If you suffer from a fear of heights to any great degree, you can expect to watch a lot of Dangerman: The Incredible Mr. Goodwin through your trembling fingers.
This new BBC America summer series, which premieres tonight, is built around the gasp-inducing exploits of Jonathan Goodwin, a Welsh escapologist who became fascinated with Harry Houdini as a child and has since turned that obsession into a career.
Each hour-long episode features several segments – some filmed in America, others in the United Kingdom – in which Goodwin takes already-tough challenges and makes them even harder. His opening stunt in the premiere, for example, finds him hanging upside-down by his feet from a trapeze suspended under a helicopter that is slowly ascending from a parking lot. His hands are cuffed behind his back, but the real danger comes from the 200-foot rope attached to his belt, connected at the other end to a car below. If Goodwin can’t free his hands and release the rope from his belt before the helicopter reaches a height of 200 feet, the rope will jerk him from the trapeze and send him splatting to the ground far below.
Later in the episode, Goodwin dangles by his hands without any artificial support from the roof of a skyscraper, then has his assistant/witness roll a dice. The number that comes up will determine how many fingers of each hand he can use to sustain his grip. I won’t spoil the answer, but suffice it to say it is well short of five, trust me.
Goodwin also seems to enjoy incorporating the odd deadly critter into his stunts, like the one where he has his mouth duct-taped shut with a live scorpion inside it, then tries to free himself from handcuffs while a lovely blonde assistant slaps him in the face every 10 seconds with increasing force. For the finale, he takes a “buried alive” stunt that Houdini himself abandoned after three unsuccessful attempts, lying in a coffin that is sealed and then buried under five tons of dirt, but only after submitting to a rattlesnake’s venomous bite, which gives Goodwin 20 minutes to escape and reach the antidote he requires.
Needless to say, Dangerman comes with a prominent disclaimer urging viewers not to try any of Goodwin’s stunts at home. Some of them come with such a technical degree of difficulty that I don’t think amateurs would be able to attempt them, but in the case of other feats, yes, gentle reader, do not smash a wine bottle with a hammer, then chew it up and swallow it, as Goodwin does in tonight’s episode.