May/June 2012 •
GOOD TIMES –
Those Were The Days
Would you believe you couldmake an airplane out of that?
By Paul Niemann
A robot that’s more intelligent than itsfellow agents, an agent whose shoe has aphone built into it, a superhero who doesn’tuse a gun but can make an airplane out of ust a few items like a fan, wooden poles anduct tape. Does it get any better than this?Growing up in the seventies and eightieswatching “Get Smart” re-runs and the hour-long “MacGyver” series, there were plentyof gadgets, contraptions and inventions tontertain us on TV. Today we take a look atthe characters who relied on these gadgetsto foil the bad guys.“Sorry about that, Chief”Armed with such devices as a shoephone, a detonating pen that activates all thebooby traps in his apartment, and the coneof silence for top-secret discussions withthe chief of CONTROL (which is not anacronym), along with other inventions toonumerous to list here, the bumbling “Agent86,” a.k.a. Maxwell Smart, had a high-techadvantage over the evil agents of KAOS(also not an acronym).Smart’s main foe was KAOS’s evil Sieg-
fried, whose ofcial title on the show was
“Vice President of Public Relations and Ter-rorism.” Siegfried had a sister who was headof the KAOS Ladies Auxiliary.One of the better contraptions on theshow was Hymie, the human-like robot builtby KAOS. Hymie once kidnapped Max andAgent 99, but soon released them and de-fected over to CONTROL because theytreated him better than KAOS did. Hymiewas equipped with a TV camera, a built-incomputer, a calculator bank and a xerox ma-chine.But this show was about more than justclever gadgets. Like much of what comesout of Hollywood, there are some interestingstories behind the show. For example, ABChad a chance to air the show but rejected it.NBC then picked it up on the condition thatone of their own guys, Don Adams, playsMaxwell Smart. After four seasons, NBC
dropped it and CBS picked it up for the fthand nal season.
Maxwell Smart’s love interest, Agent 99,never revealed her name on the show. Af-ter they married and had twins, their twins’names were kept secret, too. The reasonprobably had something to do with being inthe spy business.“With this paper clip and that empty gascan, you’ve got all theingredients for a home-made bomb”OK, so MacGyvernever really said that, buthe did invent some prettyclever ways to get out of a jam using only a fewbasic items plus his sci-ence background and acreative mind.MacGyver could haveused a gun to foil the badguys like most action he-roes do, but the memoryof a childhood shootingaccident caused him todetest guns. Instead, hechose to use his SwissArmy Knife, duct tapeand any other items thatwere available to him atthe time (such as a paper clip). The informal
MacGyver had the unofcial title of “trou
-bleshooter” while working for the mythicalPhoenix Foundation.MacGyver had his share of quirks, too.He was afraid of heights, and he alwaysshook his hand in pain after punching oneof the bad guys – you don’t see many actionheroes do that on TV. Like Agent 99, he also
kept his rst name secret; his friends usu
-ally referred to him by his last name or byMac for short. Even a college class picturereferred to him by his last name only. Dur-
ing the seventh and nal season, a dreamrevealed that MacGyver’s rst name was
Angus, which is probably why he used onlyhis last name.As a result of losing his parents andgrandmother in a car accident as a child,MacGyver was reluctant to get involved inserious relationships because he feared thathe would lose anyone who gets too close to
him. In the series’ nal episode, though, he
learned that he had a teenage son, making itpossible for a future MacGyver series star-ring the young Sean Angus MacGyver, or“Sam” for short.Hmmm. The stars of both series havegiven us replacements for a future genera-
tion of crime ghters. Could we see more
human-like robots and homemade airplanesin the future? Stay tuned.
© Paul Niemann 2012
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