Would you believe that Get Smart ran longer than every TV show that cashed in on the super spy craze of the 1960s? Would you believe that the only series to run longer than Get Smart‘s five seasons was Mission: Impossible with seven? That’s actually the truth. In the wake of James Bond, every network decided to get into the espionage game. Most of the shows tried to maintain the same tone as 007. One show dared to spoof the genre. Instead of the dashing spy, Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was an inept agent for Control (a CIA-like institution). He answered to his frustrated Chief (Edward Platt). The reason he was able to survive most of his missions was Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon). She always had his back. The adventures dared to send up the conventions of the genre and spoof elements from the competition. Get Smart: The Complete Series declassifies all five seasons of the spy comedy.
“Mr. Big” launches this unserious secret agent into action. During a symphony’s performance a phone rings in the crowd. Smart sneaks out of the room with the phone ringing with him. Remember that this was 1965 when not even drug dealers had cellphones. Smart sneaks into a janitor closet and reveals that his shoe is a phone. He needs to report to the office of Control. Mr. Big will use the Inthermo Ray to meltdown the Statue of Liberty if he doesn’t get his massive ransom. Mr. Big is played by Michael Dunn, who previously threatened America as Dr. Lovelace on The Wild Wild West. The script was co-written by comedy giants Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Normally having such talent behind an idea leads to the title “Brilliant, but Canceled.” As a piece of pure trivia: this pilot was directed by Howard Morris. He played Ernest T. Bass on The Andy Griffith Show. “Mr. Big” was the only one shot black and white of the 138 half-hour episodes.
“The Diplomat’s Daughter” is my all-time favorite. Chinese KAOS agents are kidnapping blonde women all over Washington D.C. Smart and Agent 99 are assigned to protect a princess (Inger Stratton). The young royal is more up for dancing than being bodyguarded. Smart stumbles across The Claw, a semi-mocking of Bond’s Dr. No. The reason for the numerous blondes disappearing is hilarious. “Cutback at Control” deals with government beancounters slicing all the fun out of being a spy. Smart gets reprimanded when he kills a KAOS agent with 4 bullets instead of the mandated one. Things get so bad, they even reposes his gadget car. During this economic crisis, KAOS’s Seigfried (Love Boat‘s Bernie Kopell) makes an offer for Smart to switch sides. The Chief realizes that having Smart infiltrate and bust KAOS might get them back in good standing with Congress. While this budget slashing is supposed to be a spoof, this is probably closer to the truth with the way Washington talks of budget cutbacks.”The Amazing Harry Hoo” creates a low budget version of Charlie Chan. Can Smart match the standards set by Number Two Son? “The Mummy” has KAOS using the Egyptian exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum to smuggled their agents into the country and kidnapped Control agents to Europe.
The big story arc of the series is the relationship between Smart and Agent 86. If you suffered through the recent Get Smart film with Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway, you need to forget about their chemistry. There was never an antagonistic moment between Adams and Feldon. In the original series, Agent 86 was smitten while working close to Smart. By Season Three they were a serious couple, even if Smart was the last to realize it. Season Four had them get married. Season Five brought about the babies. Some people think that the show went downhill after their relationship went beyond professional. But the secret agent love affair that kept the series evolving and allowing it to last five seasons. There was a sense of jeopardy when they say, “I do.” We’ve been conditioned to see a spy’s wife get snuffed shortly after the wedding reception. People did die on Get Smart. The scripts don’t get too romantic. During their wedding, Smart realizes that he doesn’t even know Agent 99’s real name. When it comes time for the twins, they didn’t speed grow the kids so they take over the show like a pair of Cousin Olivers. The final episode, “I’m Curiously Yellow” doesn’t wrap up the series. Smart accidentally becomes hypnotized by KAOS’ The Whip. He uses Smart to gain a secret weapon being safeguarded at Control headquarters. When he’s under the spell, Smart acts like James Bond. It’s funny to see what would have happened if Adams had played it serious. It is a shame the finale didn’t have Smart retire only to revive him the following year in a satire of The Prisoner.
Get Smart is exponentially funnier than American Dad when it comes to mocking intelligence agencies. The shoe phone, cone of silence and coughing code still illicit laughter even after they’ve been outmoded by cellphones, text messaging and Ubbi-Dubbi talk. Don Adams owned the Smart character that he was able to revive him years later as Inspector Gadget. As I suffered through Carell’s alleged version of Smart, I realized that Adams couldn’t be replaced in the role. He brought humor to the role by playing it by the bureaucratic book. For five years he was able to get folks to chuckle by saying, “Missed it by that much.” Get Smart: The Complete Series has very few true misses.
