If you’re familiar with the hit 2008 comedy film Get Smart that stars Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway, then you might have heard of the classic 1960s sitcom that the film is based on.
Get Smart was a sitcom that parodies the action/spy/secret agent genre. It was created by Mel Brooks and Bucky Henry in 1965, with the intention of cashing in on the popularity of the two fictional secret agents of the era, James Bond and Inspector Closeau (of Pink Panther fame).
The central characters of the show are Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 (played by Don Adams), Agent 99 (played by Barbara Feldon) and Chief (played by Edward Platt). The plot centers around a bungling but optimistic secret agent Maxwell Smart, aka Agent 86, who is helped in his missions by his able female partner, who is only known as Agent 99. They work for a US secret government counter-intelligence agency to fight the world domination plans by the evil international organization named KAOS.
A Scene from Get Smart
One of the funny elements of the sitcom is of course the central character Smart, whose ineptitude poses some problems and complications as he and Agent 99 investigate and then stop the several threats to the world by KAOS. Despite Smart’s bumbling nature, he always manages to defeat the bad guys and saves the day. Smart and Agent 99 accept assignments from CONTROL’s hapless and long-suffering head who is addressed as just “Chief.”
Smart (aka Agent 86) and his maladroit manner is of course reminiscent of Inspector Clouseau’s. The James Bond influence is seen in the various gadgets of Get Smart, including concealed telephones, as well as neckties, a comb, and his watch having hidden weapons. The most famous gadget is Smart’s shoe phone, which was the show’s constant running gag. The Bond factor is also seen in Smart’s various antagonists, as well as their “I-want-to-take-over-the-world” plots. As Mel Brooks commented on the show’s “007” parody: “Do what they did except just stretch it half an inch.”
The show enjoyed a triumphant run for five years, from 1965 to 1970. Get Smart‘s success and popularity spawned many off-shoot productions, including films like the Nude Bomb and the TV sequel Get Smart, Again! There was an attempt to revive and update the series in 1995. It again starred Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, this time as “Chief” of CONTROL and Barbara Feldon as Smart’s now-wife Agent 99. It also introduced Andy Dick as their son, who inherited his dad’s bumbling qualities. However, the show was a flop and ran for only over a month.
The successful return of Get Smart at least happened on the big screen once more in 2008, starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway. The producer of the Get Smart film remake was Leonard B. Stern, who was also the producer of the original TV series. Though the movie received mixed critical reviews, it enjoyed a big success on the box office.
Get Smart, especially the original series, has gained more fans even in this high-tech generation, spawning several fan sites devoted to the TV show, and everything pertaining to it – the characters, the villains, the gadgets, and the most memorable lines and quotes. The appeal of the show has never faded; its brand of humor has never worn off. In short, it’s one of American television’s greatest sitcoms that could well be called a classic.