Ultra Swank - Retro Adventures

Get Smart – With Don Adams

Written by Katharine Miller • February 2nd, 2011

Would you believe that Mel Brooks and Buck Henry teamed up to create one of the funniest spy shows of the 1960s?

Capitalizing on the success of the James Bond franchise, television networks ordered a slew of espionage-themed programs. The Man From U.N.C.L.E, I Spy, Mission Impossible, and The Avengers brought a new level of sophistication to catching bad guys. These series used intelligence, ingenuity, and gadgetry to capture villains and save the world. Get Smart was created by Brooks and Henry to spoof the genre. The series drew inspiration from its serious counterparts and took scenarios and gadgets farther into the absurd.

The complexities of espionage were simplified for the half-hour comedy format of Get Smart. Agent 86 Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) works for CONTROL, a U.S. spy agency focused on shutting down the evil organization KAOS. With the help of Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), the Chief (Edward Platt), and a host of other CONTROL agents, the bumbling Agent Smart defeats KAOS villains at every turn. Also assisting Max is the latest in 1960s spyware.

Each episode features several gadgets Max can use to thwart villains, gather intelligence, and communicate back to headquarters. Many gadgets take form of ordinary items utilized in an unconventional way—a houseplant conceals a reel-to-reel tape recorder, a bowl of soup hides a spy camera, a suicide ring can lead to a joke about marriage. The most notable of all devices being Max’s iconic shoe phone. Any time Max needs to contact the Chief, he removes his left shoe (a black Florsheim, size 9D), twists the heel and removes the sole to reveal the speaker and rotary dial (push button technology had not yet been developed for men’s shoes).

Every good spy needs a high-tech home and Max is no different. Agent 86’s apartment is loaded with clever devices for capturing criminals, including an invisible bullet-proof wall and a desk with a mean gut punch.

Get Smart ran on network television for five seasons (1965-1970). It spawned a comic book, three movies, and a short-lived series that was a sequel to the original. Don Adams reprised his role as Maxwell Smart for The Nude Bomb, Get Smart, Again! and the 1995 Get Smart series. Steve Carell took over as Agent 86 in the 2008 film update of Get Smart. And would you believe Mel Brooks is working on a Broadway musical adaptation of Get Smart? Would you believe he’s working on an Off-Broadway dramatic adaptation of the series? Well, what would you believe?

Katharine Miller

Katharine Miller is a freelance writer and graphic designer living in Toronto, Canada. She's currently working on a graphic novel series, Robot of Leisure.

Find out more about Katharine Miller

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