The spread of fast internet access had opened up a whole frontier of entertainment, as a whole new world of TV and film has been opened up to us all.
But with so much out there, how are you supposed to find the good stuff? That’s where we come in… welcome to Downstream.
Australia! Land of Kangaroos, Kylies and knives that are actually knives. Australian musicians, movie stars and stand-up comedians have managed to gain fame on the world stage, and there’s been a steady flow of Aussie-made films over the years.
But for whatever reason Australian TV doesn’t seem to travel so much outside it’s home country – at least not compared to that of the US and UK. Sure, British audiences have had the dubious pleasures of their soap-opera output and the occasional Kangaroo or Koala based kid’s show but that’s about as far as it goes.
One particular area of Aussie TV that is particularly under-represented internationally is comedy, but now thanks to the magic of the internet, this is starting to change. Today dear reader, I bring to your attention the Australian comedy series Danger 5.
The six part series is the work of a duo named Dario Russo and David Ashby. Following the success of their web-series Italian Spiderman, they were approached with a development deal by Australian network SBS, and Danger 5 was the result.
Danger 5 was also preceded by a webseries prequel (episode 0) that was released on YouTube, before the series proper started in February 2012 on SBS One. A second series has been confirmed and will air sometime in 2014.
According to the official synopsis, Danger 5 takes place in a “bizarre, 1960s inspired version of World War 2”, which doesn’t even begin to do it justice. The titular five are a crack-team of allied spies, recruited to foil the Third Reich’s most diabolical schemes week to week. They consist of an American, an Australian, A Brit, a Russian and Pierre who is non-specifically “European”. He’s got an obviously French name, but other hints to his origin seem to suggest otherwise.
The best way to describe this to the uninitiated is somewhere between an Aussie version of Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace and the spoof trailers of Grindhouse. It’s made as if it’s a lost series from the sixties, complete with authentic badly-synched sound and effects that come straight out of a Gerry Anderson show – visible strings and all. The pitch-perfect visuals are matched by the performances, with the cast playing it admirably straight. As a result there’s no stand-out performances like Matt Berry or Richard Ayoade in Darkplace, but the mood is arguably more consistent.
The show’s crazy premises, violence and occasional gratuitous sexy interludes pay homage to Grindhouse style B-movies. This is summed up perfectly with Episode titles such as Lizard Soldiers Of The Third Reich and Fresh Meat For Hitler’s Sex Kitchen.
For reasons that are never made entirely clear, the war does seem to now be taking place in a surreal version of the 60’s, complete with go-go dancers, miniskirts and dance clubs. The show also features dinosaurs, giant robots and a guy with a bird’s head who just happens to be in charge. At the start of every episode bird-head chief shows up and relays the teams mission for the week, which always ends in some variation of “and as always… kill Hitler”. Then there’s the Godzilla-style giant monsters, talking cartoon dogs and apemen.
The world of Danger 5 is imaginative, off-the-wall and mad as a bag of badgers.
Adolf himself plays a part in every episode, here turned into a cartoon-villain whose increasingly wacky schemes are foiled by the Five. Yet each week, without fail, the Fuhrer escapes, jumping through a window in repeated stock footage. Other wartime baddies appear too, including Stalin and Goebbels. Emperor Hirohito also crops up; and like all Asian people in the series he’s played by a white guy.
With characters from all over the world, it’s unsurprising it deals with national stereotypes. The Brits are all stiff-upper-lip pipe-smokers, Americans are cocky and the Swiss literally bleed gold. It’s all perfectly fitting in with the spirit though, and all in good fun. The one stereotype that’s notably missing however is Australians – with Aussie team-member Tucker just played as a standard heroic type.
This is one of the few hints to the show’s origins. The cast sport a variety of accents and few Australian accents are heard. Some characters even speak different languages (subtitled) but are apparently able to converse with the English speakers without any troubles. Unless you were told otherwise, it’s unlikely you’d guess that this series hails from Down Under. There’s not a kangaroo in sight, and not once does anyone utter the words “strewth” or “crikey”. It’s like they’re not committed to the whole Australian thing at all…
All kidding aside, Danger 5 is a show that deserves a wider international audience. Fans of Darkplace would eat it up, and it’s easy to see this show joining the cult comedy canon.
Six episodes isn’t enough, so it’s welcome news indeed that a second series will screen in Australia soon. We can only hope that it won’t be long before audiences outside of Oz get to see the further adventures of the guys and girls of Danger 5.
Danger 5 is available on Hulu.