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Would you believe mankind’s greatest discovery since fire?

DVD Review: Get Smart – The Complete Series

Currently available exclusively through Time Life, the Get Smart – The Complete Series box set proves the existence of God. Would you believe mankind’s greatest discovery since fire? How about the best TV-on-DVD collection? A great amount of work went into this set that will have every Get Smart fan drooling, and it sets the gold standard for other TV-on-DVD releases. While many studios just dump their television series onto DVD with little care, the Get Smart set pulls out all the stops.

Get Smart is the legendary sitcom featuring Don Adams as Agent 86, a combination of James Bond and Inspector Clouseau. He works for the secret U.S. government agency known as CONTROL, and is assisted by his boss, the Chief (Edward Platt); Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), who would become his wife in the fourth season and bear his twins in the final season; and Agents 44 (Victor French in the first season and Al Molinaro in the fifth) and 13 (Dave Ketchum in between) always get odd surveillance details. Although very inept, Smart always saved the day, sometimes in spite of himself. The main nemesis of CONTROL is KAOS, and the face of the organization is Siegfried (Bernie Kopell), KAOS's Vice President of Public Relations and Terror, who was introduced in the second season.

Mel Brooks and Buck Henry created the series. Brooks helped write some of the first episodes while Henry served as the show’s story editor for the first two seasons. Adams brought a lot to the character. His exaggerated William Powell impression and the “would you believe” line were from his nightclub act. It is impossible to imagine anyone else in the role of this iconic character, but the role was originally written for Tom Poston.

Get Smart ran from 1965 to 1969 on NBC and then moved to CBS for one last season. It was awarded seven Emmys and two Golden Globes. The series was funny, combining slapstick and satire. They got guest stars the likes of Don Rickles, Johnny Carson, Carol Burnett, and Phyllis Diller. Over the course of 138 episodes, there is repetition of jokes, and some people think the show jumped the shark in the last couple of seasons, including series co-creator Henry who was disappointed Smart got married. The episodes are good throughout, although some references are dated and it is possible to overindulge watching a lot in one sitting.  Still, there are a lot of laughs to be had.

Before getting to the DVDs, the box mimics the series’ opening sequence as a couple steel doors and a telephone booth must be opened. Inside are five season sets each containing five DVDs, which include one extras disc. The shows have been remastered and the picture looks great. The colors are vibrant and the image is clean. Each episode has an introduction by Feldon.

There are extras DVD aficionados are familiar with. Commentary tracks by Brooks, Henry, Feldon, Kopell, executive producer Leonard Stern, and James Caan. They provide insight into the show and the behind the scenes, except for Caan, who, rather than talk about the episode he was in because he doesn’t remember it, tells anecdotes about being Adams’ friend. There are also separate interviews with Henry, Feldon, and Kopell. Features about the series focus on its history, Feldon, gadgets, catch phrases, and one devoted to three hardcore fans, who make Trekkies look normal, but their passion has paid off, including a woman who is one of the DVD set’s producers. There are even a number of blooper reels.

The producers must have raided the libraries of the Paley Center of Media, formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio, and NBC Studios because The Complete Series contains an astounding amount of archival footage: an appearance of Adams pre-Smart on The Bill Dana Show doing a similar character; Adams in sketches on The Andy Williams Show, Adams and Feldon at the 1969 Rose Parade; commercials with Feldon before the series and Adams for series sponsor Pepsodent as well as others in the years following the series, as late as 1999; a seminar on the series at MTR from 2003; footage of the Emmy Awards they won; and memos from NBC Broadcast Standards.

Adams died in 2005 before work on the set commenced so he was unable to take part; however, his estate surely contributed because the set features some very personal items rarely seen with any DVD. There is a very funny roast for Adams’ 75th birthday at the Playboy Mansion. The standout performances are by Gary Owens, Harvey Korman, Don Rickles, and the guest of honor, and it gives a rare inside peek at Hollywood. Also, included is Adams’ memorial service.

Although expensive, Get Smart – The Complete Series is a marvelous collection that won’t disappoint any fan of the series. You’ll be spending scores of hours enjoying all the set has to offer, “and loving it.”

About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS

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