Setting the standard for the spy spoof
The Story So Far...
The concept was simple, and the execution wasn't much more complex: Take the image of the dapper super spy, complete with sexy femme fatales, ingenious gadgets and devious archvillains, and replace the suave guy at the center with an overly-confident putz. Shake, don't stir, and you have the recipe for an excellent comedy take on Cold War intrigue (In fact, it's a concept the Zucker brothers would expand upon to great critical success in the law enforcement genre, with the "Police Squad!" TV series.)
Of course, without the right actor in the tuxedo (or holding the badge in Leslie Nielsen's case), it wouldn't work. "Get Smart" was blessed with a gem in Don Adams, who played the role of Agent 86 straight, with a voice like a noir detective and looks like an accountant. It takes a special comic to make you care about a egomaniac like Smart, especially when there's no reason for him to have any ego, as he screws up every mission he takes on, and is annoying to boot. But in order to laugh at a character, they have to have self-respect, and Maxwell has it in every hidden pocket.
Joining Adams as an agent of Control is Barbara Feldon, an adorable former model who plays Agent 99, an intelligent spy who uses her looks to her advantage, as she keeps Maxwell from getting killed. For some reason, she's also very attracted to 86, and odder still, the feeling isn't entirely reciprocated. Paired with Adams, she s half of an unusual, yet effective comedy duo, showing the kind of give and take that looks effortless. There
The third star of the show is the hugely underrated Edward Platt, who brings believability to the part of the Chief, Smart's long-suffering boss. One wonders why he would keep a screw-up like 86 around, especially after the 15th time he demands the use of The Cone of Silence, the ridiculous privacy device that never, ever works. Platt is perfect as the leader of the agency, especially when he reaches his breaking point, a hilarious moment, each and every time. As the season progresses, we get to meet more and more of Control's finest agents, including the poorly-named K-13, Max's dog Fang; the oft-complaining Agent 44, who gets some of the worst assignments going; and Chief's assistant, the abused Hopkins (played by recognizable character actor Bryan O'Byrne.)
Because there's no real continuing storyline to the show, you can plug in elements at will, and it generally works. Because of that, we can see Max and 99 go anywhere and do anything, and introduce any character imaginable, especially when you have bad guys working for KAOS. Thus you have villains like The Craw, a stereotypical Chinese crimelord (or Oriental, as they were referred to in the less-enlightened time of the show) or Harry Hoo, the Charlie Chan clone. The time frame of the series results in many of these cringe-inducing un-PC moments, such as the red-painted Native Americans of "Washington 4, Indians 3." Thankfully, the DVDs have left them intact, instead of cowardly trying to pretend they didn't exist, the way some othercompanies have with some of their offerings.
No matter how offensive the old-school sensibility can get, silly is what the series really is, which means you get characters like the extremely entertaining Hymie, a robot agent of KAOS. You can even get some cameos by a big name like Johnny Carson, or big names-to-be including Ted Knight, Leonard Nimoy and Victor French. But for all that's great about "Get Smart", there are some things that don't work as well, like the dependance on the catch phrases and repeated gags. Yes, The Cone of Silence is funny the first few times, but eventually it just feels forced (though one later moment, where the Cone goes out of control, is as hilarious as anything on the show.) The set-ups that occur throughout the series are much funnier than the very memorable "Would you believe?" or "Sorry about that Chief" bits, but as "SNL" has shown us, the people love a catchphrase. And one has to admit, for all of the fantastic word play and snappy banter Max and 99 have to work with, there are some serious clunker gags in there that hit like lead baloons. To say the show can be cheesy is an understatement.
The audio is presented as Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks, which essentially dupe the show's mono mix to create a balanced, non-dynamic delivery. The audio is noticeably clean, with strong, clear dialogue, while the signature score comes off very nice. Like the video, this sound is better than one would guess for a series from 1965.
The other extras are a trio of audio commentaries. Series co-creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry each provide a track for the show's pilot episode, "Mr. Big," while Feldon offers up her thoughts on "Kisses for KAOS." Brooks's track is one of his standard commentaries, which means if you love his "grandpa tells you stories about the past" delivery, complete with pauses and laughter at his own gags you'll enjoy it here. Henry does a bit of the same, but is a bit more together in terms of talking about how the pilot was made, making it strong as far as background info goes.
Feldon's commentary is more wistful than the other two, as it's full of memories of Adams, but it still has a good amount of info about the show, and especially her history with the series, which is rather interesting.
Also included with the set is a four-page insert, with an episode list and a essay/history by Rory Mach.
The Bottom Line