Mr. Big: A comedy of continuity gaffes and laughs

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

Do you see what I see: Something is wrong with this image. Read the blog to find out what it is.

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:

99’s hair

Agent 99's hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

Agent 99’s hair enters into this episode two times before it should.

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.

Wrong scenery

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you'll miss it.

New York City looks a bit like southern California in this scene. This only lasts seconds. Blink and you’ll miss it.

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

A case of now you them, now you don't. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

A case of now you see them, now you don’t. The bullet holes in the door on the left disappear AFTER Max shoots at the Kaos agent.

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.

Cut Smart

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn't make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

The bottom of the Get Smart lunch box shows a scene that was intended for Mr. Big, but didn’t make the cut. Max fights Kaos with cigarettes rather than the Inflato coat.

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

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn't get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn't exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

This Get Smart trading card shows a scene from Mr. Big that we didn’t get to see. Here we see Max and 99 dealing with the effects of laughing gas. It may be worth noting that the person on the left is supposed to be Professor Dante, although he doesn’t exactly look like actor Vito Scotti in this shot.

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.

Double Agent: Going to seed for the spy business

Max goes to the dark side. 99 tries to talk him out of it.

Max goes to the dark side. 99 tries to talk him out of it.

Episode 16
Double Agent (original air date: 1-8-66)
Cast:  Alex- Robert Ellenstein, Kaos Agent 1 – Arthur Batanides, Parker – Milton Selzer, Texan – Gregg Palmer, Kaos Agent 2 – Dave Barry, Kaos Agent 3 – Clay Tanner, bartender – Fabian Dean, drunk – Jack Orrison, Fang – Red, casino dealer – Robert Karvelas, gambler – Rose Michtom
Director:  Frank McDonald
Writers:  Joseph C. Cavella and Carol Cavella
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis:
A group of Kaos agents plan to attack the Pentagon and need to recruit someone that has access to it. They decide on Maxwell Smart. Max has to convince them that he’s the man for the job by going bad — as in blowing his money, becoming a drunk and killing 99.

Nano technology: Parker shows off his new fly transmitter.

Nano technology: Parker shows off his new fly transmitter.

My Thoughts:
The episode opens and concludes with Professor Parker’s super small spy devices, so let’s get that out of the way first.

Max and 99 are first seen listening to the Kaos boys via an ice cube transmitter. The device is soon discovered and destroyed when a Kaos agent realizes the “ice cube” hasn’t melted. Parker apparently spent six months testing the ice cube transmitter in every known fluid — which is how he got his reputation as a drunk.

Meanwhile back at Control, Parker is presenting his latest minuscule device to the Chief — a fly transmitter. According to Parker, it took two and a half years of nerve wracking micro miniature fabrication and $400,000 worth of research and equipment to make the fly. The fly’s antennae are each a transmitter and receiver and the eye is the world’s smallest radar tracking dish.

Sadly, the fly would never make its spying debut. All the time, labor and tax payer dollars put into the fly met the end of a newspaper lobbed by Agent 86.

By the end of the episode Parker has managed to work through his grief over the loss of the fly. He replaces it with a new device that is again destroyed by Max — a light bulb. Perhaps he should have gone to work for Apple.

With no way to mechanically spy on Kaos, the Chief assigns Max to do it the hard way. Since the Kaos boys already had their eye on Max as a potential weak link, Max is given instructions to tarnish his reputation.

Max has a bad day at the casino - because he's too lucky.

Max has a bad day at the casino – because he’s too lucky.

Phase one of the effort involves Max gambling away his six-month’s salary at an illegal gambling den — conveniently frequented by Kaos agents and apparently Aunt Rose. The idea sounds good on paper. After all, the house always wins, right? Wrong.

Upon walking into the casino, Max turns out to be a “bonafide angel of luck” for an over-zealous cowboy playing the roulette wheel. After giving the cowboy the brush off, Max hopes for bad luck at a table game with the Kaos guys. Again, he fails — even a nearby slot machine likes him.

