Would you believe that this set has more bonus features than the Library of Congress? Judge Cynthia Boris does.
Smart: At the moment, seven Coast Guard cutters are converging on us. Would
you believe it?
Also known as the voice of the cartoon Inspector Gadget, Don Adams had a distinctive sound that brought him early stardom as a stand-up comic and impressionist. But once he assumed the role of Maxwell Smart, the role assumed him and the two became inextricably bonded together. So even though the show had clever writing, a great production team, and terrific supporting actors, there is no doubt in my mind that Don Adams was completely responsible for the success of the classic sitcom Get Smart.
Facts of the Case
Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), aka Agent 86, is a spy for the secret government agency known as CONTROL. Along with his lovely and resourceful partner, Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), Smart fights against the evil forces of KAOS. Smart receives his assignments from The Chief (Edward Platt) and is sometimes assisted by Fang (a dog), Hymie (a robot), and Agent 13 (Dave Ketchum) who always pops up in the oddest places.
Bernie Kopell (The Love Boat) is a frequent guest as KAOS villain Siegfried. Check out Leonard Strong as The Craw (Not the craw, the CRAW).
Week after week, Max and 99 take on a new threat to the US government. They follow the leads, track down the villains, and inevitably land themselves in a typical James Bondian, sticky situation. Often it is Max's bumbling that inadvertently helps them escape and often it's the brilliance of 99. The final action sequences, comedic though they may be, are also quite suspenseful. It's fun to see the clever and often ridiculous escape methods played out on screen.
When it comes right down to it, Maxwell Smart isn't the most vivid color in the crayon box. He's careless, inept, and being in his care can be downright dangerous to your health. Yet, like his inspiration, Inspector Clouseau, he always manages to get his man.
Let's talk first about the series itself. Get Smart was an odd bird when it went on the air in 1965. The idea for the series was pitched to be a combo of two of the hottest movie franchises at the time, James Bond and Inspector Clouseau (The Pink Panther). The idea was offered to Buck Henry and Mel Brooks (Young Frankenstein) and their style of comedy dictated the style of the show—parody with sharp jabs at all things sacred.
ABC was the first to look at the show, hoping to use it as a vehicle for Tom Poston, but they were unhappy with the anti-US government tone and promptly passed. NBC picked up the series and with the pick-up came actor Don Adams—a match made in heaven.
Though parody and political satire are common on TV today, they were unusual in 1965. Get Smart was saved because it was written on two levels. The higher level was satire (which some people just didn't get), while the other was low-level slapstick humor which Adams pulled off so well. Face it; it's funny to see Max answering his shoe phone in a crowded elevator or shouting to be heard inside "The Cone of Silence." But if you like your humor with a bit more punch, you won't be disappointed. You'll see shades of Saturday Night Live in the jokes about government spending, the national debt, foreign intelligence, Cold War issues—and of course, nuclear weapons.
Max: You know, China, Russia, and France should outlaw all nuclear weapons.
We should insist upon it.
Like all good parody, Get Smart works because the actors are serious in the roles they play. Adams is unmatchable as Smart, Feldon manages to be both intelligent and sexy, and Platt epitomizes a top Washington bureaucrat who must juggle national security issues along with the mundane issues of budget and employee management.
The writing is sharp and the production values are outstanding. From the clever spy gadgets to 99's hip wardrobe, you'll find great visuals in every episode.
Okay, so it's a great show, but is this box set worth the $199.00 price tag?
Would you believe this box set has over nine hours of bonus footage?
Would you believe this box set has footage of Don Adams and Barbara Feldon in vintage TV shows and commercials?
Would you believe that all 138 episodes have been digitally remastered so they are incredibly clean and bright?
Believe it. The people who put this set together have outdone themselves. I've never seen a longer list of bonus features, and 90% of them are real gems.
The featurettes are nicely put together clip sets highlighting themes such as gadgets, catch phrases, and the history of the series. The commentaries and interviews have some interesting bites of information but taken as a whole, it gets a bit repetitive.
Die-hard fans will enjoy the 2003 Get Smart Reunion Seminar presented by the Museum of Television and Radio. These presentations are always top-notch and can usually only be seen by museum members so this is a real treat.
My favorite extras were the vintage TV shows and commercials. There are so many of these included in this package they couldn't even list them all in the special features. For example, Adams on The Andy Williams Show and his early performance on The Bill Dana Show are real treasures. You'll also find Adams and Feldon doing commercials for Pepsodent, White Castle, Chief Auto Parts, and more. You'll see Adams and his cohorts win Emmy awards and ride in the 1969 Rose Parade. They've even included Maxwell Smart introducing the new NBC TV season and the syndication promo featurette used entice TV stations to air the series. These are the kinds of clips I wish were on every TV show DVD; truly rare and fascinating stuff.
Finally, let's talk packaging. Like the famed opening of Get Smart, you'll have to get through several doors before you reach the prize. The huge grey cube starts with a Velcro drop down door, which leads to a vault door, which leads to a phone booth door, which leads you to five brightly colored box sets. Each set is color-coded (discs to box) and features terrific pop art styling with great use of bold circles and squares—a theme that is carried through into the navigation menus. The discs are housed in a fold-out digipack which includes a booklet for each season and it's all protected by a clear slipcase.
The onscreen navigation makes great use of the theme and show clips and it's easy to move from item to item. Kudos all around.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
I have some minor complaints about the way the special features and navigation were handled, but they truly are minor. One of the selling points for this set is that Barbara Feldon does an audio introduction before all of the episodes and features. It is interesting the first few times, but after a while, waiting for her to read what it says on the screen became annoying and added another level of unnecessary navigation in order to play an episode.
Second, with 138 episodes and hours of interviews, you'd think there would be less duplication, yet it seems that the same clips kept popping up in the various features.
And last, I don't understand the theory behind chopping up the seminar at The Museum of Radio and Television. Instead of delivering the entire hour-plus presentation on one disc, the event is broken up and scattered over all five final discs. (I do like that they kept all the bonus material on disc five in each set, making it easy to find). It's annoying and there's no logic behind it.
They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery; that works double for Get Smart. The series itself imitated the spy shows of the era, paying a humorous homage to James Bond, I Spy, Man from U.N.C.L.E…and they even threw a bone to Murder on the Orient Express, Casablanca, and Snoopy! Ironically, the show that was all about mimicking pop culture has been mimicked by many ever since! The show's catchy opening with the multiple doors has been used in many comedic sketches and Max's catchphrases of "Sorry about that, Chief," and "Missed it by that much," have been uttered by thousands of people on TV and in everyday life.
Yes, the show that made glorious fun of politics and pop culture is now part of pop culture itself. If you've never had the pleasure (or if you're a diehard fan), now is the time to Get Smart.
This court finds Get Smart: The Complete Series to be hysterically funny and totally timeless. Maxwell Smart is sentenced to another forty years of fighting the forces of KAOS. Sorry about that, Chief.
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Scales of Justice
• The Get Smart Reunion Seminar, held at the Museum of Television & Radio in 2003. In their final reunion, Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, and other show veterans relive their favorite moments from the series.
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