“Swiss blood—it’s made of money. I think it counteracts Hitler’s magic, undoes the Nazi virus.”
Danger 5 is the TV show I want to make new acquaintances watch as a litmus test for how well we’re going to get along.
It’s not hard to explain or describe, but it’s the type of absurdism that will divide people into distinct groups very quickly. You will perhaps look at the Nazi-mind-controlled dinosaurs, or the Aryan Master Race magic hookers, or the two-star colonel with a gigantic eagle’s head and say, with a slightly confused sneer, What the hell is this crap? and maybe sometimes I will send you a polite Christmas card.
If, however, your response to it is a mixture of disbelief and sheer overwhelming glee at the fact that someone did this, and did it well, then we are blood family bound for eternity and that can never be undone. This show understands me at a level I can’t quite articulate, except that it makes me happy because it deliberately works to fulfill everything I’ve ever wanted in a TV show.
Danger 5 is a half-hour Australian comedy set in an alternate universe where WWII is still being waged during the swingin’ 60s, and an international team of five super-spies have joined forces in their constant mission to thwart various insane plots by the Third Reich, and oh yes, kill Hitler.
Up top you have your main faces and represented countries: Jackson (US), Pierre (Europe—all of it), Claire (UK), Ilsa (Russia), and Tucker (Australia—I wasn’t even aware that he was from Oz until the second season where he becomes delusional with grief and drops Australianisms constantly). They have their quirks and relationship dynamics—Pierre goes by a billion different aliases, and anytime someone dies in his arms, their last words tend to be a perfect cocktail recipe. Jackson is in love with Ilsa, who’ll sleep with any man from the Axis or Allied powers, except Jackson. Claire only wants Tucker, but Tucker doesn’t want to get married, and every villain from pudgy Dr. Mengele to the lizard men falls in love with her.
They have a clubhouse where they sit around and enjoy magazines (Sensible Chuckle Monthly), drinks at nine in the morning, and shooting lit cigarettes into each other’s mouths. The team is given orders by Colonel Chestbridge, a large eagle man with a British accent who is kind of a constantly exasperated uncle/boss figure in a Prisoner jacket, and who for some reason enjoys shutting know-it-all Claire down at every opportunity.
And then, of course, there’s Hitler.
The thing you need to know about Hitler is this: he is played by the show creator’s father, a former guitar teacher. The actor doesn’t speak German, so just like every other non-English speaker on the show (Ilsa included), his lines are subtitled. Except that the actor is clearly speaking English. And his lines are dubbed over by someone else in German. Yes.
Also, he can do demonic magic. Also also, he thinks that guns made of gold, distilling Nazism into a virus that can be sexually transmitted, and Japanese super-soldiers are the keys to his international victory. Spoiler alert: he never wins, but he does always get away, usually by the same footage of him jumping through a window.
So the entire 6-episode first season is filled with funk-rock primate bands, sojourns to Swiss brothels, Atlantis, rendezvous at the baccarat table with Erwin Rommel, baby-faced Mussolini doing his homework, and mournful haiku composer Hirohito pausing at length.
It’s filmed and treated very much like something that would have aired in the 1960s on a BBC channel—the slightly oversaturated colors and lighting, the way everybody’s dubbed their lines over themselves, the strings on all the miniature Marx toys that stand in for aerial shots or action sequences.
Each episode ends with the entire cast partying at the Danger 5 clubhouse, including Hitler. It’s all very Thunderbirds, except for the fact that it’s also kind of Jet Jaguar-y, in that the most climactic battles happen between two dudes dressed up in giant super robot costumes, standing on a set made of buildings that come up to their shoulders while they announce their attacks at each other (“Victory Chainsaw!”)
Apparently the creators felt they’d used up every 1960s joke possible, so season two fast-forwards to Christmas 1980-something, after the original members of the Danger 5 squad have gone their separate ways and the Cold War has begun. They’re reunited to face off with a new threat: Hitler.
There are very 80s subplots about the USSR being a theme park of other smaller countries, Hitler infiltrating a high school to find the perfect date to the Christmas dance, time travel, and Pierre’s apparent recasting into a Zimbabwean pop star, along with lots and lots of cocaine, retreats into barbecue-based fantasies, a talking white lion butler/martial arts spirit guide, and major character deaths, culminating with shark battles in space and the team entering God Mode, which basically involves dressing up like the Power Rangers/Super Sentai.
Danger 5 is a zany, campy mess, and I love it because it makes me laugh so hard. It follows silly tropes wholeheartedly, is ludicrously over-the-top, and hits all those markers of reduplicated authentic-ness so perfectly that you want to believe you’re watching something that was only recently unearthed. It’s live-action Archer with a more detached self-awareness. Now that it’s on Netflix, it’s everywhere, but it’s well-worth the time.