Binge 'N' Purge - Danger Mouse Series 1 (2015)
As I’ve said in an earlier review or reviews, the foundation of my character and morality is firmly rooted in two fictional characters: Superman and Optimus Prime. For my sense of humor…you needn’t look any further than a solitary Pillar Box in Mayfair.
Although I was trying to be clever there, let’s face it, this review does indeed come with a title, so it should surprise no one that I’m referring to the one, the only Danger Mouse. The quick, intelligent, self-aware, self-deprecating and self-referential humor of the show works on varying levels so that the jokes land differently depending on your age and education. For whatever reason, I’ve always loved that quality in media, be it comics, TV, cartoons, movies or books. But I certainly wasn’t aware of that when first exposed to the old show, back in oh…’84 or ‘85. In fact, given that the only way to see the series in the US at that time was on the cable network Nickelodeon and my family, being rather poor at the time, didn’t have cable TV, it’s a wonder that the show stuck with me as much as it did, given that the only time I got to see it was under the circumstances that I was staying over at my best friend’s house and there wasn’t a Cleveland sports team playing at the time the show was on. Slim pickings at best, but the handful of episodes I did see certainly made an impression.
As I got older, into the 90s, the old show ran in syndication…and one of the local channels carried it. Sadly, it aired a half hour to an hour before I’d return home from high school. Thankfully, being the age of VCRs, I made use of the timer or, if I wanted the commercials edited out, my grandmother who was living with us at the time. Thus, while the seed was planted many years prior to that, to be able to go back and watch the episodes I knew as well as the many I didn’t, offered a rare opportunity to see not only where my humor came from but also that joy of revisiting something and finding it to be much deeper, more layered and more nuanced than you remembered. I could now get most of the jokes, having been more exposed to life, history and Monty Python. Sadly though, as cartoons disappeared from pretty much every local network, being relegated to channels such as Cartoon Network and the aforementioned Nickelodeon, so too did DM disappear…seemingly lost once more. A&E started releasing the seasons on DVD and naturally I snapped them up…but that was the end.
…or was it?
The trailer emerged in June of 2014. Danger Mouse was returning…and I required a moist towelette, a cigarette and a cuddle. At the time, it was only released that it would be airing on CBBC (the BBC’s kids’ network)…but along came Netflix. So, back in April, the entire first season was unleashed…and I was there.
Does it hold up?
It’s funny, when you think about it…not a whole lot needed to be changed from the core concept of DM for it to work in modern times: from the character to the situations to the gadgets…it all still works amazingly well and is still very suited to satirize our current society. A perfect example of this is the opening episode of the series, wherein Baron Silas Von Greenback (the “Von” bit is new…as is his German accent) pretends to be reformed and produces a line of “Safety Mice” (in contrast to Danger Mouse) to help preserve and safeguard society…the natural conclusion of society’s current obsession with security. As one would expect from the terrible toad, this is all just a ploy in a bid for global domination as the mice turn on society and pledge allegiance to Greenback. In defeating the menace, not only does DM save the world, but manages to secure funding for the remainder of the series. It’s the deft blend of action, comedy, satire and meta that shows the folks behind the current iteration of Danger Mouse get EXACTLY what made the old show so great.
As with any update, there have to be some changes. The first one you’ll notice right off the bat are the voices…Penfold in particular. His voice isn’t quite as high pitched as it was…but you get used to the new voice pretty quickly. DM is close to his original voice actor, but not quite, there’s almost a mix of Simon Pegg in there, which, well…really just elevates the awesome factor, doesn’t it? [No, the new Danger Mouse is NOT voiced by Mr. Pegg but by Alexander Armstrong. – Ed] And I’ve already mentioned the new German accent that the Baron is sporting these days. Two voices that are very strongly in step with their predecessors are those of Stiletto and Colonel K…and it’s the good Colonel that provides us with our star power…as his voice is none other than Stephen Fry. The other big change is to Professor Squawkencluck…who was originally Professor Von Squawkencluck, a mole scientist…is not a female chicken scientist. While I will miss the Squawkencluck/Penfold exchanges of the old series, “Nein, Nein, Nein!” “27!”…the new Squawkencluck makes a bit more sense. Why would a mole be named Squawkencluck? The name is better suited for a chicken. And the bit of romantic tension with Danger Mouse provides a unique addition to the show (he’s oblivious, of course…or is he?). Also, we get a whole slew of new villains too. Greenback, in addition to Stiletto and Nero gets another underling: Pandaminion…keeping up the fine tradition of wordplay the series is known for. But my absolute favorite new addition was Dr. Loo-cifer…a sentient toilet. Where else could you even put those two words together…huh? Sentient…toilet. That’ll keep you up at night…and it’s also complete and utter genius.
Thus, Netflix yet again causes another episode of binge watch bliss as the new Danger Mouse is everything an update/reboot/remake needs to be: the perfect blend of understanding what made the original work, capturing the spirit of the original show and then incorporating new elements for the modern audience. With a new season being aired now in the UK and toys available (that I have just ordered off Amazon)…it looks like DM’s going to stick around for a little while, and thank goodness, we need him. In a world that still dismisses animation as childish, it’s fantastic to see a return of dry, intelligent wit in cartoons that might skip over the kiddies’ heads but fall squarely on the head of the adults that brings some much needed humor to an increasingly far-too-serious world.