Get Smart - The Complete Series                HIER KLICKEN FÜR DEUTSCHE VERSION

22.4.2010 #483en

by Guido Bibra

Titel Get Smart - The Complete Series
Studio Talent Associates / NBC (1965-1970)
Released by HBO Home Video (2008) EAN 7-321902-225227
DVD-Type 25x9 (7,46 GB) Bitrate ø 4,8 max. 8,0
Runtime 3964 Minutes Chapters 6/Episode
Region 2 (England) Case HBO Quadro
TV-Norm PAL | 576i | 24fps | progressive norm-converted
Image 1.33:1 16:9 nein
Sound Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono 192 kbit/s English
Subtitles English
Rating BBFC 12
Extras • Audio Commentaries with the Actors, Writers and Producers
• Interviews, Featurettes & Outtakes
• Trailers, Commercials and other archival material
• And much more in 8 hours of footage

The Series

They were called James Bond, Naopleon Solo, John Drake or Derek Flint and it was their job to save the world from villains of all kinds. In the 1960s secret agents and spies were in high demand on the big and small screens - every studio and television station had them in their programs. Only few productions took themselves very seriously, but nobody had yet considered an all-out parody. When the espionage wave had reached its greatest height, this suddenly changed when one TV series ignored all conventions of the tough secret agents and their dramatic adventures: Get Smart was the first real spy comedy in the history of American television, which lampooned the genre from top to bottom.

The Masters of Humor

Daniel Melnick, who had founded the production company Talent Associates together with David Susskind and Leonard Stern at the end of the 1950s and was also a programming director at ABC, had the idea to knit together two very successful concepts which everybody was talking about in the movie industry. Melnick wanted to combine the suspense and adventure of the James Bond movies with the humour of The Pink Panther and immediately got the attention of his two production partners. In 1964 the idea slowly developed into a fully grown production and Talent Associates did everything to transform the concept into reality. The first step was the search for a team of authors, for which David Melnick, Leonard Stern and David Susskind had a look at the flourishing business of television comedy.

The producers especially took notice of one writer: Mel Brooks, who had originally begun his career as a standup comedian, but later found success as a gag-writer behind the scenes of Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows. Brooks, however, had the reputation to just tell his jokes instead of writing them down, so the producers also wanted to assign him another writer. For this, they found Buck Henry, another comedian, who had distinguished himself as an actor and writer for TV shows like The Steve Allen Show and the American version of the satiric news show That Was The Week That Was, where he got noticed by Daniel Melnick.

Getting Smart

The lucky hand of the producers had already brought two very creative comedians together, which proved to be the ideal creators for a concept, which had never been tried before in this way. Mel Brooks and Buck Henry began to develop the basics for a full-blooded spy parody and kept close to Daniel Melnick's initial idea to merge the worlds of James Bond and The Pink Panther. Mel Brooks did his reputation as a standup comic and spontaneous idea man justice and contributed countless gags and ideas, while Buck Henry concentrated more on the development of the stories and the characters. The hero was called Maxwell Smart – mainly to give the series the ambiguous title Get Smart.

At first, however, a platform for the idea had to be found. Talent Associates had tried to pitch the concept to Melnick's former employer, the television company ABC. At first, this showed much promise, but it turned out to be a disappointment in the end, when the station deemed the script of the pilot episode as too unfunny and declined. Daniel Melnick, David Susskind and Leonard Stern were, however, able to buy the rights back and went straight to the competition: Grant Tinker, the programming director of NBC, was so thrilled by Mel Brooks' and Buck Henry's script that he ordered the pilot episode to be made immediately - but it was very late in the year and the pilots of other television series had already been filmed. The producers were nevertheless able to produce the first episode in time, which pleased the studio bosses so much that Get Smart was greenlighted immediately.

Secret Agent Extraordinaire

The sale of the series to NBC had the great advantage that the company already had a suitable leading actor at hand: Don Adams, who had begun his career in the 1950 as a standup comedian on American television and became especially famous for his skillful voice imitations on several comedy shows. In 1963 he had played the incompetent hotel detective Byron Glick in the show of his old friend Bill Dana, with whom he already had developed his earlier standup acts. The casting of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart proved to be very lucky, because his clumsy detective was very similar to what Mel Brooks and Buck Henry already had in mind.

It was Don Adams' first solo show and the producers and authors took great care to embed him into the creation of his character. As a veteran standup comedian the actor was able to contribute a lot of material, which mainly originated from his earlier acts, most of which were perfect for the new entity called Maxwell Smart. Many catchphrases like "Would you believe...?", "Missed it by that much!" or "Sorry about that, Chief!" were ideas of Don Adams, who had refined them together with Mel Brooks and Buck Henry and used them almost regularly in every episode.

