Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Don Adams R.I.P.

Don Adams died on Sep 25, 2005 at the age of 82. (Don Adams, 82? How the hell is that possible?) Mr. Adams gained pop culture immortality as Maxwell Smart on the Mel Brooks/Buck Henry TV show Get Smart. Television was crawling with spies in those days, burning along with the country with James Bond fever, but few of the legitimate (if oft campy) spy shows—The Avengers, Danger Man, Wild Wild West, I Spy—equaled Get Smart. The writers provided us with some of TV’s most enduring punch lines:

Sorry about that, Chief.

Would you believe…?

I hope I wasn't out of line with that [insert previously hurled insult here] crack.

That’s the second biggest [whatever] I’ve ever seen!

It’s the old [various] trick! That’s the second time I’ve fallen for that this month!

And loving it!

Missed it by that much!

I asked you not to tell me that!

Smart was TV and America’s Clouseau, prevailing against the forces of evil spy network KAOS despite his bumbling. In this task he was aided by the gorgeous Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), his slow-burning boss The Chief (Ed Platt), canine agent Fang, robot agent Hymie, and Agents 44 and 13, who were invariably stuffed in some small space like a mail box (13 was played by a young Victor French).

Smart had an archenemy, ex-Nazi Seigfried, played by Bernie Koppell. My friend Andrew, a history buff, still laughs about the line where we learn that Siegfried was “The first man out of El Alamein!” And let’s not forget the Chinese villain The Claw (He had a metal claw in place of a hand):

Smart: “Who are you?”
The Claw (transposing his ‘l’s): “I am The Craw!”
Smart, confused: “The ‘Craw’?!”
Claw, irately: “Not ‘Craw’! Craw!!!”

Max and 99 eventually fell in love, got married and had twins, and the show declined as a result. Still, for a few years there the program was a classic. Amazingly, Get Smart is not out on DVD yet. Dammit. Adams did win 3 Emmys for the role.

Back in World War II, Adams joined the Marines at the age of 16 (!), and nearly died of the nearly always fatal blackwater fever on Guadalcanal. The story can be found here. He went on to become a drill instructor, where he perhaps developed his famous clipped delivery.

Smart was revived a number of times, never successfully. The theatrical film The Nude Bomb came out in 1980, but for some reason Barbara Feldon was replaced by Sylvia Kristol (!!). Ed Platt was deceased by then.

1989 saw the telemovie Get Smart Again, in which Feldon’s 99 did return, as did Hymie and Seigfried. The telemovie was better than The Nude Bomb, anyway.

1996 was a disastrous attempt by the fledgling Fox network to revive Get Smart with Smart now the Chief of Control and Andy Dick as one of Smart’s twins, who spastically follows in his father’s shoe phones. Dick was a loose cannon, and apparently wanted to torpedo the show so he could be cast on News Radio (good call). He dissed the revival in public and earned the enmity of Adams. The show only lasted seven episodes.

Although it’s Smart for which he’ll always be most closely aligned, Adams had several other shows close to baby boomers’ heart. Don Adams’ Screen Test was a syndicated show where host Adams guided would-be actors through recreations of famous movie scenes. There were two contestants per show, and the winner got a TV show appearance or something. The highlight was always the outtakes, flubbed lines and jokes the actors did as they filmed their scenes.

Adams also starred in Check it Out, a very lame sitcom set in a grocery store. He was also a successful director of commercials, and won a Clio in 1971.

It was in kid’s shows that he had his second greatest success, however. In the ’60 Adams voiced Tennessee Tudexo, a penguin who with his dimwitted (but big hearted) pal Chumley always got into wacky adventures. The cartoon ran on the Underdog show.

I loved that cartoon growing up.

More recently, Adams was the voice of Inspector Gadget, and proved that vocally, at least, he hadn’t missed a step.

Thanks, Don, for all the laughs.


At 2:52 PM, Blogger Marty McKee said...

GET SMART! has been announced for a DVD release in early 2006.

At 6:29 AM, Blogger Ken Begg said...

Good news! The '60s have been oddly neglected so far, it's like they decided to concentrate on the '70s first and then work backwards. Maybe Wild Wild West will soon follow.

At 11:53 PM, Blogger Drunk Girl said...

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