Get Smart


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About

The premise of this cult-classic television comedy series is that an evil organization, KAOS, is attempting to take over the world. The forces of good, symbolized by the organization CONTROL, constantly battle KAOS to preserve order in the world. Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) is CONTROL Secret Agent 86. Yet Smart was anything but. A short, stupid, self-centered man, Smart is the antithesis--and parody--of everything conventionally represented by secret service agents in popular culture.

Smart's immediate superior is The Chief (Ed Platt), the head of the Washington Bureau of CONTROL. In his fight against KAOS Smart is assisted by his side-kick, Agent 99, played by former model Barbara Feldon. Unfailingly faithful to Maxwell Smart and always willing to let him take credit of her proficiency, 99's admiration of Smart goes well beyond professional respect. It is obvious to anyone, except of course Maxwell Smart, that Agent 99 is in love with him, and indeed, in a later show they marry.

The success of Get Smart has been linked to three primary factors. The first was the spy craze that was all the rage in early 1960s popular culture. Second was the talent of persons involved in the production of the series both in front and behind the camera. And third was the more tenuous sense of a new mood in the American public, a willingness to accept television humor that went beyond sight gags and family situation comedies. In the aftermath of 1950s McCarthyism, the Civil Rights Movement, and increasing criticism of the policy in Vietnam, these newer forms of television humor included satiric jabs at an increasingly questioned status quo.

In the mid-1960s spies were hot: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. aired on NBC in 1964. I Spy appeared in 1965. The Avengers, a British production, came to U.S. television in March of 1966. Burke's Law premiered in 1963 but in the 1965 season changed its name to Amos Burke-Secret Agent. In the same year The Wild, Wild West appeared on the small screen. Honey West, a Burke spin-off, featured Anne Francis as a female private detective who depended on technological marvels--tear gas earrings and garters that converted into gas masks--to solve crimes. CBS imported Secret Agent from Britain, and ABC aired The F.B.I.

In this context Mel Brooks (The Producers, Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs), Buck Henry (The Graduate, Saturday Night Live), Jay Sandrich, who would go on to direct Soap, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Cosby Show, and Carl Reiner (The Dick Van Dyke Show) were brought together by Dan Melnick and David Susskind. Melnick and Susskind owned Talent Associates, the company that had produced the highly acclaimed television series East Side/West Side (1963-64). Brooks and Henry developed the idea for Get Smart.

Don Adams had played a house detective on The Danny Thomas Show before signing on as Agent 86. His ability to deliver lines that stuck in the viewers mind was uncanny. On several occasions, for example, after being asked if he understands that his current assignment means he will be in constant danger, unable to trust anyone, and face torture or even death, Smart, assuming a cavalier stance, responds with, "And loving it." Another catchy phrase, "Sorry about that, chief," was usually uttered when Smart accidentally caused his boss some problem.

Finally, the mood of the American public seems to have contributed to the success of a program like Get Smart. In 1965 protests against the war in Vietnam, riots by African Americans in many urban centers, organized efforts by Mexican and Mexican American migrant workers to strike for higher wages, and an increase in new political activism on the part of women eventually led to a questioning of fundamental assumptions about the role of the United States government in domestic and world affairs. A television series like Get Smart was able to make pointed--some might say subversive--statements about many political issues in a non-threatening, humorous way. McCrohan provides an example she refers to as "probably the strongest anti-bomb statement made by situation comedy up to that time". The dialogue she cites takes place between Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 in the episode titled Appointment in Sahara. Behind the two characters is an image of a mushroom cloud:

99: Oh, Max what a terrible weapon of destruction.

Smart: Yes. You know, China, Russia, and France should outlaw all nuclear weapons. We should insist upon it.

99: What if they don't, Max?

Smart: Then we may have to blast them. That's the only way to keep peace in the world.

Get Smart is credited with paving the way for other comedy programs and broadening the parameters for the presentation of comedy on television. While it was on the air, from 1965 to 1970 a total of 138 half-hour programs were produced.

In the 1994-95 television season an attempt was made to revive the series with some of the original actors. This time Don Adams was cast as The Chief, Barbara Feldon is a Congresswoman and Secret Agent Smart is their son. The series lasted only a few episodes, its jokes, and perhaps its cast, unable to attract a large audience.

