a spy, it's always important you brush even those hard to reach back teeth."
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Agent 99 -- "Get Smart": Maxwell Smart wouldn't have made it without Agent 99 to pick up his slack. Shoe phones will only get you so far.
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Sterling Archer -- "Archer": I don't watch this show. I did this so you wouldn't yell at me. XO.
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Fiona Glenanne -- "Burn Notice": This girl wore a fashionable fanny pack for more than one season and used the contents of it to blow ALL the things up. She's the best. Her Irish accent is the worst. But she's the best.
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MacGyver -- "MacGyver": Well, what can you do with a comb and some tissue paper?
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John Casey -- "Chuck": John Casey was so delightful he made me want to forget everything I knew about Adam Baldwin.
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Carrie Mathison-- "Homeland": Yes, okay, she's a basket case, but she's a damn good analyst and it's a joy to see her working an informant.
Homeland.jpg

Lucas North -- "Spooks": I had a lot of options from "Spooks" but I was reasonably certain you'd torch me if I deprived you of Armitage.
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Agent Vaughn -- "Alias": Hmmmmm, did this show take place in the early 2000s? I can't tell.
Vaughn.jpg

Alexander Scott -- "I Spy": As quick on the trigger as he was with a comeback, Cosby's spy was one cool cat.
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Charles Carmichael -- "Chuck": Oh Chuck, the computer who wore tennis shoes.
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Jack Bristow -- "Alias": Don't mess with Spy Daddy. Don't even think about it.
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Mrs. Peel -- "The Avengers": Not the first to wear quite so much leather, but possibly the best.
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Jack Bauer -- "24": He saved the world. A lot.
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Nikita -- "La Femme Nikita": Yeah I went "old school." It's still the third time this particular story has been told.
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Phillip Jennings -- "The Americans": Let's all just pretend Mr. Keri Russell got his preternaturally rosy lips from kissing information out of some hapless CIA operative, shall we?
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Sarah Walker -- "Chuck": Yeah there are sexier photos of Yvonne Strahovksi, but few cooler.
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Sydney Bristow -- "Alias": Garner played this tall drink of badass so well. Even when the plot got a little too...well...Abrams-y, she was always a pillar of strength.
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Elizabeth Jennings -- "The Americans" Sweet sassy molassy. If you're not watching this show, you're missing out. Keri Russell is a pistol of the highest caliber.
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Comments Are Welcome, Douches Are Not


  • Samantha Klein

    So...when you say her Irish accent is the worst, are we talking, like, David Boreanaz the worst? Or maybe more of a Johnny Depp bad? Just curious.

    Also, any list that includes Emma Peel is fine by me!

  • Green_Eggs_and_Hamster

    Tell the truth. You watch Archer, you just put that bit in about not watching it to Troll the Pajibans. Well played Joanna, well played.

  • the dude

    you dont watch archer??? RAAAAAAAAMPAGE!!!

  • I was in love with "The Americans" and then Kerri Russel met a local security guard while almost causing nuclear winter. The it was obvious this might be the strongest 1st season I've seen in quite a while.

    I hope there is a twist at the end of season 1, where history changes, and the Russians start winning ala "Red Dawn". Why not?

  • babykangarootribbiani

    wait, what;s bad about adam baldwin? i thought he wasn;t related to the crazy baldwin brothers....

  • Guest

    No Ros Meyers from Spooks = LIST VOID.

  • ceebee_eebee

    Agreed. This list is dead to me.

  • logan

    I love "Archer" and I love all of you for the "Archer" quotes.
    Or maybe that's just the scotch talking.

  • ,

    Notable omissions:

    Robert Vaughn/David McCallum, "Man From U.N.C.L.E." Is there a better spy name than Napoleon Solo?

    Peter Graves, "Mission: Impossible"

  • Pandering, I say! I feel like the Lucas North character was a weak spot in 'Spooks', despite the specific and substantial charisma of Mr Armitage. The two strongest were those portrayed by Hermione Norris (even though Roz was often annoyingly nihilistic) and Matthew MacFayden. They were still at least somewhat aligned with the human race and believable, which made the stakes higher. It's what made the first few seasons breathless.

  • Mrs. Julien

    Plus Matthew Macfadyen took his shirt off sometimes.

  • John W

    Man from UNCLE? Peter Phelps from Mission: Impossible? The Middleman and Wendy Watson? Torchwood?

  • Mitchell Hundred

    I would not have torched you for excluding Spooks altogether. I've seen seven seasons of that show. None of them are good, and most of them are shit (although some of the acting is alright).

  • Donna SHerman

    "John Casey — “Chuck”: John Casey was so delightful he made me want to forget everything I knew about Adam Baldwin. "
    I know, right?