The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The transfers are crisp and detailed. You can pick up quite a few state secrets when the Chief’s desk is in the shot. The image looks twice as good as the recent syndication prints that ran on RTN. The audio is Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo. This isn’t bothersome as they don’t get too freaky with the remix. There are several commentary tracks by key players. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry give separate chats about their work on “Mr. Big.” Mel only worked on the pilot so he mainly sticks to talking about playing pool. Buck was story editor for the early years so he has plenty of memories about the show to share. Barbara Feldon chimes in on “Kisses for KAOS.” Bernie Kopell discusses “A Spy for a Spy.” Producer Leonard Stern gives his take on “A Man Called Smart, Part 1.” Don Rickles reminises on “Little Black Book, Part II.” Stern and Feldon share the booth on “99 Loses Control.” James Caan (The Godfather) reminds us that he was in “To Sire, With Love, Part II.” Bill Dana explains “Ice Station Siegfried.” Many of the folks talk about working with Don Adams (he passed away in 2005). He was what made this show work.
The Secret History of Get Smart (16:56) establishes how the series was developed in the midst of the ‘60s spy boom. Don Adams got his big break in comedy when he came to New York for a parent’s funeral.
The Bill Dana Show 1964 (6:49) has Don Adams playing the hotel detective. This marks the first time Don did the “would you believe” routine. Jonathan Harris (Dr. Smith from Lost in Space) also gets into the act.
The Andy Williams Show, 1965 (5:06) has Don break out his Smart persona with the crooner and Vince Edwards (Ben Casey). Edwards has lost his watch and Don wants to expose the thief. His shoe phone goes off during the episode.
Top Brass Hair Care Commercial, 1964 (1:02) has Barbara Feldon getting frisky with animal rugs.
NBC Fall Season Preview, 1965 (10:06) has Adams hosting a preview for the upcoming shows on the network. He does it as Smart. It opens with the shoe gag from the pilot.
Get Smart Show Promo #1, 1965 (0:24) asks us to follow him under the phone booth. The clip is in black and white.
Get Smart Show Promo #2, 1965 (0:12) is quicker and in color.
Bloopers (2:14) is the show’s gag reel. Feldon jokes about having calluses on her ankles. Platt goes nuts with a tongue twisting line. He even goes blue.
Get Smart Reunion Seminar, 2003 (1:00:14) brings together Adams, Feldon, Bernie Koppell and Leonard Stern. It’s great to see them reacting as others tell stories on the stage.
Explore the Chief’s Office is an interactive tour. This is from Joey Green’s The Get Smart Handbook.
Leonard Stern (Executive Producer) Interview (31:56) lets him elaborate on his role in the series.
Barbara Feldon: From Real Model to Role Model (14:38) allows Dr. Joyce Brothers and others to discuss how Agent 99 altered the image of females in the espionage game. No longer were they mere eye candy for the stud super spies.
1967 Emmy Broadcast (3:03) has Adams win for Best Actor and Buck Henry & Leonard Stern win for Best Script. Podiums were so freaky back then. Adams beat Bob Crane and Larry Storch. It’s sad when heros have to battle for awards. At least they served dinner during the ceremony. Buck Henry thanks “all those zanies in the CIA and FBI.”
Bloopers (2:39) shows the flubs from the second season. The gadgets go out of control.
Get Smart Reunion Seminar, 2003 (4:53) is another segment from the chat. They discuss how Don’s attitude would change depending if he was the producer or the director on an episode.
Don Adam’s 75th Birthday Celebration (53:02) is a roast at the Playboy Mansion in 1999. They even drop a Larry Hovis joke. This is better than those Comedy Central Roasts. Ronnie Schell (Duke from Gomer Pyle) is a roaster. Hugh Hefner looks almost alive in the crowd shots.
NBC Broadcast Standards Memos lets you know what the brass wanted altered before the episodes aired.
99’s Purse Tour is an interactive view of all the stuff she carried around.
Bruce Bilson (director) Interview (31:02) lets him remember how it was like to start working in color TV.
Spooks, Spies, Gadgets and Gizmos (13:33) explores all the espionage tools.
1968 Emmy Broadcast (4:50) has Frank Sinatra give Don his Best Actor Emmy. He beat Sebastian Cabot this time. They also nab Best Comedy Series from Eva Gabor and the Smothers Brothers. Bruce Bilson wins a directing award from Gunsmoke‘s Festus, Doc and Miss Kitty.
Get Smart Syndication Promo (3:20) is an industry selling tools. You’ll get an idea of how they improved the image quality on this boxset.
