Sunday, May 03, 2015

Outré Intro: Get Smart (1965-1970)

Following the premiere of Goldfinger in 1964, the pop culture world launched into a 007 or James Bond craze. 

American television promptly jumped on board with the trend, offering such prime-time TV series as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964 - 1968), Mission: Impossible (1966 - 1972), and the great parody series from Buck Henry and Mel Brooks: Get Smart (1965-1970).

Get Smart focused on the mis-adventures of Agent 86, Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) of CONTROL. This hapless and over-confident agent was assigned missions from The Chief (Edward Platt) and partnered with the beautiful, sensible, and frequently life-saving agent, 99 (Barbara Feldon).  One recurring enemy was the nefarious KAOS.

The laughs on the series emerged from a couple of inspirations. 

One was Don Adams' act, which resulted in his catch-phrases appearing again and again ("would you believe?" "and loving it...," and others). 

 The other source was the spy milieu, and that milieu as used by the Bond films. In particular, Get Smart often used Bondian gags, but always pushed them one step into absurdity.

The series opening montage plays on that very idea, of the normal lapsing into the unusual, lapsing into the absurd (through repetition and then, finally, exaggeration).  

This montage is so famous that it actually appeared (with Homer in the Maxwell Smart role) as a couch gag on The Simpsons (1989 - ). It is probably one of the best-known, best-loved and most familiar introductions in TV history.

The intro begins with a staple of the 007 movies: a fast, stylish car.  

The car races into view and parks in front of a large, non-descript building. A well-dressed man (Smart, not 007, in this case), exits the vehicle and races into the building.

As he moves urgently (responding to a call from his secret HQ, perhaps), the series title flashes on the screen.

Next we're inside, and Max appears, coming out of a staircase that appears (from the signage above) to be an elevator, not a staircase.  

Already, we are getting into secret agent territory.  There is a secret truth under every day life.

We meet our star, Don Adams, as he looks around.  And walks through...another door.

Then, he sees giant steel doors...and goes through them (as we are introduced to the actress who portrays 99.)

Then, Max approaches sliding doors (as we are introduced to the actor who portrays the chief.)

We meet the series creators -- Mel Brooks and Buck Henry -- as  another door appears. This door recedes into the ceiling.

Then, another door, and you start to get the idea of exaggeration. at play here.  We're not only into the terrain of secrecy, but super-secrecy!  

We are not only moving into a secure location, but a super-secure location. And, you might rightly ask yourself, how would you get to CONTROL HQ...quickly?

Finally, Max Smart is through the seemingly-endless series of doors, and he arrives at a phone booth where he places a call.  

Once more, the idea here is of Bondian gadgetry, but also items that aren't really what they seem. A shoe that's a phone, for instance, or a wrist-watch houses a laser. The common is the extraordinary. The extraordinary is...silly.

Finally, Max reaches his final stop on the way to CONTROL.

By dialing a code on the rotary phone, the bottom drops out of the telephone booth, and he falls -- presumably -- to his destination, CONTROL HQ.

What organization in its right mind would feature an entrance like this one? 

That's the joke. 

We get several doors (repetition), and then a joke (a telephone booth with no floor). It captures perfectly the nature of this classic TV series.

Here are several variations of the Get Smart theme song and introduction.

1 comment:

  1. Just curious if there building that is used in Ge+ Smart is the same one in Men in Black?