Get SmartGet Smart is an American comedy television series parodying the secret agent genre that became widely popular in the first half of the 1960s with the release of James Bond films. The program was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and had its television premiere on NBC on September 18, 1965. The show stars Don Adams (who also worked as a director on the series) as agent Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), Barbara Feldon as Agent 99, and Edward Platt as Thaddeus the Chief. Henry said that they created the show at the request of Daniel Melnick to capitalize on James Bond and Inspector Clouseau, "the two biggest things in the entertainment world today". Brooks described it as "an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy."
The show generated a number of popular catchphrases during its run, including "would you believe…", "missed it by that much", "sorry about that, Chief", "the old (such-and-such) trick", "…and loving it", and "I asked you not to tell me that". The show was followed by the films The Nude Bomb (a 1980 theatrical film made without the involvement of Brooks and Henry) and Get Smart, Again! (a 1989 made-for-TV sequel to the series), as well as a 1995 revival series and a 2008 film remake. In 2010, TV Guide ranked Get Smarts opening title sequence at number two on its list of TV's top 10 credits sequences as selected by readers.
The show switched networks in 1969 to CBS. It ended its five-season run on May 15, 1970 with 138 episodes on both networks. The Museum of Broadcast Communications finds the show notable for "broadening the parameters for the presentation of comedy on television."
Series plotThe series centres around bumbling secret Agent 86, Maxwell Smart (Adams) and his female partner, Agent 99 (Feldon). They work for CONTROL, a secret U.S. government counterintelligence agency based in Washington, DC. The pair investigates and thwarts various threats to the world, though Smart's incompetent nature and demands to do things by-the-book invariably cause complications. However, Smart never fails to save the day. Looking on is the long-suffering head of CONTROL (Platt), who is addressed simply as "Chief" and he often works alongside his incompetent assistant, Larabee (Karvelas). The nemesis of CONTROL is KAOS, described as "an international organization of evil". Herr Siegfried (Kopell) and his bumbling lackey, Shtarker (Moody) are Smart and 99's archenemies.
The enemies, world-takeover plots, and gadgets seen in Get Smart were a parody of the James Bond movie franchise. "Do what they did except just stretch it half an inch", Mel Brooks said of the methods of this TV series.
ProductionTalent Associates commissioned Mel Brooks and Buck Henry to write a script about a bungling James Bond–like hero. Brooks described the premise for the show that they created in an October 1965 Time magazine article:
I was sick of looking at all those nice, sensible situation comedies. They were such distortions of life. If a maid ever took over my house like Hazel, I'd set her hair on fire. I wanted to do a crazy, unreal, comic-strip kind of thing about something besides a family. No one had ever done a show about an idiot before. I decided to be the first.
Brooks and Henry proposed the show to ABC, where network executives called it "un-American" and demanded a "lovable dog to give the show more heart", as well as scenes showing Maxwell Smart's mother. Brooks strongly objected to the second suggestion:
They wanted to put a print housecoat on the show. Max was to come home to his mother and explain everything. I hate mothers on shows. Max has no mother. He never had one.
The cast and crew contributed joke and gadget ideas, especially Don Adams, but dialogue was rarely ad-libbed. An exception is the third-season episode "The Little Black Book". Don Rickles encouraged Adams to misbehave, and he ad-libbed. The result was so successful that the single episode was turned into two parts.
The first four seasons were filmed at Sunset Bronson Studios, while the final season, shown on CBS, was filmed at CBS Studio Center.