His most important contribution was the voice of Maxwell Smart, which the actor had closely based on another famous cinema detective: William Powell's Nick Charles in the adaptation of Dashiell Hammet's The Thin Man and its five sequels, which were released between 1934 and 1947. Don Adams took Powell's somewhat nasal and staccato speech to new extremes and in this way created Maxwell Smart's distinctive voice. The physical humour was, however, more closely based on the initial idea of the producers, who wanted to shape their very own spy as a mixture of James Bond and Inspector Clouseau – with the facial expressions and the slapstick of Peter Sellers and the elegance of a secret agent, Maxwell Smart became a very special character.

Spies and Colleagues

Apart from Maxwell Smart the series had only two other regular main characters in the beginning. One of them was Agent 99, Smart's pretty co-worker, who in comparison to him was much more competent and intelligent, not conforming at all to the stereotypes of the genre at that time. For this role the producers had suggested the former model Barbara Feldon, who was already under contract with Talent Associates and had appeared in a few guest roles in other television series. In her thirties, Feldon was not the youngest of her profession, but it was especially because of this why Mel Brooks and Buck Henry were so enthusiastic about the actress and tailor-made the character for her.

From the beginning Barbara Feldon and Don Adams became good friends and had enormous fun during the shooting of the series, which lead to the very special chemistry between Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart. The relationship between the two characters was at first a harmless cat-and-mouse-game, but nevertheless the authors had included a subliminal affection between Agent 99 and Maxwell Smart, which was often used as a running gag. Barbara Feldons playful charme did not keep her from being more than an attractive clothes model, because her character was a rare example of a resolute working girl in a world which was otherwise dominated by men only. In the first episodes this was seldom used to the full extent, but in some stories the part of Agent 99 was moved more into the foreground and she became in every way Maxwell Smart's equal.

The third of the main characters was Maxwell Smart's and Agent 99's boss, who was mostly called "The Chief" and remained, like most of Smart's colleagues, nameless. It was a largely no-nonsense part, which functioned as a counterweight to the parody-laden main character and therefore required an earnest and competent actor. The producers discovered the movie veteran Ed Platt, who had originally started his career as a singer and had played small parts in many movies. His very distinct voice and his memorable features made him to one of the most popular supporting actors of the series and the crosstalk between the chief and Maxwell Smart became a regular and soon indispensable running gag of Get Smart.

The Smart Files

Mel Brooks and Buck Henry mostly took their shots at James Bond, but they also had their sights on a much closer competition: MGMs spy-series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., which had started in the year before Get Smart, was often a target of their parodies. The typical black-and-white scenario, in which the organisations CONTROL and CHAOS battled each other with their agents, originated in the Ian Flemings SPECTRE and MGMs U.N.C.L.E. and T.H.R.U.S.H. - while their names were abbreviations, Henry's and Brooks' creations actually had no special meaning except for the names themselves. The antagonists were at first mostly not-too-bright gangsters, while the agents of the good guys were quite competent and efficent, maximizing the contrast to the bumbling Maxwell Smart. The organisational backgrounds of CONTROL and KAOS were also a subject of further parody – agents on both sides often complained about the bureaucracy, low salaries, bad equipment and other problems of everyday spy work.

Although the plot of the episodes served mostly as a front for the numerous gags, the telling of more or less full-grown stories was of great importance to the producers. This was considerably hindered by the half-hour format, but the team of authors still managed to develop original and enthralling stories for many episodes. Very important were also the numerous Gadgets, which became the greatest trademark of Get Smart and were mostly the brainchild of Mel Brooks. The telephone-elevator, Smarts famous shoe-phone and the cone of silence were only some of the many playful ideas, which strongly parodied the 1960s obsession with gadgets.

The humour was mainly comprised of countless quick gags, which were nearly all successful and had one thing in common: they were something completely new, which had rarely been seen on television before. Only in standup comedy so many consecutive gags were possible, while here a complete genre was parodied across the board by all means. The often quite simple gags, which were more geared towards younger viewers, were also a front for a more subliminal satire, which showed the handwriting of Mel Brooks. He, however, had left the team after the first couple of episodes to work on his first own movie – but not before he was sure the series was in good hands: his collaborator Buck Henry kept his job as a story editor and producer for a long time.

The World of Maxwell Smart

Get Smart was almost exclusively filmed at the Paramount studios in Los Angeles. Location shots were very rare in the beginning, most parts of the series were filmed in the studio. Extravagant sets and elaborate decorations à la James Bond were not possible in the early days because of the low budget, but the sets were designed as solid as circumstances allowed, although they were not very detailed and had a certain theatrical stage atmosphere. At first all offices looked very similar and only Maxwell Smart's apartment showed some individuality – but in later seasons the production designers showed more imagination and were able to let Get Smart escape from the cramped sets of the earlier episodes.

