It Takes a Thief, which was created by television writer Roland Kibbee, featured the adventures of cat burglar, pickpocket, and thief Alexander Mundy (Robert Wagner), who steals to finance his life as a polished playboy and sophisticate. He is in prison when the U.S. government’s SIA (Secret Intelligence Agency) proposes a deal to Mundy: steal for the government in exchange for his freedom. Mundy is puzzled and asks, “Let me get this straight. You want me to steal?”
In the main opening titles, his new SIA boss, Noah Bain (Malachi Throne), uses the catch phrase, “Oh, look, Al, I’m not asking you to spy. I’m just asking you to steal.”
The series opened with its pilot episode titled “A Thief is a Thief is a Thief,” written by Kibbee and directed by Leslie Stevens.
In the series’ third season, Throne was replaced by Edward Binns as Mundy’s SIA boss, Wallie Powers. As Throne explained: “They had this idea of shooting the whole season in Italy, but they wanted me to stay behind and give Wagner’s character…orders over the phone. I told them if I didn’t go I’d quit, and I did. The show didn’t last another half a season.” Throne’s version of events was incorrect, as the third season was not shortened. In the end, portions of season three were filmed in Europe and Binns, Throne’s replacement, filmed some scenes there.
Also during the third season, Fred Astaire played Alistair Mundy, Alexander’s father, in five episodes. Alistair is also a master gentleman-thief, who says bemusedly, at the start of each episode in which he appears, “I’ve heard of stealing from the government, but for the government?” Alistair was the lead character in most episodes in which he appeared, rather than Wagner’s character of Alexander, who was relegated to supporting or even cameo roles in these episodes.