Being that it’s the 53rd birthday for Get Smart, as the pilot episode “Mr. Big” aired Sept. 18, 1965, it’s time for a look at that episode. This is a bit different from what I’ve previously written on the pilot. Instead of an overview, it’s a glimpse of a few things we probably overlooked.
TV in the past didn’t offer the “extras” viewers are used to seeing today. Outtakes and behind the scenes footage wasn’t at everyone’s fingertips. Shows also weren’t produced with the notion that there would be repeat viewing and over-analysis. An airing of a TV episode was a one-shot deal – unless the show was blessed with syndication.
Of the bloopers included in the Get Smart Time Life DVD set (which have wormed their way to YouTube), most of them were from the later seasons. Don Adams had squirreled them away and his son in law, actor Jim Beaver, would later provide them for the DVDs.
As for the pilot episode, the only outtake floating around is footage of Don Adams being told by his agent, Mace Neufeld, that he was a father. His wife Dorothy had given birth to their daughter Stacey during the filming of the episode. The scene being filmed was from A Secret Agent’s Dilemma, or a Clear Case of Mind Over Mata Hari. The program aired Sept. 6, 1965 and was used as a preview of NBC’s fall lineup.
Detective work, a discerning eye and repeat viewing, however, has revealed what was changed as well as biffed in the Get Smart pilot. Now, this isn’t a criticism – it’s like finding Easter eggs. Here are a few (but not all) of the inconsistencies, goofs and changes in Mr. Big:
This was one continuity error I noticed, probably from the first time I saw this episode. Would you believe the second time? It is glaring, but I always ignored it. One of the most iconic scenes in the pilot (and the series) is when Max and 99 are together in the novelty shop. The Inthermo is activated, Fang saves Max’s life and a Kaos agent gets zapped. 99’s reaction is to take off her chauffeur’s hat and shake out her hair. Max reacts to that by going for a kiss. Fang interrupts.
Obviously the idea was that 99’s hair was supposed to stay tucked up in the hat and Max was supposed to be too distracted to notice she was a female. The scene is both hilarious and absurd and is played with complete earnestness. It’s a fantastic parody of all those smoldering moments of classic film where the guy eyes the girl.
Unfortunately, there’s a booboo. We see 99’s bob sticking out of her hat twice before this scene. The first time, and the most noticeable, is when Max and 99 go out to the parking lot to talk to Zelinka. You can see 99’s hair as the camera shoots from above. The second time her hair appears is after they pull up to the novelty shop and get out of the limo. Most viewers probably didn’t notice this because they were watching Max struggle to get the door to the limo closed. It’s worth a mention 99 was written into the script as a blonde – even though brunette Barbara Feldon had always been eyed for the role of 99.
This episode is first set in Washington, D.C. and then in New York City. We get some nice stock footage of the U.S. Capitol Building and later the Statue of Liberty. However, we also get the wrong vegetation for the East Coast. As Max and 99 are driving to the city, en route to the novelty shop, palm trees and mountains can be seen in the background.
The old boom mic appearance
More discerning viewers can catch a cameo appearance made by a boom mic. It shows up in the windshield of the limo when Max and 99 are listening to the Kaos radio broadcast. Again, this is not something that would have stuck out because our attention would have gone to 86 and 99.
Misplaced bullet holes
Like the boom mic, this is something you have to look for. During the melee on the garbage scow, Max gets his hands on a rifle and tries to take out Mr. Big and the Kaos frogmen. He fires away but ends up shooting into the wall and a door before the gun jams up. In the scene before the gunfire, we see a Kaos agent that needs obvious patching to his wet suit and a door full of bullet holes. In the next scene, after everyone dodges bullets and the smoke clears, the door is no longer damaged.
One scene that got cut/reworked was actually documented – but not in the way you would think. We have collectibles to thank for evidence of this.
On the bottom of the Get Smart lunchbox is a scene that looks like it came from the pilot. In it, we see a chauffeur-suited 99 tied up with Max and Professor Dante. There’s even a glimpse of Fang’s nose. Max is fending off two Kaos frogmen with a blast of smoke from a cigarette. Also, there is a Get Smart trading card that shows Max, 99 and Dante laughing hysterically in the same scene.
These two images came from a scene that was rewritten. In it, Max, 99 and Dante were
tied up below deck together. Max and Dante start talking but a Kaos agent interrupts and begins intimidating them. Max requests a final cigarette – one of his cigarettes. As the Kaos agent lights the cigarette, a stream of smoke explodes in his face. He starts to laugh and 99 points out that it’s laughing gas. Eventually the rest of the group is overcome with laughing gas. Max manages to summon Fang who rescues them by chewing apart the ropes. This was re-shot with Max’s weapon of choice being the Inflato coat. Only Max, 99 and Fang (who was tied rather than roaming freely) were below deck together – Dante was somewhere else. Ironically, at the beginning of the episode, Max doesn’t want to use the Inflato coat.
This sounded like a funny scene and I wonder why it got changed. The most logical reason is that it probably took too long and they needed to tighten things up.
Now, a theory for those of us that like to overthink things is that it might have conflicted with the characterization of Smart – he wasn’t supposed to be wise to the joke. The surreal idiocy the viewer sees in Mr. Big is Maxwell Smart’s unwavering reality. Mel Brooks pointed this out in Joey Green’s book, The Get Smart Handbook. “I would say the best thing about Maxwell Smart is that he was always wrong and always intense. He never played the joke. He never shared with the audience that he was aware that what he was doing was funny,” said Brooks.