Your mission, as always, is to kill Hitler

In New Column by John Tebbutt

The chain-smoking agents of Danger 5 get their groove on

Who can stop Hitler’s elite squadron of Nazi dinosaurs? Who? Who?!

The answer is Danger 5, an international strike team tasked with countering whatever mad plot that Crazy ol’ Adolf is cooking up this week. One day, der Fuhrer is stealing the Eiffel Tower to make legs for his giant Mecha-Hitler; the next, he’s manufacturing solid gold machine guns (which kill… better? Somehow?) for the Third Reich. The argumentative but noble Danger 5 team will save the day, and still have time for some sexual tension and a swinging cocktail party afterwards.

Such is the premise of Danger 5 (2012), an insane TV comedy from the creative team behind Italian Spiderman (2007). The surf-guitar score, mod fashions and general atmosphere make Danger 5 look like a lost relic from the 1960s, complete with chain smoking and rampant sexism.

Things happen quickly in this show, and without explanation. For example, we don’t have time to notice that the team’s commanding officer is wearing the exact same sport jacket that Patrick McGoohan wore in The Prisoner (1967), because the dude also has the head of a giant eagle. Nobody comments on this. Hey, the colonel has a bird’s head. So what? Pay attention, he’s telling us how to stop Germany’s army of Aryan super-prostitutes. You’ll have to deploy the really fake-looking robotic talking dog that blows sleep gas from its mouth. Oh what, do we have to explain that, too? Keep up!

Ten minutes into Danger 5, I was sure I’d found a comedy masterpiece that I had to tell the world about. Five minutes after that, I began to lose interest. I love the fact that the show is so jam packed with giant monsters, cardboard cities, hilariously cheap special effects and so on, but why isn’t it funnier? Once per episode, a character will die in the arms of Pierre, who is one of the five, and earnestly recite a cocktail recipe to him with her dying breath. Err… hilarious? All of the series’ running gags are like this — peculiar without actually being funny.

Perhaps the show was written by a dedicated beer drinker who found the entire concept of mixed drinks to be bizarrely effeminate, or something. There’s also a fake commercial at the end of each episode (meh), and the end credits always play over a party under a “Mission Accomplished!” banner, despite the fact the team failed to kill Hitler again this week — in fact, he’s usually at the party.

The spectacularly groovy visuals are delightful, but the scripts lack the kind of wit to keep this sort of thing interesting for long. The best way to watch Danger 5 would be at a house party, where a roomful of noisy friends would talk amongst themselves, only occasionally looking at the madness onscreen, and commenting “What the hell are we watching? This show looks amazing!” Heck, the fact that half of the characters speak with subtitles would benefit the “noisy party” screening.

I still recommend checking out at least one episode, just because it’s so vividly weird, but the show’s deficiencies will probably help you to appreciate the various other comedies out there that satirize tacky old TV shows better than this one does. Like Police Squad! (1982), The Amazing Screw-On Head (2006), Archer (2010-), Heat Vision and Jack (1999), Danger Theatre (1993), Spy Groove (2000), The Venture Brothers (2003-), and the original Adam West Batman series (1966-68), which had the additional virtue of being unironically appealing to children while giving their parents a campy parody to smirk at.

About the Author

John Tebbutt

Author and creator of the Video Vulture. Over the past 17 years, John has sought to bring us the most interesting, creative and funny examinations of some of the strangest ideas ever to be committed to film.