[[quoteright:206:http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/It_Takes_a_Thief_9208.jpg]]

->''"Look, Al, I'm not asking you to spy, I'm just asking you to steal."''\\
--'''Noah Bain'''

''It Takes a Thief'' was an American television series that aired on Creator/{{ABC}} between 1968 and 1970. It followed the exploits of master thief and ConMan Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner). Facing a long sentence in prison, he's given an offer by Noah Bain (Malachi Throne), the cop who caught him and is now the head of the SIA, an American intelligence agency. Mundy will be released from jail if he agrees to provide his unique skills to the government. The series served as a prototype for similar shows, such as ''Series/WhiteCollar'', that also featured a LoveableRogue.

Not to be confused with the [[SimilarlyNamedWorks identically-named]] RealityShow that ran on the DiscoveryChannel between 2005 and 2007. That series has [[Series/ItTakesAThief2005 its own entry]].

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!!Tropes:
* AlwaysABiggerFish: Even though Al is a master thief, he readily admits that his father, Alistair, is even better.
* AngryGuardDog: Al deals with them in a few episodes.
* AnimalAssassin: Al finds a scorpion in his shower in "The Scorpio Drop".
* AsHimself: Racing legend Mario Andretti in "The Steal Driving Man" and singing group The 5th Dimension in "To Sing a Song of Murder".
* BadassGrandpa[=/=]CoolOldGuy: How Alistair is depicted. In "The Second Time Around", he single-handedly captures a ColdSniper who had tried to assassinate him.
* BavarianFireDrill: One of Al's frequent methods of theft. For example, he'll show up saying he's been assigned to evaluate the security around the target of the week. The guards usually buy this, giving Al the chance to get vital information for that episode's caper.
* BerserkButton: Normally, Al is cool and unflappable during his missions. However, he doesn't react well when children or his friends are threatened.
** An example of the former is in the first season episode "The Radomir Minature", when Al actually threatens an enemy agent holding a little girl captive. The latter is shown in the second season story "The Galloping Skin Game", when Al angrily quits the SIA and demands to be sent back to prison when he [[spoiler: mistakenly]] thinks Noah has set up friendly adversary Nick Grobbo to be killed.
*** Also, Al doesn't take it well when Noah asks him to kidnap a ChildProdigy so they can force his older sister to divulge secret information in "A Matter of Gray Matter". Fortunately, the kid is not only willing to go with Al, but he knows the secret Noah wanted to learn in the first place.
* BigBrotherIsWatching: During the first season, when Al isn't on a mission, he's kept under house arrest and constant video surveillance.
* {{Blackmail}}: In "The Bill is in Committee", a respected U.S. senator is set up for it by an agent of a foreign dictatorship. Stopping the plot is one of the few times Al actually volunteers for a mission.
* {{Bookends}}: Wally Cox plays an airline passenger in both the first and final episodes.
* BoxedCrook
* CallBack: In "When Thieves Fall In", Al reminds Noah how, on an earlier mission ("It Takes One to Know One"), Noah had briefly met "Charlie" Brown. And how she stole his wallet.
* CatchPhrase: For Al, it's, "Oh, you're beautiful!" He uses it either sarcastically (to Noah or Wally when they force him to do a dangerous caper) or honestly (to 99.9% of the women he meets).
* ChessMotifs: "The Great Chess Gambit", strangely enough. The episode features Al getting into a chess match with the VillainOfTheWeek, and several comparisons are made between their chess moves and the activities of the American and Russian agents vying for that episode's McGuffin.
* ChildProdigy: When it comes to crime, Al was this. In "It Takes One to Know One", he says he'd been spotting cops and government agents when he was six years old. Understandable, given his FamilyBusiness.
* ClearMyName: The plot of "Beyond a Treasonable Doubt", in which Al is framed as a traitor.
* UsefulNotes/ColdWar: Inevitable, given that this is SpyFiction from TheSixties. Al smuggles something or someone across the IronCurtain in several episodes.
* CoolOldLady:
** Duchess Christina from "The Lay of the Land", who may or may not have written some CompromisingMemoirs.
** Bessie Grindel, one of Al's criminal mentors, in "Touch of Magic".
* ComplainingAboutRescuesTheyDontLike: The first season episode "When Boy Meets Girl".
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: "Get Me to the Revolution on Time" has several of them doing an EnemyMine team-up with a [[UsefulNotes/FidelCastro Castro]]-like guerrilla general. The deal is that the businessmen will help the general take over his country, then be rewarded with exclusive mining rights.
* CreativeClosingCredits: Instead of the standard ClosingCredits sequence, "To Sing a Song of Murder" excerpts a performance by that episode's guest stars, singing group the 5th Dimension.
* DeadManWalking: In the third season story "Saturday Night in UsefulNotes/{{Venice}}", Al is poisoned by Russian agents and offered the antidote in exchange for an item he'd previously stolen.
* DeadpanSnarker: Al, especially to anyone from the SIA.
* DistaffCounterpart: Charlene "Charlie" Brown (Susan Saint James), an equally skilled, though rather kooky female thief/con artist. She shows up in four episodes (two in the first season, two in the third).
