Classic TV with ‘Danger Man’; US Open Tennis without fans

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‘DANGER MAN’ ON AMAZON PRIME VIDEO

“Every government has its secret service branch. America, the CIA; France, Deuxieme Bureau; England, MI5. A messy job? Well, that’s when they usually call on me or someone like me. Oh yes, my name is Drake, John Drake.”

That’s the introduction, voiced by Patrick McGoohan, to each episode of the early Sixties spy thriller series “Danger Man,” also known as “Secret Agent,” now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

It’s interesting how McGoohan introduces himself as Drake, John Drake, in the style of James Bond before Agent 007 introduced himself in 1962’s “Dr. No” at a gambling table to the fetching Sylvia Trench (Eunice Gayson).

Before achieving cult status as Number Six in the series “The Prisoner,” Patrick McGoohan carried out espionage exploits in exotic locales around the globe in “Danger Man.”

A charismatic agent much like Roger Moore’s Simon Templar in “The Saint” series, McGoohan’s John Drake relied even more on his ability to be quick with his sharp wit and innate intelligence to deal with a variety of intense conflicts on the international scene.

A fascinating aspect to this spy series that predates James Bond and the plethora of films and TV series that followed in the same genre is that John Drake would routinely resolve any problems without the use of a gun.

The absence of personal firepower in no way turned Drake’s exploits to be devoid of action. On the contrary, Drake is very adept with his fists when necessary, while others may resort to shooting one another.

Another consideration is that the John Drake adventures are straight secret agent stories that forego the tongue-in-cheek facets that creeped into the Bond films and defined TV shows like “The Man From U.N.C.L.E.”

An appealing aspect of each standalone half-hour episode is that Drake is assigned a mission that gets settled with tidy resolution involving a compelling cast of international characters.

The fast pace of each episode, imaginative plots, snappy dialogue and credible characters for the most part makes “Danger Man” must-see television for anyone that would enjoy serious spy escapades.

Besides, Patrick McGoohan is so perfect for the role that binge-watching “Danger Man” is not an unreasonable proposition.

NOTES ON THE US OPEN TENNIS TOURNAMENT

The annual US Open grand slam tennis tournament that takes place in New York’s Flushing Meadows is underway this year, albeit without some major players like Rafael Nadal, the 2019 US Open men’s champion, and Ashleigh Barty, last year’s French Open women’s champion.

Due to pandemic concerns, Nadal and Barty opted out of traveling to the United States, and so did other lesser known players. A major star and winner of five US Open titles, Roger Federer is not playing because he’s rehabbing a knee injury.

For the past 15 years, we have covered the US Open in person, but that was not to be this year. The only media personnel in attendance are apparently the few working for broadcast entities that televise the matches, including ESPN here at home.

In the past we have focused in large measure on the wonderful fan experience of the US Open, noting the excitement of tennis activity on various courts and the culinary delights not found in other sports.

The experience is just not the same watching matches on television. Being there in person has so much energy that even the players are certain to get a vigorous boost from spectators.

We can be grateful that the US Open has not resorted to having idiotic cardboard cutouts of fans. Yet, there are a few lucky spectators, namely family members and tournament workers who might otherwise have been pressed into service for the fans.

Not surprisingly, the pandemic not only deterred a number of players from entering the tournament, but contact tracing created a bit of a stir for French player Adrian Mannarino who had been in contact with fellow countryman Benoit Paire, who tested positive for COVID-19.

Mannarino, ranked 35th for the Open, was scheduled to play German Alexander Zverez, ranked 5th, for an afternoon match, until apparently New York State health officials said the Frenchman shouldn’t play.

Meanwhile, the USTA public relations department issued an email statement on the situation that was rather cryptic, “The Zverez-Mannarino match was delayed while a collaborative dialogue with health officials was conducted today.”

The enigmatic part of the message was stated in these terms: “Given the sensitivity of medical issues involved, the USTA is not able to provide further details.” It was left to the players themselves to fill in the blanks, as if anyone couldn’t guess it was virus-related.

The American men are not off to a good start. John Isner, ranked 16th, did not survive the first round. Taylor Fritz, was bounced in the third round.

As for the American women, last year’s teen sensation Coco Gauff, who amazed with a third-round victory, faltered right out of the gate. At this writing, Serena Williams, win or lose, is the one to watch.

Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.