Milton Berle’s Mad, Mad World of Comedy (4:42) lets Don explain how he nailed Max’s accent. He admits the William Powell (The Thin Man) connection. Don’s mustache is Swingtown worthy.
The Andy Williams Show, 1966 (6:31) puts Don in the Trenchcoat while Andy does a really bad Chinese impression to play Lee Tung, a Chinese detective.
Bloopers (1:41) were part of Don’s collection. How does one look good talking into your shoe?
Don Rickles Bloopers (1:26) have him and Don cracking each other up with “bad touch” jokes during the “Little Black Book” episode. Rickles has no fear of blowing a take.
Get Smart Reunion Seminar, 2003 (4:41) has them talk about conceiving the opening of the show. Learn the secret of the phone booth drop. Don speaks of working with Rickles and their laughter.
NBC Broadcast Standards Memos are more hoops for the producers and writers.
Maxwell Smart’s Car as an interactive tour of the blueprints.
Bernie Kopell Interview (22:29) lets us spend precious time with Kaos’ Siegfried. He also went on to play Doc on The Love Boat.
Barbara Feldon Interview (24:44) remembers what attracted her to the role of Agent 99.
Codewords and Catchphrases (14:11) explores the espionage words and pop culture slang that came from the series. Nobody can mock the CIA without pulling out a Smart-ism. Even an astronaut on a mission used “Sorry about that chief.”
Rose Parade, 1969 (0:51) has Don and Barbara riding a float in the parade. They wore their wedding costumes from the show. Barbara gives a commentary to the footage.
The Andy Williams Show, 1966 (5:46) allows Don to riff about performing for a live audience and the flu.
Get Smart Syndication Promo (2:12) pushes the series to your local TV programmer.
1969 Emmy Broadcast (3:12) has Dan Blocker (Bonaza) give the Best Comedy Series award to the show. Once again the show denied Family Affair the hardware. Irene Ryan (Beverly Hillbillies) gives Don his third trophy. It’s treat to see Irene outside her Granny makeup. This was the first ceremony to get rid of the food and stick the actors in theater chairs. Don talks about the show changing networks.
Bloopers (2:22) allows Platt to blow his lines during a dinner scene. Don and Broderick Crawford suck face.
Max’s Apartment Interactive Map lets you poke around the agent’s lair.
The Fans of Get Smart (14:38) investigates why this show has a rabid fan base after 40 years.
Don Adams Memorial, 10/5/05 (1:21:09) is a tribute to him at the Writer’s Guild. It opens with the Roast footage of Don joking about what he wants done instead of a funeral if he doesn’t live to 100. Don Rickles truly is Mr. Warmth as he shares his memories of Don.
TVLand Awards, 2003 (0:46) has Don and Barbara as presenters although Don gives an acceptance speech anyway.
Don Adams Learns He’s A Father (0:49) in the middle of a promo, Don’s manager walks into the frame to tell him he’s a dad. There’s no audio, but they had a lip reader give us the conversation.
Chief Auto Parts Commercial (1:11) has Don dressed up as Smart with his sportcar on the fritz.
White Castle Commercial (1:18) advertises $2.99 for 10 burgers! Call Harold and Kumar, we’re going to get slider action. Don shows us giant onions and cows with five holes in them.
Choice Hotels Commercial (0:40) has Don expose the old double suitcase trick.
Buck-A-Call Commercial (0:33) lets Don pose as a retired Agent 86 who saves on his shoe phone calls in Canada.
Bloopers (1:21) features plenty of blown lines. Be sure you see the great busty passenger scene that was axed by the network censor.
Ultimate Get Smart Clip Reel (20:31) brings together the best moments over the five seasons.
Get Smart Aptitude Test is a major trivia question that should only be attempted after watching all five seasons and taking notes.
Get Smart: The Complete Series is how the boxset of a beloved series should always be done. Longtime fans will bask in the bonus features. Recent fans will become immersed in the show. This boxset is ultimately a tribute to Don Adams. The Roast and the Memorial service let us know how beloved he was by his friends. Get Smart: The Complete Series reveals the best qualities of the actor and his character. Smart reminded us how much we can laugh at a secret agent when he reveals too much. Would you believe this is my favorite boxset of the year?
HBO Home Video presents Get Smart: The Complete Series. Starring Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt, Robert Karvelas and Bernie Kopell. Created by Mel Brooks & Buck Henry. Boxset contents: 138 episodes on 25 DVDs. Released on DVD: November 4, 2008. Available at Amazon.
Tags: Don Adams, Get Smart, Hugh Hefner, James Bond, Larry Storch, Love Boat, Playboy