The Complete Series
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Reviewed by Will Harris
s The CW prepares to embark about their re-launch of “Beverly Hills, 90210,” which blends several characters from the original series with new residents of America’s most famous zip code in an attempt to draw a viewership of both today’s teens and their nostalgic parents, let us provide the network with a reminder about how such “next generation” revivals can go horribly, horribly wrong.
With Warner Brothers’ upcoming cinematic adaption of the classic ‘60s spy sitcom, “Get Smart,” preparing to hit theaters, you can’t really blame Sony for going after their piece of the pie by digging into their archives and foisting the short-lived 1995 revival of “Get Smart” onto an unsuspecting public. What’s that? You didn’t know there was a 1995 revival of “Get Smart?” Well, if you’re of a mind to get educated, then sit back, grab a cold beverage, and let us give you the scoop on how it came to be, what it was like, and, perhaps most importantly, why you probably don’t need to rush out to buy it.
Here’s the pre-1995 history of “Get Smart” in a nutshell.
- The original series ran from 1965 to 1969 on NBC, moving over to CBS for one more year before finally getting the axe in 1970.
- In 1980, there was a feature-length, theatrically-released film, “The Nude Bomb,” but while Don Adams reprised his role as Agent 86, there were virtually no other connections to the original series, even fewer laughs, and – pun intended – it bombed at the box office.
- It would be almost another decade before the franchise was revisited, but when the TV movie “Get Smart, Again” premiered in ABC in 1989, it pleased many of those who had been disappointed by “The Nude Bomb” by bringing back half a dozen actors to reprise their roles from the original series, most notably Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 (a.k.a. Mrs. Maxwell Smart).
What suddenly possessed the Fox network to attempt to revive “Get Smart” in 1995, six years after the reunion movie? We’d have to guess it was the release of “Goldeneye,” which found Pierce Brosnan stepping into the role of James Bond for the first time, and giving the spy genre a higher profile than it had seen in decades. What better time, then, to try and bring back the original Bond parody? Adams and Feldon were certainly both ready to roll. Agent 99 is now a congresswoman, and Max is the Chief of CONTROL, which ironically brings to mind the same question inspired by watching Michael Scott on “The Office,” namely, “How did someone this incompetent ever make it this far up the chain of command?” Clearly, there had to be an infusion of younger blood. Enter Andy Dick as Zachary Smart, son of Agents 86 and 99. Zach is, you will be unsurprised to learn, just as dim a bulb as his father, so he needs someone to serve as his own Agent 99; the writers no doubt giggled with glee as they merely flipped the number upside down and created Agent 66 (Elaine Hendrix). The only other new character who makes more than a handful of appearances is Trudy, Max’s incredibly flighty secretary.
If you ever wondered where Dick perfected his Matthew persona for “NewsRadio,” now you know. Hendrix plays the sexy ice queen better than just about anyone, but despite being as enjoyable to look at as ever, her character is no better written than anyone else’s. You can’t complain about seeing Adams and Feldon together again, but they’re definitely coasting their way through a series where 86 and 99 were never intended to be anything more than second-tier characters. The problem with the ‘90s incarnation of “Get Smart” is that it makes far too little attempt to be its own show, instead simply trying to recreate the magic of the original series, up to the point of including a laugh track. There’s a certain amount of technological evolution, with a few successful but scattershot jokes about how they can’t find parts for the Cone of Silence anymore, but it’s mostly just a sad slapstick shadow of the show that spawned it.
In fairness, there is one episode that works more consistently than the others, and it’s no surprise that it involves the return of another classic character from the series: KAOS agent Siegfried, played once again by Bernie Kopell, who inspires laughs solely by offering up his German accent. Since Max’s son is the star of the show, the writers decided to give Siegfried a daughter, and the progeny of the two spies proceed to bond over how little their respective fathers were around during their childhood. “He told us he was a doctor on a cruise ship,” says Miss Siegfried. That this is arguably the biggest laugh over the course of all seven episodes should tell you all you need to know about this version of “Get Smart.”
Special Features: Two of Sony’s so-called 5-minute-long “mini-sodes,” one “NewsRadio” ("Super Karate Monkey Death Car”), the other “T.J. Hooker” (“Partners in Death”). If you’ve ever experienced this lame concept designed for today’s short-attention-span generation, you know this isn’t very special at all.