Wednesday, April 7, 2010

And loving it

As I've mentioned countless times, I was a Nick at Nite baby. I was born in 1982, the year Nick, Jr premiered. But I was far more interested in the shows at night than in the morning. (Though if you quiz me, you'll find Pinwheel and Today's Special were my favorite children's programs.)

The shows I loved the most were Laugh-In and The Best of Saturday Night Live. That was the original cast, including John Belushi and Dan Akroyd. But I also truly loved and adored Get Smart.

Naturally I was too young to fully appreciate that this show was a spoof on the James Bond-esque television shows and movies. But between the shoe phone and the other tricked-out gadgets, the bright colors and goofball pratfalls, this show was made for children.

When I discovered my library had all five seasons on DVD, I immediately put the first season on hold and worked my way through. It took quite a bit of time, but I finished the final season this week.

I'm shocked to see how many episodes I never saw back in the day. It was like watching a brand new show. One that I don't like near as much as I did when I was a child.

The main characters of the show are seriously lacking. Maxwell Smart does get tiresome after a season or two. The idiocy of him is supposed to be charming, I guess? But really, you just wonder why no one ever fires him. He truly serves no purpose other than comic relief. Don Adams strikes me as a very smart man, especially since towards the end of the series he produced and directed so much of the show. But my irritation at the character's existence didn't ever really fade.

Then there's Agent 99. I want to like 99, I really do. Barbara Feldon is knock-out gorgeous, and she's actually a decent agent when on her own missions. But the falling-over-herself antics when it comes to Max made me sick to my stomach. This was the 60's, right? Women were either burning their bras or about to be? We couldn't have had a little Girl Power kicking here? It's hard to side with her at all throughout the show, since she never calls Max out for his idiocy.

In the episode where Max "proposes" to 99, it's horribly Twilight-esque. They're about to die, there's no way out, oh, sad sad day. Then Max says if they could've gotten out of this mess, he would've married her. And in that exact moment, she figures out how to save them. Now, this is played up for comedic affect, including Max's near backpedal after the scene has played out. But, really? She couldn't have come up with that idea to save herself before, only after the promise of marrying a dumbass like Maxwell Smart?1

The Chief was also a source of irritation for me. At least he got to yell at Max once in awhile, but even just a little firing? I mean, they had him presumed dead, arrested for murder, pretend fired, etc, etc, etc. They couldn't have actually fired him just once for me? Really?

I don't think I view this show the right way. It's not that I watch only intelligent programming. I do love spoofs. But I can understand why the ratings for the show went downhill after a season or two. After awhile, the whole premise becomes irritating. The only reason to watch is for the fun gadgets and hidden stuff, like the agents in ridiculously cramped hiding spaces, such as airport lockers and wood-burning stoves.

The gadgets are the real reason to watch. The phones in the most unlikely places, such as the steering wheel of cars, or in 99's fingernails. It's very James Bond-esque with the types of guns, and the multiple ways that can go wrong. The broom gun, which Max mistakenly leaves behind to sweep the floor of Control while bringing a regular broom. It got to where I was watching the series solely for the gadgets and pretty much ignoring the "plot line".

My favorite episode as a child was still enjoyable, which was close to the last episode of the series, titled, "And just two ninety-nine." It's the episode with two Agent 99's, and the fingernail phone. The plot is simple, it's pretty much impossible for Max to fuck it all up. The fingernail phone is used, 99 is actually in control (no pun intended). She punches out the woman who takes her place, then later breaks out of the place Kaos is hiding her to get back and save her children. Was it really that difficult to make her a strong bad-ass through the entire series?

Now, this review sounds a lot more negative than I want it to be. Yes, I couldn't stand the main characters. But it was the background characters that I truly appreciated on rewatch. Not the agents, necessarily, but some of the villains were just wickedly fun.
Ve don't boom boom here!
It's impossible not to enjoy Siegfried. His accent is a classic example of villain stereotype, and the different ways he would appear in each season were fun to look for. I appreciated him more and more as the seasons went on. He and The Claw, who was only in one or two episodes, were my all-time favorites.

As much as I probably shouldn't have liked him, Hymie was another favorite of mine. The actor who played him, Dick Gautier, was so perfect at playing a robot that I can't imagine him playing someone who actually emotes. I think it would be interesting to see him in something else. But the character of Hymie was so innocent and sweet. It was a blast to see how many different things he would take literally in an episode.

Another favorite who I (regretably) can't find a picture of is the showgirl doctor, who could be found by going through her trunk. She was always dressed provocatively, and she was always brilliant with great gadgets. I would look up her name, but I believe they used three different doctor gags that way, and it's really not worth the effort to look it up.

I have not watched the Get Smart movie, and I really don't want to. I'm a big fan of Anne Hathaway, but I cannot stand Steven Carrell. He has to be taken in small doses, such as his cameo in Bruce Almighty, a movie I truly adore. But in any starring role, he's like Will Ferrell. Tone him down 100 notches and maybe he's tolerable. No way to tell that, though, because he doesn't know the meaning of subtlety. Considering how much I can't stand the original Maxwell Smart, I think the remade one would have me ripping my DVD player from the wall and flinging it far and away.

I'm rather nervous to see the other shows I enjoyed as a child. Maybe I wouldn't like them nearly as much as I remembered. Nostalgia does strange things to the human mind.

1 Something similar happens in Serenity, the Firefly movie, between Kaylee and Simon. The difference here being they were fighting for their lives throughout the scene, had not given up, and Kaylee was more excited about getting some from Simon than marrying him and being Mrs Dr Simon Tam. Lawyered.

On an unrelated side note:
My friend Howard has started a radio show on Ustream recently, with a friend of his. They just aired their third show, based on music from movies. They're still getting all the kinks worked out, but it's a great show, with amazing music. They've been sticking with a Monday evening schedule lately. Follow him at Unsafe Radio for updates and MP3's of the show. Very, very amusing. And occasionally offensive.


  1. Huh, how did I not remember/know you were a Today's Special fan? Ah, Muffy the rhyming mouse and Sam the Night Watchman. Oh, and Jeff and Jodi, of course. Only the 80s would create a TV show for kids staged entirely in a department store. How on earth did that get all the way down to you; that shot in Ontario and only aired on CBC up here.

    ::Goes off humming "Blue, blue, the cow was blue, she jumped high like a kangaroo..."::

  2. Oh, all of those Nickelodeon shows were shot in Canada! I didn't know that until years and years later, but I was the only kid I knew who had cable at that time. Funny, since I was going to a $20,000 a year school. You'd think they could afford cable!

    The episode I always remember from Today's Special was the one where Jeff wanted a house for himself. I remember he tried out an igloo, and had a frozen bowl of soup. And eventually, they found a HUGE cardboard box, which they made into a home for him.

    So very very 80's. I'd love to see episodes again. :)