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60s Comedy – Get Smart

“Get Smart,” an iconic television series that premiered in the 1960s, redefined comedy with its unique blend of humor, wit, and espionage. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, this show introduced viewers to the clumsy yet earnest secret agent Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86. Alongside Agent 99, his more competent partner, they embarked on a series of adventures to thwart the evil plans of KAOS, an enemy spy organization. This article takes a closer look at “Get Smart,” highlighting its impact on the landscape of comedy television and its enduring legacy in the world of entertainment.

The Production Origins of “Get Smart”

“Get Smart” emerged during a time when spy-themed entertainment was gaining popularity, thanks to the James Bond film series and the Cold War’s influence on popular culture. The show’s creators, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, saw an opportunity to inject humor into the tense atmosphere of espionage. They envisioned a comedy series that would satirize the seriousness of spy dramas, turning the genre on its head with slapstick humor and absurd situations.

The concept for “Get Smart” was developed in the mid-1960s with the intent of blending the thrilling elements of spy fiction with comedic undertones. Brooks and Henry’s partnership brought together Brooks’ knack for parody and Henry’s sharp wit, creating a unique formula that was both entertaining and thought-provoking. The show was picked up by NBC and premiered in 1965, quickly becoming a hit with audiences for its clever writing, memorable catchphrases, and the charismatic performance of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart.

The Cast of “Get Smart”

Agent 86 and Agent 99 with a dog named Fang

At the heart of the series was Don Adams, who portrayed the inept but endearing secret agent Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86. Adams’ impeccable timing and distinctive voice lent an unforgettable quality to Smart’s catchphrases, such as “Would you believe…?” and “Sorry about that, Chief.”

Barbara Feldon co-starred as Agent 99, Smart’s competent and patient partner, whose real name was never revealed throughout the series. Feldon’s portrayal of Agent 99 balanced intelligence and charm, making her an ideal counterpart to Adams’ bumbling character. The dynamic between Smart and Agent 99, coupled with Feldon’s performance, contributed significantly to the show’s charm and humor.

Edward Platt played the role of Thaddeus, the Chief of CONTROL, the secret U.S. government counter-espionage agency where Smart and Agent 99 worked. Platt’s portrayal of the Chief provided a straight-faced foil to Adams’ comedic antics, grounding the show’s more outlandish elements with a sense of authority.

The show also featured a diverse supporting cast, including Bernie Kopell as Siegfried, an agent of KAOS, the enemy organization, and Robert Karvelas as Larrabee, the Chief’s bumbling assistant.

The Production History of the Show

“Get Smart” is a classic American comedy television series that debuted on September 18, 1965. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the show was a satirical take on the secret agent genre, popularized by the James Bond films. The series was produced by Talent Associates and initially aired on NBC before moving to CBS for its final season, concluding on May 15, 1970.

The first season of the show set the tone, introducing audiences to the bumbling yet somehow successful secret agent Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, played by Don Adams, and his competent partner, Agent 99, portrayed by Barbara Feldon. Together, they battled the forces of KAOS, an organization of evil. The show quickly gained a following for its unique blend of humor, wit, and gadgets.

The show’s production involved innovative techniques for its time, including the use of split screens and the famous “Cone of Silence,” a device that humorously failed to facilitate private conversations. “Get Smart” also distinguished itself with its iconic opening sequence, featuring Maxwell Smart walking through a series of doors that automatically opened and closed, a visual gag that became synonymous with the series.

Subsequent seasons built on the success of the first, deepening character relationships and introducing memorable villains and gadgets. The series maintained a consistent quality, thanks in part to the creative input of its founders, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, although Brooks left after the first season to work on other projects.

By its third season, “Get Smart” had fully hit its stride, receiving critical acclaim and winning several Emmy Awards, including for Outstanding Comedy Series. The fourth and fifth seasons saw the series transition from NBC to CBS, where it concluded its run. Despite changes in the network and the television landscape, “Get Smart” remained a beloved comedy known for its catchphrases, like “Sorry about that, Chief,” and “Would you believe…?”