It’s unknown what happened to Max’s winnings, but after returning to Control, he voices his frustrations to the Chief.

Max: No one from Kaos is going to approach me. I’ve got too good a reputation to live down.

Never mind that — it’s on to phase two. Max is less than pleased that phase two – physical degradation – involves him becoming an alcoholic. Thanks to a bottle of Absorbo pills and ratty coat that resembles something from Kanye West’s clothing line, all he has to do is act the part.

With orders to go to seed, Max first has to blow off 99 — starting with their plans to attend a concert. The Chief has left 99 out of the loop on this mission, which appears to be a sore spot with Max.

Chief: Until your mission is a success, she’ll learn to live without you.
Max: Yeah Chief, but what if my mission is a failure?
Chief: Then we’ll all learn to live without you.

Max makes for a particularly gnarly bar-fly. Dirty, unshaven and surly, everything is going according to plan — until the bartender chews him out for letting a dog in the place. Max attempts to send Fang on his way with a weak insult about doggy breath. 99, however, arrives and tries to stage an intervention with Max.

Max’s response is to tell 99 that he doesn’t like her because she’s too statuesque. At this rate, he’d better hope Kaos isn’t grading him on his insults.

Part of me feels that if this episode had occurred later in the series, Don Adams would have pulled out his Bogart impression.

With 99 out of the way, Max moved on to phase three, which involved the Chief coming into the bar and Max cracking him over the head with a bottle of booze. This is the episode’s big slapstick moment and includes Max busting up the bar. After he and the Chief complete their pantomime, Max manages to swallow his Absorbo pill and pass out.
Max wakes up in a Kaos office where he’s given his first assignment: He must kill 99. Max first attempts to stall and then convinces the Kaos agents to leave the room so he can work.

After the bad guys leave, 99 declares that she knew Max’s behavior was an act. They then work on an escape plan and we get to see the best gadgets of the episode. Max uses his Phonowatch along with 99’s charm bracelet record as a distraction. One side of the record produces a woman’s laughter and the other a woman’s screams.

In something of a classically confusing conclusion, we learn that the group of Kaos agents are actually double agents with the CIA, FBI, Naval Intelligence and Scotland Yard. This discovery is made, unfortunately, after Max wounds each of them. It’s later revealed that the real Kaos agent who started the group died several years prior and was never replaced.

Busted equipment, wounded agents … this episode gives us a nice little life lesson: Don’t keep people out of the loop.

In other matters, there are some issues with this episode:

• 99’s not so good with the maths. She offers to help pay off the $400,000 fly that Max swatted with a $10 a-week loan, which she determines would take 900 years. Would you believe it would just take 769 years… unless she was factoring in interest.
•While in the bar, Max makes a phone call to the Chief. After he hangs up, the phone rings in the phone booth, but that comes off as a bit that goes nowhere.
•For this episode, Absorbo pills were supposed to “absorb” all the alcohol Max was drinking. That’s a cute idea – unless you swallow the pill like Max did. So my question is, after that, how did he not wind up with alcohol poisoning or at least with his head on the toilet seat?

Max is less than pleased with his wardrobe for this assignment. He should know Control paid a lot of money to have all those nice holes ripped into that coat.

Max is less than pleased with his wardrobe for this assignment. He should know Control paid a lot of money to have all those nice holes ripped into that coat.

Watch for: Look for cameo appearances by both Robert Karvelas and Aunt Rose. Robert Karvelas is wheeling and dealing and Aunt Rose can be seen playing cards.

Footnotes:

IPod - the Cold War version. Max's Phonowatch plays 99's Charm Bracelet Record.

IPod – the Cold War version. Max’s Phonowatch plays 99’s Charm Bracelet Record.

