Leonard Stern, Get Smart producer, dies at 88

Leonard Stern, the producer of Get Smart and a long-time writer and producer of other shows, passed away this week at the age of 88. Besides Get Smart, his credits were varied and included The Jackie Gleason Show, The Honeymooners, and McMillan & Wife. Even his short-lived shows, such as I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster and He & She, have a devoted following.

Because of our subject matter, though, we’re concentrating on his contributions to Get Smart. As executive producer, he helped turn the pilot script by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry into a successful series. That wasn’t easy, as Stern described in this interview; the script had to be redone to tailor it to Don Adams (under contract to NBC) after the show was originally envisioned for Tom Poston:

During the show’s run, Stern collaborated on a script with Buck Henry that earned both men an Emmy. The 1967 Emmys turned out to be a big night for TV spy shows, with Mission: Impossible creator Bruce Geller and co-star Barbara Bain also getting Emmys. You can Stern and Henry get theirs (presented by Bain and M:I’s Martin Landau), starting around the 2:40 mark of this video:

RIP, Mr. Stern. CLICK HERE TO READ THE WASHINGTON POST’S OBITUARY. Meanwhile you can READ THE WRAP’S OBITUARY BY CLICKING HERE (which gives Stern’s age as 87).

45th anniversary of TV spy mania part IV: Would you believe…Tom Poston was the first choice to play Maxwell Smart?

We conclude our look at the 45th anniversary of TV spy mania with Get Smart, which premiered in September 1965. Now, Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. A television classic. How could anything go wrong with that? You’re probably thinking that there could not have been any doubt about that casting.

Well, if you’re thinking that, you’re wrong. Not only was Don Adams not the first choice to play the lead in a parody of James Bond, NBC wasn’t the first network approached. ABC was.

The script was penned by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Producer Leonard Stern and actor Tom Poston take it from there:

Once Don Adams was on board, he incorporated his own comedic persona. This clip isn’t from Get Smart, but The Bill Dana Show, where Adams appeared as a hotel detective, Byron Glick. The clip contains a familiar gag that’d be a regular part of Get Smart:

In the pilot, Maxwell Smart and agent 99 (Barbara Feldon) encounter Mr. Big of KAOS, played by an actor who’d shortly make a big impression on CBS’s The Wild, Wild West: