Mel Brooks and Buck Henry's TV spoof Get Smart has proven nearly as durable as the James Bond and Pink Panther franchises that inspired it. Since its initial run ended in 1970, it's been resurrected for a feature-film adaptation (1980's aptly named The Nude Bomb), a 1989 reunion TV movie (Get Smart Again), a short-lived 1995 television show also called Get Smart, and this year's big-budget blockbuster adaptation. Part of its venerability can be attributed to the ripeness of its satirical target; though the James Bond series regularly skirted self-parody—at least before 2006's scowling, cold-blooded Casino Royale—it offers a rich cornucopia of goofy conventions begging for spoofery.
In a role that won him three Emmys, Don Adams stars as a secret agent whose stupidity and incompetence never seems to get in the way of saving the day. Barbara Feldon co-stars as Adams' love interest and foil, a foxy fellow agent who gazes reverently at her partner no matter how idiotically he behaves. Though filmed in black and white instead of lurid color, the pilot introduces all of the series' hallmarks: clever catchphrases and running gags that would reverberate through pop culture, droll fellow agents popping up in bizarre places, colorful villains (like the little person named Mr. Big), and gadgets that are as nifty as they are pointless, most notably the legendary shoe-phone and the "Cone Of Silence," a wonderfully counterproductive contraption designed to protect Adams and long-suffering chief Edward Platt from prying ears. Except it works so well, even the people inside it can't hear each other.
Get Smart takes its cues from Adams' deliciously deadpan performance, a masterpiece of comic obliviousness. In his commentary, Brooks argues that the spy genre is so innately ridiculous that it only needed to be tweaked slightly to veer into comedy. Consequently, the show maintains a wonderful air of mock-seriousness no matter how ludicrous its plots get, delivering its absurdity with a straight face worthy of Buster Keaton. As with later triumphs, Brooks and his collaborators cared enough to get the look and feel of what they were spoofing exactly right. Get Smart was Brooks' first great parody; it certainly wouldn't be his last.
Key features: A brief audio introduction from Feldon on every episode. Henry, Brooks, and Feldon also contribute one fond, fuzzy audio commentary apiece.