Marking Mr. and Mrs. Smart’s Golden Anniversary

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake - a cake we didn't see in "With Love and Twitches."

Max and 99 cut the wedding cake – a cake we didn’t see in “With Love and Twitches.”

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.
These include:
• 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

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

What is the Smart bride wearing? The answer is floral head gear.

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.

No Herbert, you don't get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart's wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

No Herbert, you don’t get to join in on the brawl. Attending the Smart’s wedding were Mace Neufeld and Dorothy Adams.

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.

With Love and Twitches

Family gatherings can be ‘Kaos’

Full house: Max keeps his gun trained on a Kaos agent (Conrad Janis) while trying to entertain his visiting aunt and uncle.

Episode 12
My Nephew The Spy (original air date: 12-4-65)
Cast: Victor- Conrad Janis, Uncle Abner – Charles Lane, Aunt Bertha – Maudie Prickett, salesman – Vincent Beck
Director: Bruce Bilson
Writers: Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: While shoe shopping, Max just happens to uncover a Kaos front at Larsen’s Shoes and winds up with Kaos agent Victor hot on his trail. In the middle of the commotion, Max’s Aunt Bertha and Uncle Abner arrive on his doorstep.

Don't answer that! One of many times Max's shoephone will blow his identity.

My Thoughts:
So much for date night.

The episode opens with Max shopping for new shoes and anticipating going to dinner and a concert with 99. In the meantime he’s been busy trying to locate a spy ring. His shoe store, as it turns out, is just the Kaos front he’s been looking for – only he comes to that conclusion after his shoephone gives him away. Clearly the device was jealous of Mr. Smart’s new footwear.

Max soon finds out that his Aunt Bertha and Uncle Abner are going stop by for a “surprise” visit – which he was warned about thanks to Control’s crack intelligence gathering efforts. The catch is that he can’t let his relatives find out what he does for a living.

Abner and Bertha are about what we would expect from sitcom relatives that make unannounced visits. Abner comes off as cranky and sarcastic, while Bertha is mostly overbearing. Both waste no time in taking over Max’s apartment and yet neither of them wish to claim him as their nephew.

Bertha: My sister’s son? I thought he was your sister’s son?
Abner: I don’t think so. I hope not.

This is the only time in the series where we meet one of Max’s relatives. While Mel Brooks was adamant that Max have no mother, I think the occasional appearance of a random relative could have been interesting.

Later on in the series, 99 was granted a mother, played by Jane Dulo, in a handful of episodes.

Agent 99 was dressed to the nines - and all for naught.

Agent 99 gets a raw deal in this episode. She has grand plans of a date that just doesn’t happen. Having to waste time dealing with Victor is bad enough, but everything goes south with Max tells his relatives that 99 is the maid. Way to go Max.

Bertha’s behavior is over the top – she makes 99 clean the windows by precariously perching on Max’s windowsill. After ending up with her pretty gown trashed, 99 finally snaps when Bertha instructs her to wax the floors. We almost get to see 99 wallop Bertha with a dust pan – until Max intervenes.

In other matters, there are a few fun moments in the Chief’s office – when Max isn’t setting the trash can on fire.

The Cone of Silence gets some exercise – even though Max has nothing to say (literally) that merits its use.

Chief: If you had nothing to report, why did you insist on lowering that?
Max: Rule 13 says –
Chief: Max, why do you always have to live by the rules?
Max: Because rule 27 says you must always live by the rules of the book.

Max also introduces his own invention: Dial-A-Fact – a device for tired agents who are always on the go. The user turns a dial on the briefcase that holds the files. Then the needed information pops up without the agent having to sift through messy files.

Oh yes, and then there are the periodic wrestling matches between Max and Victor. This all comes to and end with a battle royale of sorts in the back room of Larsen’s Shoes. Between blows Max has keep his relatives thinking he’s a store employee. Talk about multitasking.

In the end, Max leaves the bad guys in an unconscious pile, finds that top secret information is written in code on the inside of the shoes – including plans for a missile and finds a new pair of shoes for Abner.

Watch for: Check out that pile of shoes Max has tried on at the beginning of the episode. I’m surprised he didn’t request something in a tan.

Max's Dial-A-Fact invention - it's like a 1960s version of a search engine.

Footnotes:
• Conrad Janis is best known for playing Mindy’s dad in the sitcom Mork & Mindy. He appeared in The Buddy Holly Story and The Cable Guy and also had reoccurring roles on Frasier and Quark.
• Character actor Charles Lane appeared in hundreds of films, usually cast a a scowling wretch. His film credits include the likes of It’s A Wonderful Life and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. He also appeared in numerous TV shows, including two episodes of The Bill Dana Show.
• Maudie Prickett was known for playing busybodies and maids – kind of ironic considering her role in this episode. She had a reoccurring role as a maid in the series Hazel and had a role as a maid in the movie North by Northwest, in which Ed Platt also appeared. She also appeared in the fifth season Get Smart episode, “Moonlighting Becomes You.”
• Vincent Beck appeared in a number of TV shows and can be seen in the cult classic, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Glick meter: Max should not be allowed to play with matches.