• Early on in his acting career, Robert Ellenstein was featured as one of James Mason’s henchmen in Hitchcock’s North by Northwest. He made multiple appearances in various TV series including Perry Mason, Ironside, The Wild Wild West and Mission Impossible. He also played the Federation President in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.
• Arthur Batanides appeared in four of the Police Academy films as Mr. Kirkland. He made multiple appearances in Happy Days, Lou Grant, The Odd Couple, Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C., The Wild Wild West, I Spy and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He appeared in six Mission Impossible episodes and the Star Trek episode, “That Which Survives.”
• Gregg Palmer was known for his roles in TV westerns including Gunsmoke, The Virginian, Death Valley Days, Bonanza, The Wild Wild West, Have Gun – Will Travel and Wagon Train. He made another Get Smart appearance in the first season episode, “I’m Only Human.” He appeared in The Rebel Set along side Ed Platt and, you guessed it, Star Trek and Mission Impossible.
• Stand-up comedian and voice over artist Dave Barry provided the opening act for Wayne Newton for eight years.
•Fellow Hoosier Clay Tanner appeared in multiple episodes of Bonanza, McHale’s Navy, The Virginian and had an uncredited role as the devil in Rosemary’s Baby. He also appeared in an episode of Mr. Terrific, which co-starred Dick Gautier a.k.a. Hymie the Robot.
• Fabian Dean appeared in two other Get Smart episodes, the second season episode “Island of the Darned” and the fifth season episode, “Witness for the Execution.” Also, he too appeared in an episode of Mr. Terrific.
• Jack Orrison appeared in a variety of 1960s TV series, including Petticoat Junction, The Wild Wild West and Gunsmoke.

Glick meter: We get an “And Loving it” out of this episode.

Oh Max meter: So… neatly tucked into this episode is the fact that Max and 99 have a date lined up. It’s not so neat to see poor 99’s disappointment when Max tells her he’s not going.

Control Agents: Fang, Professor Parker

Kaos Agents: That’s debatable. See above.

Gadgets: Ice Cube transmitter, Fly transmitter, Absorbo Pills, Phonowatch, Charm Bracelet Record, Light Bulb transmitter

Episode Locations: Seedy illegal casino Kaos agents frequent and Chez Charles, a skid row bar

Nothing to see here - just a meeting between Kaos agents that are not really Kaos agents.

Nothing to see here – just a meeting between Kaos agents that are not really Kaos agents.

All the toys, toys, toys

99 explains to Max how Kaos is sending secret messages through talking Polly Dolly dolls.

Episode Four
Our Man in Toyland (original air date: 10-9-65)
Cast: Conrad Bunny – John Hoyt, Hodgkins – Bryan O’Byrne, Leopold – Buck Kartalian, Gorcheck – Lou Nova, Frieda – Helen Kleeb, Fang – Red, Larabee – Robert Karvelas, Aunt Rose – Rose Michtom
Director: Don Richardson
Writers: Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Producer: Jay Sandrich
Filming Location: Paramount Studios, Hollywood

Synopsis: Control fills Bowers Department Store to the brim with agents to uncover how Kaos is sending secret information. This preferably needs to happen before Kaos makes its next transmission, which the Chief fears is on Project Skyblast, the army’s new anti missile defense system.

Bunny, Gorcheck and Frieda plot on how to properly "liquidate" 86 and 99.

My Thoughts: Entrepreneur Malcolm Forbes is credited with saying, “He who dies with the most toys wins.” That proverb didn’t come into play for Kaos in this episode.

This episode’s head villain is Bowers Department Store boss Conrad Bunny, the first in a long line of stereotypical TV Germans to rear their heads as Kaos agents. Referred to as Herr Bunny (see what they did there?), he mainly skulks around the store with Gorcheck on his side and a stuffed bunny in his arms. His concern isn’t that his employees are providing customer service -their first job is to rid the store of Control agents.

While minions Gorcheck and Frieda fear his wrath, Bunny isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. Villains tend to have a tipping point – and Bunny’s is his lost monocle.

