Get Smart

Get Smart

Get Smart is an American comedy television series that satirized the secret agent genre. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the show starred Don Adams as Maxwell Smart as Agent 86, and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 of CONTROL, a secret U.S. government spy agency. Henry said the show came from a request by Daniel Melnick to capitalize on "the two biggest things in the entertainment world today" — James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. Brooks said: "It's an insane combination of James Bond and Mel Brooks comedy."

The show aired on NBC from September 18, 1965 to April 12, 1969, after which it moved to CBS for its final season, running from September 26, 1969 to September 11, 1970. A total of 138 episodes were broadcast. The show was popular in the mid-1960s, and is often rerun around the world in syndication. The series won seven Emmy Awards and was nominated for an additional fourteen, as well as two Golden Globe Awards. The series was briefly relaunched years later, starring Adams and Feldon, with Andy Dick as Max and 99's son.

Four feature-length versions have been produced: first, with part of the original cast in 1980's The Nude Bomb, then in a 1989 ABC TV Movie, Get Smart, Again!, and most recently, in a new film adaptation starring Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, and Alan Arkin in 2008, which then spawned a spin-off film, Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control.


The series centered on bumbling secret agent Maxwell Smart (Don Adams), also known as Agent 86. His partner is Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), whose "real name" is never revealed. Smart and 99 work for CONTROL, a secret U.S. government intelligency agency based in Washington, D.C. (at 123 Main Street). The pair investigate and thwart various threats to the world, though Smart's incompetence invariably causes complications. However, Smart never fails to save the day, typically thanks to his own dumb luck and 99's skill. Looking on is the long-suffering head of CONTROL, who is always addressed simply as "Chief" (played by Edward Platt).

The nemesis of CONTROL is KAOS (pronounced chaos), an equally inept spy agency from an unnamed though apparently Eastern bloc nation (or more likely a coalition of eastern block nations' agencies). Despite being capitalized, CONTROL and KAOS are not acronyms and do not stand for anything.

The enemies, world-takeover plots and gadgets seen in Get Smart parody James Bond: "Do what they did except just stretch it half an inch," Mel Brooks says of the series' method.



Maxwell Smart or Agent 86 or Max Smart is the central character in the series. Despite being a top secret government agent, he is actually absurdly awkward, clumsy, and not very bright. He does, however display considerable prowess in hand-to-hand combat as well as being a good shot. His cover is a greeting card salesman but he seldom manages to maintain secrecy about his real work. Due to multiple assassination attempts, he told his landlord he was in insurance, and on one occasion, that he worked for the Internal Revenue Service. Agent 86 is known for his use of the shoe phone, a spy communication device.

Agent 99 - A tall, attractive female agent whose appearance becomes useful in many undercover operations. Generally Agent 99 is more competent than Maxwell Smart, but Max saves her life in several episodes. Together they provide a perfect team both to battle KAOS and provide comical situations on-screen. Smart and 99 are married in Season 4 and have twins in Season 5. Agent 99's real name is never revealed. In the episode "99 Loses CONTROL", she says that her name is Susan Hilton, but at the end of the episode she tells Max that in fact "Susan" isn't her real name. In the episode "A Man Called Smart", Max calls 99 "Ernestine". She replies, "That's the first time you've called me Ernestine...If only it was my name!" Brooks and Henry revealed in an interview that Feldon's character was called "99" as an in-joke between them. Initially, they wanted to call her Agent 69, but realised that that would never fly with censors, so they renamed her Agent "99", and shared a chuckle each time her name was mentioned.

The Chief - The chief of CONTROL is intelligent, serious and sensible. He began his career at CONTROL as Agent Q. He is supportive to Agents 86 and 99, but he is frequently frustrated with Max due to his frequent failures and foul-ups. Unlike Agent 99, Chief is revealed to have a first name--Thaddeus--on a few occasions. His cover identity is Harold Clark, Max's boss at the greeting card company. Another time, when KAOS tricked the Chief into being recalled to active duty in the US Navy (as a common seaman and Smart as his commanding officer), his official name is John Doe.

Hymie the Robot (Dick Gautier), a powerful android (built originally by KAOS but reprogrammed to work for CONTROL), who tends to take orders too literally;

Agent 13 (Dave Ketchum), who is always being stationed inside weird, unlikely places, such as mailboxes, washing machines, lockers, and other objects;

Agent 44 (Victor French), who regularly suffers the same fate as Agent 13;

Agent Larabee (Robert Karvelas) the Chief's slow-witted assistant and

Fang (Agent K-13), a poorly-trained CONTROL dog.


