Double Exposure: How I Got Wise to “Get Smart”


Photo: IMDb

L-R: Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 and Edward Platt as the Chief.

Nova Clark, Editor-in-Chief


Sometimes, you just know you’ll end up loving something.

This was my case with “Get Smart,” the iconic espionage sitcom that ran from 1965-1970 on CBS — but it wasn’t quite love at first sight.

Though I’d previously caught fragments of its episodes while casually flipping through stations, I initially wrote it off as just another over-the-top comedy series.

It wasn’t until about a month ago when I landed on a weekend marathon of the show (courtesy of the Decades channel) that it held my attention for the first time. Within moments of tuning in, I felt as though I knew the characters like old friends. Even the show’s intro amused me.

It all began to make sense when I realized that Mel Brooks co-created the series — because while the show’s scenarios tend toward slapstick, the jokes can be dry and understated with the same type of absurd, blink-and-you-miss-it dialogue that can be witnessed in his staple films like “The Producers” and “Blazing Saddles.”

“Get Smart” follows the clean-cut Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), also known as Agent 86, a lovable-yet-clumsy spy with a comically-nasal New York accent. In each episode, he delivers quick-talking wit as his self-assured, deadpan demeanor contrasts with the fixes he always gets himself into.

Barbara Feldon co-stars as Agent 99, the nameless female sidekick who always has Max’s back. While her personality possesses a bubbly innocence akin to Marlo Thomas’ endearing portrayal of Ann Marie in “That Girl,” her character still carries herself with an air of intelligence.

Rounding out the team is the strictly-business head of spy agency CONTROL, referred to predominantly as the Chief (Edward Platt). The Chief, a few years Max’s senior, maintains a stone-faced demeanor that reflects his hilarious exhaustion with Max’s hijinks.

In nearly every episode, the trio from CONTROL must outsmart antagonist spies from the malicious opposing agency, KAOS — except the only “chaos” that ensues is usually brought upon by Max’s hand.

The series parodies an amalgamation of the era’s secret agent shows and films. Each episode, for instance, usually introduces a variety of James Bond-like gadgets that inevitably backfire when Max attempts to employ them — when they’re not obtained by the enemy and used against him, that is. Put simply, “Get Smart” is like “Mission: Impossible” if “Mission: Impossible” took itself even less seriously.

Stick around long enough (meaning approximately two or three episodes) and you’ll likely begin to notice recurring jokes and signature one-liners, too, such as Max’s famous “Sorry about that, Chief.”

The show also features a plethora of running gags, a notable one occurring when Max and the Chief are discussing sensitive information. Despite being alone in the Chief’s office, Max will cite the handbook and insist upon using the Cone of Silence: a soundproofing device consisting of two plastic domes that gets lowered over their heads from the ceiling. Much to the Chief’s dismay, the Cone of Silence always manages to be more trouble than it’s worth due to a myriad of malfunctions.

Now, my evenings are complete: I finally have something to watch after “Hawaii Five-0” and “Cheers.” Maybe you will, too.

“Get Smart” airs weekdays at 10:30 p.m. PST on Decades (channel 44.4, Seattle-Tacoma).