Get Smart

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Agents 86 and 99.

"Missed it by that much."

Spy fiction parody from The Sixties created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Definitely a Sitcom. It starred Don Adams as CONTROL agent 86 Maxwell Smart, a bungling but perpetually optimistic secret agent who often managed to save the day and defeat the bad guys almost despite himself, and Barbara Feldon as his partner, Agent 99, a slightly daffy Mata Hari. They received their assignments from CONTROL's hapless chief.

Offered a tremendous number of Catch Phrases, largely at the insistence of star Don Adams, who knew they would help make the series succeed. The series run from September, 1965 to September, 1970, A total of 138 episodes in five seasons, with the first four airing on NBC and the fifth on CBS.

Get Smart was revived three times:

  • The Nude Bomb, a feature film released in 1980. Executive Meddling hurt it; the producers wanted a titillating plot involving a bomb that dissolved clothing, allowing PG-appropriate nudity. The writers were so angered at the imposition that they were banned from visiting the set. Did not feature Feldon, who reportedly was not exactly crushed by the omission.
  • Get Smart, Again!, a 1989 TV movie following the adventures of old, married, retired Max and 99.
  • A short-lived 1995 Revival series focusing on one of their twin offspring (played by Andy Dick) following in Max's footsteps. Don Adams and Barbara Feldon were still around, except this time Max was Da Chief, running CONTROL.

In June 2008, a Get Smart feature film remake was released, starring Steve Carell as Max and Anne Hathaway as 99.


Tropes used in Get Smart include:
  • Actually Not a Vampire: "Weekend Vampire" the eponymous vampire isn't a vampire, he uses a musical blowgun to blows two small Poison Darts that he aims at his victim's neck. But he still has a Creepy Castle and uses a coffin as a bed secret stairway to his underground lair.
  • Adipose Rex: The episode "Survival of the Fattest" featured a fat Arab prince who had to maintain his weight to maintain his ruler-ship.
  • Almost-Dead Guy: Spoofed regularly, usually along the lines of Max leaning over to hear the dying man's Last Words.

99: "What did he say?"
Max: "He told me to get my knee off his chest."

  • Amusing Automaton: Hymie.
  • Armed Legs: The sea captain in "Ship of Spies" had a gun concealed in his wooden leg. He had a spare leg that contained a hidden blade.
  • Art Attacker: One villain uses "Dorian Gray" paint: he retouches photos of his victims (adding gray hairs and wrinkles) to make them rapidly age and die.
  • Badass Automaton: Hymie.
  • Banana Peel: A major clue in the black and white pilot is a rubber banana peel.
  • Bandaged Face
  • Big Little Man: In the pilot episode, KAOS is run by the mysterious "Mister Big" (as opposed to Siegfried). It's only when Mr Big and Maxwell Smart are in the same room do we realize that Mr Big is actually a dwarf.
  • Bowdlerise: In the 1980's Get Smart movie The Nude Bomb, Max puts his gun in his pants. It goes off, he turns around, you hear the sound of him pulling his zipper down and up again, and he then turns around again with his Catch Phrase "Missed it by that much." Oddly enough NBC dubbed in "Missed the bone by that much" which oddly sounds dirtier than the original!
    • The episode "Washington 4, Redskins 3" had its title changed to "Washington 4, Indians 3" for reruns and for the DVD.
  • Bunny Ears Lawyer: Max is remarkably proficient despite his Genius Ditz personality.
  • Captain Ersatz: Comedian Joey Forman twice appeared as the Charlie Chan-based character, Harry Hoo.
  • Catch Phrase: MANY. Including:
    • "Sorry about that, Chief."
    • "Missed it by that much."
    • "Would you believe...", a more complex one that signals a form of inverted Inflationary Dialogue. For example:

Max: At the moment, seven Coast Guard cutters are converging on us. Would you believe it? Seven.
Villain: I find that hard to believe.
Max: Would you believe six?
Villain: I don't think so.
Max: How about two cops in a rowboat?

      • In one late episode, it was subverted in that the Chief actually HAD surrounded the building with CONTROL agents!
    • "[insulting crack about x]"; Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh; "I hope I wasn't out of line with that [insulting crack about x]..."
    • "The old [ridiculously specific description of the trap Max just fell into] trick. That's twice this week."
    • "...and loving it."
    • "That's the second biggest [whatever] I've ever seen."
    • "Don't tell me..." "I asked you not to tell me that."
    • "Zis is KAOS. Ve do not [onomatopoeia] here!"
    • "[X]! Yes, it must be [X]! Just one thing...what's [X]?"
    • "If you don't mind, *I'd* like to handle this, 99." Followed by a repetition of whatever she just suggested.
    • "Would you mind repeating that last bit?", "Which bit?" "That bit after 'Ok, now listen here, Max...'"
    • "Of course, the old [incredibly specific and bizarre setup] trick!"
    • Variants of the following conversation:

Max: Wait a minute, chief. Isn't this classified information?
The Chief: Yes, Max.
Max: Shouldn't we activate the cone of silence?
The Chief: Max, do we have to?