Siegfried - Conrad Siegfried is a recurring villain and the Vice President in charge of Public Relations and Terror at KAOS. He is Maxwell Smart's "opposite number" and nemesis at KAOS, although the two characters share similar traits and often speak fondly of one another, even in the midst of attempting to assassinate each other. Siegfried was played by Bernie Kopell. Siegfried's chief henchman was Shtarker (King Moody).

Adaptations in other media

Four movie versions were produced years after the end of the NBC/CBS run of the TV series:

The relative success of Get Smart, Again! eventually prompted the development of a short-lived 1995 weekly series on FOX, also titled Get Smart, with Don Adams and Barbara Feldon reprising their characters, with Maxwell Smart now being the Chief of CONTROL, as their bungling son, Zach (Andy Dick), becomes CONTROL's star agent. The show failed to recapture the spirit of the original. A late episode of the 1995 series shows that just as Siegfried is leaving a room, Maxwell Smart accidentally activates an atomic bomb just before the end of the show. (The teaser for the episode shows an atomic bomb going off.) This ending is similar to a device used by the Get Smart-inspired series Sledge Hammer! at the end of its first season. There weren't high hopes for the series as Andy Dick had already moved on to NewsRadio which premiered weeks later in 1995.

With the revival series on FOX, Get Smart became the first television franchise to air new episodes on each of the aforementioned current four major American television networks, although several TV shows in the 1940s and 1950s aired on NBC, CBS, ABC and DuMont. The different versions of Get Smart did not all feature the original lead cast.

Get Smart was parodied on a sketch in the Mexican comedy show De Nuez en Cuando called ["Super Agente 3.1486"] , making fun of the Spanish title of the series (Super Agente 86) and the way series are dubbed.

Adams in Smart-esque roles

Don Adams played Maxwell Smart in a 1989 TV commercial for Kmart. He was seen talking on his trademark shoe phone, telling the chief about the great selection of electronics available at Kmart. An exact replica of himself approaches him, and Max says, "Don't tell me – you're a double agent."

Adams also starred in a series of local commercials for New York City electronics chain Savemart as Maxwell Smart. The slogan was "Get Smart. Get SaveMart Smart. In addition Adams starred in a series of commercials for White Castle in 1992, paying homage to his "Get Smart" character with his catch phrase "Would you believe...?

Adams again played a bungling secret agent in the animated series "Inspector Gadget". This later became a feature film starring Matthew Broderick in the title role (in which Adams had a cameo) and its prequel series "Gadget Boy and Heather". Neither of these was directly related to "Get Smart".

In the late 1980s Adams also portrayed Maxwell Smart in a series of TV commercials for Toyota New Zealand, for the 1990 model Toyota Starlet. While it is customary for the actor to go to the foreign location for shooting, Adams' apparent intense dislike of long-distance flying meant that the New Zealand specification car had to be shipped to the US for filming. He also appeared in another series of Canadian commercials in the late 1990s for a dial-around long distance carrier.

Books and comics

A series of original novels based upon the series were written by William Johnston and published by Tempo Books in the late 1960s. Dell Comics published a comic book for eight issues during 1966 and 1967, drawn in part by Steve Ditko.

2008 Get Smart movie

A big-screen version of Get Smart was released in 2008, directed by Peter Segal and starring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart (Agent 86), Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, Alan Arkin as Thaddeus, though his first name is never mentioned in the film. (The Chief), Terence Stamp as Conrad Siegfried, Masi Oka as Bruce, Dwayne Johnson as new character Agent 23. Bill Murray and Bernie Kopell each make a cameo appearance, and James Caan, who guest-starred in the original series, also appears, but playing a different character. The film includes a dedication to Adams and Platt; Feldon reportedly declined an invitation to appear.

In its opening weekend, "Get Smart" topped the Box Office with $39.2 Million.

Shooting began March 2007 and the film was released June 20, 2008. A made-for-DVD spin-off revolving around minor characters, Bruce and Lloyd, the masterminds behind the high-tech gadgets that are often used by Max, was released on July 1, 2008 as Get Smart's Bruce and Lloyd: Out of Control.

The proposed movie

The 1966 Batman movie, made during that TV show's original run, was hugely successful and prompted other television shows to propose similar films in order to cash in on the phenomenon. The only one completed was Munster Go Home (1966), which was a huge box office flop, causing the cancellation of other projects, including the "Get Smart" movie. The script for that movie was turned into the three-part episode, "A Man Called Smart", airing April 8, 15, and 22, 1967.

Production notes


A recognizable 'gag' was Smart's phone built into his shoe (an idea from Brooks). To use or answer his shoe phone, he had to take off his shoe. The shoe converted into a gun by dialing the number 117. Telephones were concealed in other objects including a necktie, comb, watch, clock, handkerchief, magazine, a garden hose, car cigarette lighter (the cigarette lighter was hidden in the car phone), jockstrap ("please ring only once!"), steering wheel of a car (where Max complained that if he made a right turn, he dialed the operator), and a sandwich. Smart's shoes sometimes contained other devices. Housed in his heels were an explosive pellet, a suicide pill, and a smoke bomb.

