Get Smart, quite possibly the greatest addition to the spy parody genre, sorry-not-sorry Austin Powers, premiered on September 18, 1965 on NBC. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were the masterminds behind this hilarious series that pitted Don Adams as Agent Maxwell Smart, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 and Edward Platt as Thaddeus The Chief – members of secret US government counterintelligence agency known ss CONTROL – against KAOS, the nefarious international organization of evil.
The show capitalized on the popularity of secret-agent-man franchises like James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. Brooks described the series as an insane combination of James Bond and his signature brand of farcical comedy.
During its 5 seasons run Get Smart coined a number of popular catchphrases including ‘would you believe…” ‘missed it by that much’, and ‘I asked you not to tell me that’.
To celebrate the series 55th anniversary, let’s delve into some its little-known behind-the-scenes facts. And if we miss any important ones, well, sorry about that chief.
Daniel Melnick Deserves A Production Credit
Daniel is probably best known for producing films like All That Jazz, Altered States and Straw Dogs. His films won more than 20 Academy Awards and were nominated over 80 times.
You won’t find Melnick’s name in the Get Smart credit reel but he definitely deserves a mention. He was the one that brought Mel Brooks and Buck Henry together in the first place to work on a spy parody series.
He pitched the idea to the two Hollywood heavyweights as a combination of two of the biggest things that were taking the world of entertainment by storm at the time – namely James Bond and Inspector Clouseau.
Fang Got Fired
Any spy show worth its salt isn’t really complete with a canine crime-fighting companion, right?. The fuzzy find friendly CONTROL dog was played by a little feller by the name of ‘Red’. And turns out, he had a pretty decent run in Hollywood. Before landing the Get Smart role, he played Casper in the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode “Craigs Will”.
Agent K-13, as he was known on the series, made his first appearance in the pilot episode when KAOS makes it’s first sinister move by stealing the inflato-coat. Sadly, little Red was written off the series after just two seasons. Even though fans loved him, the cast and crew struggled with working with an animal actor and it had become too costly to manage and train him.
Max Smart’s Commercials
Don Adam’s used his iconic ‘Would you believe….” line in a whole slew of commercials to promote mid-western fast-food chain White Castle’s fish and fries meal deal for the unbelievable price of just 99 cents. He also lent his likeness a 1971 Hertz rent-a-car commercial where he once again used the “Would you believe…’ line to convince Cinderella – played by Laverne & Shirley’s Penny Marshall – to not work for her evil step0sisters. At the end of the ad, Cinderella is teleported into a Hertz uniform, and theirs a tagline that pops up on screen about every customer being treated like a prince. Cheesy? Yes. But a gigs a gig, right?
Hey, quick side-note. If you’re enjoying this video so far, make sure you give it a like and subscribe to our channel. And make sure you keep watching, we got a whole bunch of Get Smart trivia gold lined up for you. For example, did you know that there are Get Smart comic books and novels? And what about Agent 99? What the heck was her real name anyway? We’ll get to all that in just a minute, but first, we got to talk about Max’s sick wheels.
All Those Classic Sports Cars
There’s really no denying the fact that sports cars in the 1960s had a certain edge to them that put them in a league of their own. For the first season or two of the series, Max drove a Ferrari 250 GT PF Spider Cabriolet. Most folks would give a rib or a limb for a chance to have one of these bad boys in their garage. And of course, he also sported a classic red Sunbeam convertible – another breathtakingly gorgeous piece of automobile machinery.
Volkswagen was one of the primary sponsors of the show’s third season. As such, Max got the opportunity to cruise around in a blue Karmann Ghia. He switched up vehicles once again for season 4 when he traded his keys in for a yellow Citreon and a blue Ford Shelby Mustang GT500. Buick sponsored season 5 which meant that Max got the chance to hop behind the wheel of a Gold Opel GT.
Johnny Carson Was Close Friends With Don Adams
Carson made two appearances on the show. The first time he guest-starred on the series was in the episode “Aboard the Orient Express”. Johnny played a somewhat overzealous train conductor whose fanatical passion lands him in some hot water.
His second appearance was in the episode ‘The King Lives?” where he plays a king’s Harold who introduces a princess after an excruciatingly protracted synopsis of the family’s royal bloodline.
In a 1968 interview when Adams was a guest on The Tonight Show, he detailed a time that he was flying in coach after spending some time in Europe. A couple of minutes before lift-off, Adams swapped out his ticket for a first class seat after Johnny Carson handed him a humorous handwritten note beckoning him to join him. The two spent the rest of that flight shooting the breeze and quizzically teasing each other back and forth.