The most noteworthy part of the episode is Max and 99’s epic toy battle. Apparently Bowers offers a wide array of toy fire arms from ball shooting bazookas to a flying toy bomb that belches out a stash of trinkets when it explodes.

The battle royale does have a bit of a cartoony flair to it — like when the ball from the toy bazooka winds up in Frieda’s mouth. At the end of the fight, the charred and singed Herr Bunny bears more of resemblance to Wile E. Coyote.

In the midst of defending themselves with the toys, 86 and 99 seem to be having fun with it – or are Adams and Feldon? After Max sprays Bunny with a water pistol, they both run off hiding the smirks forming on their faces.
Max’s commentary at the end the fire fight is fitting:

99: Max, you were wonderful!
Max: No 99, the real credit belongs to these toys. After all, we had at our disposal every fiendish and destructive play thing ever devised for the pleasure of little children. These poor devils, all they had were real guns and bullets.

While the toy war may get the most attention, there are a number of other funny moments in the episode. My personal favorite is in the episode’s tag. Max goes to investigate a package that was delivered at 121 Linden St. only to open the door and fall into an alley way.

We get an apt portrayal of Max’s cheapness with his obsession over few cents the Chief owes him from a phone call.

99, of course, solves the whole mission by discovering that Kaos is using talking Polly Dolly Dolls to transmit their messages.

In unrelated matters, I’d like to know where I can get one of those Pocket Watch Transmitters…

Watch for: 121 Linden St. – it’s a front, Max trying to get Fang to go into the vent and Herr Bunny’s search for his monocle.

Sorry, 99. No kissing in the toy department.

Footnotes:
• Uncredited, Robert Karvelas, a.k.a. Larabee in the later seasons, shows up. You can see him at the end of the episode when he tags along with the Chief to apprehend Bunny, Gorcheck and Frieda.
• John Hoyt played  Principal Warneke in Blackboard Jungle. Children of the 80s will remember him as Grandpa in Gimme a Break! He had an uncredited role as the narrator in the third season Get Smart episode “Don’t Look Back.”
• Bryan O’Byrne appeared in numerous TV series and movies including Spaceballs, Zapped! and Gus (I had to throw that one in). In addition to several shots at Hodgkins, he played Jason Van Hooten in the fifth season Get Smart episode “Rebecca of Funny-Folk Farm.”
• Buck Kartalian appeared in Planet of the Apes, Cool Hand Luke and numerous TV shows.
• Lou Nova may have been better known for his boxing career. In 1939 he defeated Max Baer in the first televised prize fight.
• Helen Kleeb is best known for her role as Mamie Baldwin in The Waltons. She also appeared in the movie Fitzwillly which starred Barbara Feldon.

• Uncredited, Rose Michtom, better known as GS Executive Producer Leonard Stern’s Aunt Rose, plays a shopper in the first department store scene. Aunt Rose is Get Smart’s all-purpose extra and spotting her is as much of a game as spotting Robert Karvelas. Aunt Rose’s parents Morris and Rose Michtom invented the Teddy Bear and then founded the Ideal Toy Company to sell the popular bears.

Glick meter:  I’m again getting shades of Don Adams’ old stand up routines, specifically when he delivers his speech on the toys.

Oh Max meter: At a critical moment, 99 moves for a kiss, but Max urges complete silence. He then proceeds to make a racket by hitting a piano.

Control Agents: Hodgkins, Fang, Agent 12 (Santa), Agent 53 (hidden in mirror), Agent 25, (disguised as a mannequin), server in restaurant, agent hidden in food cart, Larabee

Kaos Agents: Conrad Bunny, Leopold, Gorcheck, Frieda, Bowers delivery truck driver

Gadgets: Cigarette Lighter Phone, Car Phone Cigarette Lighter, Pen Listening Device, Polly Dolly and the Pocket Watch Transmitter, which only shows westerns.

Episode Locations: Bowers Department Store, unnamed fancy restaurant where the Chief is dining

Max checks in with Agent 12 who is disguised as a department store Santa.