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Category:    Home > Reviews > Spy > Secret Agent > Espionage > Comedy > Satire > TV > Get Smart – The Complete Series (Time-Life/HBO Video DVD)

Get Smart – The Complete Series (Time-Life/HBO Video DVD)

 

Picture: C+     Sound: C+     Extras: B     Episodes: B

 

 

During the Spy Craze of the 1960s, the films and TV series made fell into two categories, though not always exclusive to one side.  The big hits were the broad action pieces that Austin Powers has famously spoofed, then there were the bureaucratic thrillers that tended to be more mature, complex, challenging and realistic.  When Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created Get Smart, the real brilliance was that it was spoofing the serious official structures of the mature works while visually and immediately playing it as if it were the big budget stuff gone mad.

 

And that was just he starting point.  When the series debuted in 1965, it was the most advanced comedy since I Love Lucy hit the airwaves, but instead of another domestic situation show with haywire results, this was the first time a TV comedy cut into the territory of hour-long dramas and feature films, give or take Hogan’s Heroes.  Brooks had not become a major director of film genres satires and Henry’s scripts for The Graduate and What’s Up Doc? had not yet been filmed into huge hits, so this is a series that was more groundbreaking than it may first seem.

 

For five seasons from 1965 – 1970, the show sent up everything in its way, never held back and even outlasted many of the spy shows it mocked.  Don Adams played Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, a bureaucratic spy so excellent and precise, he was a klutz who could have lost the Cold War if not for his loyalty to CONTROL and country.  Fortunately, he has the guidance of The Chief, played so memorably by Edward Platt and was partnered with the beautiful Agent 99, played by Barbara Feldon.  The result is one of the greatest trios in TV history with chemistry to spare, fun with absurdity like nothing before or since and when you add the groundbreaking comedy and writing, the show remains one of the great, enduring hits 42 years later and counting, with a new feature film on the way.

 

The only major error in the course of the series was allowing Max and 99 to get married, which ruined the show by introducing domesticity very unnecessarily and turning it into all the other formulaic sitcoms around.  Even as the show tried to make the possibility funny, it was not and the show slowly tanked until it was cancelled.  The episodes of the five seasons are as follows, including guest stars and the addition of Brooks and/or Henry’s name where they actually wrote/co-wrote the teleplay, though titles marked # are missing writing and directing credits:

 

Season One:

 

1)     Mr. Big (Brooks & Henry; guest stars Michael Dunn & Vito Scotti/in black & white)

2)     Diplomat’s Daughter

3)     School Days

4)     Our Man In Toyland

5)     Now You See Him, Now You Don’t (guest stars Val Avery & John Sebastian)

6)     Washington 4, Indians 3

7)     KAOS in CONTROL (guest stars Barbara Bain & Bryan O’Byrne)

8)     The Day Smart Turned Chicken (guest stars Simon Oakland)

9)     Satan Place (guest stars Joseph Sirola & Jack Perkins)

10)  Our Man In Leotards (Brooks; guest stars Michael Pate)

11)  Too Many Chiefs

12)  My Nephew, The Spy (guest stars Conrad Janis & Charles Lane)

13)  Aboard The Orient Express (guest stars Johnny Carson)

14)  Weekend Vampire

15)  Survival Of The Fattest (Brooks; guest stars Karen Steele)

16)  Double Agent (guest stars Gregg Palmer)

17)  Kisses For KAOS

18)  The Dead Spy Scrawls (guest stars Leonard Nimoy & Ron Engel)

19)  Back To The Old Drawing Board

20)  All In The Mind

21)  Dear Diary

22)  Smart, The Assassin (guest stars Murray Matheson & Tony LoBianco)

23)  I’m Only Human (guest stars Oscar Beregi and Frank De Vol)

24)  Stakeout On Blue Mist Mountain (guest stars Jason Wingreen & Ted Knight)

25)  The Amazing Harry Hoo

26)  Hubert’s Unfinished Symphony (guest stars Bert Freed and Milton Selzer)

27)  Ship Of Spies (in two parts; Henry)

28)  Shipment To Beirut (guest stars Lee Bergere)

29)  Last One In Is A Rotten Spy (guest stars Alice Ghostley)

 

 

Season Two:

 

 

1)     Anatomy Of A Lover

2)     Strike While The Agent Is Hot

3)     A Spy For A Spy

4)     The Only Way To Die (guest stars Gordon Jump)

5)     Maxwell Smart, Alias Jimmy Ballantine (guest stars Vic Tayback)

6)     Casablanca (guest stars Gordon Jump)

7)     The Decoy

8)     Hoo Done It

9)     Rub-A-Dub-Dub… Three Spies In A Sub

10)  The Greatest Spy On Earth (guest stars Paul Dooley)

11)  Island Of The Damned (Henry; guest stars Harold Gould)

12)  Bronzefinger (guest stars Joseph Sirola)

13)  Perils In A Pet Shop

14)  The Whole Tooth and… (guest stars Robert Strauss)

15)  Kiss Of Death

16)  it Takes One To Know One (guest stars Gayle Hunnicut & Woodrow Parfrey)

17)  Someone Down Here Hates Me

18)  Cutback To CONTROL

19)  The Mummy (guest stars Lisa Gaye)

20)  The Girls From KAOS (guest stars Tisha Sterling)

21)  The Man From YENTA (guest stars Alan Oppenheimer)

22)  Smart Fit The Battle Of Jericho

23)  Where-What-How-Who Am I?

24)  The Expendable Agent

25)  How To Succeed In The Spy Business Without Really Trying

26)  Appointment In Sahara (Brooks & Henry; guest stars Vic Tayback)

27)  Pussycats Galore (guest stars Angelique and Ted Knight)

28)  A Man Called Smart (in three parts; guest stars William Schallert & Kenneth Mars)

 

 

Season Three:

 

 

1)     Viva Smart (guest stars Joey Bishop)

2)     Witness For The Persecution

3)     The Spy Who Met Himself

4)     The Spirit Is Willing

5)     Maxwell Smart, Private Eye (guest stars Gordon Jump & Buddy Hackett)

6)     Supersonic Boom (guest stars Farley Granger & Bill Dana)

7)     One Of Our Olives Is Missing (guest stars Carol Burnett)

8)     When Good Fellows Get Together

9)     Dr. Yes (guest stars Wally Cox)

10)  That Old Gang Of Mine (guest stars Sid Haig)

11)  The Mild Ones (guest stars Steve Allen)

12)  Classification: Dead (guest stars John Fielder & Shelley Berman)

13)  The Mysterious Dr. T

14)  The King Lives? (guest stars Johnny Carson)

15)  The Groovy Guru (guest stars Larry Storch & Barry Newman)

16)  The Little Black Book (in two parts; guest stars Don Rickles & Ernest Borgnine)

17)  Don’t Look Back (guest stars Milton Berle & Larry Gelman)

18)  99 Loses CONTROL (guest stars Jacques Bergerac & Bob Hope)

19)  The Wax Max (guest stars Robert Ridgely)

20)  Operation Ridiculous

21)  Spy, Spy, Birdie

22)  Run, Robot, Run (guest stars John Orchard as Snead & Lyn Peters as Mrs. Neal)

23)  The Hot Line (guest stars Regis Philbin)

24)  Die, Spy (guest stars Robert Culp)

25)  The Reluctant Redhead (guest stars Cesar Romero, Julie Sommars & Noam Pitlik)

 

 

Season Four:

 

 

1)     The Impossible Mission (guest stars Jamie Farr)

2)     Snoopy Smart vs. The Red Baron (#)

3)     Closely Watched Planes

4)     The Secret Of Sam Vittorio (guest stars J. Carroll Naish)

5)     Diamonds Are A Spy’s Best Friend (guest stars Dick Wilson)

6)     The Worst Best Man (guest stars Avery Schreiber)

7)     A Tale Of Two Tails (guest stars Victor Sen Yung & Fred Willard)

8)     The Return Of The Ancient Mariner (guest stars Jack Cassidy)

9)     With Love & Twitches (guest stars Alan Oppenheimer & Mace Neufeld)

10)  The Laser Blazer (guest stars Julie Newmar)

