Celebrating 49 years of a classic spy send-up.
Read to Me
The year is 1965. The Cold War is still in place, the James Bond franchise is booming and spawning all sorts of smooth talking, gadget-wielding copycat spies for big screen mass consumption. Though your James Bonds and your Matt Helms and your Harry Palmers and your Our Man Flints did their share of winking at the camera, their cool factor ultimately prevailed. Bond would rough up some foreign thug, get smacked around himself, but still emerge with barely a hair out of place or a wrinkle on his tuxedo as he put on a roguish smile and took his place at the gaming table.
Sure, the suave spy life was the stuff the fantasies were made of, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. proved itself to be a spy-TV hit, but as a genre it was ripe for parody. Enter a pair of comedy geniuses: Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Also trending at the time was Blake Edwards’ Pink Panther series of films, and its bumbling French police detective Jacques Clouseau (of course, the peerless Peter Sellers). By bringing together the spy movie and its far out gadgetry, and the cool clod who plays it by the book yet somehow always seems to get his man, Get Smart was born.
Brooks told Time magazine around the time of the show’s debut that he was tired of seeing “sensible situation comedies” with maids running the show, and benign families in charming predicaments. With classic Brooks blunt hilarity he said, “No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I wanted to be the first.”
Don Adams starred as Maxwell Smart, or Agent 86, and seeded the Smart character with remnants of a role he created on The Bill Dana Show (Adams and Dana were writing partners in the ‘50s), that of the splendidly named hotel detective, Byron Glick. Adams pulled off the very impressive feat of winning three Emmy Awards for his portrayal of Agent 86, especially when you consider that the show only ran for five seasons. Barbara Feldon was a successful model and had acted both in commercials and on Broadway before landing the role of Agent 99, Smart’s cohort at the spy agency CONTROL. Together they battled the agents and the schemes of KAOS, their rival agency and a self-proclaimed “international organization of evil.”
Like James Bond before him, Maxwell Smart was equipped with all manner of spy gadgets, his most famous being the cumbersome, completely non-stealth shoe phone. From time to time, when absolute privacy was needed, Smart and The Chief (played with weary, put-upon perfection by Edward Platt) would step into The Cone of Silence, an allegedly noise-proof chamber which would usually malfunction, often quite loudly.
The show even managed to wedge a couple of catchphrases (by the way, look at that word, “catchphrase”. Did you know it’s got the most consecutive consonants – six – of any word in the English language? This has absolutely nothing to do with Get Smart, but it’s just a cool piece of word trivia that we thought we’d share with you) into the vernacular: “Sorry about that, Chief”; “Missed it by that much!”; and of course, “Would you believe…?”, which was a phrase retrieved from Adams’ standup comedy days.
And who could forget that incredible opening sequence?
Join us Sunday nights at 12 AM/11 C for a full hour of the incredible zaniness of Get Smart.
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