Danger Man 2.8 – The Battle of the Cameras

So Danger Man finished its run of 39 episodes and that, as they say, was that. Except that United Artists started making James Bond movies, and those films started defying everybody’s box office expectations. With advance word on the third film, Goldfinger, indicating it was going to be the biggest one yet, Danger Man went back into production as a one-hour show, with John Drake now formally an agent for British intelligence instead of some nebulous office of NATO.

The numbering I’ll use is the British broadcast order, which, as is standard with ITC series, never had any connection to the order they were actually made. “The Battle of the Cameras” was made twelfth and shown eighth in the Midlands region, in December 1964. But in America, it was selected to lead the run in April 1965. Given a new name, Secret Agent, and a brilliant theme song by Johnny Rivers, the show aired on Saturday evenings on CBS.

It was a midseason replacement for The Entertainers, a forgotten variety show that can’t have been bad; Bob Newhart and Carol Burnett were the hosts! But the show somehow failed despite an incredibly sweet slot between Gilligan’s Island and Gunsmoke, which any hour-long show would kill for, and Secret Agent caught the attention of younger viewers and all those people who were crazy for spies and, well, secret agents. I should note that it wasn’t quite the first off the block for this new fad in the US, though. NBC’s Man from UNCLE beat it to American airwaves, but there’d be another three or four similar programs, including the fourth season of The Avengers, on the air within a year.

The American broadcasts of this series were reasonably close to the British ones, which is remarkable considering the period and how fast these had to be made to make CBS’s dates. There were 22 made in the first production block. 21 of these aired in America from April to September 1965, along with two from the second production block of 23, before CBS gave the show a three-month break. It came back in December to replace The Trials of O’Brien, which CBS moved to another night to fill in a different hole.

The kid squirmed a bit at the beginning, but he settled in and said he really enjoyed this. I thought it was excellent, and I was very glad to see that such an entertaining story was written by Philip Broadley, because as those of you with long memories may recall, I was kind of hard on the writer for penning some disappointingly ordinary episodes of Department S. But this was amusingly twisty, with each side getting ahead of the other, and it had some nice fight scenes. Guest stars include Dawn Addams as the femme fatale, Niall MacGinnis as her boss, and Patrick Newell as a bumbling cohort from Drake’s office.

I’m not sure what the contemporary reviews were like, but if I’d have been around in 1965, I’d have watched it every week. Did CBS have anything remotely as good as this in 1965? Well, yes, The Dick Van Dyke Show, but nothing else.

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