Danger Man (ITV, 1960-67) presaged the 1960s spy boom, pre-dating James Bond's first big screen adventure, Dr No (d. Terence Young, 1962), by two years. But the difference between TV's John Drake, played by New York-born Irish actor Patrick McGoohan, and 007 couldn't be more marked. At McGoohan's insistence, Drake never got involved with women and generally avoided using guns. As a practicing Catholic, McGoohan felt explicit sexual content and excessive violence were unacceptable, a conviction that allegedly resulted in him turning down the part of James Bond.
These self-imposed restrictions helped create a hero that became hugely popular around the world, partly because his character was unavoidably counter to the traditional spy image of girls and guns. The morally complex NATO agent turned McGoohan into a star, although slick production values and tightly written scripts clearly contributed to the show's international success. For US audiences, the programme was more prosaically retitled Secret Agent, in the process robbing the series of part of its personality.
Danger Man first appeared as 30 minute episodes, and was created by Ralph Smart, who had previously produced The Invisible Man (ITV, 1958-59). The show's success saw it return in hour-long installments in 1964 and briefly venture into colour for a fourth season, but just two episodes were completed before McGoohan resigned from the role, claiming he was tired of being identified with Drake.