-Raul D. Tovares

CAST

Maxwell Smart, Agent 86......................... Don Adams

Agent 99 ...........................................Barbara Feldon

Thaddeus, The Chief (1965-1970)........... Edward Platt  

Agent 13 (1965-1970).......................... Dave Ketchum

Carlson (1966-1967).............................. Stacy Keach  

Conrad Siegfried ((1966-1969)............... Bernie Kopell

Starker (1966-1969)................................ King Moody

Hymie, the Robot (1966-1969)................ Dick Gautier  

Agent 44 (1965-1970)........................... Victor French  

Larrabee (1967-1970)........................ Robert Karvelas

99's Mother (1968-1969)............................. Jane Dulo

PRODUCERS

Leonard B. Stern, Jess Oppenheimer, Jay Sandrich, Burt Nodella, Arnie Rosen, James Komak

PROGRAMMING HISTORY

138 Episodes

NBC
September 1965-September 1968   Saturday 8:30-9:00

September 1968-September 1969   Saturday 8:00-8:30

CBS

September 1969-February 1970   Friday 7:30-8:00

April 1970-September 1970   Friday 7:30-8:00

FURTHER READING

Green, Joey. The Get Smart Handbook. New York: Collier, 1993.

McCrohan, Donna. The Life and Times of Maxwell Smart. New York, St. Martin's, 1988.

Highlights
Barbara Feldon on the character "99" she played on Get Smart
01:17
Buck Henry on the genesis of Get Smart which he co-wrote with Mel Brooks; on the title
Leonard Stern on a typical workweek on the set of Get Smart; on some memorable episodes, "Ship of Spies" which won an Emmy
Allan Burns on joining the writing staff of Get Smart and the marriage of Agents 86 and 99
02:15
Reza Badiyi on directing Get Smart
07:45
Who talked about this show

Howard Anderson, Jr.

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Howard Anderson Jr. on creating the opening titles for Get Smart
01:29

Reza Badiyi

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Reza Badiyi on directing Get Smart
07:45

Bruce Bilson

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Bruce Bilson on directing Get Smart
09:30
Bruce Bilson on the cast of Get Smart
04:17
Bruce Bilson on working with Don Adams and his favorite episode of Get Smart
01:30
Bruce Bilson on the popularity of Get Smart and winning an Emmy for directing it
03:00

Sam Bobrick

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Sam Bobrick on writing for Get Smart
01:24

Paul Bogart

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Paul Bogart on directing a few episodes of Get Smart
03:53

Allan Burns

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Allan Burns on joining the writing staff of Get Smart and the marriage of Agents 86 and 99
02:15
Allan Burns on writing for Get Smart
01:50

Bill Dana with Emerson College

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Bill Dana on Don Adams' "Would you believe?" routine used on both Get Smart and The Bill Dana Show
02:42

Bill Dana

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Bill Dana on his brother Irving Szathmary's musical career, including writing the theme song for Get Smart, among many other shows
00:42

Richard Donner

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Richard Donner on directing Get Smart and Gilligan's Island
04:06

Barbara Feldon

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Barbara Feldon on the character "99" she played on Get Smart
01:17
Barbara Feldon on initially turning down the pilot of Get Smart
01:45
Barbara Feldon on the premise and subtext of Get Smart - a satire about the world of political espionage
05:39
Barbara Feldon on the social agenda behind Get Smart and what people say when they recognize her from the show
02:46
Barbara Feldon on her Get Smart character, "99", Don Adams, and the actors and writers of Get Smart
20:19
Barbara Feldon on production of Get Smart 
04:02
Barbara Feldon on specific episodes of Get Smart 
03:18
Barbara Feldon on some of the props on the show Get Smart; on the final season of the show and reuniting with Don for TV movies and remakes of the series
07:10
Barbara Feldon on the legacy of Get Smart and being typecast from the show
02:44

Stanley Frazen

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Stanley Frazen on editing Get Smart; on the complexities of his style of editing