Production personnelBrooks had little involvement with the series after the first season, but Henry served as story editor through 1967. The crew of the show included:
Maxwell "Max" Smart or Agent 86 (portrayed by Don Adams) is the central character of the series. Despite being a top-secret government agent, he is absurdly clumsy. Smart, however, is resourceful, skilled in hand-to-hand combat, a proficient marksman, and incredibly lucky causing him to be one of the top agents at CONTROL. In 1999, TV Guide ranked Maxwell Smart number 19 on its 50 Greatest TV Characters of All Time list. The character appears in every episode (though only briefly in "Ice Station Siegfried", as Don Adams was performing in Las Vegas for two weeks to settle gambling debts). He was played by Steve Carell in the 2008 film. (portrayed by Barbara Feldon) is the female agent who works alongside 86 and is another one of the top agents at CONTROL. Her actual name is never revealed and she is proved to be much more competent than Smart. She was played by Anne Hathaway in the 2008 film.
(portrayed by Edward Platt) is the head of CONTROL. He is supportive of Agents 86 and 99 and considers them to be his two closest friends, but he is often frustrated with Smart. He was played by Alan Arkin in the 2008 film.
(portrayed by Robert Karvelas) is the Chief's assistant, even more slow-witted and incompetent than Max. He was played by David Koechner in the 2008 film.
Ludwig Von Siegfried (portrayed by Bernie Kopell) is a recurring villain, and the vice president in charge of public relations and terror at KAOS though his title does vary. He was played by Terence Stamp in the 2008 film.
(portrayed by King Moody) is Siegfried's overzealous chief henchman. He was played by Ken Davitian in the 2008 film.
(portrayed by Dick Gautier) is a humanoid robot built by KAOS, but in his first mission, Smart manages to turn him to the side of CONTROL. He was played by Patrick Warburton in the 2008 film.
(portrayed by David Ketchum) is an agent who is usually stationed inside unlikely or unlucky places, such as cigarette machines, washing machines, lockers, trash cans, or fire hydrants. He tends to resent his assignments. He was played by Bill Murray in the 2008 film.
GadgetsIn Get Smart, telephones are concealed in over 50 objects, including a necktie, comb, watch, and a clock. A recurring gag is Max's shoe phone (an idea from Brooks). To use or answer it, he has to take off his shoe. Several variations on the shoe phone were used. In "I Shot 86 Today" (season four), his shoe phone is disguised as a golf shoe, complete with cleats, developed by the attractive armorer Dr. Simon. Smart's shoes sometimes contain other devices housed in the heels: an explosive pellet, a smoke bomb, compressed air capsules that propelled the wearer off the ground, and a suicide pill (which Max believes is for the enemy).
Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) had her concealed telephones, as well. She had one in her makeup compact, and also one in her fingernail. To use this last device, she would pretend to bite her nail nervously, while actually talking on her "nail phone".
On February 17, 2002, the prop shoe phone was included in a display titled "Spies: Secrets from the CIA, KGB, and Hollywood", a collection of real and fictional spy gear that exhibited at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California. Flinders University in South Australia has researched medical applications for shoe phone technology after being inspired by the show.
Gag phones also appear in other guises. In the episode "Too Many Chiefs" (season one), Max tells Tanya, the KAOS informer whom he is protecting, that if anyone breaks in, to pick up the house phone, dial 1-1-7, and press the trigger on the handset, which converts it to a gun. The phone-gun is only used that once, but Max once carried a gun-phone, a revolver with a rotary dial built into the cylinder. In the episode "Satan Place", Max simultaneously holds conversations on seven different phones: the shoe, his tie, his belt, his wallet, a garter, a handkerchief, and a pair of eyeglasses. Other unusual locations include a garden hose, a car cigarette lighter (hidden in the car phone), a bottle of perfume (Max complains of smelling like a woman), the steering wheel of his car, a painting of Agent 99, the headboard of his bed, a cheese sandwich, lab test tubes (Max grabs the wrong one and splashes himself), a Bunsen burner (Max puts out the flame anytime he pronounces a "p"), a plant in a planter beside the real working phone (operated by the dial of the working phone), and inside another full-sized working phone.
