Dan Vs. is a show that one of my friends works on, that’s consistently funny, entertaining and clever, and yet you’ve probably never heard of it. More than most of the shows I’ve written a “What Is” entry on, “What is Dan Vs.?” seems like an appropriate question, since underexposure is one of its biggest issues. The bottom line is that Dan Vs. is a show you should check out, if you haven’t already.

 

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, we need to go back in time to really understand where Dan Vs. comes from.

At least they advertise for the show on actual commercials that air on their network.

This version of The Hub logo depicts some of its shows major characters. Not pictured: Dan or anyone else from Dan Vs.

In 2010, Hasbro, Inc. (yes, the toy company) bought a 50% stake in Discovery Kids, a cable network aimed at kids with the goal of being educational. This new partnership culminated in the launch of a new cable network, The Hub, in October of that same year. While The Hub as a network seems to be struggling for viewership due to a lack of public exposure, you may know it as the home of shows like Transformers: Prime, G.I. Joe: Renegades and especially My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

 

Despite its lack of existing Hasbro property, or even a colon and subtitle, Dan Vs. premiered on The Hub on January 1st of 2011. Even within the self-contained televisual world that is The Hub, Dan Vs. doesn’t seem terribly well advertised, it’s not even listed on The Hub’s Wikipedia page. I suspect part of this problem is that it is allegedly one of only two shows on the young children and family oriented network to be rated TV-PG, and it’s a pretty well-earned rating.

 

Now to my knowledge, Dan Vs. isn’t in any danger of being cancelled, but it is struggling to find an audience. Despite its luxury of being on a cable channel, where shows are typically less likely to be cancelled than on network television, Dan Vs. is a show that feels more directed at teens or possibly even adults than kids, which seems like a problem since it airs on a relatively unknown children’s network. You don’t have to take my word for it, though, let’s take a look at the cast and premise, and you can decide for yourself.

 

He's no stranger to explosive either, though the government should probably have banned him from that explosives and hardware store by now.

Some of Dan's plans are better than others, but this picture does actually do a pretty good job of capturing his attitude.

Characters:

 

Dan (voiced by Curtis Armstrong):

 

Dan is an angry little misanthrope, whose unstable nature is easily provoked into relentless quests for vengeance. On some level, Dan strikes me as an everyman; he likes simple things like being able to watch his favorite TV show, or to go to the same sandwich shop he’s gone to for years. The things that tend to set him off are usually either high society types of things (he has already gone against Art, Dance and a Fancy Restaurant), or anything that would disrupt his routine. On one hand I think Dan may simply be misunderstood…of course on the other hand he’s an absolute menace to society whose short temper and lofty revenge schemes often don’t take the safety of others into account.

 

Chris (voiced by Dave Foley):

Chris is Dan’s best friend (somehow) and probably has been for as long as either of them can remember. Where Dan is short-tempered and strong willed, Chris is easy going and something of a pushover. The result is that Chris is often dragged along on Dan’s many vendettas whether he likes it or not. Chris’ primary interests seem to be snacking and not getting harmed or arrested, thus making his friendship with Dan troublesome. Chris often tries to ignore Dan’s pleas for assistance in his reckless quests for revenge, but Dan is as stubborn as he is persistent and usually coerces Chris somehow. Luckily for Chris, he has a very patient wife who frequently helps bail him out of trouble.

 

Elise (voiced by Paget Brewster):

 

Elise is Chris’ wife and, unbeknownst to both Chris and Dan, a combination secret scientist and super spy with genuine ninja training. In addition to being incredibly awesome and capable, Elise is probably the biggest wild card on the show. While Elise’s main goal is usually to look out for Chris’ safety, since he has trouble doing that for himself, sometimes she and Dan will actually team up against a foe for some reason and sometimes she’ll take on Dan to stop whatever he has planned. She’s a very interesting character whose reactions to Dan’s various vows of vengeance tell us a lot about her and her past.

 

They don't give those Jerk shirts out to just anybody! I'm pretty sure he had to win some horrible contest or something for it.

Uh oh, looks like someone's ruined Dan's day again. I hope it wasn't you, that Jerk shirt is practically a warning label.

Premise:

 

Normally I’d lead with the premise over the characters, but in the case of Dan Vs. I think having an understanding of the characters really helps you to understand the plot of the series.

 

In case you haven’t gathered already, the basic idea is fairly simple. Each episode starts with someone or something triggering Dan’s rage and causing him to vow revenge against the offending force by raising his fists to the sky and shouting its name. The title of each episode also comes in the form of Dan Vs. something.

 

The premise is kind of ridiculous, but it seems very appropriate. You see the world of Dan Vs. is very much a world of cartoon logic and fun. I’m not talking Looney Toons level of being crushed by an anvil and then accordioning yourself back to normal, though at times it can feel close to that level of wackiness. For example, early episodes include Dan Vs. The Wolf-Man, where Dan hunts for werewolves after an animal attack damaged his car and Dan Vs. the Dentist where Dan’s conspiracy theory about his dentist being a super-villain proved true.

 

It doesn't even have Dan's face or The Hub's logo on it. As I said this is the advertising that DOES exist. Not great.

Having seen Dan's character design as well as the show, I understand that this is a Dan Vs. billboard. However, if you were curious about watching the show, you'd have no idea when or where you could do so.

Now I said before that this is a show that struggles for an audience because it feels targeted towards an older audience, yet it airs on a children’s network that adults aren’t very likely to check out even it they’d heard of it or the show. To be honest, while this seems very much like a show I would watch and enjoy, I probably never would have seen it if it weren’t for my friends who works on the show, simply because I’ve never seen a commercial for it anywhere but The Hub, and some of the advertising that does exist for the show isn’t very helpful.
I do want to clarify, however, what I mean by targeted at adults. I know it’s not exactly uncommon for children’s shows to contain joke that work on multiple levels for adult viewers, but I feel as though Dan Vs. has an above average number of those types of jokes. Furthermore I often find myself wondering if kids can understand what happens on the show for many reasons. The relationships between characters can be a little complex at times, the vocabulary and the jokes in general seem like they could easily go over the heads of younger viewers.

 

Even the things Dan swears vengeance against sometimes feel like kids would have trouble following what’s going on, or why Dan would hate them. There’s an episode titled Dan Vs. Ye Olde Shakespeare Dinner Theatre that’s full of fun references to Shakespeare’s works that I would have been oblivious to as a child, though a friend argued to me that Dan Vs. Ye Olde Shakespeare Dinner Theatre could act as an introduction to Shakespeare for kids and thus be enlightening. I think there’s some validity to that argument, and it’s definitely possible I’m not giving kids today enough credit, though I do maintain that if you watch the show there will be a few things that make you wonder if it’s really a kids’ show.

 

This isn’t to say that the show is inappropriate for kids (although there was that one unfortunate incident with the grizzly bear that I refuse to discuss here), I simply feel that the show is more enjoyable for an audience who can fully appreciate what the writers put to page. No matter your age I recommend looking up The Hub and checking out Dan Vs., since it’s a very fun, unique, creative and consistently entertaining show. And hey, if you decide you don’t like it, you can always use this as your excuse to start your vendetta against me.

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