"Would you believe Get Smart is 72?" May 6, 1999 TORONTO (CP)
Would you believe 10,000 screaming fans gathered at Don Adams's media event this week?
Would you believe hundreds?
OK, how about four mildly curious reporters?
"Where is everybody?" the 72-year-old star of the fondly-remembered 1960s TV comedy Get Smart asked with mock bewilderment at the sparsely attended news conference arranged by his new employer. "This is what I flew 3,000 miles for?"
Adams, reprising his role as bumbling Maxwell Smart, Agent 86 on the spy-spoof series, is the new pitchman for AlternaCall, Inc., a fledgling long-distance discount service. Naturally the ads invoke Smart's old telephone-in-the-shoe schtick, as well as the familiar would-you-believe downwardly mobile punch line that became a national catch phrase 30 years ago.
There were 139 Get Smart episodes that ran on NBC and CBS from 1965 to 1970 and Adams demonstrated he still had the timing.
A reporter suggested Max actually had the world's first cell phone back then, albeit in his footwear. Adams asked that the questioner please speak up, pulling his dead hearing aid out of his ear and waving it dismissively.
But as soon as the reporter began to speak louder, he was abruptly cut off.
"Why are you shouting at me? What did I ever do to you?" he interjected innocently, to great laughter from the room.
He did offer that Toronto and San Francisco are his favourite North American cities, but he wouldn't want to be here in January or February. He spent three years here in the '80s, taping a Canadian sitcom called Check It Out ("Not a great show, but not bad. It was OK.")
Later, Adams defends his new TV commercial gig against suggestions that today's audiences might not remember Get Smart. He said the show was two decades ahead of its time then and still has a large cult following.
"No one had seen a sitcom like this, ABC thought it was too weird," he explains, noting the pedigree of its writer-creators Buck Henry and Mel Brooks. "It was Mad Magazine, but subtler."
Still, he conceded pop culture is a fragile thing. Recently he was in a record store and asked the 20-something clerk for a tape of Perry Como music. The employee, poised over the catalogue computer, asked for the spelling of Como. "I cannot live in a world where no one knows Perry Como!" Adams added with exasperation.
He confesses he doesn't watch today's sitcoms and doesn't find the new standup comedians funny either, limiting his TV watching to CNN, A&E, the History channel, and old movies.
"I watched Seinfeld and didn't know what the show was about. It was about nothing!" (Is he kidding?)
He didn't like Roseanne because, well, he didn't like Roseanne. And as for Jim Carrey, he walked out of The Mask after about 20 minutes of the Canadian-born actor's mugging.
"I'm not turned on by a comedian who bends over, spreads his cheeks and speaks out of his rear end."
Carrey is being touted as the star of a feature-film revival of Get Smart. Adams hasn't been invited to do a cameo, although he has done one for Inspector Gadget, The Movie, this summer's live-action reprise of the old animated TV series for which Adams was the title voice.
The veteran comic also pointed the finger directly at Andy Dick (Newsradio's resident nerd) for the failure of Fox TV's 1995 attempt to update Get Smart. Dick was the star with Adams and former co-star Barbara Feldman given peripheral roles. It lasted seven episodes.
"I knew it wouldn't work (but) they offered me a lot of money," he explained. "I knew after the pilot that this kid couldn't carry the show."
Webmaster's Note: Yet another journalist stakes a claim on that nonexistent 139th episode! Was ist da los!!!! Das ist nicht richtig! (FYI, all other GS guides only list 138 episodes... ahem)
A Big Tip O' The Hat to Katherin O'Carroll for sending me this! Thanks, Kat! J