Oh Max meter: 99’s purrs have no effect on Victor.

Control Agents: Hodgkins is asked to operate the Cone of Silence

Kaos Agents: Victor and the un-named Kaos agent/shoe salesman

Gadgets: Gadgets in Max’s apartment: Rigged Desk Drawer, the Man Trap, Swinging Lamp and the Roll-Up Rug.’Wrist Communicator T37 and the Cone of Silence both return in this episode. Max offers his own invention: Dial-A-Fact.

Episode Locations: Larsen’s Shoes, Max’s Apartment

Max learns how Kaos is smuggling classified information. He probably also learns that retail is a brutal business.

When seeing is believing

The old gun on the wire trick.

Episode Five
Now You See Him – Now You Don’t (original air date: 10-16-65)
Cast: Ehrlich – Joseph Ruskin, Dr. Carl Haskell – Gregory Morton, Kaos Agent 1 – Val Avery, Kaos Agent 2 – John Sebastian, Sophie – Donna Walsh
Director: Paul Bogart
Writers: Arne Sultan and Marvin Worth
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: Kaos allegedly abducts Invisibility Ray inventor Dr. Carl Haskell and tries to convince Max that the device is real -and the U.S. government should pay $10 million for it. Max is almost duped into believing he’s been made invisible – until 99 shows up and hints otherwise.

Max and 99 succumb to the effects of the Sleeping-Gas Chair.

My Thoughts: This episode initially comes off as absurd. It’s usually one I skip. When this one’s number came up, my thought was “Do I have to?” Maybe I just don’t like Max being scammed by Kaos. After all, the poor guy can make a fool out of himself easy enough on his own. This won’t be the last time Max falls for a hoax — just wait until we get to “The Day Smart Turned Chicken.”

There are a quite a few “firsts” in this episode. This is the first time we get to see the inside Max’s apartment, the first time we get to see him in his “86” embellished bathrobe and the first time the Chief pinches the bridge of his nose in frustration.

Chief: Max, do you have something for a headache?
Max: You know Chief, you ought to go to the doctor. You’ve been getting these headaches quite often lately.
Chief: Only on occasions, Max.
Max: You’ve had one every time I’ve been with you.
Chief: Those are the occasions.

Through the use of wires, joy sticks and a speaker system, Kaos dupes Max into thinking he’s dealing with a real invisibility ray and invisible people. It’s a bit hokey, but this is par for the course with first season GS. At least our friendly neighborhood Kaos agents take the time to explain the hoax -and how the floating gun in the episode’s tag was supposed to have worked.

The scenes involving Max’s booby trapped apartment are the episode’s better moments. With the exception of the ever malfunctioning Invisible Wall (that was Control’s doing), Max created every hidden defense mechanism in the apartment.

The devices work well during their trial run for the Chief. However, not all of them operate as needed when Max is trying to dispose of Ehrlich. *Sigh* I think Max still deserves props for his ingenuity.

The Sleeping-Gas Chair is the gag saved for last. In the process of demonstrating the device, Max manages to gas himself and 99. What happened afterward is up to the imagination.

Max: I think we can make it to the door. I think we can make it to the door.

Watch for: How Max’s signaling at the window fails: The Zippo won’t light so Haskell lights Max’s cigarette with his own, leaving Max to hope his smoke will suffice a a signal.

What net?

Footnotes:
• Character actor Joseph Ruskin appeared in Star Trek and all of its spin-offs. In Star Trek TOS he appears as Galt the Master Thrall in “The Gamsters of Triskelion.” Also appearing in that episode is Angelique Pettyjohn who will play Control Agent Charlie Watkins. And for all the spy fans, he appeared in several Mission Impossible episodes.
• Gregory Morton appeared in numerous TV series. He also appeared in the movie Bye Bye Birdie which starred Dick Gautier who would later play Hymie the Robot in Get Smart.
• Val Avery appeared in more than 100 movies and more than 300 TV series including The Magnificent Seven and several episodes of Mission Impossible.

Glick meter:  The. Whole. Episode.

Oh Max meter: We get a sympathetic “Oh Max” when 99 watches 86 slam his face into the Invisible Wall. And then there’s the Sleeping-Gas Chair…

Control Agents: No additional agents in this one

Kaos Agents: Ehrlich, Haskell, Sophie and the other two hoods

Gadgets: All found in Max’s apartment – Invisible Wall, Swinging Lamp, Rigged Desk Drawer, the “Man Trap” (net that drops from the ceiling), Rigged Fire Place (a fan sucks objects into the chimney) and the Sleeping-Gas Chair.

Episode Locations: Max’s apartment, Ehrlich’s hideout

Pay no attention to the Kaos agents behind the curtain.