  • Blake

    Archer and The Avengers will always been 1 and 2.

    No Kale Ingram from Rubicon?

    Or Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin from The Man From U.N.C.L.E?

    Or Steve Austin from The Six Million Dollar Man?

  • emmalita

    I don't think enough people watched Rubicon to know Kale Ingram. I loved it and would have watched a whole show about Kale going about his daily life. You could probably learn more about being a spy watching Kale pick up his dry cleaning than from 2 seasons of Michael Westen's voice over.

  • What? No Jim Caviezel as Ninja Jesus?

    http://www.tvequals.com/wp-con...

  • F'mal DeHyde

    God, I love this show. I gorged on the first season in just a few days and now I'm jonesing for the second season which unfortunately they don't stream online so I have to wait for the DVDs. ARGH!

  • It will be worth the wait. I can guarantee it.

  • I am surprised by the lack of Pamela Anderson as Vallery Irons in this lineup.

  • fracas

    Garak the tailor, formerly of The Obsidian Order.

  • $43768042

    when i was young i really wanted to be john steed. classy dresser, great spy, witty and urbane and, undoubtedly, got to help mrs. peel in snd out of her catsuits.
    um, i'm gonna be in my bunk...

  • Every picture of Yvonne Strahovski is sexy. She was incredible in Chuck, which I've been rewatching lately. I completely buy her being a spy (though not some of the outfits she fights in). Her and Zach Levi have incredible chemistry. I'm not sure how much range she has. But she should never be out of work.

    Also, it's hard for a lefty like me to like Baldwin that much (his twitter feed was too much). He's basically Casey, minus being an actual spy (that we know of). So it's kind of incredible they were able to make Casey a likable character. In short, I really love Chuck. But I'm debating whether to buy and rewatch the final season. I don't remember it too fondly.

  • L.O.V.E.

    I also watched a lot of these two shows as a kid. I regret nothing.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Oh Bruce Boxleitner, you were so dreamy *sigh* I really liked Jan-Michael Vincent too but he started getting terminal squint by the time Airwolf aired.

  • Three_nineteen

    Don't you know how to drive a stick?!

  • L.O.V.E.

    Old School

  • Joey, do you like movies about gladiators?

  • L.O.V.E.

    Joey, have you ever been in a Turkish prison?

  • Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?

  • L.O.V.E.

    Joey, you ever hang around a gymnasium?

  • Bert_McGurt

    "Well, what can you do with a comb and some tissue paper? "

    I can make...a mean motherf*cking kazoo. Or possibly give someone a thoughtfully-wrapped gift of a comb. Or make like, six little plastic stick-man paratroopers. Or make a cat toy for a sick, neglected ocelot. It's like Meow-schwitz in there.

  • Semilitterate

    I think you are going to need cellophane for that Kazoo---tissue paper---not so much

  • Malin

    No Lena Olin as Spy Mommy? She was the awesome. Way better than Vaughn.

  • BWeaves

    You left out Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp. I loved him.

  • NateMan

    Wait, what bad things do you know about Adam Baldwin??

  • Lovely Bones

    Apparently, after he joined twitter, people realized he was an overbearing right wing nut-job type, just like how seeing John Cusack on twitter exposed him as being obnoxious as all hell.

  • NateMan

    Oh. Well, that's bearable. As long as he doesn't come out with anything homophobic or xenophobic I can live with that.

  • Salieri2

    Xenophobic? You decide.

    http://www.breitbart.com/Big-H...

  • Scully

    "I may become your father in law, that's just fine, but I will not be used as a charming little anecdote you tell your friends at a cocktail party so they can see what a quaint, old fashioned guy Danny really is. Are we clear? Good. Then welcome to the family."

    Oh Daddy Bristow, I miss you so.

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Mr Keri Russell is strangely sexy.

  • Slash

    Fiona is not a spy.

    And Pam is the real badass of "Archer." And Keri Russell is awesome in "The Americans."

  • foolsage

    Pam's not really a spy either though. ;)

  • I somehow feel that Joanna has arrived at SXSW completely unprepared. I mean, Seth is inevitably going to accidentally kill a prostitute, and Joanna's going to say "but I thought you said she was a call girl" and when Dustin yells "dammit Joanna, once you kill them, they're all hookers" and she's not even going to get the joke. And I don't want her to feel like an outsider when she's helping the team dig a grave in the desert outside of Austin.

  • Lovely Bones

    As long as they have a mini-fridge to bury her in, they don't need no stinkin' rugs.

    (I am so going to regret this call-back because I'm the only one that remembers these kind of things. And where's L.O.V.E. when you need them?)

  • BendinIntheWind

    I'll bet she didn't even bring a rug.

