What if I told you the world’s greatest detective is heading to the big screen for the first time? No, huh? Would you believe the most dashing super-spy ever? No? How about a bumbling government agent from a 1960s TV show?
The sitcom Get Smart debuted on September 18, 1965 on NBC. It was created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and was envisioned as a spoof of James Bond and the then popular spy trend. The series focused on inept Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, played by Don Adams (who later voiced Inspector Gadget). Max worked for the secret U.S. government organization known as CONTROL, with fellow agents like his boss (the long-suffering Chief played by Edward Platt) and the beautiful and warm Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon). CONTROL’s greatest nemesis was an organization named KAOS, and Max’s chief main opponent was the Vice President of Public Relations and Terror, Siegfried (a pre-Love Boat Bernie Koppell). Get Smart ran for four seasons on NBC and then spent a final season on CBS before it concluded on September 11, 1970 after 138 episodes.
In 1980, without the involvement of the series creators, Universal released a big-screen sequel to the show called The Nude Bomb. The movie bore little resemblance to the TV series and only featured Maxwell Smart and dimwitted Agent Larrabee (Robert Karvelas, who was Adams’ real life cousin). Platt had passed away in 1974 and Feldon declined to be involved.
In 1989, ABC aired the made-for-TV movie Get Smart, Again! This version reunited many surviving series castmembers including Adams, Feldon, Koppell, Karvelas, Richard Gautier (Hymie the robot), King Moody (Shtarker), and Dave Ketchum (Agent 13). It included much of the same music and humor of the series and was written and produced by original series producer Leonard Stern
In 1995 an updated Get Smart series aired on FOX featuring Max as the head of CONTROL, 99 as a congresswoman, and Andy Dick as the couple’s bumbling spy son Zack (99 married Max in the original series’ fourth year and later gave birth to twins). The new show ran for two months and a total of seven episodes. This series however did mark the fourth network for different incarnations of Get Smart.
Now, over 40 years after the original series, Max and company are coming back once again. Sort of.
A new movie version of Get Smart has actually been in the works for the past seven years but will have little to do with the original series. After being stalled many times, filming is now underway in Los Angeles, Montreal, and Washington, D.C.
Steve Carell stars as Max with Anne Hathaway (99), Alan Arkin (The Chief), Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson (Agent 23), David Koechner (Larabee) and Terence Stamp as Siegfried. Its being directed by Peter Segal (50 First Dates, Tommy Boy, and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult).
The new cast sounds ideal but fans of the 1960s series may be a bit disappointed by the feature’s script. From what I’ve heard, though the characters have familiar names, it sounds like they’ll bear little resemblance to the originals. In this new film version, 99 is a cold, experienced and kick-ass agent who trains nerdy and nebbish analyst Max to become a spy. Seigfried (essentially a generic bad guy) and KAOS blackmail the U.S. by threatening to give away launch codes for hidden nuclear bombs. Max must find a way to stop the bombs after he’s imprisoned for being a double agent. It took seven years to come up with that?
But there is room for hope. As of Friday, series creators Brooks and Henry have been signed as creative consultants on the film. Brooks has written at least one scene and its been filmed already. It looks like the film will now have their input which hopefully means that Get Smart won’t join the long list of TV film adaptation disasters. All we can do is hope for the best. The film is scheduled to be released in June 2008 so stay tuned!