* DoesntLikeGuns:
** In "It Takes One to Know One", Al says he never carries a gun. He feels it's unprofessional and not worth the trouble it could cause.
** Seemingly subverted in "Locked in the Cradle of the Keep", when Al actually gets into a gunfight with SIA agents, including Noah. However, it turns out to be part of a caper in which Al has to look like a traitor.
* DownerEnding: [[spoiler: The third season episode "Flowers from Alexander".]]
* DyingClue: The title phrase in "38-23-36". The dying SIA agent says this instead of revealing who the spy is because he doesn't know if the person he's talking to is the killer or not. [[spoiler:It turns out to be the coordinates of Athens, the spy's home town.]]
* DysfunctionJunction: In "The Family", Al infiltrates an oil billionaire's household because one of them is selling petrol to the Russians. All the family members are neurotics, except for a young girl who befriends Al.
* EasilyForgiven: [[spoiler:Angela Peters]] from "The Scorpio Drop". She tries to kill Al because she thinks he's the PhonyPsychic who [[DrivenToSuicide drove her mother to suicide]]. As soon as Al tells her that he's only impersonating the psychic, she becomes his GirlOfTheWeek.
* EpisodeOnAPlane: "Project 'X'".
* EvilCounterpart: George Palmer from "To Steal a Battleship". He and Al were childhood friends who went into thievery together, but George is much more willing to use violence and threats to get what he wants.
* EvolvingCredits: Each season has a different title sequence, with a variation during the third season for when Creator/FredAstaire was guest-starring. Each sequence included a progressively jazzier arrangement of Dave Grusin's OpeningTheme.
* {{Expy}}: The SIA for the CentralIntelligenceAgency.
* FakeDefector: Al in "Locked in the Cradle of the Keep".
* FamilyBusiness:
** Alastair Mundy (Creator/FredAstaire), Alexander Mundy's father, was also a thief.
** In one first season episode, Alexander says he's, in fact, a third generation thief.
** In the series' first regular episode ("It Takes One to Know One"), "Charlie" Brown mentions that she's also a third generation thief, several episodes before Al does.
* FriendToAllChildren: Several episodes feature Al befriending children in bad situations. Examples include "The Radomir Miniature", "A Matter of Gray Matter" and "The Family".
* GettingCrapPastTheRadar: In one episode, Al has to get a look at some CompromisingMemoirs from a lady who was known to enjoy the affections of many men in her past. The episode's title: "The Lay of the Land".
* GhostTown: The setting of "Fortune City".
* GovernmentAgencyOfFiction: The SIA (Secret Intelligence Agency).
* GreenAesop: The series' final episode, "Project 'X'".
* {{Hallucinations}}: During "Beyond a Treasonable Doubt", a wounded Al suffers a lengthy, surreal NightmareSequence in which he imagines he's on stage at a theater, with his SIA bosses (who think he's a traitor) judging and insulting him from the balconies.
* IAmVeryBritish: "Charlie" Brown uses a (sort of) posh English accent as part of an impersonation in "When Thieves Fall In". This is after she tries a memorably ''awful'' Cockney accent.
* IdenticalStranger: The reason Al gets Noah to spring "Charlie" Brown from prison in "When Thieves Fall In".
* InsaneAdmiral: In the third-season episode "Situation Red", a USAF Major (played by Earl Holliman) becomes dangerously paranoid due to a bad reaction to (non-anabolic) steroids. He becomes convinced that a Strategic Air Command test is an actual war situation and takes control of the bombers.
* KnifeNut: Kurt, the henchman in "A Spot of Trouble".
* LawmanGoneBad: The villain in [[spoiler:"The Artist Is for Framing"]] is a police inspector with a perfect record who's about to retire. He's obsessed with capturing Al as a final triumph, so he commits robberies using Al's techniques and frames him for the crimes.
* LeaningOnTheFourthWall: The final scene from the last episode, "Project 'X'".
* LoveableRogue: Mundy was an unabashed con-artist and thief, but was clearly the hero protagonist.
* MidseasonReplacement: The show premiered in January 1968.
* MomentKiller: A RunningGag during the first season. Several episodes open with Noah walking in on Al as he's just starting to put the moves on his female SIA minder for that week. This gag was dropped in the second season, when Al is no longer under constant surveillance.
* MurderByMistake: [[spoiler: In "Flowers from Alexander", SIA agents kill Laurie, mistakenly believing her to be a traitor. The killers are later seen paying their respects at her grave.]]
* MusicalTrigger: In the third-season story "To Sing a Song of Murder", the song "One Less Bell to Answer" serves this purpose.
* NoNameGiven:
** "The Blonde" from "To Steal a Battleship".
** "The Man" from the last episode, "Project 'X'".
* NoodleIncident: Even though "Charlie" Brown only appears four times in the series, she and Al refer to several other times they've met/worked together/been friendly adversaries.
* OutdatedOutfit: The Nehru jackets and love beads Al sometimes wore in the first two seasons haven't aged well.
* PaperThinDisguise: Some of Al's disguises fall under this trope.