      • Common responses from Max being "I demand the cone of silence!" and reminding the Chief about CONTROL regulations.
  • Carnival of Killers: "Someone Down Here Hates Me".
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Comedic Hero
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: In the short-lived 90's revival, right at the end of the Cold War and before the War on Terror, KAOS didn't have anything to be but an evil, mostly-legitimate business out to rule the world through financial domination.
  • Crazy Prepared: Max apparently keeps plastic lips on his person at all times, just in case some beautiful KAOS killer tries to kiss him with poisoned lipstick.
  • Cyanide Pill: "It will kill in nine seconds." "But how do I get them to take it?"
    • In one episode, KAOS and CONTROL have pretty much captured all the agents from the other team. Max and Siegfried meet to discuss trading. As they strip themselves of their weapons, Max pulls out a Cyanide pill, says it's "Raspberry flavored this month," and offers Siegfried a taste. Siegfried counters that he has a suicide ring: If he takes it off, his wife will kill him.
    • In another episode, Max admits he's taken Cyanide Pills, but "only two or three times, as a favor to the Chief."
  • Department of Redundancy Department:

Siegfried: Twenty years I've been with [KAOS]- stealing, robbing, lying, killing, murdering...

    • And from "The Laser Blazer":

Chief: Let's see it.
Max: See what?
Chief: The blazer you brought back from Hong Kong.
Max: The blazer I brought back from Hong Kong?
Chief: That blazer is the secret weapon you were sent to Hong Kong for.
Max: That blazer is the secret weapon I was sent to Hong Kong for?
Chief: That's no ordinary blazer.
Max: That's no ordinary blazer?
Chief: It's a laser blazer.
Max: It's a laser blazer? Do you know what you're saying?
Chief: I'm positive! I keep hearing it twice!

