Article by:  Vernon Scott,  March, 25 1986 (UPI)
Don Adams, he of the nasal delivery and beady eye, returns to primetime TV next month in a new series playing a supermarket manager.

As Maxwell Smart, a bungling secret agent, Adams soared to prominence in ''Get Smart,'' a half-hour sitcom spoofing the enormously successful James Bond movies of the 1960s.

The series ran five years as Adams' whining voice, like fingernails on a blackboard, was heard across the land.

Adams employed a similar persona in ''The Partners'' in 1971. It survived only a single season. But his high-pitched vocal delivery continued to be heard as the voice of a penguin in ''Tennessee Tuxedo,'' a cartoon series. Currently the Smart voice carries on as ''Inspector Gadget,'' another hit cartoon show. Those with practiced ears can also pick up Adams' dulcet tones in voice-over TV commercials.

The small, compact Adams, dapper in a three-piece gray flannel suit and natty necktie at lunch at the Polo Lounge the other day, said he has dropped the familiar vocal twang for his role as Howard Bannister in ''Check It Out.''

''Howard is a different sort of character for me,'' he said. ''He doesn't have Maxwell Smart's voice for one thing. He's more real. Max was a fantasy, a caricature of James Bond, like a bus driver in the secret service.

''Howard is the harassed boss of the checkers, cashiers, bag boys and other supermarket employees who bring him nothing but grief.

''If the employees aren't giving him trouble, the customers are.

''Howard really doesn't want to run a supermarket. He had fantasies about being something more romantic, more adventurous. His function in life is to take a bad situation and make it worse. He's also not too bright.''

Adams is bright. He is also independently wealthy, a fact that has influenced his decision not to appear in just any TV role. He agreed to do the pilot show for ''Check It Out'' only after learning that the late Arne Sultan, creator of his two previous series, also created the new show.

''They told me the series would be made in Toronto,'' Adams said ruefully. ''And the original contract called for only seven weeks in July and August. I hate cold weather (but) thought it would be okay to work in Canada during the summer.

''I went into shock when they decided to go for 13 weeks. I went into double shock when they made it 26 weeks. In November and December I only went outside to dash from my hotel to the car and from the car to the set.''

Immediately following his six months in Canada, Adams took a two-week vacation on the beach in Acapulco.

Still tanned from his sojourn in Mexico, Adams said, ''I'm finally thawing out. They're making more and more TV series north of the border because costs are about half as much as in Hollywood.''

''Check It Out'' will make its debut next month in 60 major syndicated markets around the country.''

Adams is not sure whether there will be additional episodes of his new series.

''The problem with situation comedies today is writing,'' he said.

''I haven't watched sitcoms for years. The last good ones were 'All In The Family' and 'Barney Miller.'

''When Nat Hiken, Leonard Stern, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart and some of the others were writing for shows like 'I Love Lucy' and 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' the material was hilarious. Buck Henry and Mel Brooks wrote some 'Get Smart' episodes. How can you beat that?

''Most of those guys became movie or TV producers or they write for feature films. Today there are no good young writers coming along because it doesn't pay enough.

''Talented young guys want to become producers and make $8 billion like George Lucas so they can buy the town.

''Today's writers are too literate. They take too long to tell a joke and the viewers get to the punch line before the actors do. That's fatal. You've got to make the audience look for one thing and then hit 'em with something they don't expect.

''The writing on 'Check It Out' is good. I did a lot of rewriting and improvisation. The producers accept about half the changes I make and let the rest go.

''I think we've got a funny cast and a funny show,'' Adams concluded. ''But we won't know just how funny it is until viewers take a look at it.''

A Big Tip O' The Hat to Ryan Schroer for sending me this!  Thanks, Ryan! J

<---Go Back