The History of Get Smart: Mel Brooks’ Original Spy Satire | Lighttrain

Heya, Chief! I’m Agent 23 here on this Christmas Eve show tonight. Regarding the whereabouts of the Conductor, I’m afraid the details must be kept under wraps. I really enjoy segments from Get Smart. Would you believe that back in the day I enlisted for CONTROL, the secret agency Maxwell Smart operates in? Didn’t actually exist, surprisingly. If you’re only familiar with the Steve Carrell film adaption, don’t worry, because I’m here to fill in for the Conductor and look over the fruitful history of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry’s Get Smart. Who knows, maybe this writing project will earn me a raise in the organization. Well, what am I stalling for?

Starring Don Adams as the slapstick meld of James Bond and Inspector Clousea, Get Smart featured the titular Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, going on undercover missions with his partner, the gorgeous Agent 99, most of the time to infiltrate the dastardly schemes planted by the KAOS society. The intro displays the oddball over-the-topness of many popular espionage programmes that lavished in the first half of the 60s. The phone booth entrance to a subterranean narrow hallway, leading agent Smart through an unnecessary excess of top secret sliding doors. Couldn’t they just erect one giant metal security wall rather than a multitude of openings, though? That’s how it’s done where I’m at. Amateur mistake.

One of the series’s sole creators was Mel Brooks… ringing any bells? Before his work on Get Smart he wrote alongside Woody Allen and Neil Simon on Sid Caesar’s sketch comedy Your Show of Shows. And then, following the show’s success he slammed the momentum towards Tinsel town, including the sugar-coated witzeg risk The Producers in 1967 and later the controversial mockery of the politicos, the Wacos, and the Warner Bros. in 1974’s Blazing Saddles. According to those features with both riffs on Nazis and African-Americans, he pushes in some naturally no-holds-barred comedy and stereotyping if it will earn laughs. Does Get Smart follow in those footsteps? To an extent, namely the Chinese tong arranged by “the Claw” and the often comic and heavily exaggerated accents of the villainous antagonists. But, the spoof aspect of this show definitely bounces back in the rest of Brooks’ works, with parodies of aforementioned Westerns, black and white Universal monster flicks, and space operas all continuing the tradition.

With that out of the way, I personally believe that the episodes have aged like a wine. It’s been 55 years since the initial premiere in ’65 and a majority of the jokes are golden even today. Although watching a lengthy string of episodes in succession can blossom into a bit too much for my tastes, the snack-sized portions are a testament to the writers and actors who did wonders with the concept. Perhaps the glue that practically bound Get Smart together as a respectable comedic force was the acting chops of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. His stand-up gigs prior proved himself ideal for the role as the resourceful yet absurdly clumsy high-ranking talent within CONTROL. Adams provided the character with the elements, perfecting his timing and physical humour along the ride. Agent 99’s undercurrent romantic chemistry between her and Smart and the patient friendliness glowing off the Chief also combine two equally strong flavours of rapport to the brilliance. But in the end, the amusing lines sneered from the villains turn the tables to inspire myself to root for them. So conniving, but oh so charming as well!

This retrospective remembrance of Get Smart will return after these messages…

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Thanks for tuning in! Now, back to the show.

When all else fails, there was always creative set design and fictional gadgets that influence a smile here and there. And years before the government could access your email, agents on covert affairs would hide in foot lockers, mailboxes, and washing machines. The “Cone of Silence” , which was of course invented by the intellectual Professor Cone. Easily the most infamous of these was the hidden telephone on the bottom of Smart’s shoe. In fact, the television block Nick at Nite actually offered a real replica of the widget in the 90s, albeit expensively priced. Imagine that!

In conclusion, Get Smart was a very consistent and, should I say, smart series. It’s legacy, while not dimmed, has certainly remained under the public knowledge. Three films – the self-explanatory theatrical misfire The Nude Bomb, the TV reintroduction Get Smart, Again, and the fairly recent 2008 cash-grab of the same title – haven’t helped much leveraging this remarkable classic piece of television. If you’re late to the party and are able to track down the dvd box sets for the first season, I’d recommend giving it a whirl. It’s a ripe highlight of Brooks’ career and well worth watching any given cloudy Sunday day.

Happy birthday, Get Smart. Moreover, I’ve got a promotion to collect with the old article trick… over and out.

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Thank you for reading and merry Christmas!

4 thoughts on “The History of Get Smart: Mel Brooks’ Original Spy Satire | Lighttrain

  1. Get Smart is a show that I didn’t watch as much as a kid but I did as a teenager and loved it. I haven’t seen it in years…I’ll fix that problem soon!

    Merry Christmas to you and your family.

    Liked by 1 person

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