11)  The Farkas Fracas (guest stars Alice Ghostley & Tom Bosley)

12)  Temporarily Out Of CONTROL (#)

13)  Schwartz’s Island

14)  One Nation Invisible

15)  Hurray For Hollywood (guest stars Ivor Francis)

16)  The Day They Raided The Knights

17)  Tequila Mockingbird (guest stars Oscar Beregi)

18)  I Shot 86 Today (guest stars Charles Bateman & Sharon Acker)

19)  Absorba The Greek (#)

20)  To Sire, With Love (in two parts; (#; guest stars Don Rickles, Pat McCormack & James Caan)

21)  Shock It To Me (Brooks & Henry; guest stars Tom Postin, Sid Haig & Milton Parsons)

22)  Leadside (guest stars Ronald Long)

23)  Greer Window (#; guest stars Barney Phillips)

24)  The Not-So-Great Escape (in two parts; guest stars Kathie Browne)

 

 

Season Five:

 

 

1)     Pheasant Under Glass (guest stars Henry Brandon)

2)     Ironhand (guest stars Paul Richardson, Billy Barty, Al Molinaro & Judy Farrell)

3)     Valerie Of The Dolls (guest stars Caroline Adams)

4)     Window Often Annie (guest stars Dana Wynter)

5)     The Treasure Of C. Errol Madre (guest stars Broderick Crawford)

6)     Smart Fell On Alabama (guest stars John Dehner)

7)     And Baby Makes Four (in two parts)

8)     Physician Impossible

9)     Apes Of Rath

10)  Age Before Duty (guest stars John Fielder & Ralph Moody)

11)  Is This Trip Necessary? (guest stars Vincent Price & Billy Barty)

12)  Ice Station Siegfried (guest stars Bill Dana, Cliff Norton, Regis Cordic and Al Molinaro)

13)  Moonlighting Becomes You (guest stars Victor Buono & Sid Haig)

14)  House Of Max (in two parts)

15)  Rebecca Of Funny-Folk Farm (guest stars Gale Sondergaard)

16)  The Mess Of Adrian Listenger (guest stars Paul Paulsen, Tommy Farrell and Pat Conway)

17)  Witness For The Execution (guest stars William Schallert)

18)  How Green Was My Valet (guest stars Johnathan Harris & Julie Bennett)

19)  And Only Two Ninety-Nine

20)  Smartacus

21)  What’s It All About, Algie?

22)  Hello Columbus – Goodbye, America (guest stars Vito Scotti, Billy Barty & Oscar Beregi)

23)  Do You Hear A Vaults? (guest stars Ned Glass)

24)  I Am Curiously Yellow (guest stars Robert Middleton & Victor Sen Yung)

 

 

 

So some of the prints here though still complete, may be missing some credit information in a few cases as again noted by the # symbol above.  The show was first offered to ABC, but for goofy reasons, they turned it down, a mistake they would repeat with offers to have All In The Family (which they lost to CBS) and The Cosby Show (which they lost to NBC) on their network.  Smart went to NBC for its first four seasons, then switched to CBS for its last, dreadful season.

 

It its peak run at NBC, it was the perfect companion to their hit The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (look for our review of that series following this one) and The Saint, which fit into the cycle and went on to huge syndicated success until recent years when the show was mostly pulled so a DVD set like this could be issued.  Fortunately, it is a good set.  The big box contains the five seasons in separate foldout DigiPak cases, contained in plastic slide cases.  The big box has a door that opens to reveal a faux metal door, which then reveals a faux phone booth when you open it.  Opening the phone booth doors reveals the five sets.

 

As for the show, it began with a black and white pilot, the last monochrome pilot ever made.  The approach to the character was funny, but did not go for broke like the show would.  Smart drives a Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet in that show only, which shows how the producers early approach was to try and enter the comedy on the level of the big budgets of the Bond films and its imitators.  Money aside, this did not maximize the humor and when the show was greenlighted by Grant Tinker, they immediately went to color, especially since NBC was owned by RCA.  With an interest to push color TV, including an eventual print ad tying the show to such sets, the show became wackier to the benefit of all.