The show’s legacy continued with reruns, a 1989 made-for-TV movie, and a 2008 feature film adaptation, proving the enduring appeal of its unique blend of espionage and humor. Throughout its run, “Get Smart” was lauded for its sharp humor and originality, earning several Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series. The combination of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s comedic genius, along with the show’s innovative production techniques, cemented “Get Smart” as a beloved fixture in television comedy history.

What Made “Get Smart” Popular?

The popularity of “Get Smart” can be attributed to several key factors that resonated with audiences during its original run and continue to endear it to new generations. First and foremost, “Get Smart” stood out for its innovative blend of comedy and spy drama. The show cleverly satirized the serious tone of spy films like the James Bond series, infusing it with slapstick humor, witty dialogue, and absurd situations that were both hilarious and engaging. The use of ridiculous gadgets, like the shoe phone and the Cone of Silence, added a layer of humor that was both imaginative and memorable.

The chemistry between the show’s leads, Don Adams as the inept yet somehow competent Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, and Barbara Feldon as the capable and patient Agent 99, was another critical element of its success. Their dynamic provided not just comedic moments but also a sense of camaraderie and teamwork that appealed to viewers. Adams’ impeccable timing and delivery of iconic lines such as “Would you believe?” became a hallmark of the show.

Interesting Facts About “Get Smart”

“Get Smart” is a treasure trove of quirky trivia and behind-the-scenes tales that contributed to its charm and enduring legacy. Here are ten interesting facts about the classic spy-comedy series:

  1. The Shoe Phone: One of the show’s most iconic gadgets, the shoe phone, was a real, functional phone. The idea was so ahead of its time that it predated the cell phone, highlighting the show’s creative foresight.
  2. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry: The series was the brainchild of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, two titans of comedy. Their unique senses of humor are evident throughout the series, blending slapstick, wit, and satire to create something genuinely original.
  3. Don Adams’ Signature Voice: Don Adams, who played Maxwell Smart, used a distinct, clipped way of speaking that became one of his character’s trademarks. This delivery style was inspired by actor William Powell and the detective characters from old Hollywood films.
  4. The Cone of Silence: This famously malfunctioning device, meant to keep conversations private, never worked as intended, leading to some of the series’ most hilarious moments. It perfectly symbolized the show’s knack for playing with spy genre tropes.
  5. Real-Life Espionage Influence: “Get Smart” spoofed many aspects of the spy genre, but it also took inspiration from the real world. The character of Siegfried, one of Max’s nemeses, was named after a real WWII German espionage operation.
  6. Cameos and Guest Stars: The show featured numerous guest stars and cameos, including Johnny Carson, Leonard Nimoy, and even Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale, showcasing its popularity and cultural reach.
  7. The Title Sequence: The iconic opening sequence, with Maxwell Smart walking through numerous doors to the sound of a catchy theme tune, has been parodied and referenced in countless other media over the years.
  8. Numbers Instead of Names: The agents in “Get Smart,” including the lead characters, were known by numbers instead of names, a humorous take on the anonymity and secrecy of spy work.
  9. “Missed it by that much”: One of the show’s catchphrases, this line was frequently used by Max after narrowly avoiding disaster or making a mistake, highlighting the comedic juxtaposition of his incompetence and success as a spy.
  10. Awards and Acclaim: “Get Smart” was critically acclaimed during its run, winning several Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Comedy Series. Its blend of humor, innovation, and satire has ensured its status as a classic.

These facts just scratch the surface of the rich history and enduring appeal of “Get Smart,” a show that managed to be both of its time and timeless, thanks to its clever writing, memorable characters, and innovative humor.

Conclusion

From its iconic gadgets and catchphrases to the unforgettable performances of its cast, “Get Smart” remains a beloved classic that continues to entertain generations. Its influence on comedy and television storytelling endures, proving that good humor and clever writing are indeed timeless.

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