Monday, December 10, 2012

Getting Smart!

It was one of the iconic TV series of the ‘60s and, for one that reveres both the decade and the various products of mass entertainment OF that decade as much I do, I can’t help but wonder why GET SMART and I have been separated for so long.

Happily, such is no longer the case, as the same Black Friday DVD sales that yielded THIS, also reunited me with the great Don Adams (who also starred in THIS relatively recent addition to my DVD stable) as “Maxwell Smart: Agent 86 of Control”.

It’s been DECADES since I’ve last seen GET SMART – the sitcom saga of Secret Agent Smart, the lovely “Agent 99” (Barbara Feldon), and the long-suffering “Chief of Control” (Edward Platt) in their battle against KAOS, an international organization of evil – and, seeing it from this perspective; I appreciate it all the more.

Not only did it add to the lexicon of the sixties with such oft-repeated catch-phrases as “Would you believe (fill-in-the-blank)?”, “Sorry about that, Chief” and the sure-fire laugh-getter “Missed it by THAT much!”, but it indulges in the all of the writing facets and techniques that I love… obsessive wordplay (Thanks, GeoX!), absurdity turned matter-of-fact, and constant “call-backs” to previous gags or lines!

Max takes the elevator AND the stairs!
You know, the kind of stuff I love about FAMILY GUY, THE SIMPSONS, FREAKAZOID!, etc., and have, whenever possible, attempted to employ in my (now late and self-lamented) Disney comic book scripting. GET SMART, I now realize, was far more ahead of the curve on this than most of its ‘60s contemporaries.
Max and a Pair of Shoes!
GET SMART was META, before there was META. Witness the following bit where Max’s cover is blown and his face identified. He is forced to get plastic surgery in order to continue working under cover.
He reports back to The Chief bearing the ideal face for a secret agent:

CHIEF: "It's an amazing technique, Max, but the face is all wrong!"

MAX: "But, Chief, Doctor Proctor said this is the PERFECT face for a Secret Agent!"

[It is MARTIN LANDAU, who was then starring in MISSION IMPOSSIBLE, speaking with the dubbed voice of Don Adams.]

CHIEF: "That's just the pointHIS face is even more well-known than yours!"

MAX: "Who?"

CHIEF: "Martin Landau."

MAX: "Never heard of him!" 

Then, Max does a little out-of-the-box thinking with his next attempt:

CHIEF: "You look just like a WOMAN! ...The DRESS... The HAIR!"

MAX (again dubbed): "What about the FACE?"

...Yes, it's the great Phyllis Diller, speaking with Max's voice!

 GET SMART was born of the “Spy Mania” of the 1960s, which started with James Bond, and gave us THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E., I SPY, SECRET AGENT (MAN), earlier episodes of VOYAGE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, and so much more in TV, movies, comics, and animation. Did any ongoing cartoon series of the time fail to do a spy parody? Even TOM AND JERRY ("The Mouse from H.U.N.G.E.R.") and THE ROAD RUNNER ("Sugar and Spies")!

Let alone SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN! (Would you believe "Superman's Casual Acquaintance"?)

Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen # 89 (1965)

...And TOM AND JERRY comics!

H.U.N.G.E.R.?  T.R.A.P.? Who can keep T.R.A.C.K.!

GET SMART, debuting in 1965, so perfectly reflected that mania back at us in hilarious ways for five seasons, and I'm looking forward to enjoying it all over again. 
 Does ANYTHING say SIXTIES like these covers?!


Anonymous said...

"You might as well surrender, because, at this very moment, your hideout is being surrounded by the Twenty-Fifth Infantry Division. Uh...would you believe the Twenty-Fourth Infantry Division? How about a troop of angry Boy Scouts?"

Anonymous said...

One of my favorite episodes was a spoof of "Mission: Impossible." Max is going through the dossiers to choose agents for the mission. He tosses aside photos of the Mona Lisa and Alfred E. Neuman. Then he comes to a picture of Tiny Tim and tears it to shreds.

Joe Torcivia said...

Oh, that is such a PERFECT send-up of the opening of MISSION IMPOSSIBLE! Can’t wait until I find that one, as I go. Tiny Tim leads me to guess it would be in Season 5 (1969-1970), as was the “plastic surgery” Martin Landau cameo episode. MI gags might have been a natural, once GET SMART moved to CBS for that season.

Ya gotta wonder why Mr. Phelps (or the now-forgotten, if not for DVD Mr. Briggs) didn’t just leave the photos of Landau, Bain, Morris, Lupus, etc. out on the coffee table ALL THE TIME – and just dipped into the files for the evening’s guest agents!

Maybe he was just compulsively neat! “A place for everything, and everything in its place!”

Comicbookrehab said...

A lot of the early Darkwing Duck were so obviously based on THIS show...would you believe it wasn't even by 'that much'?

I remember the first time I'd heard of GS, I was like, "Hey, that guy sounds and acts just like Inspector Gadget!" :)

Joe Torcivia said...

…And, to me, ‘Rehab, he sounded like Tennessee Tuxedo! Isn’t all that “Generational Stuff” really great! Smart was clearly a conceptual ancestor of Inspector Gadget.

When I first saw the character of Darkwing Duck, I described his influences as Batman, Daffy Duck, and Maxwell Smart! …Great minds, etc.

Dana Gabbard said...

No mention of Mickey Mouse: Super Secret Agent?

Always loved they had at least one fight sequence each episode. Even as a sitcom, it felt a need to be true to what a spy show should be like.

And of course it didn't hurt to be co-createdby mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Henry story edited the first two years, I believe/

Joe Torcivia said...

Yeah, Dana… How ‘bout that?! No Mickey Mouse Super Secret Agent!

That WAS a staggering omission on my part -- especially as I knew the writer of it!

Would it help if I said: “Sorry about that, Chief!”?