Other gadgets include a bullet-proof invisible wall in Max's apartment that lowers from the ceiling, into which Max and others often walk; a camera hidden in a bowl of soup (cream of Technicolor) that takes a picture (with a conspicuous flash) of the person eating the soup with each spoonful; a mini magnet on a belt, which turns out to be stronger than KAOS's maxi magnet; and a powerful miniature laser weapon in the button of a sports jacket (the "laser blazer").
Another of the show's recurring gags is the "Cone of Silence". Smart would pedantically insist on following CONTROL's security protocols; when in the chief's office, he would insist on speaking under the Cone of Silence—two transparent plastic hemispheres which are electrically lowered on top of Max and Chief—which invariably malfunction, requiring the characters to shout loudly to even have a chance of being understood by each other. Bystanders in the room could often hear them better, and sometimes relay messages back and forth. The Cone of Silence was the idea of Buck Henry, though it was preceded in an episode of the syndicated television show Science Fiction Theatre titled "Barrier of Silence", written by Lou Huston, that first aired on September 3, 1955, 10 years ahead of Get Smart.
The car that Smart is seen driving most frequently is a red 1965 Sunbeam Tiger two-seat roadster. This car had various custom features, such as a machine gun, smoke screen, radar tracking, and an ejection seat. The Sunbeam Alpine, upon which the Tiger was based, was used by customizer Gene Winfield because the Alpine's four-cylinder engine afforded more room under the hood than the V8 in the Tiger. AMT, Winfield's employer, made a model kit of the Tiger, complete with hidden weapons. It is the only kit of the Tiger, and has been reissued multiple times as a stock Tiger.
Don Adams received the Sunbeam and drove it for 10 years after the end of the show. It was wrecked and repaired several times, and its current whereabouts are unknown.
In the black-and-white pilot episode only, Smart drives a 1961 Ferrari 250 GT PF Spider Cabriolet.
In the opening credits, the Tiger was used for seasons one and two. In seasons three and four, Smart drives a light blue Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, because Volkswagen had become a sponsor of the show. The Volkswagen was never used in the body of the show. In season five (1969–1970), Buick became a show sponsor, so the Tiger was replaced with a gold 1969 Opel GT, which also appears in the body of the show.
In season four (1968–1969), Adams uses a yellow Citroën 2CV in the wedding episode "With Love and Twitches" , and a blue 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 convertible with a tan interior and four seats (as required by the plot) in the episodes "A Tale of Two Tails" and "The Laser Blazer".
In the short-lived 1995 TV series, Smart is trying to sell the Karmann Ghia through the classified ads.
In Get Smart, Again!, Smart is seen driving a red 1986 Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce.
The Sunbeam Tiger, the Karmann Ghia, and the Opel GT all make brief appearances in the 2008 film. The Sunbeam Tiger is seen in the CONTROL Museum, along with the original shoe phone, which Smart also briefly uses. The Opel GT is driven by Bernie Kopell and is rear-ended by a truck. Smart steals the Karmann Ghia to continue his escape.
Spies at work
CONTROL and KAOS did not seem to be above everyday bureaucracy and business quirks. KAOS is a Delaware corporation for tax purposes. CONTROL's union is the Guild of Surviving Control Agents, and Max is their negotiator; when a captured KAOS agent tells him about their survivors' benefits, the Chief is within earshot, and Max promptly uses the information for his labor talks.
In one episode, where Max infiltrates a KAOS-run garden shop, he refuses to arrest the manager until after 5 pm, so he can collect a full day's pay. The Chief threatens to fire him, but Max is not afraid; according to CONTROL's seniority policy, "If I get fired from CONTROL, Larrabee moves up!" The Chief gives in and lets Max stay on the job, rather than risk having the (even more) inept Larrabee take Max's place.
In another episode, Siegfried and Max casually discuss the various flavors of cyanide pills they have been issued. It is raspberry that month at CONTROL, and Max offers Siegfried a taste. In the same episode, Max and Siegfried have a show and tell of various weapons they have; Max boasts of having a deadly nonregulation pistol from a Chicago mail-order house. (The prop used is actually an 1893 Borchardt C-93 pistol.)