  • Disappearing Box: The Chief is captured in this way in the episode "A Spy For A Spy".
  • The Ditz: Larabee is the proto-The Ditz.
  • DIY Disaster: Maxwell Smart would have cars with crossed wiring, so a button meant to operate one thing instead operated another. His apartment was also cross-wired that way.
    • A subversion, actually: The cross-wirings were all intentional, and Max knew perfectly well which switch did what. It made for very effective security.
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Max.
  • Drugged Lipstick: Once a bad girl wears some and tries to kiss Max; once 99 wears some and uses it to knock out (not kill) a bad guy who was about to kill her and Max.
  • Dueling Scar: Ziegfried has a large scar on his cheek, revealed in The Movie to be from a duel with his brother in Heidelberg.
  • Emergency Impersonation: "The King Lives?".
  • Exact Words: Hymie, regularly.
  • Fictional Counterpart: CONTROL and KAOS.
  • Flirting Under Fire: In a late episode, Max and 99 are caught in a death-trap with no apparent means of escape. Thinking they are about to die, Max realizes that he's in love with 99 and declares that if they could get out he'd marry her. She immediately thinks of a way to escape and they get married a few episodes later.
  • The Fool
  • Fun with Acronyms: Subverted, as CONTROL and KAOS don't actually stand for anything.
    • The third Spy network the ACB (Atrocities, Cruelties, Brutality) does stand for something, but not the main two.
  • Glamour: Simon the Likeable.
  • Glass-Shattering Sound: Da Chief uses his voice to break a mook's glasses.
  • Government Agency of Fiction: CONTROL.
  • Guile Hero: While Max does have occasional moments of genius, 99 fits this trope to a T. Max was (usually) the better hand-to-hand combatant, but 99 almost always had a good idea to hand.
  • Heel Face Mole: Siegfried tried this in one episode, going so far as turn his own sister in to CONTROL. His actual plan was stopped by Max at the last minute.
    • Likewise, in two episodes ("Double Agent" and "Cutback at CONTROL") Max becomes a Heel Face Mole.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game and Egomaniac Hunter: Parodied ("Island of the Darned").
  • I Can't Hear You: The Cone of Silence is meant to keep anything said while it's lowered strictly confidential. This it does very well, provided that the other guy in the Cone is the guy you want to keep secrets from. Which isn't to say it's not without it's uses; in one episode, Smart mentions he likes when the Chief uses the Cone in hot weather, because it's twenty degrees cooler inside.
  • I Don't Pay You to Think: In "Smart the Assassin", Devonshire tells someone "KAOS doesn't pay you to think, you men were sent here to obey."
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Many of the episodes' titles.
  • Instrument of Murder
  • Invincible Incompetent: Max. He once disarmed an atomic bomb by getting his tie stuck in the timer.
  • Laugh Track: Unfortunately.
  • Let's Get Dangerous: As bumbling Max is, when it's do or die with the world in the balance, he can become unstoppable saving the day.
  • Mad Libs Catchphrase: "That's the second [adjective]est [noun] I've ever seen!" and "This is KAOS! We don't [action] here!"
  • Meaningful Name: 86 means "to decimate", reflecting how destructive Max tends to be.
    • More like "cancel" or "terminate", which still fits the point. "Decimate" is closer to "thin out the ranks".
    • 86 as a slang term comes from New York State Liquor Code 86 which allows a patron to be refused service or "removed from the premises.
    • 99's codename was supposed to be 69. Wonder why that was changed...
    • The reason why the third spy network was called ACB is as easy to see as ABC.
    • Inverted in the case of Fang. Co-Creator Buck Henry has stated that he insisted that the dog's agent number NOT be K-9.
  • My Horse Is a Motorbike: The medieval-themed biker gang which jousted on motorbikes.
  • No Name Given: Agent 99 and Da Chief.
    • The Chief's first name is given as Thaddeus eventually, although his last name remains a mystery.
      • He was called Thaddeus in a handful of episodes only by the Admiral Hargrade, portrayed by William Schallert as an extremely senile character with highly questionable judgment. It would be consistent with his character to have misremembered the name, and for the Chief and others to look the other way out of respect.
        • Not quite. In "The Day Smart Turned Chicken", the Chief has to take the witness stand and Smart asks for his first name. Although the Chief tries to hide behind security, the judge makes him spill it, and the chief replies, in a rather embarassed manner, "Thaddeus".
      • However, he frequently uses the alias "Harold Clark".
      • The Chief was also a regular agent a long time before the series. He was called Agent Q, because CONTROL didn't use numbers back then.
    • 99, too - it's a running gag. In one episode, where she was about to marry a KAOS agent Agent 99 says her name is Susan Hilton... then later when Max calls her Susan tells him that was an alias. In another episode, Max calls her by a name and 99 replies he never used that name for her... "...if only that was my name!" When Max and 99 are married, when they're about to say 99's name, someone coughs when it's said.
      • And in the last season, the Smarts being married at least a whole year, someone asks Max why he called her '99'; he matter-of-factly replies "I don't know her name."
  • No Sense of Direction: Maxwell Smart got lost in The Pentagon.

Max: But even if they do get a man into the Pentagon, that's not saying he'll be able to get out. I remember one of our own agents was lost in there for three days.
Chief: Three days? Max, no agent could be that confused.
Max: Well, let me see now. I went in there on a Thursday...

    • Then again, The Pentagon has a total of 17.5 miles (28.2 km) of corridors... with a very confusing layout. Some of those corridors turn out to be ramps, and before you know it, you're a floor up from where you need to be...
    • Still, you would expect a fully trained government agent to have a better sense of direction inside a government building.
  • The Nudifier: It's in the title of The Nude Bomb.
  • Obfuscating Disability: The crippled Portuguese polo player in "Ship of Spies". Who "isn't crippled, isn't Portuguese, and probably isn't even a polo player."
  • Oblivious Mockery:

Max: But even if they do get a man into the Pentagon, that's not saying he'll be able to get out. I remember one of our own agents was lost in there for three days.
Chief: Three days? Max, no agent could be that confused.
Max: Well, let me see now. I went in there on a Thursday...

Agent #1: You know, I can kill you with anything in this room. You wanna die by Post-It notes?
Agent #2: And that's a slow death.

  • Only Sane Man: The poor Chief. Even 99 had her moments.
  • Orient Express: "Aboard the Orient Express".
  • Playing Drunk: Max has to pretend to be an alcoholic in one episode. He is issued a pill to keep under his tongue that absorbs all the alcohol he drinks. As he puts it, "I'll look drunk, act drunk, even smell drunk, but I'll be stone sober!" Then he accidentally swallows the pill, causing all the alcohol it absorbed to be introduced into his system at once.
  • Poison Is Corrosive: One episode had Max and 99 attending dinner with a wealthy and sinister couple. Max deliberately spilled his drink to get a chance to talk secretly with 99 while mopping up the spill with his napkin, and concluded by warning her not to drink the wine she'd been given; his own drink had eaten a hole through the napkin. (Max was surprisingly more on top of things than usual in that episode; he'd also already noticed that 99 was an Identical Stranger for their hostess's long-dead sister.)
  • Precious Puppies: Fang aka Agent K-13.

