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Get Smart!

Entry updated 10 November 2023. Tagged: Film, TV.

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1. US tv series (1965-1970). Talent Associates for NBC-TV until 1969; CBS Television for CBS-TV 1969-1970. Created by Mel Brooks with Buck Henry. Directors included Bruce Bilson, Earl Bellamy, James Komack, Don Adams, Gary Nelson. Writers included Barry Blitzer, Joseph Cavella, Gerald Gardner, Adams, Mike Marmer, Leonard Stern, Chris Hayward, Arne Sultan and Lloyd Turner. Cast includes Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Richard Gautier, Robert Karvelas, King Moody and Edward Platt. 138 22-minute to 25-minute episodes. Colour.

Maxwell Smart (Adams) is Agent 86 of the super-secret anti-espionage agency CONTROL, usually paired with Agent 99 (Feldon, actual name never given) under their long-suffering superior known only as Chief (Platt). Typically Smart and Agent 99 are assigned to foiling some nefarious plan by CONTROL'S arch-rival KAOS, generally schemes for world domination. Smart is incredibly bumbling and inept, but also remarkably lucky and always eventually saves the day – very often thanks to capable Agent 99. Their most famous gadget is a phone hidden in the sole of Smart's shoe; other sf-related items include a miniature laser in a coat button and The Cone of Silence, two plastic hemispheres which would descend from the roof in CONTROL's Washington headquarters. These supposedly stop conversations from being overheard, but never work correctly, forcing agents to shout to be heard at all. Hymie the Robot (Gautier) is a humanoid Robot whose super-strength and speed are offset by painful literal-mindedness. Smart and 99 marry in the series' fourth season, with 99 eventually giving birth to twins: she is believed to be the first woman in any US television series to continue her career after having children.

A Satire on Ian Fleming's James Bond and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964-1968), this "spy fi" programme was popular though never top-rated. Ties included some merchandise and nine novels by William Johnston (whom see), beginning with Get Smart! (1965) and ending with Max Smart and the Ghastly Ghost Affair (1968). Dell Comics issued a Comics adaptation (eight issues, 1966-1967) to which Steve Ditko contributed some artwork. [GSt]

2. Film (2008). Warner Brothers Pictures/Village Roadshow Pictures. Produced by Alex Gardner, Charles Roven, Andrew Lang and Michael Ewing. Directed by Peter Segal. Written by Tom J Astle and Matt Ember based on characters created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry as above. Cast includes Alan Arkin, James Caan, Steve Carrell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Dalip Singh, Terence Stamp and Patrick Warburton. 110 minutes. Colour.

When enemy agency KAOS attacks CONTROL as part of a nuclear terrorism scheme which also compromises almost all CONTROL agents' identities, data analyst Smart (Carrell) gets his chance. Promoted to Agent 86, he is paired with the reluctant Agent 99 (Hathaway). They track the nuclear weapons to Russia where they are hidden beneath a bakery. There they learn from KAOS head Siegfried (Stamp) that a double agent has alerted KAOS to their arrival. Smart and 99 nevertheless escape and largely destroy the facility, though almost stopped by oversized KAOS henchman Dalip (Singh). The Chief (Arkin) sends Smart's idol Agent 23 (Johnson) to monitor clean-up of the facility; 23 reports that only an actual bakery was destroyed (the remaining bombs having been quickly smuggled away), and Smart is arrested as the presumed double agent.

Siegfried demands $200 billion ransom from the US government to prevent release of the US nuclear arsenal's detonation codes to hostile nations. The President (Caan) dismisses this as bluff. In ensuing complications, Dalip changes sides and alerts Smart to Siegfried's scheme to blow up Los Angeles (see California); Smart escapes and exposes 23 as the real double agent; after abduction and chase sequences, Smart works out that the LA bomb will be triggered when the final note of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" is played at a Disney Hall concert; he stops the performance and the City is saved. This action-comedy film was commercially successful; a sequel was announced but has yet to appear. [GSt/DRL]

see also: Captain Nice.


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