Remember Danger 5, SBS’s period spy spoof series where a group of secret agents had to kill Hitler? There were two series of Danger 5, the 2012 series set in the 1960s and the 2015 series set in the 1980s, and since then, nothing. Now the team are back with Danger 5 Stereo Adventures, an eight-part series for Audible in which our heroes, Danger 5, uncover a secret evil organisation called Big Knife and try to stop them from…whatever they’re planning.
What Big Knife is planning, however, isn’t necessarily the point. Like James Bond, Thunderbirds and the various spy series which inspired Danger 5, it’s really about the romp. So, don’t go in expecting a cohesive or easy-to-follow narrative – even with Shaun Micallef’s narration – and certainly don’t go in expecting cohesive comedy. Like the TV version of Danger 5, the humour can be a bit ‘random LOLZ’ following by ‘crowbarred-in gag’… Hey, look a guy with an animal head! Ha ha ha!
Most of the comedy in the first episode of the Danger 5 Stereo Adventures – a romp around the Caribbean involving the Loch Ness Monster and a pirate potion – is just different versions of the seaman/semen pun. And while we’re not saying we don’t find the seaman/semen pun funny, it gets a bit relentless.
On the other hand, subsequent episodes don’t include the seaman/semen joke but are even less hilarious. And it’s not as if the writers aren’t trying to be funny… There are crazy characters, silly foreign accents, commercial breaks (including parodies of the Bunnings Warehouse ads and Today Tonight promos), the odd excellent line (‘Quick, let’s trust this mysterious stranger!’), plus a bunch of barbed satirical digs at Australian patriotism and the ANZAC spirit. (The ANZAC stuff’s quite good, to be fair.)
Thing is, overall, it just doesn’t gel. There’s a lot of assumed knowledge about the show (an assumption that listeners know or remember who all the members of Danger 5 are), and the writers haven’t been the best at translating the kind of characterisations that work fine on TV – because you can deliver the character notes visually – to audio-only. Hence, Claire, who’s British, female and uptight is…yeah, we don’t need to spell out what her character’s like.
As for the broader concept of this being a spy series spoof, well, it is a spy series spoof, except it’s a spoof of a type of spy series that never really existed. It’s more a spy series set in ‘the past’ and because it’s ‘the past’ it’s made to sound like the kind of audiotapes people used to borrow from their local library in the 1980s, complete with those little beeps before and after the show ends… Which is mildly interesting to recall if you’re old enough to remember that kind of thing, but probably seems pretty weird if you’re under 40.
Not that anyone under 40 is listening to this kind of comedy. Probably.
Danger 5 is funny in fits and starts but is a bit hard going if you’re after a reasonably comprehensible plot and clearly defined characters which can generate a lot of decent gags. It’s not even worth listening just to hear Shaun Micallef, because if you want a Micallef spy series you’re better off watching Roger Explosion.