Reading a list of all the celebs that guest-starred on Get Smart is like looking at a who’s-who of Hollywood in the 60s. 138 episodes gave plenty of opportunities to host some incredible star guests. For the very first episode, Michael Dunn played Mr. Big Stryker and in ‘The Dead Spy Scrawls” Leonard Nimoy – AKA Star Treks Spock – makes a surprise visit.
Other notable stars that found their way to the Get Smart set include James Caan, Bob Hope, Don Rickles, Regis Philbin, and Phyllis Diller.
The Gadgets That James Bond Would Have Envied – Or Not
I mean, who wouldn’t want a shoe phone? It gave a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘walk and talk’. Then there was the cone of silence – a double-domed device intended to facilitate private conversations between two agents but instead made it so they can’t hear each other in the slightest while listeners outside of the bubble could hear them with crystal clarity.
Mel Brooks had one rule when coming up with the gadgets and gizmos for the series. Do what James Bond would have done but stretch it by half an inch.
Phones were built into every conceivable object – from pencils, bowls of fruit, garden hoses or even a cheese sandwich. There was even a time that a cup of coffee and a doughnut had dual functionality as a radio. Executive producer Leonard Stern noted that some of the gadgets were so close to reality that it was absolutely unnerving to the FBI. Although, we seriously doubt that any real-life governmental agents are communicating via soccer cleats or sugar-glazed confectionary treats.
Andy Warhol and TV Guide
TV Guide enlisted the talents of world-famous pop artist Andy Warhol to design the cover of their March 5, 1966 issue. Warhol used his iconic color blocking print technique on photos of Barbara Feldman that were captured by famed fashion photographer Roger Prigent for the magazine’s cover and some of its interior fashion showcases.
What Was Agent 99s Name?
Barbara Feldon was sort of like the voice-of-reason to balance out Don Adams over-the-top antics. Her real name however proved to be one of the show’s biggest mysteries. Brooks and Buck certainly liked to keep us all on our toes. Her real name was hinted at and teased many times throughout the show’s run but the writers refused to ever give a solid answer – even after she and Max got married in season four.
Don and Barbara Didn’t Care For Each Other In Real Life
Barbara Feldon admitted that she and Don never really talked to each other in the early days of filming. They would simply arrive on set, deliver their lines, and go home. It would be a number of years before they would develop something more akin to a working relationship.
Agent 99 started off as something more like a supporting character but as the show progressed, she took on a more prominent role. As her character developed, so did her and Don Adam’s on-screen chemistry, but even so, it wouldn’t be until the show was nearing its end that they started to consider each other friends.
F Troop’s Spoof
Another popular 60s series that poked fun at the spy genre was F Troop starring Forrest Tucker and Ken Berry. In one particular episode entitled ‘Spy, Counterspy, Counter Counterspy’, the writers introduced a character named B. Wise, portrayed by Pat Harrington Jr, who was very clearly a spoof of Don Adam’s Max Smart.
Get Smart Comic Books
Dell Comics published an 8 issue series based upon the show. The comics were published between 1966 an 1967 and were co-written by Steve Ditko – famed co-creator and artist of the Spider-Man and Doctor Strange comics.
William Johnston’s 9 Get Smart Novels
Johnston had a knack for writing novels based upon popular TV series. In addition to penning 9 tie-in Get Smart novels, he also wrote books based upon series like The Brady Bunch, Bewitched, The Flying Nun, and The Munsters.
First TV Franchise To Air On Four Major Networks
So the original series ran on NBC. After being canceled by NBC in 1969, the last season was aired on CBS. ABC had referred to the first series as un-American when they read the pilot script but they ended up airing the made-for-tv movie Smart, Again in 1989. When the series was rebooted in 1995, it was broadcast by Fox.
Speaking Of The 1995 Reboot
The original series wrapped up on May 15, 1970. 25 years later Max Smart and Agent 99 joined forces once again for the Fox revival series. Seeing as more than two decades have surpassed, things have changed quite a bit. Max Smart has since become the Chief of CONTROL and Andy Dick plays his bungling son Zach. Dick was honestly a terrible choice as the lead for the series and little of the magic that made the original series so special is retained in this awful sequel series. The show only aired for 7 episodes and was canceled just a month after premiering.
Welp, that’s all the Get Smart fact we got for you today. If you can think of any that we forgot, give us a call on your shoe phone and let us know.
Some of you younger viewers out there might have only been introduced to get smart after the 2008 film adaptation starring Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway. And while that film was met with mixed reviews, it was a major commercial success and enjoys a sizable fan base to this day.
Which incarnation of Get Smart do you enjoy the most, the original 1965 TV series or Steve Carrell’s remake film? Leave your opinion in the comments section below.
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