Created by Tom Greene and Michael Wagner
Rookie gumshoe CHERYL SINGER worked her cases–or at least that was the plan–with some rather unusual assistants: three animated clay characters in The Danger Team, an undercooked 1990 pilot from ABC.
Unfortunately for the producers, like the much-loved Claymation Christmas Special, only a few who managed to catch it, and the plug was pulled almost immediately. The pilot was as far as it went.
Not that we missed much.
This show should have been a no-brainer. At the time, there was a huge boom in animation of all sorts–the California Raisins were everywhere, Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was a hit, and everybody was going gaga over Who Framed Roger Rabbit? But nobody–the writers, the producers, the network–seemed to really believe in the project. It didn’t so much air as be dumped onto the airwaves. In the doldrums of summer, when few would see it.
The Claymation holiday special had wit and zippy humour and some totally off-kilter imagination going for it–all The Danger Team had was an appealing human lead.
Wide-eyed, perennially perky Kathleen Beller played Cheryl with an amazed innocence that could have carried this show far–if there’d been anything much to carry.
As it was, she was a low-level grunt at The Carl Stalling Detective Agency (the only discernible bit of wit in the entire show–Stalling was the music guy behind about a zillion Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons). She’s chafing at the low-level grunt work she’s constantly being assigned to at the agency. Like, her most recent “special assignment”? Spend the night at the office so someone will be there to accept a package from a client.
Disheartened after being assigned another nothing task, she heads up the fire escape to her doofus boyfriend Chris’ animation studio for a little sympathy, where he’s working on creating some characters for a stop-motion public service announcement for safety.
Then a meteorite (or some sort of mysterious space glop) crashes into the studio, and Chris decides to go out for burritos, while Cheryl takes a quick nap. I guess in this alternate universe, meteors crash onto earth with such regularity that nobody–not even the detective agency downstairs–pays much attention.
But while he’s off in search of sustenance, in a case of mistaken identity, Chris is kidnapped by crooks.
Meanwhile, as a result of that mysterious space glop (possibly borrowed from Marvel Comics, circa 1962), three of the clay creatures have magically come to life as shape-shifting, walking, talking, google-eyed sentient beings–none of them much bigger than an action figure. Their names are Nit, Shep and Truk, and they call themselves “The Danger Team.” I guess eventually we would discovered each had a distinct (and possibly even interesting) personality, but for all the alleged differences displayed in the pilot, they might as well have all been one bucket-sized blob of clay.
Fortunately for Chris, they’ve witnessed his abduction through the window, and it’s up to Cheryl and them to rescue him. You might think the hilarity would then ensue but, well, not really.
Detective work? Does Cheryl get to strut her stuff? Nope. She doesn’t have to–she’s got… The Danger Team!
And that’s about it. The rescue Chris and, well… like I said, that’s about it. The whole thing’s so underwritten and unimaginative, and the animation–apparently done of the cheap but theoretically the whole reason for the show’s existence, is so basic that it barely amuses, much less astounds.
It makes you wonder who the intended audience for this mess was. There are trace elements of humor, but certainly not enough for any adult watching–or sentient child, for that matter.
Even if it had been aimed at kids–and it wasn’t–this would have seemed pretty tame, and lame.
To her credit, Beller acts her ass off, and she’d have been the perfect anchor for the show. Even at the ripe old age of thirty-five, when the show was filmed, she managed to capture a sort of big-eyed amazement that was easy to latch onto, but she’s the only member of the cast–human or clay–that’s slightly interesting. Everyone and everything else is one-dimensional, and the generic, no-surprises-here plot is so generic it comes off as an half-filled Ad Lib.
- “As for the “Danger Team”… they are part comedic touch, part Greek chorus, but they’re written in such a way that you aren’t sure if the program is a comedy or a drama or an action series … and after 30 minutes of watching this program, I STILL can’t make up my mind one way or the other.”
— Chuck Miller (September 2019, Chuck the Writer)
- THE DANGER TEAM
Story by Tom Greene and Michael Wagner
Teleplay by Michael Wagner and Harley Peyton
Directed by Helaine Head
Clay characters created by David Bleiman and Ken Pontac
Producers: David Bleiman and Ken Pontac
Produced by Bob Bain
Executive producer: Tom Greene
Starring Kathleen Beller as CHERYL SINGER
Also starring Patrick Culliton, Tony Devon, Steven Gilborn, Richard Kuller, Ryan Lee, Steve Levitt, Mark Lonow, Robert Mangiardi, Christopher Neame , Peter Scolari
And (voice only) June Foray as NIT
Christopher Collins as TRUK
and John Wesley Shipp as SHEP
- The Danger Team! Review (1991 ABC Pilot)
Luke the Kook’s alternately snarky/creepy YouTube video review, with plenty of excerpts from the show. (March 2021, WASD FM)
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.