Apart from the pilot episode Get Smart was shot in colour and, as customary at that time, still on 35mm film, giving the series a certain cinematic feeling. It is doubtful that this was visible on the television screens of the 1960s, but the series was still shot with a high technical effort. With clever camera work the very basic sets were photographed as advantageous as possible, so that Get Smart in spite of the limited possibilities never looked really cheap – the series was mainly supported by the actors and not the scenery.

Jazz for Spies

For the musical accompaniment the producers went to Irving Szathmary, the brother of Don Adams' old friend Bill Dana. Szathmary was actually a very busy and successful jazz pianist and arranger, who was brought to Hollywood by his brother in the beginning of the 1960s and had already worked for a couple of television productions. Among them was the short-lived show of his brother, after whose cancellation he immediately was engaged by Talent Associated for Get Smart. Irving Szathmary had not only composed the title music, but the complete background score – a job which was usually done by many different composers.

Due to time constrains not every episode could be set to music individually, but still many notable cues were created, which could easily compete with other soundtracks of the genre. The music focused less on humor than on authenticity and was meant quite seriously – the humor was left to the actors. Irving Szathmary created a tight, brass-heavy sound with a jazz orchestra of sixteen musicians, which was mainly heard in the title tune. It was set in 12/8 and with its hammering guitar rhythm and the swinging brass-section became on of the most famous television tunes of the 1960s.

Season One: The Prototype

The broadcast of Get Smart began in September 1965 in the best time slot on Saturday evening at half past eight and became an instant success. NBC had even taken the risk to start the broadcast with the black-and-white pilot episode to make the viewers curious and to surprise them the next week with the colour episodes. The gamble paid off and the first thirty episodes of Get Smart, shown between September 1965 and May 1966, were able to attract solid ratings, which made the future of the series possible - and when Leonard Stern and Buck Henry won an Emmy for their scripts, NBC was immediately willing to order new episodes.

While the first season had its classics, among them the first two-part episode Ship of Spies and 99s approachment of the opposide side in Kisses for KAOS, many other episodes were still somewhat rough. The fondness for genre parodies was already noticeable, because Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 were allowed to travel with the Orient Express, play cowboys and indians and meet a detective who is not too dissimilar to a certain Charlie Chan. The antagonists were, however, missing a strong leader, who first appeared in season two with the introduction of Siegfried.

Season 2: The Beginning of a Classic

The next thirty episodes of the second season were broadcast exactly one year after season one and were even more successful. This was mainly the result of some improvements which were made possible by a larger budget. More location filming was done and the studio sets were expanded, so that the somewhat monotonous and cramped atmosphere was hardly noticeable any more. The stories got more creative and sometimes mutated into full-blown parodies, satirizing not only many classic spy cliches but also famous Hollywood movies and television series.

Another big change made with the beginning of the second season was the expansion of the supporting cast. The third episode gave KAOS its first regular face with Siegfried, the deliciously evil agent sporting a strong German accent. Played with much gusto by the american actor Bernie Kopell, Siegfried became one of the most-loved regulars in the Universe of Get Smart, appearing five times in the second season alone. Another newcomer was David Ketchum's ubiquitous Agent 13, who was always hidden in impossible places like the inside of a sofa, an airport locker or a trashcan. Season Two also marked the return of the human robot Hymie, played again by Richard Gautier, in two episodes. Another regular was also seen more often: Robert Karvelas' Larabee, who later practically became one of the most seen supporting roles of the series.

The second season was closed by the only three-part-episode of the series, whose creation had a particular background: when the Batman television series with Adam West had made a successful leap onto the big screen in summer 1966, the enthusiasm of many television producers was huge and everyone wanted to emulate the success. The disappointment came only a short time afterward, when Universals movie version of The Munsters flopped a the box office and in turn foiled many other plans. Paramount had great interest in making a Get Smart movie, but after the Munsters disaster the idea was quickly scrapped. Nevertheless the already prepared script was still used and converted to the three-part-finale of the second season. In the end, A Man Called Smart became one of the most memorable episodes of the series, for which Don Adams again won an Emmy as best actor.

Season Three: On the height of success

The third season, which was broadcast between September 1967 and April 1968, consisted of only 26 instead of 30 Episodes. It saw the departure of series co-creator Buck Henry, who left the show to pursue his own career of writing movie scripts, landing his first hit in the same year with The Graduate. In his footsteps followed the authors Arne Sultan and Norman Paul, who refined and improved the expanded concepts from the previous year. Some slight changes were made to the opening credits, in which Maxwell Smart now drove a blue instead of a red sports car due to a change in sponsoring.

