TV Picks: 'Danger 5,' 'It's Okay To Be Smart'

"Danger 5" (Netflix). Let the word go forth, let the people know, that the second season of the Australian action comedy "Danger 5" has reached America. I hesitate to call it a comedy, somehow, as if that were an affront to its thoroughgoing, towering weirdness; but of course it is made to be funny, and it is. The first season, you may recall -- we're going to fix that if you don't, hold on -- was a World War II story filtered through a 1960s, low-budget, super-saturated, Tohoscope, genre sensibility, following (to lazily quote my own review) "an international team of variously styled blue-clad agents as they battle Nazis, robots, dinosaurs, clones, espresso-drinking Italian truck drivers and fascist Atlanteans in an attempt to win the war 'and as always,' says the eagle-headed superior who gives them their assignments, 'kill Hitler.'" The second series (whose production followed the first by three years) begins in the 1980s, with Hitler still alive and coming out of hiding and the Danger 5, scattered to their mostly separate fates, recalled to try to kill him again. (They have not perceptibly aged in the intervening four decades, although one member, the irrepressible Pierre, is now black, an entrepreneur with "1,000 hit singles, 1,000 fashion lines and now 1,000 nightclubs," a cocktail book and a Japanese-speaking, white lion-headed sidekick sensei named Mackenzie.) The '80s setting means a whole new set of allusions to make, of film styles to pastiche and parody, and there is an era-appropriate emphasis on sex, drugs and violence -- so much blood, so much fake blood. And saxophones.

There are nods to Spielberg and Zemeckis and de Palma, to slasher flicks, American high school comedies (with Hitler in disguise as the popular Johnny Hitler, who hates "books and juice"), space operas, martial arts films, zombie movies and music videos, with bad special effects beautifully done. (There are a lot of puppets, too, always good to have around.) For that matter, the whole series is a play on Hitler Is Alive pictures, a genre unto itself. But through all the madness runs a more or less coherent story: You do become invested, kind of, in the characters' fates; you root for the good guys to win. (As a tale of 1980s intrigue, I prefer it to "The Americans.") There are machine gun-toting prawns, lizard men, exotic dancers, car chases, a Vatican Disco Mass, Russia as a theme park and Khrushchev as a sexy commie Cossack. As before, the dialog comes in many languages. It is also, like "Die Hard," a Christmas story.

"It's Okay to Be Smart" (PBS Digital Studios/YouTube). There are many worthy educational videos coming to you over the Internet (out of the Internet?); this science-and-culture series just happens to be the one I watched a whole lot of last night. Also, I appreciate the direct, if slightly defensive, message of the title. (Indeed, it may be the most important lesson taught here.) Austin, Texas-based Joe Hanson, formally known as Joe Hanson Ph.D -- he's a biologist -- is the writer and host, lanky, square-jawed, jug-eared, attractive in a nerdy way, nerdy in an attractive way. ("My mission in life is to tell the world about the awesomeness of ALL THE SCIENCE," he writes emphatically on his Tumblr blog.) The pitch is young (though not forbiddingly so, older seekers after knowledge), the pace sprightly, the tack humorous; but there is no talking down to the viewer or dumbing down the material. Indeed, though Hanson has a gift for summing up, every instant is a kind of celebration of complexity. The subjects range far and wide, from "The Physics of Space Battles," "Why Did We Blow on Nintendo Games?" and "The Science of 'Game of Thrones'" (that wall of ice, it's impossible), to "The Science of Kissing" ("it's weird -- you're rubbing your open mouth on another human being's open mouth -- so there must be a reason we do it") and "The Science of Dust," to "Ebola Explained and "Why People Don't Believe in Climate Science." Also, "Goats!" with an exclamation mark. How things are, how they got that way, where they're headed -- these are good things to know, and to want to know.

Robert Lloyd ponders, links and tweets @LATimesTVLloyd

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