A little late (let’s say, a fashionable amount) is better than never, so lets talk about the greatest secret agent in the world, Danger Mouse.
Despite being an American and never setting one foot in the UK, British media has had a big and welcome impact on my life, but where and when did this happy relationship begin? It wasn’t James Bond, as I didn’t truly engage with that series until puberty, nor was it Doctor Who, because despite being a huge Whovian with my own review series on the site of the Big Finish audio dramas entitled Big Finishing Move, I didn’t become a fan of the Timelord until well into my twenties. When I look back through the haze of time to my first introduction to British media and culture it was as a little boy switching on the TV in the morning, changing the channel to Nickelodeon, and having my brain go into overload as I saw this:
I’m a sucker for good theme music, and that, along with all the explosions and the cool looking car, had me hooked on Danger Mouse right away. All that was surface stuff however, and in time, my interest would have wavered and moved to other things, but what kept me in the “Danger Camp” was the quick wit and humor of the show and the fact that it felt different then any other cartoon on at the time. While many of the other shows that were being brought over were being “Americanized,” be it through editing or dubbing, Danger Mouse remained clearly and distinctly British in tone and characters. This was a good thing because, despite worldwide appeal, Danger Mouse as a show is so thoroughly wrapped up in the Union Jack, that to try and separate that fact from the show would be to butcher it. Even though during the initial runs on US television they swapped out bad guy Stiletto Mafiosa’s Italian accent for a cockney one, that didn’t make the show feel any less British.
For those of you waiting for me to lay out the basic premise of the show, let me leave you in waiting no further! Danger Mouse stars the titular Danger Mouse (created by Brian Cosgrove and Mark Hall), who, despite having a world wide publicly known identity, is still somehow considered a “secret agent” for the British government. He famously wears an eye-patch despite actually not needing to, and loves saving the world in the nick of time in typical unflappable British fashion. His companion and best friend is an easily excitable hamster named Penfold who has zero skills, but will backup DM the best he can. To use another rodent pair for comparison, think Pinky and the Brain if Brain was an adventure junkie with influences of Batman, and Pinky was slightly more mentally grounded in reality but infinitely more neurotic.
Constantly tasked by their boss, the absentminded Colonel K, with saving saving the world from the likes of Baron Silas Greenback ( Von Greenback in the new series) and other baddies and their harebrained schemes (and trust me, there is no world domination plan too off the wall or stupid to make it into a Danger Mouse cartoon), our daring duo does their best for Queen and Country.
Danger Mouse ran from the early 1980s all the way to the early 90s, brilliantly and lovingly skewering and celebrating the action/spy genre. While it still had a passionate fanbase of people who grew up with the show, the series ended up in relative obscurity as there wasn’t many ways to expose new people to it, and it wasn’t something kids were going to stumble on accidentally.
And that should have been all she wrote on the matter, but time is a funny thing.
We are currently living in a nostalgia boom, chock full of of relaunches and reboots of all sorts of classic media, including the action/spy genre. We’ve refreshed the Bond movies with Daniel Craig and even brought back Matt Damon to play Jason Bourne. All that is old is new again! Every trend has its limits and phases though, and so while we still feel the need to go back to the past to resurrect and/or reboot all this genre material there is also this growing need to point at and openly acknowledge all the bits of these genres that are cheesy, goofy, and otherwise doesn’t make sense, often through humor. We like to show that we still love these things, but are savvy to their limits or issues. Look a the recent success of the Deadpool movie as proof of this. This new age of affectionate mockery of the things of old has proven to be fertile ground for the resurrection of the one-eyed wonder, as the show fills both are needs for nostalgia and satire. So finally in late 2015 on CBBC, we saw the much needed return of Danger Mouse.
The new show became an immediate hit. The runtime for each episode is only around 10 minutes long (akin to the early seasons of the original series) and they are filled with ridiculous action and comedy. While the new series makes many references to the original show, such as the oft used “lights out” gag that was used to save money on the animation for the original series, this new incarnation of the show is its own animal. The two biggest changes are that while in the original show DM and friends were actual animals in “our” universe, and part of the comedy was their interaction with the larger human world, the new series opts to just have everyone be animals, and there is an expansion of the roles of the supporting cast to add more elements of a workplace comedy.
The voice cast is loaded with British talent, and even though not every name is known here in the United States, they have managed to land several big names we Yanks do know like Brian Blessed, Lena Headey, John Oliver, and as their biggest win, the amazing Stephen Fry, knocking it out of the park as Colonel K.
Netflix brought the new series over to the US, and you can check it out as well as all the episodes of the classic series with a subscription. I’ve been binging the two series and am loving every bit of it. So what are you waiting for?! Go get your Netflix on and watch some Danger Mouse stat!