Many scenes were still filmed in the studio and location shots were rare, but the sets had none of the stage atmosphere of the earlier episodes. After sixty episodes the humour was somewhat worn down, but the authors were still able to come up with enough fresh gags and the classic catchphrases had yet to be retired because they were the biggest trademark of the series and the viewers expected them. Season three had many highlights, but the most remarkable episodes were those with Bernie Kopell as Siegfried, who returned four more times. Another classic proved to be the two-parter The Little Black Book with comedian Don Rickles in a guest role, who had so much fun with Don Adams that the originally planned single episode was expanded. Episodes like these made it possible for Get Smart to win three Emmys that year for best acting, directing and even best comedy series.

Season 4: Prelude to a Finish

In the fourth season, which was broadcast from September 1968 to March 1969, Get Smart was turned inside out both in front and behind the scenes. The spy genre had lost more and more popularity and even the market leader James Bond had gotten into trouble when their lead actor Sean Connery had quit - but the producers of Get Smart were up to the challenge. Leonard Stern, the last founding member of the production team, retired from his position as executive producer and only wrote some episodes - his job was taken over by Arne Sultan, who had joined Get Smart in the previous year as story editor. Now responsible for the editing of the scripts were authors Allan Burns and Chris Hayward, who brought fresh ideas into the team with years of television experience.

The biggest changes, however, happened in front of the camera: the relationship between Maxwell Smart and Agent 99, which had been slowly built up during the last three seasons, became a victim of the ratings - the two spies got engaged in the season opener and married a few episodes after that. It was a decision which was not made by the producers and authors, but by the television company, who wanted to boost the slowly sinking number of viewers. It was a huge risk to give up on of the basic concepts of the series and it didn't entirely pay off, although it made some very memorable episodes possible. The humour didn't really change, but while the earlier episodes tended to satirize the classic sitcom-format, now Get Smart had sometimes become a simple sitcom itself.

Most of the supporting actors returned, but nevertheless there were some changes: David Ketchum's Agent 13 was completely gone and Richard Gautier only appeared once as Hymie, the human robot. The role of Robert Karvelas as Agent Larabee was greatly expanded to shift some of the blame from Maxwell Smart to him, with Larabee being the only Agent dumber than Max. The fourth season was home to many parodies - from the Peanuts to Bonnie and Clyde, The Prisoner of Zenda, Hitchcock's Rear Window and The Great Escape the authors had targeted half of Hollywood and were quite successful with it. In spite of the many changes the actors were all in top form and especially Don Adams had deserved the Emmy he had won for this season. All this was however for nothing, because NBC was not satisfied with the ratings and thought Get Smart was now outdated - the series was unceremoniously canceled after the fourth season.

Season Five: Swansong of the Spies

Talent Associated didn't give up so easily however - Daniel Melnick, the last original producer still working on Get Smart, immediately called up his contacts to move the show to another station, persuading CBS to pick up a fifth season of 26 episodes, which was shown between September 1969 and May 1970. Story Editor Chris Hayward became the main show runner, while Arne Sultan stayed as executive producer. Leonard Stern had only an advisory function and had all but left the production team. Don Adams, who had occasionally directed some episodes before, became more and more involved. This, however, had some downsides - in one episode, Ice Station Siegfried, Adams had refused to appear, because he felt the script wasn't good enough. The producers had to call in his old friend Bill Dana to temporarily replace Adams.

Again a lot of changes were made: the title sequence was partly revamped and even the title tune was updated. The character development of the now married Max and 99 was further expanded when 99s pregnancy was written into the season opener and later a two-part story revolved around the birth of 99s and Max's twins. Unfortunately it wasn't one of the better episodes of the season, which were even more rare than before.

The quality of the writing noticeably declined and in the last episodes it was obvious that the authors and actors had lost interest in the series - but there were still some great highlights and some memorable guest stars like Vincent Price. While Robert Karvelas' Agent Larabee was featured even more than before, many other supporting roles were downsized or even removed: instead of Agent 13 there was now Al Molinaro as Agent 44, but he was only part of two episodes. Even Siegfried appeared only once, unfortunately in the episode without Don Adams, so there was no more witty banter between Siegfried and Max.

In spite of some very funny episodes, it was undeniable that the series was dying a slow death and all those involved in the production were actually relieved when CBS canceled Get Smart after only one season in its new home. Between 1965 and 1970 138 episodes had been made, which was very rare and a great achievement in a time where many television series were canceled after or even during their first season. This huge legacy made it possible to sell the series into syndication and while there were no more Episodes produced in the 1970s, Get Smart didn't simply disappear, but still remained very popular due to the many reruns.

