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Friday, August 02, 2013

Get Smart

Okay, here's the deal.  Sometimes we get into a position in which we think we know more than we actually do, and when that realization comes, we find that it can smack us harder than a bitchslap on a typical episode of "The Real Housewives of Whatever The Hell County That A Bunch Of Spoiled Rotten Vamps Who Are Really Fame Hungry Gold Diggers Still Trying To Stretch Their 15 Minutes of Fame".

(Can you tell I'm NOT a fan?)

Well, as of this writing, my cheek still stings from the heavy-handed dose of reality that I was recently served, courtesy of the brass knuckles of humility.

I thought that I was fairly confident in my knowledge of electronic equipment (despite the fact that I have consistently branded myself as a couple of steps away from being completely Amish).  Granted, I am not (nor will I ever be) one of those schmucks people in those Apple commercials standing in a line outside of an Apple store for thirteen hours because they are so desperate to get an iPhone with a 25% larger touch screen than their predecessor of 2012.  However, I did know how many of them worked.  I play video games, I listen to music, I watch TV (though in fairness, running a pop culture themed blog may have a little bit to do with that).  Seriously, what could go wrong?

Well...just about everything, is all.

I may be able to find the latest Selena Gomez album for a customer (in case you're wondering, it's called "Stars Dance" and it was released last week), but do you think that I can tell people the right cord to use for charging an iPod?  Well, I'm getting better at it, but I still get flustered when I try to explain it to customers.

I can help a customer find a wall mount for their LCD television sets that they have newly purchased, but if you ask me how to hang it, the best I can suggest is a hot glue gun and lots and lots of glue sticks.

(DISCLAIMER:  Please do not use a hot glue gun to hang up a television set.  EVER.)

And, don't even get me started on cellular phones.  On a personal level, you all know that I'm not exactly the most cell phone friendly person out there.  On a purely selfish level, I hate the bloody things with the fire of Mount Vesuvius.  However, I am expected to sell them.  What you can't expect from me is how to download an app (I have no clue), how to charge them from your car (I have no clue), what kind of memory card they take (I have no clue), or how to activate them (I will literally give you the 'deer in headlights stare' if ever I am asked that).

Sigh...thank god for connection centre associates (a.k.a. Pierre, Josh, and Lukas) who have helped me get through those hard, rough, think-on-your-feet questions.  When it comes to cell phones, my think-on-my-feet gene got-up-and-went!

I guess what I'm trying to say is that confidence is good, but you should never get too cocky about what you know, because the minute that happens, you find the entire script flipped and reversed, and suddenly it's like you're standing in a public place wearing the most embarrassing tighty-whities for all to gaze upon.  It's not a good feeling.

I mean, granted, I've only been in the area a month.  I shouldn't be beating myself up over things that I don't know even though sometimes I feel like a complete idiot when I admit that I have no idea how certain electronics work.  The fact that I've gotten through the last four weeks in a new area of the store without perfecting my best Naomi Campbell impression (a.k.a. the supermodel who threw a mobile phone at one of her assistants) is a good thing.

Still, there's a part of me that feels incredibly horrible that I don't know my stuff as well as I should.  I mean, when I worked in seasonal I was also completely lost at first, but I adapted and by the end of my tenure there, I was almost comfortable being in the department alone.  But electronics is a beast of a different name, and I'm still not sure if I have the confidence within myself to continue to make a go of it.  It's not exactly a good feeling to have, but I suppose that for now, I'm doing the best I can do.  It's a very small step in what seems like the steepest staircase that I have ever climbed, but with a little more self-confidence and a LOT OF PATIENCE from my fellow co-workers, I will do my best for however long I am there for (which if you've read yesterday's entry may not be for that much longer as I really want to pursue some exciting, new, non-retail opportunities).

However, I am still completely clueless about how to explain cell phones to customers when I have never had any experience owning one (aside from a pay-as-you-go model which I almost never use in my daily life).  If only I had been born fifty years earlier, in which the only phones that existed were rotary phones and phones that happened to be disguised as dress shoes.

And yes, you read that right.  Phones disguised as dress shoes.

And what a coincidence!  Today's blog topic has to do with a man who happened to own a phone disguised as a shoe!  Not only was this guy fashion forward, but he was definitely up in the latest trends in electronics...

...which was fairly easy given that when this show was in its heyday, the major electronics were record players, AM Radios, and televisions that were as big as a hope chest.

I'm talking about Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86, also known as Don Adams, who played the role of Maxwell Smart, also known as Agent 86 in the long-running television series "Get Smart"

"Get Smart" was one of those rare television shows that aired on two different networks during its run.  The first four seasons of the show aired on NBC, and then for its final season was moved to CBS, where it remained on the schedule until the series finale aired on May 15, 1970.

Created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry, the series was created at a time in which another show, "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." was getting rave reviews.  Talent Associates had asked Brooks and Henry to come up with an idea for a new series, but with a twist.  They were asked to do a show that was similar in content to "The Man From U.N.C.L.E., but with a dumbed-down version of James Bond.

Emphasis on the word "dumb".

