I LED THREE LIVES was loosely based on the life of Herbert Philbrick, a Boston advertising executive who infiltrated the U.S. Communist Party on behalf of the FBI in the 1940s and wrote a bestselling book on the topic, I Led Three Lives: Citizen, 'Communist', Counterspy (1952). The part of Philbrick was played by Richard Carlson.
I Led Three Lives lasted 117 episodes. Philbrick narrated each episode and served as a technical consultant — and all scripts were approved by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI. Nonetheless, the episodes often had very little to do with the actual events of Philbrick's life, with plotlines taking Philbrick on journeys to Europe and South America. They gradually became more and more outlandish, featuring such supposed "Communist plots" as an attempt to convert vacuum cleaners into bomb launchers.
ILTL was on from 1953-56 and I barely remember it. I do remember that a nest of Communists was routed out of the house behind me when I was a child. The people who bought the house next became friends and it was fun to go down to their basement and see the knotty pine paneling, the bar, the furniture where these blackhearts had conducted their business. It was scary much as the show.
THE AMERICANS has a bit of the feel of it, but of course, hindsight makes it much less shrill than it was when the red menace was part of our life. Any kid from the era remembers the world maps where the Communist bloc was all in red, and seemingly growing bigger every day.