The Many Returns of Maxwell Smart

The interest in Get Smart was so huge that in the end of the 1970s that Time-Life Films, to which Talent Associates were sold in 1977, wanted to make a Get Smart movie. Don Adams teamed up with his friend Bill Dana, who wrote the script together with series veterans Arne Sultan and Leonard Stern, but the production was plagued by studio interference. Universal was keen on making a movie about a bomb which destroyed clothing, calling the story The Nude Bomb. The plot was forced upon the writers and while the casting was excellent, Edward Platt had unfortunately died in 1974 and was replaced by Dana Elcar. Barbara Feldon had not even been asked to appear, so the original cast was diminished to Don Adams and Robert Karvelas. The movie was a box office failure and was universally panned by critics - to no surprise of the actors, writers and producers, who were very disappointed with The Nude Bomb, which they actually wanted to call The Return of Maxwell Smart.

It was Leonard Stern who at the end of the 1980 organized the production of another movie, this time as a television special for ABC. Get Smart, Again! was the reconciliation for the disaster of the previous attempt and did not only reunite Don Adams and Barbara Feldon, but also Bernie Kopell as Siegfried, Richard Gautier as Hymie and David Ketchum as Agent 13, who were joined by a well-picked supporting cast consisting of Harold Gould, Kenneth Mars, John DeLancie and many others. This time the reunion of the classic Get Smart cast was successful and managed to recreate the unique atmosphere of the original series.

Five years after the success of Get Smart, Again!, another attempt was made to bring back Get Smart to the television screens. This time the Fox Network picked up the rights, but the concept was wrong from the beginning. At first the network wanted to use the series as a vehicle for their upcoming comedy star Andy Dick, but later Don Adams and Barbara Feldon were persuaded to join the cast. They were unfortunately only supporting actors and the idea of making Andy Dick the bumbling spy instead of Don Adams simply didn't work out. Get Smart in its 1995 incarnation was such a huge failure that only seven episodes were produced, after which it was quickly cancelled. It was the last time Don Adams and Barbara Feldon appeared in front of the cameras as Maxwell Smart and Agent 99.

Smart Forever?

With the cancellation of Get Smart in 1970, leading actor Don Adams finally had time to work on other projects. But he was too much typecast in his role as a bumbling secret agent to establish himself in another way and mostly portrayed variations of Maxwell Smart. In his television series The Partners, which was quite similar to Get Smart, he appeared together with Rupert Cross as a stupid detective duo, but it only lasted only twenty episodes and was canceled after the television season of 1971/72. His innovative game show Don Adams' Screen Test, in which studio guest recreated scenes from famous movies, also only survived for one season between 1975 and 1976. Don Adams had, however, more success in Canada, where his supermarket-sitcom Check It Out! ran from 1985 to 1988, but didn't catch on in the USA.

Don Adams passed away in September 2005. He was 82 years old, but still active until shortly before his death. He had always enjoyed his success as Maxwell Smart and loved to tell about his time as the craziest secret agent in television history. After his death it seemed that Get Smart would never return into cinemas or on television screens, because the character was inseparable from Don Adams. In spite of this, Warner Brothers dared to produce a big action movie in 2008 with Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway in the lead roles. While it became a big financial success, it was only a mediocre action comedy which had not much to do with the original series except the title and the names of the characters.

Get Smart around the World

Get Smart was broadcast in the 1960s not only in the USA, but many other countries. Talent Associates had sold the series to many television companies around the whole world, amongst them to Germany, where Get Smart was broadcast between 1967 and 1969 on ARD and from 1971 to 1972 on ZDF. Not all episodes were dubbed and many were cut, as was the case with many other foreign television series at that time. The German version had the absurd title Mini-Max - Die unglaublichen Abenteuer des Maxwell Smart (The unbelievable Adventures of Maxwell Smart) and was tailored more towards younger viewers instead grownups.

The voice of Don Adams back then was Gerd Martienzen, who had also dubbed the French comedian Louis de Funés, but the German version could not do justice to the often untranslatable original dialogue and tried to compensate this with typical corny German humour. Since the 1980s Get Smart had been shown on the private television stations RTL, Sat1 and Kabel1, who dubbed the rest of the episodes, but had to use Hans-Jürgen Dittberner as the voice of Don Adams, because Gerd Martienzen had unfortunately passed away since.

Get Smart knew how to make use of the wave of secret agents and spies in the 1960s and was one of the few series who had the guts to parody a whole genre and crank out one gag after the other. The mixture of cracking humour and cynical satire enthralled the viewers and Get Smart became a phenomenon in the 1960s not unlike James Bond did. More than forty years later the original Get Smart remains an enormously entertaining and funny classic, even if the humour is sometimes a bit worn - nevertheless, the high factor of nostalgia makes the series still highly amusing.


