Fans of vintage cop series produced by Aaron Spelling, Stephen J. Cannell and especially Quinn Martin will recognize many of the targets of “Danger Theatre.” Even those too young to remember those prototypes will see the show as a homage to Abrahams-Zucker-Zucker. As such, it’s closer to leaden “Sledge Hammer” than to zesty “Police Squad,” but still may win a few points as counterprogramming to “60 Minutes.”
Each half-hour show includes complete episodes of “The Searcher” and “Tropical Punch.”Which is about right, as the hourlong skeins parodied typically contained about 12 minutes of story, the rest of the time devoted to car chases.
Robert Vaughn hosts from behind an impressive wooden desk, proudly hailing “Danger Theatre” as “the show that dares to take a bite out of the butt of crime.”
“The Searcher” stars Diedrich Bader as tight-lipped, soft-spoken, Harley-riding loner title character. (“Just make the check out to ‘The Searcher.’ “”Do you have a first name?” he is asked. “Did Paladin? Did Liberace? Did Fabian?”)
In his first case, he saves nebbishy Dave Taylor (Charles Noland) from jilted g.f. played by Tracy Scoggins.
Episode contains a number of double-entendres and visual references, most in a soda fountain scene, that would probably appear this early in the evening only on Fox.
“Tropical Punch” stars tight-lipped, soft-spoken Adam West as head of a special Hawaiian police unit, here chasing after attempted assassins of a U.S. senator (Peter Haskell) investigating organized crime in the islands.
Regulars assisting West in this “Hawaii Five-0” parody are Billy Morrissette as callow Det. Tom McCormick and Peter Navy Tuiasosopo as former sumo wrestler Det. Al Hamoki.
Series, in for seven episodes, is nowhere as hip or funny as Ben Stiller’s show, which Fox canceled in wake of nowhere ratings, but has its moments.
Overall look of the show, under directors Penelope Spheeris and Greg Beeman, is crisp, clean and bright. Producers also gain points for making do without a laugh track.