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Get Smart: The Complete Series—Time Life

Get Back
Would you believe that
Get Smart has returned on DVD?

I don’t think we’ve ever reported on a TV title in the Reference Corner column before, and perhaps that’s because there are too few TV-on-DVD sets like this one.

Presenting one of the most beloved shows of the 1960s, Get Smart: The Complete Series contains all five seasons of the groundbreaking adventure/comedy series. In this day of ensemble casts and “Where’s my movie deal?” actors, we seldom get to see this sort of successfully star-driven TV program anymore. Fronted by the late Don Adams, the show immediately conjures nostalgia for a bygone style of humor, as conceived by the great comic minds of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Smart was a hybrid of the half-hour sitcom, which had already begun to evolve, and America’s fascination with spies. This was the true heyday of James Bond, after all. (Did you miss my 007 review last issue?) The creators knew when to take the action seriously and when to go for laughs, and Get Smart is much like its campy contemporary, Batman, in that regard. Adams’ Agent 86, Maxwell Smart, exhibited an almost cartoonish ineptitude. Still, he always managed to save the free world from a rogues’ gallery of overblown Cold War villains to the tune of an infectious, often imitated nasal twang. Modern audiences will recognize his voice as that of the equally clueless Inspector Gadget.

The entire 138-episode run—featuring several multipart minimovies—is neatly distributed across 25 discs. It’s all packed in an elaborate Velcro-enhanced box that riffs on the famous opening-credit sequence, telephone booth and all, and it’s quite the bargain at just a few cents shy of $200. HBO Video licensed the series to Time Life, and, at press time, it was available exclusively via www.timelife.com. All the episodes are displayed in a flat, full-frame, 1.33:1 format. The pilot is in black and white, and all the others are in color—that sort of warm, often bright range of hues typical of the ’60s when many Americans adopted their first color TVs and hungered for content to show them off. The audio is mono, of course, but it’s a very clean, unstrained single channel. Both the sound and picture seem to have been carefully remastered, resulting in the best-ever presentations for this bona fide, long-MIA classic. In addition to fun featurettes on the catch phrases, gadgets, fans, and more, the extras incorporate bloopers, interviews, and vintage clips, including Emmy Awards broadcasts. Individual episodes have audio introductions from costar Barbara Feldon (those sultry tones…), as well as commentaries from Feldon, semiregular Bernie Kopell, plus guests Don Rickles, Bill Dana, and James Caan. Brooks and Henry each contribute a commentary to the pilot, both musing separately on how progress has ruined the gag when Max’s once-impossible shoe phone rings in a crowded concert hall. The 2003 Get Smart Reunion seminar at the Museum of Television & Radio is a treat, but why is it shown in chunks spread across the first three seasons? UPCs are printed on the packaging of the individual seasons, hinting at possible future single-season releases. But, in the meantime, I’m now the proud owner of Time Life’s comprehensive boxed set “...and loving it!”

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