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Don Adams, RIP

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I must confess, I’ve never been able to sit through James Bond movies or enjoy them on any level. Which makes it all the more odd that pretty much my favorite TV show throughout my childhood was Get Smart. By the time I was 15, I’d seen all the episodes many times; when Nick at Nite showed the whole series in a week-long marathon I forswore sleep. More discriminating viewers have often noted that while the show can be amusing, the fact that it repeats the same jokes with shockingly little variation makes it a dubious choice for repeated and obsessive viewing. Audiences at the time thought so, as the show did quite well for the first two seasons, and then experienced a singular ratings decline. The jokes didn’t get old for me; I’ll even confess to watching all seven episodes of Fox’s ill-conceived 1995 revival starring Andy Dick. (And I’ll actually defend the 1989 movie as watchable if I have to).

Despite this unhealthy and irrational obsession with the centerpiece of his life’s work, I mark Don Adams’ passing without much of a sense of just how talented a comic he was. I know his standup and pre-Get Smart routines impressed the likes of Mel Brooks, and he was a regular on the talk show circuit. And obviously, his ability to perfectly create and execute Maxwell Smart speaks well for him. (And, as I learn from the Times obit, he was canny, or lucky; taking a third of all future earnings from the show in exchange for a lower salary). But a quick perusal of his career shows that he was never given much of a meaningful chance to test his comic range. This is, I think, a shame, but to do one memorable thing and do it very well places him well ahead of the curve. RIP.

Update: My IMDB surfing for this post has caused me to learn of this. Hmm. I suppose if it has to be done, Brooks at the helm and Carrell in the lead is just about optimal. Still, it seems, like so many remakes, wholly unnecessary. Won’t stop me from seeing it, of course.

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