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Senior Shackster
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
The entire series was released as an expensive box set with extras a while ago
but since I didn't have the extra cash at the time (still paying off production expenses
on my latest picture) and the suppliments didn't interest me, I waited it out until they
were released individually.

So now they're releasing each season of the Five Season separately and I bought
the first one and screened it on my DLP. I laughed out loud and had a grea time
with it.

Here's how I grew up in the sixties and seventies...

Both of my parents were teachers so I was in the same schools as they were in.
That aside, once we all arrived home the television set was on until I went to bed.
I watched TV constantly and was glued to the tube. Sitcoms, action shows, old movies, new movies...you name it. Upstairs was the color TV and in the playroom was the ancient black and white set (actually a greenish screen) which had a semi-circular ratio. The TV was on while I did homework, at dinner and before I went to bed. It was never off and even after hours, I would sneak downstairs and watch the late late show about a foot from the set with the volume very low.

After the network premieres (in 35mm on a film chain), "Get Smart" was on constantly
in re-runs (in a 16mm film chain) and my memories of my childhood and teen years was the show being aired from 1970 through 1975 pretty much non-stop on one or both televisions. That theme song is forever stuck in my head after hearing it every day for many years. Although I got sick of it, I still enjoyed this comedy series and it's
been quite a while since I watched it.

As I mentioned in my previous reviews of the Connery James Bond series and "I Spy"
television shows, I liked all of the the espionage shows and spoofs of the sixties. They
were off the wall fantasies but that was okay with me. I wasn't necessarily looking
for realism in entertainment.

"Get Smart" was a lampoon of the craze written by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. It
was broadcast from 1965-1970. What's interesting was that both writers were simultaneously trying to establish themselves in cinema. Brooks was preparing to write and direct his best feature ("The Producers") and Henry was creating the screenplays for "The Graduate" and teleplay for "Captain Nice". It was a strange colaboration.
Brooks liked outrageous slapstick and Henry was the expert on 'deadpan' humor.
Deadpan humor was when actors said or did the most rediculous things seriously
with great conviction as if it made sense. The two of them created one of the funniest shows of the sixties. What made Maxwell Smart amusing was that he thought he was
a great spy, not a bumbling clown. It's what made Seller's Clouseau character
hilarious too. The opposite of the Jerry Lewis or Jim Carrey approach where they
know they're acting rediculous. Don Adams plays it as if he's not in on the joke...
and loving it.

Season One set up the premise. In the suppliments both Brooks and Henry recorded
commentaries how it came about. The two top series were the 007 Bond films
starrring Sean Connery and the detective spoofs starring Peter Sellers as
Clouseau. What if they were to combine the two characters? The
result was "Get Smart" starring cartoon voice over artist and stand up comedian,
Don Adams. Sexy model, Barbara Feldon, played his counter part "99" and stoic
Edward Platt was the "Chief" of counter-intelligence called "Control" in this series.

The villains were a dastardly organization called "Kaos". Where did that name come from?
Well if you recall the Cuban Missile Crisis a few years earlier with the communist manifesto
(out of the chaos comes the new socialist order) it made sense back then. Russian spies
and other subversives were trying to undermine American democracy by creating as much
anarchy as they could to weaken our resolve to combat our enemies. This anarchy came from various sources all of which are contained in the scripts of these episodes. Fashion shows, dry cleaning stores and even the Olympics were infiltrated by foreign and domestic spies.

The actors were perfectly cast. Don Adams worked in some of his stand up routines
("Would you believe") into the role. Along the way they added other series regulars
aside from those already mentioned including Dick Gautier (from the stage version of
"Bye Bye Birdie") as Hymie the robot and Victor French as the hapless Agent 44 who
gets the worst places to do stake outs (upside down in a cello case or inside a ship's
funnel). The Chief's bumbling secretary, Laraby, doesn't get established until the
last few episodes in this season but he's featured in later seasons. Also, Platt finally
gets third billing in the last episode.

I suppose the cultural references will get the most laughs to those over 50 like me but
otherwise it's still a very funny show with lots of slapstick (Brooks) and the outlandish
deadpan satire (Henry). The commentary tracks by both writers is funny and informative. The introductions by Feldon are more generic and less illuminating.
The problem with all three is that they're watching the episodes for the first
time in many years and their memories are a bit sketchy but you still get the
feel of the time. Not as good as Robert Culp's well thought out commentaries
on "I Spy" which were among the best I've heard.

In terms of the image, HBO (which now owns the show), has done an extraordinary job
of restoring the old Eastmancolor negatives. Season One is literally lab mint. The vibrant color looks like a Techniclor Bond film and there is no dust, dirt, scratches or fading at all. It looks fantastic (if not better) than the 35mm prints broadcast in their original air dates. Certainly much better than the syndicated 16mm prints I saw as a child. It sets a standard that other shows (like the previously reviewed "I Spy") fail to meet. Sitcoms like "The Abbott and Costello Show" and "The Honeymooners" show much
more wear and damage that wasn't digitally corrected. "I Spy" looked like someone
walked on the negative.

The transfer quality of "Get Smart" should be the template for all TV shows released on DVD. It's really a spectacular set and I highly recommend it...providing you enjoy this type of entertainment.

I look forward to the other four seasons on DVD in the near future.

In summary, picture quality A, sound design B, cinematography A, story and
screenplays A.
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