Danger! 50,000 Volts!
Image C Sound C Extras A
"Alligator Attack!", "Thugs with Baseball Bats!", "High Speed Chases!", "Minefields!", "Fires!", "Being Impaled!", "Lightning Strikes!", "Tidal Waves!", "Hostage Situations!"
by Walter Chaw Locating itself somewhere between "Jackass", "Insomniac with Dave Attell", and "MythBusters", "Danger! 50000 Volts!" is a series of semi-improvisational interviews with people in bad jobs, interspersed with the jocular, rotund Frost putting himself in situations of peril for the bemusement of a bemused audience. More British than terrible, "Danger! 50000 Volts!" reminds of a "World's Greatest Chases" hidden-camera show where Scotland Yard chased down a felon at speeds approaching upwards of ten, eleven miles an hour. So the pacing isn't exactly pulse-pounding, but there's an affability to Frost and his willingness to insert himself into dangerous situations that makes the show an agreeable time-passer. Its apocalyptic tone (shades of "Worst Case Scenario")--the idea that you'll eventually find yourself in a minefield after having fallen through ice and been impaled on a pole the very same day you were attacked by a gorilla and hooligans with baseball bats--is ludicrous, of course (in fact, there's very little about the show that's real-world applicable), but watching a chubby comedic actor endure indignity has sort of an archetypal feel to it. It's the Oliver Hardy school of vaudeville, I think.
I have to admit to being fascinated by a method of distilling water from urine in the desert, but a few of the animated vignettes called "Too Dangerous To Film" I've actually witnessed demonstrated other places (usually by a minority cub reporter on the nightly news), thus the series' relative wussiness, while in keeping with Frost's screen persona, can be distracting. Shot in 2002 and released now to capitalize on Frost's newfound cult-popularity post-Shaun of the Dead, the series was Britain's Channel 5's first original comedy show and also, for a spell, its most popular program. It's funny in a family-friendly way, no question, but turning on the DVD commentary (featuring Frost and producer John Riley) reveals a whole new level of oft-profane humour. I enjoyed the revelation that a gator-wrangling Floridian refused to speak to Frost when the camera wasn't rolling (just like Kevin Bacon!), as well as the glee with which the boys correctly identify the out-of-control homoeroticism of a heatstroke scene in episode 4. Director Matt Gilby steps up to the mike for episodes 3 and 5-8, while episodes 5-7 additionally include a girl named Catherine "Catfish" Fish who identifies herself as a researcher for the program. (Researcher Alison-something replaces Catfish for the final episode.)
Supplementing Disc 2, the 30-minute special "Danger! 50000 Zombies!" guest-stars Simon Pegg as a zombie expert and is obviously positioned as a post-Shaun riff featuring the two best-chums demonstrating the rapport that helped make Shaun of the Dead the ripper that it is. As resistant as I am to prefab stuff like this in general, consider my defenses broken, as "Danger! 50000 Zombies!" is genuinely hilarious--occasionally side-bustingly so. Meanwhile, pressing the "enter" button whenever a "hazard" icon appears onscreen during the show proper dispenses "Danger! Facts!", such as the number of spiders the average adult will accidentally consume in his lifetime whilst sleeping. (It's an alarming figure.) All of the pop-ups are accessible through the extra features menu on the second platter; curiously, you don't have the same choice when it comes to the yak-tracks, as you can't toggle the soundtracks via remote control. Video-wise, this is standard television 2002 fare mastered in 1.85:1 widescreen anamorphic widescreen, and the Dolby 2.0 stereo audio is similarly unexceptional: clear but thin and sometimes tinny. (The two discs are packaged together in a swingtray keepcase.) Though it's not an essential collection by any means, fans of Shaun of the Dead should give it a look-see for their Pegg/Frost fix before the Stateside DVD release of "Spaced" or the upcoming feature film Hot Fuzz. Originally published: September 1, 2005.