“Get Smart” Show: Not Widely Known Facts About the Iconic Show
“Get Smart” was created in 1965 and became one of the most influential sitcoms in the spy parody genre. Think Austin Powers or The Man From U.N.C.L.E which were so cheesy but undeniably, groovy. We’ll try to get to all the behind-the-scenes facts but if I miss a couple, well, sorry about that Chief.
THANK YOU, DANIEL MELNICK!
While you won’t see a production credit for Melnick, he is the sole reason Mel Brooks and Buck Henry got together to make the spy satire. He pitched the idea of combining “the two biggest things in the entertainment world today - James Bond and Inspector Clouseau.”
FANG WAS FIRED
What’s a good spy show without a crime-stopping furry companion? In real life, the novice CONTROL dog was played by the adorable “Red.” Before his role, he was known for his role in Alfred Hitchcock Presents where he played Casper in the 1960 episode “Craig’s Will”.
Agent K-13’s first appearance was in the pilot when KAOS first becomes active and steals the Inflato-Coat. Unfortunately, Red’s character was written off after season two. While he was a fan-favorite for viewers, the crew had a difficult time working with the animal and it all became too expensive to manage him.
MAX SMART HAD A GREAT COMMERCIAL RUN
“Would you believe…” Don Adams used his iconic catchphrases for commercials. He was promoting White Castle’s fish sandwich and fries for just 99 cents. And are we surprised he was a part of auto commercials? I mean he was riding in some extravagant rides.
In the 1971 Hertz commercial, he uses his “Would you believe…” line to convince Cinderella out of working for her step-sisters. At the end of the commercial, Cinderella poofs into a Hertz attendant outfit and there’s a tagline about customers being treated like a prince. Cinderella is Penny Marshall who was best known for her lead role in Laverne & Shirley.
ALL OF THE CLASSIC SPORTS CARS
The cars of the 60s just have a certain edge to them. For the first couple of seasons, Max was driving around in some of the sleekest cars like the Ferrari 250 GT PF Spider Cabriolet and of course, classic red Sunbeam convertible.
Volkswagen sponsored the show for season 3 which gave Max the chance to ride around in the blue Karmann Ghia. In season 4, he switched between the yellow Citroën and the blue ‘68 Ford Shelby Mustang GT500 until Buick sponsored the show in season 5. The gold Opel GT finally gave Max a roof over his head.
THE KING OF LATE NIGHT AND DON ADAMS WERE CLOSE
Johnny Carson appeared in two episodes of the series. The first appearance was in the episode "Aboard the Orient Express" where he played the overzealous train conductor. In "The King Lives?", he’s the king's herald introducing the princess after a long-winded synopsis of the family line.
In a 1968 interview on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, Adams shared about a time he flew back from Europe in coach. Two minutes into take-off, Adams switched his ticket after Carson (who was in first-class) sent him a hilarious handwritten note. They spent the rest of the flight teasing each other back and forth.
GUEST-STARRING NOTABLE ACTORS FROM THE 60s
With new plots every day, it’s no surprise that the series had some incredible guest appearances. In the very first episode, we see Michael Dunn as Mr. Big. Stryker in the “The Dead Spy Scrawls” is played by Leonard Nimoy, or Spock from the original Star Trek series. Who could forget Don Rickle mooing into the cattle horn phone?
THE GIMMICKY GADGETS POKED FUN AT JAMES BOND
From the Cone of Silence to the shoe phone, Get Smart did such a good job of coming up with hilarious ways to mock Bond’s spy gadgets. Mr. Brooks said on the series’ season 1 commentary track that their idea was to "Do what [Bond] did except just stretch it half an inch.”
Communication devices were everywhere: microphones could be found in ice cubes, a bowl of fruit, or even a pencil. There was also a coffee and doughnut radio. Leonard Stern, the executive producer, said some of the gizmos were “close enough to reality that it was unnerving to the FBI.” It’s hilarious to think they might have inspired the government agency.
