“An apology: This series contains frequent instances of lazy plotting, amateur accents, unsophisticated humour, low quality sound effects, a dirty word every so often, and an overall atmosphere of poor taste. Listener suspicion is advised.”
Let’s get straight to the biscuits: Danger 5 – the best TV series you’ve probably never heard of – has made its way onto audio for a whole new series of retro action.
So, what is it, you may ask? Well, Danger 5 is all about the exploits of the super team of international spies who killed Hitler and won the Second World War. As you may well have gathered, historical accuracy isn’t one of the main factors in Danger 5, but don’t let it get in the way of your enjoyment of some rollickingly good entertainment.
Danger 5 is the brainchild of Dario Russo and David Ashby, two of the team behind the internet parody series Italian Spiderman. An approach by Australian broadcaster SBS to turn Italian Spiderman into a TV series fell through due to various ownership and copyright issues, but the pairing of Russo and Ashby submitted three new concepts to SBS, with Danger 5 being the one picked to go to series.
The show is an affectionate spoof of a number of different genres, from the globetrotting antics seen in the ITC series of the 1960s and 1970s (like Danger Man, The Champions and The Zoo Gang), to spy shows like Mission: Impossible, as well as wartime dramas; it also tends to play rather fast and loose with the World War II setting of the first season, and brings in nods to other TV programmes like Ultraman and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
The end product also has a schlocky, pulp magazine feel to it, with the look and vibe of a typical vintage international co-production, such as Danger: Diabolik. Dolly Parton had once said about herself: “It costs a lot to look this cheap” – it could almost be the slogan of Danger 5, as they’ve skilfully recreated the low-budget look of the shows they are trying to emulate, with deliberately poor model work, the location filming being done all on studio sets, and terrible dubbing.
With suitably lurid episode titles like ‘Lizard Soldiers Of The Third Reich’ and ‘Fresh Meat For Hitler’s Sex Kitchen’, subtle Danger 5 certainly ain’t. It’s also knowingly un-PC at times, with the characters drinking and smoking with alacrity; in a clear recognition of how some attitudes used to be radically different back in the day, they also have various non-white characters played by Caucasians wearing intentionally awful makeup. No stone is left unturned in making Danger 5 feel authentically cheesy and uncomfortable.
The agents are sent out on missions by Colonel Chestbridge (who, inexplicably, has the head of a bird), with the aim of thwarting the various Nazi schemes and, ultimately, killing Adolf Hitler. The second season moved away from its WWII setting, and brought the team into the 1980s, still trying to finish off Hitler, encountering along the way a heady mix of dinosaurs, ninjas, zombies, wolfmen, and the inherent perils of tampering with the space-time continuum.
Danger 5 is the very definition of a cult hit, as it has a very devoted following, but isn’t as widely known as it deserves to be. Both seasons of the show were available on Netflix a few years ago, but as it sadly hasn’t been picked up by any TV channels in the UK, the only way to be able to view it is by getting an imported DVD or Blu-ray set. It’s absolutely one of those shows you really should be able to watch on demand.
After spending around five years working on Danger 5, the team called it a day after the second season, and auctioned off all the props they’d accumulated, which seemed to draw a line under any further exploits, plus the chance of it being able to get any further exposure. However, an approach was made by Audible in 2018 to revive the series for audio, and was thankfully too good an opportunity for them to be able to pass up on, with Russo and Ashby getting the gang back together for eight more capers, in a new medium.
The original cast have all returned to reprise their TV roles, with David Ashby’s Jackson reunited with Nataša Ristic as Ilsa, Sean James Murphy as Tucker, Aldo Mignone as Pierre, and Michelle Nightingale as Claire (who was actually played on screen by Amanda Simons, but was subsequently dubbed with Nightingale’s voice). Behind the mic, Russo and Ashby have collaborated again on this octet of scripts comprising Danger 5: Stereo Adventures.
You’d imagine there might be inherent drawback in putting on audio a show where a significant amount of humour was derived from the intentional shoddiness of the visuals (you can get a good idea of the Danger 5 aesthetic by watching the official TV series trailer). However, there’s also an old saying about the pictures being better on radio, with Ashby and Russo turning the change of format to their advantage, and letting their imaginations run riot, by using audio to be able to deliver even more outlandish settings than they had realised on screen.
Over the course of the eight episode run, Danger 5: Stereo Adventures takes us to the surfing beach party of Dracula (sorry, ‘Dr. Acula’), as well as putting us squarely in Arabian Nights territory, tackling evil (as well as roleplaying games) in an Australian shopping mall, facing off against pirates on the high seas, and fighting off a 50-foot pussycat (shades of The Goodies’ ‘Kitten Kong’). Set between the series’ two seasons on TV, Danger 5: Stereo Adventures sees the team taking on the new menace of Communism (replacing Nazis and Hitler as their focus).
The comedy is largely broad and manages to get plenty of laughs; for every joke which doesn’t quite land, there’ll be another one hot on its tail which is sure to get a guffaw (if not a sensible chuckle) or two. The humour isn’t always the most sophisticated at times, but no-one ever said it had to be: you may ask yourself exactly how many times they can work the word ‘seamen’ into the script of the first episode, and the answer is several more than you’d expect. When it comes to innuendos, Danger 5: Stereo Adventures can be relied upon to slip one in.
For fans of the show, all the familiar elements are present and correct, from Pierre being given new cocktail recipes in the dying breaths of ancillary characters, to fake messages from sponsors, and phony advert breaks with commercials for entirely made-up products. Ashby and Russo have also taken advantage of being on audio by bringing in a narrator who, in a running joke, becomes increasingly disaffected by the continuing adventures, getting more bored as the series continues.
Whether you’re already an existing Danger 5 fan, or are looking for something new and different to try out, make sure that you give Danger 5: Stereo Adventures a listen on Audible. Just don’t make them have to use Colonel Chestbridge’s sit-down gun to get your attention.
Danger 5: Stereo Adventures is available now on Audible.