Fifty years ago on Nov. 16, 1968, Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 said their vows in “With Love and Twitches.” NBC hoped the union would boost Get Smart’s ratings. Nuptials, though, would not be enough to save Get Smart. NBC canceled the show at the end of the fourth season. CBS would pick the series up for a final season, but we won’t get into that animal.
During its run, Get Smart netted seven Emmys – three of which were awarded to Don Adams. However, the show never made the top 10 in the Nielsen ratings. Get Smart ranked 12 in the 1965-66 season and 22 in the 1966-67 season. The final three seasons failed to crack the top 30. So, as Max said, it’s not how good you are – it’s where you stand in the ratings.
Weddings attract a lot of attention — whether we want that or not. In that aspect, while the show’s ratings didn’t climb, the marriage of 86 and 99 still managed to garner a lot of publicity. There were news articles, a TV Guide cover and Don Adams and Barbara Feldon appeared in the Rose Parade wearing their wedding clothes.
It was a quick engagement. Aired during sweeps week, “With Love and Twitches” was the climax of season four’s wedding saga. Many of the episodes in this season were common tropes building up and then reacting to marriage.
• Snoopy Smart vs. the Red Baron – the “Meeting Mother” episode.
• Closely Watched Planes – the “Announce Your Engagement to Your Boss” episode.
• Diamonds are a Spy’s Best Friend – the “Engagement Ring” episode.
• The Worst Best Man – the “Best Man/Bachelor Party” episode.
• A Tale of Two Tails – the “Wedding Preparation” episode.
• The Return of the Ancient Mariner – “Best Man Part II.”
• The Laser Blazer – the “Husband with the Wandering Eye” episode.
• The Farkas Fracas – the “Invite the Boss Over for Supper” episode.
• Temporarily Out of Control – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part I.”
• Schwartz’s Island – the “Ruined Honeymoon Part II.”
Spy hi-jinks work their way into the plots and it is amusing, but this is where the criticism
comes in: The show had become sitcomy. Get Smart was less a parody dipping from the absurd and more a vanilla comedy.
In “With Love and Twitches” it’s a classic case of wedding day catastrophe. Hours before he is to be married, Max is duped into drinking Dr. Madre’s (Alan Oppenheimer) drug that contains a map to the Melnick Uranium Mines.
The map is to appear in the form of a rash on his chest. As if that’s not bad enough, he has to stand upright for the next 48 hours in order for it to work. Max asks to postpone the wedding but the Chief and 99 write off his story as a case of wedding day jitters.
Bad becomes worse when Kaos agents manage to hold Max, along with Madre, hostage in his own apartment. 99, in the meantime, is convinced she’s about to be jilted. Thankfully the arrival of his best man, Admiral Hargrade (William Schallert), gives Max a window to work out an escape plan.
The funniest scene is Max trying to put on his tux while standing in a moving Citroen. A close second is the pre-ceremony brawl pitting Control agents against Kaos agents which leaves Max and the Chief in tatters.
After all of this, we do not learn 99’s name — nor does anyone else. The Admiral manages to snore at that precise and critical moment.
The episode has a few notable guest appearances: Don’s wife Dorothy plays 99’s Matron of Honor; Mace Neufeld, Don’s agent, plays her husband; Jay Lawrence, brother of Larry Storch and Don’s stand-up partner, appears as a Kaos agent; and Get Smart writer Arne Sultan is a wedding guest. Agent 99’s floral bridal helmet should have a credit of its own.
Cutting to the chase, is the episode any good? It does its job. It offers a wedding (which the powers that be thought viewers were waiting for) and a lot of silliness. Is it a powerhouse episode like Mr Big, 99 Looses Control or the Emmy winning Ship of Spies? Nope.
I love the romance between Max and 99 (see my previous blog entry), but I really think the show should have held off on having them tie the knot. Too soon, folks.