For years legal problems made a DVD release of Get Smart impossible. But after the series had been released in Germany by Kinowelt in 2006 with disappointing image quality and no extras, HBO published a huge boxset with all five seasons and extensive bonus materials. This set was at first only available from Time-Life, who only shipped to the USA. In summer 2008 HBO had begun to release the seasons separately to all retailers - unfortunately the bonus discs from the complete boxset were removed, but in exchange the price was relatively low. November 2008 saw the release of the full boxset in all online shops and stores when, apart from season one, no others hat yet been released separately - these followed in 2009 and 2010, but again without the bonus discs.

HBO, which had acquired the rights to Get Smart through the sale of Talent Associates to Time Life at the end of the 1970s, had made a huge effort with the production of the series' DVDs, hiring producer Paul Brownstein, who already had prepared many classic television series with complex production backgrounds for DVD releases. For Get Smart he approached those authors, directors, producers and actors who were still alive and created extensive extras with them. They consisted of a mix of audio commentaries for some episodes, interviews, featurettes and mountains of archive material for all five seasons, which did the reputation of the series as a classic more than justice. One flaw was however the image quality, which was troubled by a suboptimal encoding, but was still very watchable.

While the American 25-disc-box with a price in the triple digits is still exorbitantly expensive, the British version, which was released in November 2008, has been available for much lower prices since 2010. The UK edition of the boxset is identical to the American version in regards to the contents and has all the extras, especially those of the bonus-discs, which had been left off the US single discs. The only problem is the image quality, because the NTSC masters had been norm-converted to PAL, impairing the limited quality of the American discs slightly. In light of the extremely favourable price this problem can be overlooked, particularly because the image actually still looks quite good.

Links: Episode Guide from »










HBO made it possible to release Get Smart on DVD with the best possible image quality, which is not that easy with a forty year old television series. Because it had been shot on 35mm film, the original negatives were available for a new digital transfer, but unfortunately the restoration was tarnished by a somewhat overzealous processing and a bad authoring.

While the american NTSC discs have problems with interlacing, the PAL-DVDs are also not perfect, because the video masters were not properly sped up to 25fps, but left at 24fps and had simply been norm-converted. This caused visible ghosting, which is less noticeably on CRT displays with interlaced playback, but are distinctly visible on progressive playback. The english PAL discs however have a slightly better image quality despite the conversion.

The film masters were thoroughly cleaned, so that practically no dirt is visible - only sometimes some single dropouts are still visible, but they are hardly noticeable. The image looks very clean, but the film grain was nearly completely removed by an extremely heavy noise filter. This led to a very smooth and modern-looking image, but on closer viewing often typical artifacts like swimming image portions or immobile grain-patterns are visible. This is only noticeable on high-resolution displays, but the heavy filtering nevertheless would not have been necessary and robs the film material of its natural look.

Because of the filter the sharpness of the transfers cannot really satisfy and is hardly as good as 35mm movie-production of that era. In some episodes the image was heavily electronically sharpened, so that often double edges are visible. The british PAL version has, however, somewhat better details and was sharpened as much as the NTSC discs. The image stability is excellent and only has some slight unsteadiness - a fluttering and waving image, which is sometimes caused by damaged film material, is fortunately not visible here at all.

The colours are really glorious and are shown in very intense Technicolor style, but fluctuate slightly from episode to episode. On the UK discs the colour timing has been corrected in some places, the sometimes too red skin tones were changed to more natural colours, but still have the typical pastel look of productions from the 1960s. The colours are cleanly and without noise reproduced, and while the compression on the british discs uses a bitrate of average 4,8 mbit/s, no artifacts are visible in spite of the higher PAL resolution and the same running time as the American discs.

Especially in the age of high definition HBO could have done so much better, because with a clean speedup from 24 to 25fps the PAL version of Get Smart could have been the best edition. Unfortunately the chance was lost, but struggling with the interlaced image of the US discs or the norm-conversion of the UK discs actually makes no difference, because both have approximately the same effects on progressive displays.


The soundtracks of the series have also been overhauled, but wisely no surround-upmix has been made, so that only the original mono mix of Get Smart can be heard. Unfortunately the sound also suffers from some overzealous processing, which has sometimes, but not always improved it so much that it actually made it worse.

The single English track has been encoded in 2.0 mono at 192 kbit/s and features no big surprises, but has a very solid sound. Frequency response is limited because of the age of the track, but not so bad that it sounds thin or tinny. On the contrary the bass is actually quite pronounced and only the trebles leave something to be desired, but there are no heavy distortions. The restoration has concentrated on the removal of background noises and is actually very well done, because crackling, clicking or hiss are not even noticeable on close listening. The tracks sometimes actually sound too clean, because the complete absence of typical background hiss makes them very sterile. Beginning with the second season many tracks were even more filtered, which lead to a sound which had been literally filtered to death. In addition the soundtracks sometimes suffer of fluctuating volume levels.

While the US disc had only closed-captions and no real subtitles, the british edition has full subtitles on all episodes and even on all the extras except the audio commentaries.