WARHOL ON TV GUIDE
TV Guide commissioned the world-renowned pop artist Andy Warhol for their March 5-11, 1966 issue. Warhol used his classic color blocking technique on photos of Barbara Feldman taken by fashion photographer Roger Prigent for both the cover and fashion pages.
THE NAME OF AGENT 99
Barbara Feldon’s character, the more sensible of the two partners, was one of the biggest mysteries of the show. Many fans wondered if we were ever going to figure out her real name. Even after they got married in season four, the show still refused to give fans the satisfaction. Will we ever know her name?
DON AND BARBARA WEREN’T CLOSE OFF-SCREEN
Barbara Feldon opened up about filming the pilot. “We never talked to each other. We just did our scene and went home.” It took years for the two actors to develop any kind of friendship off-the-screen although they were always polite to each other.
Starting as a supporting character, Agent 99 developed more of a place on the show and the actors grew more in sync with each other. “The staccato of his personality would just make your heart go faster.” After years of working together, their friendship developed near the end of the show’s reign.
SPOOFED BY “F TROOP”
Another spy comedy that was popular in the 60s for its satire was “F Troop” with Forrest Tucker and Ken Berry. In the episode “Spy, Counterspy, Counter Counterspy,” we’re introduced to “B. Wise,” played by Pat Harrington Jr, which was a clear callout to Don Adams secret agent character.
From 1966 to 1967, the creators worked together with Dell Comics to publish 8 issues based on the show. If you’re a fan of the Spider-Man comics, you’ll be tickled to know that Steve Ditko, the co-creator and artist behind Spider-Man and Doctor Strange, had a hand in some of the plots.
WILLIAM JOHNSTON WROTE 9 NOVELS BASED ON THE SHOW
Johnston, who also wrote novels based on The Munsters and The Brady Brunch, wrote 9 novels for the comedic spies. The first novel, aptly titled Get Smart! was released in 1965. The final novel of the series was released in 1969 and titled Max Smart and the Ghastly Ghost Affair. The series was published by Tempo Books.
THE NUDE BOMB WAS NOMINATED FOR WORST PICTURE
Fans were excited to see the agents take on the big screen, but the film turned into a box office disappointment. According to Wikipedia, it grossed $14.7 million on a $15 million budget. Yikes! It’s no wonder it was nominated for the Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture.
INSPECTOR GADGET IS BASICALLY A BIONIC MAX SMART
Don Adams was the voice behind the crime-stopping Inspector Gadget for the animated series that came out in 1983. While the show was tailored towards kids, “Get Smart” fans could still get a kick out of hearing some of Max Smart’s catchphrases.
1ST FRANCHISE TO AIR ON THE 4 MAJOR U.S. BROADCAST NETWORKS
The original show started its run on NBC and stayed on the network until September 13, 1969. The final season was aired on CBS. While ABC called the original series “un-American,” they broadcast the 1989 TV movie Get Smart, Again! The 1995 revival was aired on FOX.
TOM POSTON COULD HAVE BEEN AGENT 86
Speaking of ABC’s views of the shows, they had a completely different direction for the show in mind. The lead was to be played by Tom Poston, who was known for his success on The Steve Allen Show. Moreover, ABC had more of a domestic sitcom in mind with more focus on Max’s mom and Fang.
THE 1995 REVIVAL WAS A FLOP
When the show ended on May 15, 1970, fans were wondering if they’d ever see Max Smart and Agent 99 ever again and 25 years later, FOX answered the call. However, things really changed around at the agency with Max Smart as Chief of CONTROL.
Zach, played by Andy Dick, became the main protagonist with Elaine Hendrix, as his female counterpart. It just didn’t have the same spark. The show had 7 episodes from January 9 until it finally canceled on February 19, 1995. The reboot was so bad, it ranked at #133 with an average of 5 million viewers an episode.
You might have picked up an interest in the series after the 2008 film adaptation with Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway or you might have been a fan since the show aired in the 60s. Unfortunately, this past year Peter Segal said the time for Get Smart 2 has passed. Do you think we’ll ever see another Get Smart installment? Share your thoughts in the comment section!