By the time I get this posted, Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond will no longer be available on Netflix. It was billed there as a TV series but would better be described as a mini-series; it is only four episodes long. As such, I’ve forgone trying to make it through Borgia so as to complete this shorter series before it becomes unattainable (at least within the services for which I have already paid).
This series was created by the BBC and is somewhat based on the real-life exploits of Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond series (and, for what its worth, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang). The accompanying text warns that the show has dramatized its underlying factual basis to create a better story. Indeed, I think this disclaimer itself is part of the narrative in that dramatizing the facts was a hallmark of Fleming himself. Obviously known for his literary flights of fancy, he was also known to stretch the truth when it came to his own life’s story.
What we are really about here is the wooing of Fleming’s wife-to-be. While the story also follows his “career,” the central arc concerns his affair with a married woman, his relationship with his mother, and the question whether he can overcome his inner cad. While the occasional action sequence isn’t bad for TV, an inordinate amount of screen time is dedicated to the whoopi that would support that main theme. It’s not as pornographic as Borgia, to be sure, but my 14-year-old Bond loving self would never have been allowed to watch this one. Nor, likely, would I have found in it particularly entertaining. The Spy Who Loved Me it is not.
Given its focus and format, the show obviously has to leave a lot by the wayside. It does make interesting use of our knowledge of the Bond films to add depth to the piece. We see Fleming in various iconic James Bond situations, often with a slight variation on the easily-recognized James Bond theme playing in the background. Elsewhere, the Fleming character refers to the Operation Mincemeat, a deception operation which was, years earlier, originally conceived (likely) by Fleming, by the title of Peter Seller’s classic film The Man Who Never Was. One’s appreciation for the show is successfully padded by these other cultural references.
Overall, this is a decent production, worth the time to watch through the four episodes. It cost me four Borgias to watch, but I’m glad I did. I notice that this series, being pulled from streaming, will not be made available on DVD. Sometimes I wonder what drives Netflix’s decision process in halting the availability of some of these shows.