The extras of the British Get Smart boxset are the same as those on the American version and contain a successful mix of audio commentaries for selected episodes, much archive material, inteviews with the writers, producers and actors and some interesting featurettes. The extras, produced by Paul Brownstein, leave nothing to be desired and cover the creation and making of the series in every detail. The menu design is deceptively simple, but fits the overall design of the series very well. Like every episode all the extras are introduced by a short audio preface spoken by Barbara Feldon.

The extras have been split up into the five seasons - each one has a fifth DVD with extensive bonus materials, while the discs of the episodes only contain the audio commentaries.

Season 1

Audio commentaries are provided on two episodes. The pilot Mr. Big has two tracks with series creators Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, who unfortunately were recorded seperatly, making Mel Brooks' habit, known from other commentaries, of not talking enough, even more apparent. In return Buck Henry has a lot to tell about the creation of the series, so that the two sepearte commentaries could easily have been cut together into one. Barbara Feldon compensates this with her commentary track on Kisses for Chaos, where she talks a lot about her involvement with the series and her experiences during the shooting of the early episodes.

The Buck Henry Interview (22:35) lets the series' creator talk about the making of Get Smart in his own charming and entertaining way, bringing up many interesting and surprising details.

The Secret History of Get Smart (16:56) with actors Barbara Feldon and Bill Dana, producers and writers Buck Henry and Leonard Stern, director Bruce Bilson, tv-historian Joey Green and american star psychologist Dr. Joyce Brothers in spite of the short runtime gives a fantastic overview about the roots and early days of Get Smart.

TV Appearances and Spots contains a fascinating Collection of Don Adams' early apperances, a commercial with Barbara Feldon and some interesting previews and trailers.
• The Bill Dana Show, 1964 (6:48)
• The Andy Williams Show, 1965 (5:05)
• Top Brass Hair Care Commercial (1:00)
• NBC Fall Season Preview, 1965 (10:05)
Get Smart Show Promo #1 (0:22), #2 (0:10)

Bloopers (2:11) contains an infamous gag reel, which seems to have been assembled from outtakes when the series was made and shows how much fun the actors actually had on the set.

The Get Smart Reunion Seminar (60:16) with Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Bernie Kopell, Leonard Stern, Burt Nodella and Jay Sandrich is a wonderful meeting of the six actors and producers, which was held in 2003 by the Museum for Television and Radio. Shown here is only an hour-long excerpt while the whole event must have been much longer - some shorter extracts are also available in the extras of the second and third season. It was probably the last time before Don Adams' death the Get Smart crew appeared in public together. In spite of the somewhat rocky moderation this historical document is still enormously entertaining thanks to the good-humoured participants.

The Interactive Bonus Feature contains an amusingly drawn menu, from which selected Details of the chief's office can be explored.

Season 2

The two audio commentaries of the second season come from actor Bernie Kopell on How to Succeed In The Spy Business Without Really Trying and from Leonard Stern on A Man Called Smart. Both prove to be excellent narrators and report from their own perspectives about the creation of the series and the shooting process.

The Leonard Stern Interview (32:04) lets the producer and author tell extensively about the series and goes especially into the early history of how Get Smart came to be. This interview is half an hour of pure information and practically a real documentary in regard to its contents.

Barbara Feldon: from Real Model to Role Model (14:45) with Barbara Feldon, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Buck Henry, Leonard Stern, Bruce Nodella and Bernie Kopell tells about how the female leading role of the series was created, but Agent 99 is also somewhat over-analyzed here.

The 1967 Emmy Broadcast (1:31 & 1:30) shows in short excerpts how the Get Smart Emmys for the second season were accepted.

Bloopers (2:38) are another collection of very funny outtakes.

Get Smart Reunion Seminar Highlights (4:51) contains another short excerpt from the big meeting of 2003, of which sixty Minutes are shown in the extras of season one.

Don Adams' 75th Birthday Celebration (53:04) is Adams' birthday party from 1999, which was held in the playboy mansion and was luckily videotaped. Many of Don Adams' friends and acquaintances tell a lot about him with lots of fun, before he himself makes a remarkable, thoughtful and of course funny closing speech.

Thirty NBC Broadcast Standards Memos are shown - short letters, in which the NBC censoring department criticize the scripts of the series, mostly this revolves around sex and violence.

The Interactive Bonus Feature on this disc gives a look into 99's purse.

Season 3

The audio commentaries of the third season come from Don Rickles in the episode The Little Black Book Part II and from Barbara Feldon and Buck Henry in 99 Loses Conrtol. Don Rickle's Track is very peculiar because the comedian is neither funny nor informative, but completely uninterested, downright rude and already leaves after sixteen minutes - why this disappointing contribution has not been left of in the first place is hardly understandable. In return Barbara Feldon and Buck Henry are in top form and for half an hour tell nonstop about the creation of the episode, but also about the character 99 in general.