Mel Brooks actually described the creative process of planning the "Get Smart" pilot like this...

"I was sick of looking at all those nice, sensible situation comedies.  They were such distortions of life.  If a maid ever took over my house like Hazel, I'd set her hair on fire!  I wanted to do a crazy, unreal comic strip kind of thing about something besides a family.  No one had ever done a show about an idiot before.  I decided to be the first."

Just for clarification, "Hazel" refers to a long-running sitcom that aired between 1961 and 1966.

Now, for what it was worth, Brooks and Henry certainly stayed true to their original vision despite initially getting turned down by ABC when they pitched their pilot to the network.  Would you believe that ABC actually suggested that Brooks and Henry add in a dog or Maxwell Smart's mother onto the program to give it more warmth?  No wonder the show was pitched to other networks!  I was along the lines of Brooks and Henry in thinking that "Get Smart" was never meant to be warm and fuzzy!

Though, Don Adams was hardly the only actor cast in the show.  He was the main character, yes, but he was hardly the only member of the CONTROL spy agency (where Maxwell Smart/Agent 86 was employed).  

To add some sugar into the mix, Barbara Feldon was cast as the sexy and gorgeous Agent 99, who is by far more sensible and brilliant than Maxwell Smart could ever hope to be (making his name the ultimate oxymoron).  Unfortunately, she also suffers from Princess Peach syndrome in that she is frequently thrown into the face of danger, or is kidnapped by a minion of the enemy KAOS organization, in which case Smart will use what little smarts he has to rescue her.  This relationship soon graduates from professional and personal, and by the time the show was ready to switch networks, Agent 99 and Smart tied the knot and had a child together!  Funny how life works out, isn't it?

Other members of the CONTROL organization include The Chief (Edward Platt), the grouchy, but intelligent commander-in-chief, who is a loyal ally to anybody within CONTROL, and Hymie the Robot (Richard Gautier), a robot who was once a weapon of KAOS that switched sides during his first appearance on the show, whose superhuman strength far outweighs his understanding of literal commands.

Now, who made up the agents of the evil KAOS organization?  Why, a revolving array of guest stars, of course!  Much like the 1960s "Batman" television series in which the villains were played by a variety of different actors, the bad guys in "Get Smart" were played by some up-and-coming celebrities in the world of Hollywood.  Now, many of these guest stars are now deceased (the show did air four and a half decades ago), but of the ones still living today, these stars included Shelley Berman, Carol Burnett, James Caan, Jamie Farr, Al Molinaro, Julie Newmar, Leonard Nimoy, Regis Philbin, Alex Rocco, and Larry Storch.

So, aside from a humanoid robot and a shoe phone, what other tricks does Maxwell Smart have in his arsenal?  

Well, how about the fact that Agent 86's shoe wasn't the only thing that had a telephone included within it?  You see, even though Maxwell Smart wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed, he had a lot of gadgets within his reach.  Kind of reminds me of another character that Don Adams voiced some two decades after Get Smart debuted.

(I loved that show!)

Anyway, Maxwell Smart had a phone in his necktie, a phone in his alarm clock, a phone in a set of golf clubs...even a phone in his comb!  I guess you could call it a...comb phone?

He also had gadgets equipped in his own home, including a bullet-proof wall that is virtually invisible to the naked eye, a soup bowl disguised as a camera, laser guns embedded into the buttons on his suit jacket, and even a device known as the Cone of Silence...which didn't exactly work out the way that anyone really expected them to.  Methinks that Smart didn't read the manual very carefully.  Or, maybe they're just as clueless about electrical devices as I am.

And, check out that car!

Yes, for the first four seasons of the series, Maxwell Smart drove a beautiful 1965 Sunbeam Tiger Roadster.  But depending on the episode, you could also catch him driving a 1961 Ferrari (pilot episode), a Volkswagon Karmann Ghia, a Citroen 2CV, an Opel GT, and a Ford Shelby Mustang.

And even years after "Get Smart" wrapped up, the show still continued to live on.  There was a feature film release in 1980 entitled "The Nude Bomb" in which Don Adams reprised his role as Maxwell Smart.  A made-for-TV reunion movie, "Get Smart, Again!" debuted in 1989, ironically enough on the one network that rejected the original show, ABC.  And, in his later years before his death in 2005, Don Adams did voice over work in the cartoon "Pepper Ann" and several commercials for telephone service companies in character as Maxwell Smart.

And in 2008, the series was resurrected and rebooted in feature film format with Steve Carell taking on the iconic role of Maxwell Smart and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99, introducing a new generation to an old classic.

Now, that's all that I have to say about "Get Smart".  Now, here's my final thoughts.

I guarantee you that I will never be as proficient in gadgetry as Maxwell Smart.  I'm more like Inspector Gadget in that regard.  But that's not to say that I am not open to learning.  I am.  I just wish that there was a way that I could just automatically know what I am doing so that things could be easier for me, and that people wouldn't be so frustrated when I try to help them but am not exactly sure of the answer.

One day I'll "get smart" about technology.  I'm just at a loss as to when that will be.

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