* PieInTheFace: How Bessie Grindel gets {{revenge}} on a former lover who betrayed her decades before in "Touch of Magic".
* PunchClockVillain: Al runs into several of these throughout the series; usually they're his fellow thieves and con-artists, either working for themselves or employed by the bad guys.
** One example of this is Nick Grobbo (Ricardo Montalban), a high-class fence who shows up a couple of times. While he genuinely likes Al and would prefer that he simply stay out of his affairs, Nick threatens to kill Al if he should try to louse up one of his deals.
* PunchPunchPunchUhOh: Happens in "The Thingamabob Heist", when Al tries to subdue Nick's henchman (played by basketball great Bill Russell). To his credit, it only takes one punch for Al to realize he's in trouble.
* PutOnABus: Noah Bain vanishes without explanation, beyond a couple of brief mentions, and isn't seen in the third season.
** RealLifeWritesThePlot: Actor Malachi Throne left the series after the second season, following a contract dispute. As a result, Noah Bain is PutOnABus.
* ReasonableAuthorityFigure: Noah Bain varied between this and being a real hard-case, especially during the first season. SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute Wally Powers was usually this during the third season.
** Subverted during the third season with Devon and Mr. Jack, who occasionally supervised Al and seemed to have little regard for him at all.
* ReluctantHero: Mundy only agrees to take the job to get out of jail.
** Subverted on a couple of occasions. For example, in "The Radomir Minature" Al actually volunteers to rescue a little girl (the daughter of a defecting scientist) being held captive behind the Iron Curtain.
* {{Retcon}}: Originally, Noah was portrayed as the only cop who had ever caught Al, which he used as a way to recruit Al for the SIA. In the third season, after Noah was PutOnABus, this was changed to where Wally Powers was also a former cop who'd helped Noah bust Al in the beginning.
* {{Retool}}: There were several throughout the series:
** During the first season, Al was given a big, well-appointed house outside of UsefulNotes/WashingtonDC to live in (and be kept under survelliance) when not working. In the second season, he had an expensive bachelor apartment in town (without the surveillance).
** For several episodes in the third season, Al's base of operations was in UsefulNotes/{{Italy}}, though he'd later move back to the D.C. apartment.
** The biggest {{Retool}} was in the third season when his father, Alistair, [[spoiler: arranges for Al to get a full pardon, to be no longer under the threat of prison, and be asked, rather than ordered, to do jobs for the SIA]].
* SceneryPorn: The opening episodes of the third season, filmed and set in UsefulNotes/{{Italy}}, featured a lot of this.
* SelfDisposingVillain: The episode [[spoiler:"38-23-36"]] features one. [[spoiler:A Russian agent rigs the shower in Al's hotel room so that it'll electrocute him. One morning when Al is about to use the shower, Noah comes in to brief him and discovers the Russian hiding under the bed. The ensuing fistfight ends with the agent [[HoistByHisOwnPetard literally stumbling into his own death trap.]]]]
* SpookySeance: A medium holds one to contact Marilyn's spirit in "To Sing a Song of Murder." [[spoiler:It doesn't work, possibly because Marilyn is FakingTheDead.]] The scene invokes the "Paul Is Dead" controversy; a poster of Music/TheBeatles is hanging on the wall, and the camera zooms in on Music/PaulMcCartney's face twice.
* StockFootage: "The Steal-Driving Man", in which Al is pressed into service as a race driver, has plenty of it from actual races.
** In "Project 'X'", it's used to show worldwide ecological disaster, as a justification for murder.
* SuspiciouslySimilarSubstitute: Wally Powers (Edward Binns), who takes over as Al's main SIA boss in the third season, replacing Noah Bain.
* SwappedRoles: In "Turnabout", Al breaks his leg just before his latest assignment, which forces Noah to do the job while Al talks him through it.
* TenLittleMurderVictims: "Project 'X'" sets this venerable plot [[DieHardOnAnX on a plane]].
* TrueArtIsIncomprehensible: An InUniverse example. In the second season episode "A Case of Red Turnips", Al has to steal a pop art film containing top secret information. During the heist, [[spoiler: the film is inadvertently ruined. The ruined film, consisting of random splotches of color, is screened for an audience and hailed as a cinematic masterpiece.]]
* VehicularSabotage: Used to commit murder in "The Thingamabob Heist".
* WellIntentionedExtremist: In the last episode ("Project 'X'"), a pro-environmental group starts killing a group of nuclear scientists for neglecting to focus on repairing Earth's ecological damage. Al even says he agrees with their basic premise, though certainly not their actions.
* UsefulNotes/WorldWarII:
** "The Family" reveals that Noah worked for the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Office_of_Strategic_Services OSS]] under [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Joseph_Donovan "Wild Bill" Donovan]].
** In "The Suzy Simone Caper", Wally Powers reveals that he, also, was in the OSS during the war and worked alongside [[LaResistance the French Resistance]].
* WorthyOpponent: Noah and Al consider each other this, even after they start working on the same side.
* WouldHitAGirl: Al is forced to do this in "38-23-36" when attacked by a female spy who's trying to sell a valuable microdot to the Russians.
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