Cover names were common. In "The Man Called Smart, Part 1", a phone call is announced for an alias, and Max identifies himself as the person in question. Second and third calls come in, each with its own alias, the last of which is his own real name of Maxwell Smart, which he initially does not answer. Smart tells the skeptical gallery owner that those are his names, as well, making it obvious to any spy that he is taking calls from fellow agents and informants. Smart then makes himself even more visible by tangling the handset cords of the three phones.
CONTROL has a policy of burning pertinent documents after cases are closed; the reasons were detailed in their Rules and Regulations book, but nobody can read them since they burned the only copy.
In the interest of company morale, both CONTROL and KAOS have their own bowling teams. In one episode where Smart takes over as Chief, in a conversation between Smart and Larabee, CONTROL is noted to have a delicatessen.
Notable guest starsGet Smart used several familiar character actors and celebrities, and some future stars, in guest roles, including:
The series featured several cameo appearances by famous actors and comedians, sometimes uncredited and often comedian friends of Adams. Johnny Carson appeared, credited as "special guest conductor", in "Aboard the Orient Express". Carson returned for an uncredited cameo as a royal footman in the third-season episode "The King Lives?" Other performers to make cameo appearances included Steve Allen, Milton Berle, Ernest Borgnine, Wally Cox, Robert Culp (as a waiter in an episode sending up Culp's I Spy), Phyllis Diller, Buddy Hackett, Bob Hope, and Martin Landau.
Actress Rose Michtom (the real-life aunt of the show's executive producer Leonard Stern) appeared in at least 44 episodes—usually as a background extra with no speaking role. In the season-one episode "Too Many Chiefs", when she is shown in a photograph, Max refers to her as "my Aunt Rose", but the Chief corrects Max by saying that she is actually KAOS agent Alexi Sebastian disguised as Max's Aunt Rose. Fans refer to her as "Aunt Rose" in all of her dozens of appearances, though her character is never actually named in most of them.
The series was broadcast on NBC-TV from September 18, 1965, to September 13, 1969, after which it moved to the CBS network for its final season, running from September 26, 1969, to September 11, 1970, with 138 total episodes produced. During its five-season run, Get Smart broke the Nielsen Top 30 twice. It ranked at number 12 during its first season, and at number 22 during its second season, before falling out of the top 30 for its last three seasons. The series won seven Emmy Awards, and it was nominated for another 14 Emmys and two Golden Globe Awards. In 1995, the series was briefly resurrected starring Adams and Feldon with Andy Dick as Max's and 99's son Zack Smart and Elaine Hendrix as 66.
FilmsFour feature-length films have been produced following the end of the NBC/CBS run of the TV series:
In October 2008, it was reported that Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures and Mosaic Media Group are producing a sequel. Carell and Hathaway are set to return, but the status of other cast members has not yet been announced. As of 2019, Get Smart 2 is no longer in development
TelevisionGet Smart, Again! eventually prompted the development of a short-lived 1995 weekly series on Fox also titled Get Smart, with Adams and Feldon reprising their characters with Maxwell Smart now being the Chief of Control as their bumbling son, Zach (Andy Dick), becomes Control's star agent (Zach's twin sister is never seen nor mentioned — though the new leader of KAOS, a hidden female figure, would have been revealed as the other twin if the show had continued.) And 99 is now a congresswoman. The beginning teaser shows Maxwell Smart and Zach driving to Control headquarters in a car wash separately; Smart, Zach and their secretary cram themselves into a secret elevator: a soda machine which "disappears". (A cleaning lady sits down in the open space when all of a sudden the machine pops up and knocks the woman into the ceiling!) A late episode of the 1995 series shows that just as Siegfried is leaving a room, Maxwell Smart accidentally activates an atomic bomb just before the end of the show. (The teaser for the episode shows an atomic bomb going off.) This ending is similar to a device used by the Get Smart-inspired series Sledge Hammer! at the end of its first season. Hopes for the series were not high, as Andy Dick had already moved on to NewsRadio, which premiered weeks later in 1995.
