Get Smart: The Complete Collection (US - DVD R1)
Dustin McNeill sits down to five seasons of this Mel Brooks & Buck Henry sitcom
If you've never been exposed to the Emmy Award winning Get Smart, I urge you - find a way to see an episode. You might easily declare it to be one of the funniest sitcoms ever made. Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, Get Smart was the comedic answer to Ian Fleming's suave super spy, James Bond. The show stars funny man Don Adams as Maxwell Smart (aka Agent 86), an operative for CONTROL whose sole mission is to keep the evil forces of KAOS at bay. Handing out his orders is the Chief (Edward Platt) and always at 86's side is the beautiful Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon).
I'd like to preface this review by pointing out two items of interest. First, this set is currently only available through the Time Life website. They have announced a store launch for the set to take place later this Fall, but that's an awful long wait. Second, this is officially the largest set I or any other contributor here at DVD Active have attempted to review for the site. I'd like to think that by the end of this twenty-five disc journey, I'll be a bit wiser on this fine sitcom and not deathly sick of it from over-exposure.
The pilot begins with Agent 86 getting a call on his shoe phone during a symphony concert. In 1965, this is absurd and comical - but looking back on it from 2007, it's neither of those things. Cell phones are always ringing at inopportune times; so it's amusing to see how the material has aged over the years. I'm finding from the very first couple of episodes that the show's writers seem to have it out for the Chinese.
Highlights of the first season are the tiny Mr. Big, the one-armed Craw, Ted Knight (better known as Ted Baxter) appearing as a random KAOS agent and a pair of episodes that comprise the story "Ship of Spies", which actually won the writers an Emmy. Right out of the gate, Get Smart is fantastic television. Mel Brook's influence is evident right from the pilot episode and his fans should enjoy this material if they haven't seen it already.
Get Smart continues into it's second season with thirty more servings, still very much in it's prime. Highlights include 86's negotiating for the Spy's Guild in 'Strike While The Agent Is Hot', KAOS agent Siegfried and 86 constantly kidnapping members of each other's organization as retaliation in 'A Spy For A Spy' and in a wild turn of events, Maxwell joining KAOS in 'Cutback at CONTROL'. The season is brought to a close with one of Get Smart's better multi-episode story arcs, 'A Man Called Smart', told across three episodes. This apparently was to have been made into a feature film, but the series never made the transition to film during it's original production run.
This third batch of twenty-six episodes again continues with Adams and his cronies still at the top of their game. It's here that I found several of my favorite episodes, all of which happened to be surprisingly guest-star oriented. Carol Burnett appears in 'One of our Olives is Missing' as a country singer Agent 86 has to protect from KAOS. A few episodes later in what undoubtedly qualifies as my favorite, Don Rickles guest stars in the two-part 'Little Black Book'. Adams and Rickles are a fantastic comedy team; it's a shame they couldn't have teamed up more in subsequent episodes/seasons. I haven't much more to say for season three, except that it's more of the same quality entertainment we've come to know. The season ends with a guest appearance from Cesar Romero (The Joker from Batman).
Here's where I begin to have a problem with Get Smart. It's in this season that Agents 86 and 99 get married. For me, this completely changes the light-hearted spirit of the sitcom having our two main characters tackle such a serious issue. Despite their marriage, the fourth season slips in several funny spoof episodes such as 'The Impossible Mission' ( Mission Impossible) and 'Tequila Mockingbird' ( To Kill A Mockingbird) to make it worthwhile. Still, any episode making reference to their partnership as a marriage rubs me the wrong way. It feels like the beginning of the end of the show, which it turns out to be.
Get Smart hardly feels as though it's standing on it's last leg in the fifth season; but it does feel tired. Although never hinging it's success on them, the series continues to feature guest stars and spoof popular entertainment. Gems from this final season include 'The Treasure of C. Errol Madre' and 'Is This Trip Necessary' which sees a guest appearance by the always wonderful Vincent Price. I still found myself disapproving of 86 and 99's marriage, especially when 99 gives birth to twins in mid-season. Again, this is territory I never wanted to see these characters in.
The series finale is top notch and allows for the show to go out with a bang. I won't spoil the ending here, but a most unsuspecting series regular takes charge of CONTROL in the final moments of the episode. This feels like the right time to end Get Smart. It could've easily spent another couple seasons on the air and likely garnered a few laughs, but I ask... why go any farther down hill than this? Had the finale been the end of Agent 86 and 99's story, the show's legacy might still be dignified and intact. Unfortunately, it was followed up by several poor movies and a painful revival in the 1990's starring Andy Dick. Here's to hoping the upcoming remake film doesn't make Don Adams roll over in his grave.
All five seasons are presented in their original fullscreen format. Even though I haven't got any broadcast versions to compare them to, I can guarantee you someone has done a spectacular job in restoring the episodes. The image quality is remarkably clean and sharp for something shot over forty years ago; little to no dirt or grain. The initial pilot episode is a bit rough around the edges, though likely only because it was shot in black and white. I've absolutely no complaints in the video department - Get Smart looks outstanding.
'The Complete Collection' goes above and beyond reasonable expectation in the audio department by outfitting the shows with Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks. It serves them well too, considering that Don Adams and his crew sneak in a few more action sequences than most other sitcoms of the era do. While the laugh track is annoying, this 2.0 mix enables us to hear it better and for that, I commend Time-Life.
First off, every episode in this monster set has an audio introduction by Barbara Feldon. She gives a plot synopsis of the episode and any trivial titbits viewers might want to look out for. She also introduces all of the supplemental material. Feldon's introductions come in especially handy when you want to find a certain episode but can't recall the title.
On the supplemental disc for the first season, we find a new interview with series co-creator Buck Henry (22 min.), 'The Secret History of Get Smart featurette (16 min.), various TV Appearances and Promos (23 min.), bloopers (2 min.), Get Smart 2003 reunion seminar (1 hr.) and lastly, an interactive map of the Chief's office. From this offering, I most enjoyed the featurette and bloopers.
On the supplemental disc for the second season, we're given an equally if not greater round of extras. They include an interview with Executive Producer Leonard Stern (31 min.), 'Barbara Feldon: From Real Model to Role Model' featurette (14 min.), 1967 Emmy Broadcasts (two totaling 3 min.), bloopers (2.5 min.), more scenes from the Get Smart 2003 reunion seminar (4.5 min.), Don Adams 75th Birthday Celebration (53 min.), NBC Broadcast Standards memos and lastly, an interactive look into Agent 99's purse.
While Don Adam's 75th Birthday Celebration and the bloopers provide lots of laughs, neither of these are half as interesting or peculiar as the NBC Broadcast Standards memos. These warn the production of possibly offensive references/lines/scenes in upcoming episodes. (Example: Page 16: Please avoid anything morbid or grotesque in the display of the dead midget lying under the table - NBC, 6/16/1966).
Not to be outdone by discs one and two, the bonus disc for the third season has even more supplemental gold. Beginning with an interview with Director Bruce Bilson (31 min.), we have a 'Spooks, Spies, Gadgets and Gizmos' featurette (13 min.), TV Appearances and Promos (19 min.), bloopers (2 min.), Don Rickles' Bloopers from the 'Little Black Book' episode (2 min.), more from the Get Smart 2003 reunion seminar (4.5 min.), more of those bizarre NBC Broadcast Standards memos and lastly, an interactive look at Maxwell Smart's car. Noteworthy from this batch of supplements are the bloopers (both sets) and the featurette; which highlights many of the hilarious sight-gags employed on Get Smart.
The fourth disc of supplements winds up being the most interview-heavy of the bunch. It has an interview with Bernie Kopell (Siegfried) (22 min.), an interview with Barbara Feldon (24 min.), 'Codewords and Catchphrases' featurette (14 min.), TV Appearances and Promos (15 min.), bloopers (2.5 min) and lastly an interactive look at Maxwell Smart's apartment. On the whole, this disc has more insight than entertainment, but it's still a good watch. The Don Adams for White Castle commercial is a hoot.
Just when you think there couldn't possibly be anything more to show, disc five shows up and proves there is much more. Starting off with 'The Fans of Get Smart' featurette (14 min.), the fifth disc includes Don Adams' Memorial, 2005 (1 hr. 22 min.), TV Appearances and Promos (11.5 min), bloopers (1.5 min.), 'The Ultimate Get Smart Clip Reel' (20 min.) and lastly an interactive Get Smart aptitude test. If you wind up with this set, be sure to check out the clip under TV Appearances where Don Adams finds out his wife has given birth to their first child while on camera! The clip reel is also very enjoyable.
As if that wasn't enough, nine episodes come with audio commentaries. Commentators include but aren't limited to Mel Brooks, Buck Henry, Barbara Feldon, Don Rickles and James Caan. That about wraps it up for the extras section. On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd have to give it a 12.
'The Complete Collection' is undeniably one of the finest television releases I've ever seen on the format. The shows look and sound as they should and included with them are nine dazzling hours of supplements. Thanks to Time Life, Get Smart can now continue to entertain viewers for many years to come in a way that few shows are ever able to; in it's entirety. Bravo, Time Life.
Review by Dustin McNeill
This product has not been rated
Release Date: 15th November 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Aspect: 1.33:1 Full Frame
Audio: Dolby Digital 2.0
Extras: Featurettes, Episode Introductions, Commentaries, Bloopers, Interactive Maps, TV Appearances and Spots
Easter Egg: No
Cast: Don Adams, Barbara Feldon, Edward Platt
Length: 0 minutes
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