Skip to main content

How James Bond Almost Became A TV Series, And Why It’s Not Happening

Daniel Craig as Bond in No Time To Die
(Image credit: MGM)

Being a massive multimedia franchise is pretty much the game when it comes to becoming a heavy hitter in today’s entertainment industry. Which is why, despite several statements from producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson rejecting any idea of the sort, everyone keeps asking if the post-No Time To Die world could change that answer. The dismissal comes because of some very specific reasons, and it also further highlights the times that 007 was almost ready for televised serialization. Perhaps to settle the matter once and for all, let’s discuss how James Bond almost became a TV series, and why it’s not happening. 

Daniel Craig stands confused in a cloud of mist in No Time To Die.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

Why James Bond Isn’t Becoming A TV Series, According To The Producers

In a recent interview with The Wrap, both Wilson and Broccoli addressed the inquiry of whether or not the Bond legacy would make a play to reach beyond its cinematic tradition. The stalwarts who keep EON Productions running, and hold all key decision-making power over the family-owned property, these James Bond bosses had some specific comments when it came to trying to apply the Marvel Cinematic Universe method to the 007 universe. Especially pertaining to these potential pitfalls, when stacked against continuing the longest-running film franchise in history:

Michael G. Wilson: If we had to make a TV series on top of that and put that same amount of energy into 10 or 20 hours of content, that’s a big commitment. So, we’d have to delegate. And we’ve been very reluctant to delegate.

Barbara Broccoli: We’re not a factory. Our movies are all hand-made. We’ve always been a family business and it will remain a family business, so long as we keep breathing.

Just as they resisted the jump to streaming in the early days of the pandemic crunched market, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have turned away from the “expanded universe” strategy that seems so commonplace. Evidenced by their comments above, as well as the reasons for why No Time To Die maintained its presence as a theatrical-only debut, the producers of the series believe in the uniqueness of their brand. Strangely enough, that was almost the reality of the situation, as TV was the first home of James Bond adaptations.

James Bond Jr. in a tuxedo.

(Image credit: United Artists/Murakami-Wolf-Swenson)

James Bond’s Previous History As A TV Property

Twice before, James Bond actually got to play around in the world of TV, though one outing counts as a partial branding. The first, and most obvious example of Bond’s television career is Casino Royale’s 1954 adaptation on the CBS drama program Climax! Viewers who’d read Ian Fleming’s novel a year previous may have been a bit confused at the time though, as 007 became Jimmy Bond (Barry Nelson), an American agent for Combined Intelligence alongside his British counterpart, Clarence Leiter. 

Bond’s legacy would only hit television one more time in the almost 60 year history of the 007 saga, and it was an attempt that only counted for half. The animated series James Bond Jr. focused on the titular character, who was actually the nephew of the super spy himself, as he went to an elite espionage academy with other relatives of EON Productions mainstays. That series only lasted for about half a year, with 65 episodes to its credit; but it’s not the only time an actual TV series was contemplated. 

Barry Nelson as Jimmy Bond in Casino Royale (1954).

(Image credit: CBS)

James Bond Almost Continued On TV Before It Went To The Movies

Just four years after Ian Fleming allowed Climax! to adapt Casino Royale, CBS was keen on getting the author to actually write a James Bond TV series for television. Prompted by the success of their previous efforts, the network asked Fleming to develop the idea, only to drop it quickly after. It’s because of this quick turnaround that the author was able to turn out the short story collection For Your Eyes Only in 1960. Four of the five of those TV stories were adapted into their current literary form, which in turn led to a couple of those stories lending titles/inspiration to future Bond films like A View to a Kill and Quantum of Solace.

One final attempt saw Ian Fleming trying to make Dr. No into a TV movie, which also failed to make it into production. Fate quickly stepped in, as a meeting with producer Harry Saltzman kicked off the process that would see 1962 usher in film history, with Sean Connery introducing the world to Bond...James Bond. Though he’d face some pop culture competition, thanks to one more televised property that Fleming lent his talents to.

David McCallum and Robert Vaughn sitting next to each other in The Man From UNCLE.

(Image credit: Arena Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Television)

The Unexpected Franchise That Came Out Of Ian Fleming’s Attempts At TV

If it wasn’t for James Bond producer Albert "Cubby" Broccoli convincing the author to stick to the moving pictures, we could have seen another weekly series influenced by James Bond’s literary creator. In an odd bit of symmetry, Ian Fleming was recruited by producer Norman Felton to loosely adapt North by Northwest into a TV series. The symmetry comes from the fact that both Alfred Hitchcock and Cary Grant were considered to kick off the James Bond franchise, at the beginning of its lifecycle. Together, they almost created Ian Fleming’s Solo, but you’d know it better as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Fleming gave Robert Vaughn’s Napoleon Solo his name, as well as created the character of April Dancer for the series. Though after Broccoli’s insistence that he sell the project to NBC, as noted in the same write-up that details the current status of James Bond on TV, all that remained of his input were those characters. For a property that isn’t going to be on the small screen any time soon, 007 sure does have a history with televised programming. 

Like the many branches of “what if” scenarios that come out of the history of James Bond, TV is another tangent that was pruned, but not before sprouting some interesting products. Currently, Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson have no plans to get into that business again. While that still seems resolute and firm, let’s not forget that the phrase “never say never again” also came from Bond’s history of defying what seems to be written in stone. 

If you do want to see James Bond on your TV screen, you can do that by catching No Time To Die on PVOD, unless you’d rather wait for the December 21 physical media release on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD. Though at the time of this writing, most of the James Bond back catalogue is also available to stream on Prime Video and Pluto TV. Just don’t expect serialized episodic adventures anytime soon, unless you count Daniel Craig’s five film run

Mike Reyes

CinemaBlend's James Bond (expert). Also versed in Large Scale Aggressors, time travel, and Guillermo del Toro. He fights for The User.