With the revival series on Fox, Get Smart became the first television franchise to air new episodes (or made-for-TV films) on each of the aforementioned current four major American television networks, although several TV shows in the 1940s and 1950s aired on NBC, CBS, ABC and DuMont. The different versions of Get Smart did not all feature the original lead cast.
Get Smart was parodied on a sketch in the Mexican comedy show De Nuez en Cuando called ["Super Agente 3.1486"], making fun of the Spanish title of the series (Super Agente 86) and the way the series is dubbed.
An early MadTV sketch titled "Get Smarty" placed the Maxwell Smart character in situations from the film Get Shorty.
An episode of F Troop called "Spy, Counterspy, Counter–counterspy" featured Pat Harrington Jr. imitating Don Adams as secret agent "B. Wise."
The Simpsons episode "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade" parodies the opening of Get Smart in the couch gag. Homer goes through many futuristic doors and passageways until he reaches the phone booth, falls through the floor, and lands on the couch, with the rest of the family already seated.
Adams in similar rolesIn the 1960s, Adams had a supporting role on the sitcom The Bill Dana Show (1963–1965) as the hopelessly inept hotel detective Byron Glick. His speech mannerisms, catchphrases ("Would you believe...?"), and other comedy bits were adapted for his "Maxwell Smart" role on Get Smart.
When WCGV-TV, a new independent station in Milwaukee, Wisconsin signed on the air in 1980, Adams did in-house promos as Agent 86 to let viewers know when the reruns of Get Smart aired on the station by using his shoephone.
In one of Adams' five appearances as a guest passenger on the series The Love Boat, his character, even when he thought he had been shot, makes no attempt to visit the ship's doctor. The role of the doctor on Love Boat was played by Bernie Kopell, who played Siegfried on Get Smart.
In 1982, Adams starred in a series of local commercials for New York City electronics chain Savemart as Maxwell Smart. The slogan was "Get Smart. Get SaveMart Smart." In addition, Adams starred in a series of commercials for White Castle in 1992, paying homage to his Get Smart character with his catchphrase "Would you believe...?"
In the 1980s, Adams provided the (similar) voice of a bungling cyborg secret agent in the animated series Inspector Gadget. This later became a feature film in 1999 starring Matthew Broderick in the title role of Inspector John Brown Gadget (in which Adams had a cameo), and its prequel series Gadget Boy and Heather. Neither were directly related to Get Smart.
In the mid-1980s, Adams reprised his role of Maxwell Smart for a series of telephone banking commercials for Empire of America Federal Savings Bank in Buffalo, New York. The telephone banking service was called SmartLine, and Sherwin Greenberg Productions (a video production company and bank subsidiary) produced radio and television ads, as well as a series of still photos for use in promotional flyers that featured Don Adams' Maxwell Smart character wearing the familiar trenchcoat and holding a shoe phone to his ear. The television commercials were videotaped in Sherwin Greenberg Productions' studio on a set that resembled an old alleyway which utilized fog-making machinery for special effect. The production company even secured a lookalike of the red Alpine that Adams used in the television series, making it a memorable promotion for those familiar with the series of nearly 20 years earlier.
In the late 1980s, Adams portrayed Smart in a series of TV commercials for Toyota New Zealand, for the 1990 model Toyota Starlet. While it is customary for the actor to go to the foreign location for shooting, Adams' apparent intense dislike of long-distance flying meant that the New Zealand specification car had to be shipped to the US for filming. He also appeared in another series of Canadian commercials in the late 1990s for a dial-around long distance carrier. In the movie Back to the Beach (1987), Adams played the Harbor Master, who used several of Maxwell Smart's catchphrases (including an exchange in which Frankie Avalon's character did a vague impression of Siegfried).