  • Aaron Schulz

    And now i have to spend my first friday off in forever devising some bizarre punishment for you. So dont be surprised if you end up eating a bunch of spiderwebs.

  • foolsage

    Milk comes from Mexicans? Oh my God, what's cereal made from?

  • Brown

    You know what not watching Archer does? It puts you in the danger zone!

  • LadyKarinsky

    you stole my comment! Call Kenny Loggins.

  • L.O.V.E.

    Kick-ass Kommie Keri has been an excellent surprise.

  • MrsAtaxxia

    You don't watch Archer? What the Sh*t Lana??!?!?

  • The Kitastrophe

    Lana: PLEASE tell me that's a smoke grenade.

    Archer: Okay. (long pause) It's not, though.

  • Archer's pauses are a work of art in their own

  • foolsage

    Mallory: Swear to God, you people make me want to pump nerve gas through the vents.
    Krieger: Just say the word.

  • Rochelle

    I wish Krieger and Dr. Spaceman could do a buddy movie. With Krieger animated and Dr. Spaceman live.

  • foolsage

    "Science is whatever we want it to be." - Leo Spaceman

  • foolsage

    Pam: And that's the reason I never have sex with my coworkers. That... and no one ever lets me.
    Krieger: I've had good results with ether.

  • foolsage

    Cyril: How did you know where I was?
    Lana: When we first started going out, I may have... injected a tracking device into your body.
    Cyril: In my body?
    Lana: Baby? Hon?
    Cyril: No, no, now that is a breach of trust, Lana.
    Lana: Do you really want to open this can of trust-breachy worms right after I just caught you and my ex-boyfriend with a dead hooker in the trunk?
    Cyril: I do not.
    Lana: You do not.

  • Boothy K

    Thank you, all, for the Archer quotes. Brilliant. Love Archer...too much.

  • foolsage

    My pleasure. I've just been rewatching the series. It's consistently hilarious and clever.

  • foolsage

    Cyril: When would you use an underwear gun?
    Archer: Hopefully never. But say you're in a Caribbean bungalow, and you're kind of high, an exotic woman on the bed. Now is she just the high-priced whore you asked for? Or is she an... assassin?
    Cyril: I don't know.
    Archer: Oh, here's room service. Who ordered champagne?
    Cyril: Ah. How should I know?
    Archer: Exactly. You're baked. You can't remember. But since when does it take three huge surly Jamaican guys to deliver one bottle of champagne?
    Cyril: Ohhh. Because they're assassins too?
    Archer: Or... maybe one guy's a new waiter. The second one's training him, and the third's from maintenance, finally off his lazy ass to fix the A.C.
    Cyril: Oh, yeah. I guess that could happen.
    Archer: Point is, you come out of the john waving this around... no one's gonna bug you for a tip.

  • NateMan

    Just the tip?

  • DataAngel

    Phrasing!

  • foolsage

    Sterling: If you don't want to see two robots smashing each other with cop cars and shit as they fight each other through the streets of Manhattan...
    Krieger: Stop. My penis can only get so erect.

  • MrsAtaxxia

    I am always disappointed when the HR ladies at my job are not Pam.

  • I'd yell at you for not watching Archer, but I'm really hungry and tired. All I've had today are like six gummy bears and some scotch.

  • foolsage

    Archer: For I am a sinner in the hands of an angry God. Bloody Mary, full of vodka, blessed are you among cocktails. Pray for me now and at the hour of my death, which I hope is soon. Amen.

  • Rochelle

    Did you have an after-meal whore with those gummy bears?

  • Hollyg

    I still get emotional whenever I see a picture of Jack Bristow. And everytime he chooses to sink with the Titanic my heart shatters into a million pieces. I also refuse to see movies where he plays the bad guy. JACK.BRISTOW.IS.NOT.THE.BAD.GUY.

    NOT EVER.

  • Muhnah_Muhnah

    At first, he was just badass, but then Spy Mommy showed up and he suddenly became sexy and I didn't know what to do with all my feelings. And Spy Mommy was hella sexy too. And then Isabella Rossellini showed up. And then Sydney wore the red lingerie. And Vaughn took off his shirt. Well...it was a difficult time for me is what I'm saying.

  • Fredo

    The fact you don't see Archer confuses, astounds and worries me. Archer is the cure for just about any ailment you may be suffering from.

    "Dammit Lupe! This is America! It's implied!"

  • foolsage

    "I have to go, but if I find one dog hair when I come back, I'll rub sand into your dead little eyes. I also need you to buy sand. I don't know if they grade it, but... coarse." - Archer

  • Mel C.

    This is my favorite. And when he rips the black turtleneck. Now I have to go watch the pilot again.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Associating MacGyver with anything before duct tape make me think you're a Russian sleeper agent...

    Tissues? please

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