The Bruce Bilson Interview (31:02) goes more into the dramaturgical aspects of Get Smart, but the director of 24 episodes also tells how he became involved in the series, how the directors worked with the crew and the actors and how the magic of the whole show worked. A lot of amusing and interesting anecdotes are also a part of this very informative interview.

Spooks, Spies, Gadgets and Gizmos (13:29) takes a look at the countless Gadgets of the show and compares them to real accessories of secret agents, even including some interviews with real experts.

TV Appearances and Spots contains another collection of Emmy Awards excerpts, promotional material and two appearances of Don Adams on other shows.
• 1968 Emmy Broadcast (3:31 & 1:17)
Get Smart Syndication Promo (3:20)
• Milton Berle's Mad, Mad World of Comedy (4:41)
• The Andy Williams Show, 1966 (6:30)

Bloopers (1:42) again contain a collection of outtakes, which seem to be even more funny in this season.

The Don Rickles Bloopers - From "The Little Black Book" episode (1:25) have only survived in black-and-white and in a not very good quality, but are not any less funny.

Another short excerpt of the Get Smart Reunion Seminar (4:39) is available here

The NBC Broadcast Standards Memos are 33 of NBC's censoring notes from the third season, which are almost unintentionally funny.

The Interactive Bonus Feature takes a closer look at Maxwell Smart's Car.

Season 4

The audio commentaries of season four are contributed by Barbara Feldon and Buck Henry in With Love and Twitches and by guest star James Caan in To Sire With Love Part II. Barbara Feldon and Buck Henry continue their informative and entertaining talks from the commentary of the previous season and James Caan recalls his appearance in the show with much enjoyment, although by his own accord he has not seen the episode for a long time.

The Bernie Kopell Interview (22:28) revolves around one of the most-loved antagonist of television history and his performer, who has great fun recalling his appearances as KAOS boss Siegfried and recounts many funny anecdotes.

The Barbara Feldon Interview (24:47) concludes the interview collection and gives the female lead of Get Smart again a chance to talk about her time as the first female secret agent and working-class character.

Code Words and Catchphrases (14:11) is dedicated to the second great trademark of Get Smart after the Gadgets and lets the series producers and authors talk about the roots of the best catchphrases and buzz worlds.

TV Appearances and Spots contains another collection of promotional material and appearances of Don Adams, some even after his carrer as Maxwell Smart this time.
• Rose Parade with Don and Barbara, 1969 (0:51)
• The Andy Williams Show, 1966 (5:45)
Get Smart Syndication Promo (2:11)
• 1969 Emmy Broadcast (1:32 & 1:39)
• Pepsodent commercial, 1967 (0:48)
• White Castle Commercial, 1990 (1:18) & Storyboard
• Chief Auto Parts Commercial, 1983 (1:08)

Bloopers (2:28) has the outtakes from season four, unfortunately only a few.

In the Interactive Bonus Feature Max's Apartment can be inspected.

Season 5

The fifth season unfortunately only has one audio commentary, because the last episodes of the show don't seem to be liked much by the producers and actors. Bill Dana, however, has recorded a commentary for his guest appearance in Ice Station Siegfried, which is of course the only episode without Don Adams and not one of the best stories. In spite of this Bill Dana has a lot to talk about and when he can't think of anything more he uses his famous Jose Jiminez routine to great effect!

The Fans of Get Smart (14:36) looks at the fandom of the series and shows how valuable an active fan base can be for a program like Get Smart.

The Don Adams Memorial 5/10/05 (85:15) is a complete recording of Don Adams' wake, who had passed away in 2005. It is not as sad as it could have been, because his friends and acquaintances had followed his wish and came together to bring him back to life through their stories and anecdotes.

TV Appearances and Spots contain another collection of Don Adams' appearances, commercials and one very special outtake.
• TV Land Awards, 2003 (0:44)
• The Andy Williams Show, 1966 (5:58)
• Don Adams learns he's a Father, 1965 (0:48)
• Chief Auto Parts Commercials, 1981 and 1983 (1:10)
• White Castle Commercials, 1990 (2x0:37)
• Choice Hotels Commercial, 1991 (0:31)
• Buck-A-Call Commercial, 1999 (0:31)

The Bloopers (1:20) are not in great abundance in the last season, but still very funny.

The Ultimate Get Smart Clip Reel (20:33) collects the best scenes from the whole series in seven aptly-named parts. While there is nothing here that isn't also in the episodes, the choice is excellent and represents the series very well - it could even be used as a sort of appetizer or trailer.

The Interactive Bonus Feature here is comprised of the Get Smart Spy Aptitude Test, a well-made quiz for prospective spies and series' connoisseurs.