The first episode of "A Man Called Intrepid," a six-hour NBC series that begins tomorrow at 8 on Channel 4, is preoccupied with the romance of two young British spies at their training camp in Ontario. It's warm and moist and moony, but it's not exactly intrepid.
"Intrepid" has been adapted by William Blinn from William Stevenson's book about World War II masterspy William Stephenson (no relation). David Niven plays Stephenson as a gentlemanly figure, obviously intelligent and capable but hardly the last word in derring-do.
When not secretly shuttling between Churchill and Roosevelt, Stephenson constructs a spy camp in the wilds of Ontario with the assistance of young camouflage expert Michael York. York meets and woos one of the campers, Barbara Hershey.
York and Yershey go well together, and the war seems sexy, for a while, in the manner of classic war romances. Only near the end of the first episode does the war begin to seem dangerous, too. In an effectively suspenseful finale, Hershey is dropped alone behind enemy lines.
The Hershey character is in only one chapter of the original book. Perhaps her role has been inflated by the filmmakers because they don't seem to be able to portray the actual details of espionage and transatlantic politics as well as they portray the glamor of the love affair.
Perhaps, though, we judge too soon. Episodes two and three were not previewed. They focus on Hershey's experiences behind the lines and on York's pursuit of scientist Niels Bohr in Scandinavia. The "intrepid" quotient may increase as the series continues.