Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cultivation of the Mind (Old School)

The new version of Get Smart is now out in a movie theater near you. You will probably come across articles and reviews in the newspapers comparing Steve Carell to Don Adams, in the role of CONTROL spy Maxwell Smart (Agent 86). I suppose I will go see the movie, simply as an oblation to one of my heroes—Don Adams.

Why Don Adams? My education came from so much more than school.

My entire life I have been hearing people besmirch television. Guess what? I like television—have and always will. There is great stuff there, if only you look hard enough. Unfortunately my search for the good stuff lately has crossed the Atlantic Ocean. Since the writer’s strike, my wife and I have been acquiring BBC shows on DVD (MI-5 and The Thin Blue Line are our favorites).

Similar to my spiritual enlightenment, my education has come from a plenitude of sources. Don Adams was the voice of the wise-cracking penguin Tennessee Tuxedo, a television cartoon character between 1963 and 1966. Along with his dim-witted pal Chumley, they constantly schemed against zookeeper Stanley Livingston and his assistant Flunky, in an attempt to improve the quality of zoo-life.

Here’s where the education part comes in—their projects required the assistance of their educated friend, Phineas J. Whoopee and his three dimensional blackboard. The voice of Phineas was provided by Larry Storch (I got an autographed photograph of Larry when he was a cast member of the show F-Troop). The blackboard helped demonstrate basic scientific principles through the use of instructional film clips. In fact, the show was introduced on CBS-TV in response to a speech by FCC Chairman Newton R. Minnow, which addressed television as a “vast wasteland.” The purpose of the show was to educate as well as entertain young viewers.

The sad part was that, even with the help of Whoopee, the pair failed to get their plans to work. I guess there were life-lessons to be gained—

1. I've learned that heroes are people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences, or if they don’t always succeed.
2. Surrounding yourself with positive relationships is half the battle.
3. Most success boils down to perseverance, determination, tenacity.

Adams went on from Tennessee Tuxedo and gained worldwide fame and three Emmy Awards for his role as Maxwell Smart.

I just want you to know, Don: I remember Tennessee and can attribute part of my education to him. Oh, and I understand that you spent your leisure time, later in life, either at the racetrack or in card games at the Playboy Mansion. I hope there’s a lesson there also.

1 comment:

Janice Phelps Williams said...

I like your three life-lessons. I've asked a few business people for advice over the years, and it all seems to be some version of: "keep at it, keep at it, keep at it, keep at it..." So, somewhere I absorbed into my psyche that the winner is the one who doesn't give up. Then I read about the importance of "letting go." Somewhere between those two, I am finding what works for me.

I liked Rocky and Bullwinkle. Rocky was so positive and perky. Bullwinkle was such a good friend. And that horrible woman cartoon character on the show was like every mean girl in junior high school.