 

Smart’s car becomes a cheaper, sillier, convertible Sunbeam Tiger Mark I, but he would also have a Sunbeam Alpine bearing a Tiger badge for some reason.  Both were red.  A blue Volkswagen Karmann Ghia replaced both in the third and fourth seasons, which was even less sporty and more fragile than the company’s popular Beetle.  The show still remained in its funny element and then they decided to marry Smart and 99.

 

When they moved to CBS, he was suddenly riding a 1969 beige Opel GT sportster, which was not as funny, speaking volumes of how much the final season missed the mark of why the show was funny.  Because they had married, the show started taking that seriously, tried and failed to make anything funny of the counterculture in a way that is screaming obvious post-Austin Powers and the energy, wit and freshness of the show was dead.  Except for diehard fans, these shows do not offer much to anyone and even the theme song was mutilated (and opening credits idiotically expanded) to try and give CBS a different and distinct variation on the show.

 

The show was really good actually all the way to the last episodes of the fourth season, a two-parter with the always likable Kathie Browne (Mrs. Darren McGavin) and that the show had four fine years speaks greatly as to why people still love it, as well as what Brooks, Henry and company had pulled off.  Also, the Spy Craze going into decline was not totally so by 1969, so that final season has no excuse for being so shoddy and coming across as such a package deal.  It is the kind of bureaucratic mess the show was spoofing.  Too bad it overtook it in the end with a drop-off in quality like nothing this critic has ever seen in TV history except the drop off in quality form the highly innovative first season of Space: 1999 to its second, horrendous “lets sell some toys” season that killed that series.

 

Fortunately, regulars like Dick Gautier, Bernie Kopell, Robert Karvellas, Robert Cornthwaite, Ellen Weston and William Schallert kept the show going, though some of that consistency was lost in the fifth season.  The show still logged 138 episodes and is best remembered for the shows where 86 and 99 were not married.  Without that luggage, the contrast of the goofy eccentric guy and the pretty agent who would likely otherwise not give him the time of day worked brilliantly.  The humor was subversive and a rare example of American wit, even down to Season Three’s Run, Robot, Run episode sending up the Patrick Macnee/Diana Rigg Avengers in one of the cleverest moments of satire in the whole series.

 

As a matter of fact, it is remarkable that the show was such a hit and was so exceptionally clever in its making and approach.  Then this was one of the golden ages of television, where the standards of quality were higher from the producers, to the sponsors to the audience.  A year after its cancellation, the Bond Films one-upped the series by adding clever sexual humor to the huge hit Diamonds Are Forever, setting the tone for that series for year to come and in effect killing any more attempts to do a Get Smart.  Even as successful as the three (and counting?) Austin Powers films have been, they are more concerned with being gross, sending up the 1960s and bashing the counterculture than spoofing the Spy genre.  The latter is always secondary, leaving Get Smart in a class by itself.

 

Except for the hilarious, underrated The Piglet Files (a great show, reviewed elsewhere on this site) from British TV, no TV show or feature film has ever come along to challenge or match what Get Smart achieved as an unforgettable satire.  Beyond the Spy genre and Cold War, it understood the changes in the air across the country including Civil Rights and capitalized on them thoroughly.  A true television classic and icon of U.S. culture, it is one of those shows that truly deserved this deluxe DVD treatment.  And fans are loving it!

 

You will too.

 

 

The 1.33 X 1 image on all five box sets is remarkably consistent, with a vast majority of the color prints looking color rich, which is a nice change from some color shows where more than a few prints look faded.  You also get nice detail and depth that you would never see on cable and as these were shot in 35mm film, you will be stunned at the playback, except for some issues with Season Five shows.  The colors are not as natural looking, the credits look pasted on oddly as if they were done by some kind of early analog video and there is some dirt and minor image fringing.  Still, these will eventually be made in HD and from the looks of these copies that should be easier if they preserved the cameras materials properly.

 

The Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono is good across all of the seasons, though Season Five can sound a little harsh here and there.  The music sounds good and dialogue is clean and clear.  There is no telling if any of the music elements are separate somewhere or remain in good condition if that, but none of the shows have isolated music or sound effects.  There are several Dolby 2.0 commentary tracks on some shows and audio on the rest of the extras is mono for the older materials and simple stereo for the new interviews.

 

Extras are abundant for all the seasons.  Barbara Feldon does an audio introduction for every single show.  Mel Brooks and Buck Henry do separate audio commentary tracks for the pilot, while Barbara Feldon, Leonard Stern, James Caan, Bernie Kopell, Don Rickles and Bill Dana can be found throughout the five sets.  A bloopers reel is on the second and fifth season.  Season One also adds a tape of the 2003 Museum Of Television & Radio reunion tribute to the series with the cast in attendance, promos for the show, on-camera interview with Henry, interactive look at The Chief’s Office, Secret History Of Get Smart featurette and six related clips to the success of the show including early appearances of the actors and a TV ad for Top Brass hair care.

 

Season Two adds an on-camera Leonard Stern interview, Barbara Feldon – Real Model To Role Model featurette, repeat of the 2003 reunion piece, interactive look at Agent 99’s purse, NBC Broadcast Standard Memos, footage of the show’s two 1967 Emmy wins and Don Adams’ 75 Birthday Party Celebration.  Season Three adds on-camera interview with director Bruce Bilson, interactive look at Max’s Sunbeam Tiger, Don Rickles’ bloopers from the Little Black Book episode,  three clips from their 1968 Emmy wins, syndication promo for the show, Andy Williams Show appearance, Milton Berle’s Mad, Mad World of Comedy, Spooks, Spies, Gadgets & Gizmos featurette, bloopers, NBC memos and 2003 seminar repeated.

 

Season Four adds separate on-camera interviews with Barbara Feldon & Bernie Kopell, interactive look at Max’s Apartment, bloopers, Code Words & Catch Phrases featurette and vintage clips including the show’s two 1969 Emmy wins, syndication promo, Rose Parade with Adams & Feldon, Andy Williams Show in 1966 and three TV commercials with Adams doing Smart.  One is the longer version of the funny Pepsodent toothpaste ad fans love, one is from the White Castle food chain in 1990 and one is for Chief Auto Parts in 1983.  Season Five adds bloopers, the fun Fans Of Get Smart (they are sometimes called The Smarties) featurette, a great clip reel of Smart moments, interactive Spy Aptitude Test, Don Adams memorial from 2005 and more priceless clips.  Besides the 2003 TV Land Awards, you get The Andy Williams Show in 1966 and five more TV commercials with Adams doing Smart.  One more Chief Auto Parts and two more White Castle ads are joined by a retired Smart in a Choice Hotels ad and Canadian long distance offer in a Buck-A-Call ad.

 

As Feldon correctly notes, the Adams did a whole bunch of advertisements capitalizing on his Maxwell Smart persona, plus I give credit to the whole set for never dealing with his voicing of Inspector Gadget.  As a bonus to our readers, we are happy to note that a great ad he did for the game Skittle-Pool is on a great DVD collection called Hit Celebrity TV Commercials on DVD, inexpensive and highly recommended (especially if you order this set) which you can read all about at this link:

 

http://www.fulvuedrive-in.com/review/1234/Hit+Celebrity+TV+Commercials+(Comp

 

 

 

Since the show folded, Platt passed away in 1974 and the three revivals that have occurred are all feature films.  Universal Pictures released The Nude Bomb in 1980, but only Don Adams was present in the cast and the film was a financial and critical bomb, yet fans have made it a cult film in recent years.  Get Smart, Again! was a 1989 TV movie that was much more like it, featuring Adams in his last appearance (in narrative form) as Smart, rejoined by Barbara Feldon as 99 and surrounded by many of the actors from the original show.  It is sadly not in this set and needs to be reissued on DVD.

 

Now, Steve Carell will play Smart in a new 2008 Get Smart feature film for Warner Bros. with Anne Hathaway as 99 and Alan Arkin as The Chief.  Along with a new Batman film, Warner hopes they’ll have two huge blockbusters on their hands.  Even if it is a hit, will it be any good?  Would you believe watchable?  We’ll see.  In the meantime, Get Smart – The Complete Series is one of the best TV collections on DVD to date and we highly recommend it.

 

 

-   Nicholas Sheffo


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