The 1960s was a new era both politically and socially, but also media-wise. It was the introduction of television as we know it. A 22-24 episode season was really unheard of before 1960, and it was a massive undertaking that early directors and creators such as Mel Brooks (Get Smart) and Sol Saks (Bewitched), took part in. Admittedly they weren't adding in all the special effects that Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D and even The Blacklist are using, but back then, special effects were rudimentary.
This was the cold-war era. You didn't know who you could trust in your neighborhood, and America had been infiltrated by the KGB. This led to the idolization of the spy genre-men (and sometimes women) teaming up to infiltrate enemy headquarters and taking down the opposing leaders, often in a rather comical way - until the next episode/season. Shows such as Get Smart, The Man From U.N.C.L.E, The Avengers, Mission Impossible and The Saint, portrayed American spies, fighting 'imaginary' forces of evil (typically based on either the Nazis or Russians), searching for world domination.
Part of the fun of these series was the different names given to both the good guys and the bad guys. In Get Smart, it was Control and Kaos. Mission Impossible, it was Impossible Mission Force (IMF) and Crime Lords. The Man From U.N.C.L.E; well it was U.N.C.L.E and T.H.R.U.S.H. All spy series in this era had comedic aspects to them, but it wasn't all comedy. I remember growing up watching Get Smart and there being many serious parts, which would eventually be followed with comedy, but there were certainly things which would be considered rather "full-on" for the viewers of the day. Admittedly the violence was more tame than what we've become accustomed to. The directors were able to make it serious enough that there were some points which leave even modern audiences squirming. Agent 86 and 99 once had to watch as a KAOS agent was thrown into a vat of boiling wax.
The way the spy genre has developed over the past 60 years hasn't been too drastic. Even in the 1960s you had the James Bond movies which followed the same format - humor mixed in with seriousness plus a tad of sexuality. And today, the genre still follows the same sort of format. Looking at notable modern spy movies, The Man From U.N.C.L.E and Skyfall, the humor is a lot more subtle. Cinema has moved closer and closer towards taking on a more real-world approach to their films, because it is simply more appealing to the younger audience. If you have ever seen any of the old series, can you imagine that being aired alongside Homeland or The Blacklist? I certainly can't! The audience just wouldn't appreciate it or wouldn't even find the point of the show. There wasn't really an ongoing story in the background, and there wasn't the same set method for every show. These classics were more along the lines of short stories made into shows. And that is what I, and probably the rest of the world who used to watch them, love. It was an unheard and rather taboo idea to imagine a Russian and American spy teaming up, however shows from this era give an insight into what it would have been like. The concept of two national enemies teaming up and saving the world is embodied in U.N.C.L.E and the comedy from it is quite original.
Once again, I don't dislike the realistic spy movies; I actually thoroughly enjoy them. However, unlike comic-book movies, the origin of the genre is commonly forgotten. The spy genre was born from comedy and a time in the world where the government needed to look good rather than bad. They boosted morale in a time of dire unrest. It is shows such as Get Smart that really designed the look of a spy. Suited, dark haired and even in most cases, fit. Spectre wouldn't be in existence if the genre hadn't been supported or constantly reinvented over the past 70 years. Whether or not movies are humorous these days, we must never forget where the bullet was born.