Get Smart review by Lauren and Conor

Back in the 60's, the Cold War spawned a revolution in spy entertainment starting with James Bond and continuing with a plethora of other clandestine types. The most popular, of course, was James Bond, but the list included 'Secret Agent Man', 'The Man From Uncle', 'I Spy', ‘The Avengers’ and a whole host of others both at the movies and on TV. It even filtered into the western, another popular genre of the time, with 'Wild Wild West'. Of course we shouldn't forget 'Rocky & Bullwinkle' as they matched wits with Boris and Natasha.

Once espionage themes became trendy it was not long before the spy parodies began to emerge, one of the earliest being 'Our Man Flint' starring James Coburn as a James Bond caricature. Today the spy spoof continues to be fashionable with the more recent ‘Austin Powers' and ‘Johnny English’ movies. Espionage provides fertile ground to poke fun since many of the most serious efforts were themselves laughable. Of all the spy parodies, however, ‘Get Smart’ stands out as one of the funniest. Actor Don Adams plays secret agent Max Smart of the long running TV series 'Get Smart', and impersonates the James Bond antithesis to perfection. Attempting the cool and debonair super spy stereotype, he instead bungles and trips his way in and out of misfortune. He is somewhat reminiscent of Pink Panthers Inspector Clouseau and in fact, the relationship between Smart and the Chief of CONTROL is uncannily akin to Clouseau and Chief Inspector Dreyfus.

The inept Max Smart (Agent 86) is a member of CONTROL, a secret CIA like establishment, and Barbara Feldon is Agent 99, Max’s sidekick and eventual love interest. The most hilarious interactions are those provided by Max and the Chief of CONTROL, played by Edward Platt. The series ran for 5 seasons beginning in 1965. Most of the episodes are accounts of the antics between CONTROL and KAOS. CONTROL being all things good and American, matching wits with KAOS, all things bad and despotic. Every spy stereotype is represented for both sides and the results are hysterical. Despite Smart’s incompetence, he manages to get the best of KAOS and its members, thanks in large part to Agent 99. Max of course is blind to all of this believing in the end, it is he, who saves the day.

This type of humor verges on slapstick not unlike the type we see from The Three Stooges. It is not for everyone, but there is no denying, it takes a certain comic wherewithal to pull it off. Peter Sellers was famous for this type of comedy and Don Adams is a natural. So much depends on body movements and demeanor. That Smart looks like a complete jackass most of the time is no mistake and Adams makes it look effortlessly intrinsic to the character. Throughout the series many of the gags and gimmicks are repeated time after time, but we know this and anticipate it. Smart’s delivery is what makes us laugh… and we do.

As with many opening seasons, the first season of ‘Get Smart’ begins somewhat rough. The actors are struggling to adjust to their roles, and some of the comedy seems forced. However, as the season progresses, the writing improves dramatically and the plots become more clever, and the humor more witty. As jokes become established, the writers use them with more innovation. The delivery of lines, as well as the acting also improves, achieving a more natural, and less forced, style.

Throughout the season, the characters change and develop significantly. Max becomes more and more idiotic and foolish, typically blundering his way through missions. Proportionate to Max’s metamorphosis is 99’s shift from the “helpless female” to one of humoring nature toward Max’s ineptness. We see 99’s growing attraction to Max and her willingness to forgive Max his shortcomings. Later in the season, she contributes more readily to the plot, as opposed to simply being a “tag-a-long” though Max continues to dominate the storyline.

Max’s boss is the Chief, a serious individual and a perfect straight man to Max’s bumbling incompetence. He sees Max for the fool he is, but seems to have no choice but assign him cases of national importance. KAOS may suffer from Max’s stupidity, but the Chief usually gets the worst end of it.

The supporting cast also provides humor, such as Agent 44, who spends many episodes hiding in various concealed nooks and crannies so that Max can contact him on location. Typically, Agent 44 has secret information for Max along with an assortment of complaints regarding his constant occupation of small cramped spaces. We can find Agent 44 in places like the inside of a grandfather clock, a flower pot or cello case to name a few.

All in all, after a somewhat slow start, the first season of Get Smart ended on a high note. It was clever, humorous and entertaining overall. We give it 7 Jackasses.

Notable Episodes:

Mr. Big (Pilot): In the first ever episode of Get Smart, Max and 99 are sent to recover Dante’s Inthermo, a device that could ultimately destroy an entire city. Here, many of the show’s trademark jokes are established. The acting is a little awkward as the actors adjust to their new roles and the fight scenes are a little rough around the edges but that doesn’t take away from the humorous aspect.

Back to the Old Drawing Board: Max and 99 have to protect a professor from being kidnapped by KAOS. KAOS has invented a dangerous robot, Hymie, to carry out a murderous plot, but Max and 99 turn the robot into a good guy. Hymie eventually becomes a chief character in the series and this episode is his debut.

The Amazing Harry Hoo: Max teams up with a Hawaiian detective, Harry Hoo to solve the murder of a CONTROL agent. The character of Harry is a parody of an old TV detective, Charlie Chan and may not be appreciated as much by younger audiences. His methods of solving the case are hysterical and far-fetched but somehow lead to the truth.

Ship of Spies parts I and II: In this two part episode, Max and 99 go aboard a freighter in search of the stolen plans for a battleship. Part I won an Emmy for outstanding writing in comedy and in part II, we meet Larabee, a control agent who becomes a more central character later on. This episode establishes and makes fun of some of the techniques used in old black and white movies to create atmosphere; A ship at sea in a thick fog; a wailing fog horn; a killer aboard we don’t see but can hear shuffling along… clip-clop… clip-clop, and so on.

7 out of 10 Jackasses
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