On February 17, 2002, the prop shoe phone used by agent Maxwell Smart was included in a display entitled "Spies: Secrets from the CIA, KGB and Hollywood", a collection of real and fictional spy gear that exhibited at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.

Another of the show's recurring gags was the Cone of Silence (an idea from Henry). Smart would pedantically insist on following CONTROL's security protocols; when in the Chief's office he would insist on speaking under the Cone of Silence--two transparent plastic hemispheres which were electrically lowered on top of Smart and the Chief--which invariably malfunctioned, requiring the characters to shout loudly to even have a chance of being understood by each other, and even then, most of the time that failed.

Get Smart cars

AMT made a model kit of the 1965 Sunbeam Tiger roadster Smart drove in the opening credits. Complete with a horde of hidden weapons, it is the only kit of the Tiger. The 1968 season put Smart in a Volkswagen Karmann Ghia for the opening credits; the car never appeared in the show itself (in the short-lived 1995 TV series, Smart is trying to sell that car through the classifieds). He also began driving a 1969 Opel GT with a new phone: a giant rotary telephone dial covering the steering wheel. Max is seen driving a blue 1968 Ford Shelby Mustang convertible with a tan interior in at least one episode.

Production personnel

Spies at work

CONTROL and KAOS did not seem to be above everyday bureaucracy and business quirks. KAOS is a Delaware corporation for tax purposes. CONTROL's union is the Guild of Surviving Control Agents, and Max is their negotiator; when a captured KAOS agent tells him about their survivors' benefits, the Chief is within earshot, and Max promptly uses the information for his labor talks.

In one episode, where Max infiltrates a KAOS-run garden shop, Max refuses to arrest the manager until after 5 p.m., so he can collect a full day's pay from the shop. The Chief threatens to fire him, but Max is not afraid; according to CONTROL's seniority policy, "If I get fired from CONTROL, Larrabee moves up!" The Chief gives in and lets Max stay on the job, rather than risk having the (even more) inept Larrabee take Max's place.

In another episode, Siegfried and Max casually discuss the various flavors of cyanide pills they have been issued. It was raspberry that month at CONTROL, and Max offered Siegfried a taste. In that same episode, Max and Siegfried have a show and tell of various weapons they have—Max boasts of having a deadly non-regulation pistol—from a Chicago Mail Order House. (The prop in use is actually an 1893 Borchardt C-93 pistol.)

Cover names were common, but sent up as being used unwisely—in a hotel, a phone call is announced for an alias, and Max identifies himself as the person in question. Second, third and fourth calls come in, each with its own alias—the last of which was his own name (Maxwell Smart), which he initially does not answer—and Max tells the skeptical gallery owner that those are his names as well, making it obvious to any spy that he is taking calls from fellow agents and informants. Max then proceeds to make himself even more visible by tangling the handset cords of the four phones together.

CONTROL also has a policy of burning pertinent documents after cases are closed; the reasons were detailed in their Rules and Regulations book, but nobody can read them, since they burned the only copy.

In the interest of company morale, both CONTROL and KAOS have their own bowling teams.

DVD releases and rights issues

Season 1 is available in stores in region 1. Other seasons and other regions are available in various circumstances. The complete series is available in the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand as a boxed set from Time Life Video.

Time Life released all seasons in Australia and New Zealand as individual discs with four to five episodes per disc, or as season sets. The region 4 retail releases of Get Smart has special features from the Time Life release, however the region 1 release does not. Seasons 2 and 3 box sets were released in Australia on July 23, 2008. Seasons 4 and 5 will be released in Australian stores on November 5, 2008.

The entire series (except the final season) was produced for NBC by Talent Associates. When it moved to CBS, it became an in-house production, with Talent Associates as silent partner. The series was sold to NBC Films for syndication. Over decades, distribution has changed from National Telefilm Associates to Republic Pictures, to Paramount Domestic Television, to the current distributor, CBS Television Distribution. For decades, the syndication rights of all but a handful of the fifth season episodes were encumbered with restrictions and reporting requirements; as a result, most of that season was rarely seen in syndication. The distribution changes (including the loosening of restrictions on the fifth season) were the result of corporate changes, especially the 2006 split of Viacom (owners of Paramount Pictures) into two companies. CBS owns the television syndication rights, but not home video, due to the assets of Talent Associates now in the hands of HBO (currently part of Time Warner). The series copyright is now held by HBO.


External links

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