“Get Smart” – A Lovable but Incompetent Hero

Don Adams as Maxwell Smart/Agent 86 and Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 in the television series ‘Get Smart’, circa 1965. (Photo by Silver Screen Collection/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The television series, Get Smart, was the clever creation of two very funny guys, Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The pair was approached by Daniel Melnick, of Talent Associates, Ltd., to create a show with a satirical twist to capitalize on, “the two biggest things in the entertainment world today.” Melnick was referring to James Bond and Inspector Clouseau (The Pink Panther) who were both popular in the 1960’s. Brooks and Henry were up for the challenge and the show hit the air in 1965, running for 5 seasons.


Get Smart, starred Don Adams as Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, Barbara Feldon as Agent 99 and Edward Platt as the Chief. Agents 86 and 99 worked for CONTROL, an American, secret spy organization whose sole purpose was to thwart the efforts of KAOS; an evil, Russian organization whose sole purpose was to take over the world. The Chief was their boss and gave them their assignments. Get Smart was unlike any other show on television at the time and was a big hit with viewers.


Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86, somehow worked his way to the top of the CONTROL organization as a secret agent. God only knows how since he was pretty much a bumbling idiot. The only other agent that may have been more incompetent than Smart was Agent Larabee (Robert Karvelas), the Chief’s dimwitted assistant.


Agent 86, invariably threw a wrench into every assignment he was involved in. Thankfully, Agent 99, his curvy counterpart, who never went by any other name, was much more competent and always came through to clean up his messes. Agent 99 had a romantic soft spot for Agent 86 and never let on that she knew he was incompetent. He had a soft spot for her as well, so the feeling was mutual. She gracefully bailed him out of every precarious situation he found himself in. The only other reason that Agent 86 was able to keep his job was because Agent Larabee was next in line of seniority. The Chief decided that Maxwell Smart was the lesser of two evils, so to speak.


To make the spy business easier, the CONTROL Lab was always developing gadgets to make missions more successful. To aid in his missions, Agent 86 used everything from a shoe phone and a finger gun to an umbrella camera and cuff link grenades. Agent 99 also employed her make-up compact phone or her poisonous lipstick from time to time, but only when necessary. You name it, the CONTROL Lab had invented it.


One of the more famous gadgets was the cone of silence. Whenever something top secret needed to be discussed in the Chief’s office, Max would remind him that they should use it based on CONTROL’s security protocol. It NEVER failed that it NEVER worked! An alternative to the cone of silence was the coughing code. At the end of the conversation using the coughing code, Max would tell the Chief to get his cold checked out.


To aid Agent 86 in his secret missions, from time to time, other CONTROL agents would pop up in the craziest places like trashcans and flower pots. In some episodes, the humanoid robot, Hymie (Dick Gautier) was employed to assist in the missions. No matter who or what attempted to aid Agent 86, he always managed to screw it all up.


KAOS had several recurring villains. One, more memorable, recurring bad guy that comes to mind is Siegfried (Bernie Kopell). He and Agent 86 have a love/hate relationship. They are two of a kind; often respecting each other’s efforts, although not agreeing on the outcome.


Agent 86 was such a lovable character. It didn’t matter that he was incompetent. We all loved him just the way he was. Who wouldn’t love a guy who had a heart for justice, his country, his woman and his dog, Fang?

Maxwell Smart, Agent 86, will always be remembered for his famous catchphrases. There are things he would say that we knew were coming; we just didn’t know when. Below are some catchphrases you may remember. Please feel free to add to the list!

  • Missed it by that much!
  • Sorry about that, Chief
  • Would you believe….?
  • The old (such and such) trick
  • And, loving it!
  • I asked you not to tell me that!
  • I hope I wasn’t out of line with that crack about…..
  • That’s the second biggest …….. I’ve ever seen!

NEXT: All in the Family… “THOSE WERE THE DAYS!”

Wil Petersen

Wil Petersen

Wil Petersen is best known for his blog, Keen History, He also writes non-fiction, on subjects ranging from personal finance to astronomy to film. He enjoys pie, as should all right thinking people. You can get to his blog by typing the word “Whatever” into Google. No, seriously, try it.

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