Buck Henry

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Buck Henry on the genesis of Get Smart which he co-wrote with Mel Brooks; on the title
Buck Henry on dealing with offensive or sensitive subject matter on Get Smart
Buck Henry on why "Agent 99" did not have a name on Get Smart; on the casting of the show
Buck Henry on how Don Adams came to Get Smart as "Maxwell Smart"; on other candidates for the role
Buck Henry on Leonard Stern's contribution to Get Smart; the opening which he calls "the best opening and closer in television history"
Buck Henry on writing "the cone of silence" on Get Smart; on the other gadgets used on the show
Buck Henry on his day-to-day writing duties on Get Smart; on his favorite episodes
Buck Henry on the romantic plotline on Get Smart between Maxwell Smart and Agent 99; how he disagreed with it going too far; on why he didn't want to reveal the characters' real name
02:13
Buck Henry on the legacy of Get Smart and its place in history

Alan Jaggs

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Alan Jaggs on editing Get Smart
01:50

Bernie Kopell

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Bernie Kopell on getting the role of "Siegfried" on Get Smart
01:35
Bernie Kopell on getting the role of "Siegfried" on Get Smart, and on his friend Don Rickles
07:39
Bernie Kopell on "Siegfried's" accent on Get Smart, and on his look
06:37
Bernie Kopell on "Siegfried's" relationship with "Maxwell Smart" played by Don Adams on Get Smart, and on show producer Leonard Stern
05:59
Bernie Kopell on King Moody as "Starker" on Get Smart
02:50
Bernie Kopell on Get Smart co-creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry
05:25
Bernie Kopell on favorite Get Smart episodes, and on working with Ted Bessell on That Girl
02:08
Bernie Kopell on participating in Get Smart revivals
02:21
Bernie Kopell on the legacy of Get Smart
00:54

Howard Morris

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Howard Morris on directing the pilot for Get Smart, starring Don Adams, produced by Mel Brooks and Leonard Stern
02:55

Leonard Nimoy

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Leonard Nimoy on taking a small part on Get Smart, prior to his starring on Star Trek
01:17

Tom Poston

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Tom Poston on almost being cast as "Maxwell Smart" in Get Smart
01:57

Jay Sandrich

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Jay Sandrich on getting offered the job of producing Get Smart by Leonard Stern and deciding he preferred directing to producing
01:50
Jay Sandrich on what made Get Smart work (the team of Buck Henry and Leonard Stern)
01:31
Jay Sandrich on Get Smart as being a cross between Inspector Clousseau and James Bond
01:52
Jay Sandrich on how Barbara Feldon was (almost not) cast as "Agent 99" on Get Smart, and how she handled Don Adams
02:22
Jay Sandrich on the many talents, sometimes unrecognized, of writer Buck Henry on the show Get Smart
01:15

William Schallert

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William Schallert on memorable appearances on Get Smart
06:27

Leonard Stern

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Leonard Stern on a typical workweek on the set of Get Smart; on some memorable episodes, "Ship of Spies" which won an Emmy
Leonard Stern on the genesis of Get Smart as a satire of James Bond; originally Tom Poston was to play the lead; then they looked to Don Adams for the lead
Leonard Stern on the legacy of Get Smart 
01:18
On the contributions of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to Get Smart ; on the original 7 minute pilot; receiving network notes only on Don Adam's "strident delivery"
Leonard Stern on the origin of the title of the show Get Smart ; he thought it sounded too much like a game show
Leonard Stern on the famous opening sequence of Get Smart; the nuances of the original idea
Leonard Stern on Irving Szathmary's original score for Get Smart
Leonard Stern on the creation of "Maxwell Smart" on Get Smart ; how Don Adams was chosen, having developed the character Inspector Glick on The Bill Dana Show ; the voice was based on William Powell 
Leonard Stern on the famous catchphrases of Get Smart ;"sorry about that chief", "would you believe", "missed it by that much"
Leonard Stern on Get Smart ' s Agent 99 and how Barbara Feldon was cast; Ed Platt; Bernie Kopell

Grant Tinker

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Grant Tinker on how NBC got Get Smart
01:38

Fred Willard

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Fred Willard on acting on Get Smart and missing out on a few opportunities
02:54

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