Adams played Smart in a 1989 TV commercial for Kmart. He was seen talking on his trademark shoe phone, telling the Chief about the great selection of electronics available at Kmart. An exact replica of himself approaches him, and Smart says, "Don't tell me you're a double agent." (This was a reference to a running gag on the original series, in which Max detected some sort of setback or danger, and would say to 99, "Don't tell me..." and then 99 replied by stating a confirmation of whatever Max was afraid to hear, to which Max would always respond, "I asked you not to tell me that!")
Adams also appeared in a number of McDonald's Hamburger Restaurant television commercials which also featured numerous classic/nostalgic TV series stars, such as Barbara Billingsley from "Leave It To Beaver", Buddy Ebsen from "The Beverly Hillbillies" and Al Lewis from "The Munsters".
Adams also starred in a Canadian sitcom called “Check It Out” in which he played a supermarket manager but many of Adams’ recurring Get Smart jokes - such as ‘the old [something something] trick’ and ‘I told you not to tell me that!’ - were used and reused in the show but in a supermarket setting.
Books and comicsA series of novels based on characters and dialog of the series was written by William Johnston and published by Tempo Books in the late 1960s. Dell Comics published a comic book for eight issues during 1966 and 1967, drawn in part by Steve Ditko.
Proposed movieThe 1966 Batman movie, made during that TV show's original run, prompted other television shows to propose similar films. The only one completed was Munster Go Home (1966), which was a box office flop, causing the cancellation of other projects, including the Get Smart movie. The script for that movie was turned into the three-part episode, "A Man Called Smart," airing April 8, 15 and 22, 1967.
PlayIn 1967, Christopher Sergel adapted a play Get Smart based on Brooks's and Henry's pilot episode.
Home media and rightsAll five seasons are available as box sets in region 1 (USA, Canada, and others) and Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, and others). The region 1 discs are published by HBO Home Video, and region 4 by Time Life Video. Each region 1 box contains 4 discs, while region 4 editions have a 5th disc with bonus material. Region 4 editions are also available as individual discs with four to five episodes per disc. The season 1 set was released in both regions in 2008. Seasons 2 and 3 box sets were released in region 4 on July 23, 2008. Seasons 4 and 5 were released in region 4 on November 5, 2008. Seasons 2, 3, 4 and 5 in region 1 were released throughout 2009.
Another box set of the complete series is available in both regions, first published in 2006 by Time Life Video. In 2009 the region 1 edition was replaced by an HBO edition, and became more widely available. All editions contain a 5th disc for each season, with bonus material. The set has 25 discs altogether.
The first four seasons were produced for NBC by Talent Associates. When it moved to CBS at the start of season five, it became an in-house production, with Talent Associates as a silent partner. The series was sold to NBC Films for syndication.
Over decades, US distribution has changed from National Telefilm Associates to Republic Pictures, to Worldvision Enterprises, to Paramount Domestic Television, to CBS Paramount Domestic Television, to the current distributor, CBS Television Distribution. For decades, the syndication rights of all but a handful of the fifth-season episodes were encumbered with restrictions and reporting requirements; as a result, most of that season was rarely seen in syndication (though they were shown with more regularity on Nick at Nite and TV Land). The distribution changes (including the loosening of restrictions on the fifth season) were the result of corporate changes, especially the 2006 split of Viacom (owners of Paramount Pictures) into two companies.
HBO currently owns the copyrights to the series itself, due to Time-Life Films' 1977 acquisition of Talent Associates. Home videos are distributed by HBO Home Video. For a time the DVD release was only available through Time-Life (a former Time Warner division). Warner Bros. Television owns international distribution rights.
On August 10, 2015, the entire series was officially released on digital streaming platforms for the first time in preparation for its 50th anniversary.