Buck Henry: While writing the pilot episode, it took all the restaurant I could muster to keep from calling Fang 'Agent K-9'.

  • Prison Episode: In "The Not-So-Great Escape" two-parter, CONTROL agents are being kidnapped and held in a KAOS prison (located in New Jersey). Max goes undercover as a KAOS official, but after getting found out, he leads repeated breakout attempts.
  • Public Secret Message: The Chief (disguised as a singing waiter) communicates a message to Max and 99 by slipping code phrases into the song he is singing.
  • Punch-Punch-Punch Uh-Oh: When Max first tries to fight the Giant Mook, he hits him with a flurry of punches, which has no effect, then shouts, "This is just ridiculous!"
    • Or, another time, Max is infiltrating a camp of desert nomads when he bumps into a massive guard.

Max: "Where I come from, we have a saying. 'The bigger they are, the harder they fall.'"
Fires off a judo chop, two body blows, and a punch to the jaw that have no effect
Max: "Haven't heard of that one, eh? Well, maybe you know this one. 'The quality of mercy is not strained...'"

  • Punch Clock Villain: This also came up in one of the books, when it turned out that KAOS' sinister "Doomsday Plan" was in fact the "Dooms Day Plan" -- that is, a retirement party for longtime KAOS agent Arthur Dooms.
  • Recycled in Space: The animated Inspector Gadget was basically Get Smart with wacky gadgets and a little girl to save the day. Inspector Gadget was even voiced by Don Adams.
  • Revival
  • Road Trip Across the Street
  • Robot Buddy: Hymie.
  • Running Gag: Quite a few, but the Cone of Silence (used almost once an episode) deserves special mention.
  • Shoe Phone: Trope namer, from Smart's literal shoe phone.
  • Signed Up for the Dental: A few mooks.
  • Slept Through the Apocalypse: Larabee apparently remained at CONTROL headquarters after it was shut down sometime after the cancellation of the original series until Max picked him up partway through Get Smart, Again, having failed to notice that CONTROL had been disbanded. He did this because he had been given an executive order to remain at his post. This order had been issued by President Nixon. The movie takes place at either the very end of the Reagan administration or the very beginning of the G. H. W. Bush administration.
  • Spy Drama: A spoof of one, anyway.
  • Spy From Weights and Measures: Max pretends to be in the greeting card business.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Agent 13 for Agent 44, and Dr. Simon for Dr. Steele.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: See Warrior Therapist trope below.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: At the end of Part 2 of "The Not So Great Escape".
  • Title Drop: Often at the end of the episode's intro.
  • Ultimate Job Security: Max does not fear being fired. If he is, CONTROL's seniority regulations will force the Chief to promote Larabee into Max's job.
  • Weird Trade Union: Both CONTROL and KAOS agents have unions. KAOS agents have a better union, or at least one able to give them better benefits. This becomes a plot point a number of times. Imagine CIA agents going on strike for greater benefits!
  • Where Do You Think You Are?: Again, "This is KAOS! We don't [action] here!"
  • Wimp Fight: In the 1989 TV movie, a sidekick and a Mook grab decorative swords to fight each other, but they can barely lift them above waist level.
  • With My Hands Tied: Played with in one episode, where Max and his friend Sid are shackled by their hands in front of a deathtrap. Max frees himself by releasing the fake hands that were bound by the shackles.

Sid: "Oh, the old false-hands-in-the-chain trick!"

The 1995 sequel series provides examples of[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Banana Peel: Zach finds one at the scene of KAOS's latest crime, takes it to his father's office for his debriefing, and discards it on the floor when he's done. His father's secretary points out that it ought to be picked up before someone slips on it, then moments later slips on it herself.
  • Everything's Better with Monkeys: The Brain's trained chimp.
  • Generation Xerox: Zach Smart is a bumbling CONTROL agent who has romantic tension with his glamorous female partner, Agent 66. Also, in one episode the villain turns out to be the daughter of Siegfried.
  • Honorary Uncle: One of Max's colleagues from the original series makes a cameo appearance and is addressed by Zach as "Uncle Agent 13".
  • Mad Scientist: The Brain.
  • Manchurian Agent: In one episode, Agent 66 is brainwashed to assassinate the foreign dignitary she's assigned to protect.
  • Mega Corp: KAOS, Inc.
  • Steven Ulysses Perhero: The Brain's real name is Brian.