MacGyver 3.14 – The Odd Triple

Meh. I picked this one because I saw Judy Geeson, who had appeared in dozens of British shows in the sixties and seventies, was in the cast. She started showing up on American dramas like Murder, She Wrote and Hotel in the eighties. Here, she’s cast as a French con artist. Is she going to ensure that Jack Dalton’s latest get-rich-quick scheme will blow up in his face again? Of course!

I dunno. Dr. Plausibility had a whole lot of problems with this script, particularly with an unbelievable French police inspector. There are certainly a few fun moments. Our son absolutely loved MacGyver’s nitrogen-powered battering ram, and I adored the camera lingering on Richard Dean Anderson’s long, long slow burn of disbelief as he realizes that he’s letting himself fall for this nonsense again. Writer Stephen Kandel has constructed better stories than this before, but it sparked a few smiles.

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The Avengers 6.13 – Get-A-Way!

I was mentioning last time out how we got used to some pretty beat-up prints of the Tara King episodes, and were always glad when the A&E network showed one that was an upgrade. With that in mind, “Get-A-Way!” looks particularly sublime compared to the old print that they used. Since the story is actually kind of repetitive, it’s one that I shrugged about and didn’t revisit very much. It’s nice to see it with fresh eyes, and looking so excellent.

Our son really enjoyed this one, and was full of ideas about how the three prisoners, enemy agents being detained by the most incompetent guards in Britain, were vanishing. I was underwhelmed by Philip Levene using the hoary old plot of two of Steed’s oldest friends being targeted, but I enjoyed seeing the guest stars Peter Bowles, Neil Hallett, and Andrew Keir.

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The Twilight Zone 5.7 – The Old Man in the Cave

Speaking of MacGyver, here’s the actor who played his grandfather, John Anderson, along with James Coburn and John Marley, in a 1963 Twilight Zone written by Rod Serling from a story by Henry Slesar. It’s an agreeably bleak look at the grim, post-apocalyptic future of 1974, but the twist is so remarkably dated that this is the sort of story that can only have been told in old books and television. It’s fair to say that I didn’t see it coming; it’s difficult to remember how frightened people used to be of ordinary technology that Anderson’s character would want to keep it locked away from the rubes. Our son was absolutely baffled, and left only with a dislike of Coburn’s very “mean” character.

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MacGyver 3.13 – Thin Ice

Meh. I picked this one because I saw Martin Milner, who had played Tod in one of my all-time favorite American shows, Route 66, was in the cast. But Milner’s barely in this. It’s an Afterschool Special with MacGyver coaching a college hockey team in Minnesota and teaching a hotshot the value of teamwork. Nice to see some hockey at least. I’m gonna take our son to Knoxville for an Ice Bears game one of these days.

Steve Armitage, the longtime, legendary host of the CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, does the play-by-plays in the role of the local FM announcer for this sleepy, one-horse college town. It’s every bit as goofy as it would have been to hire Keith Jackson to play the announcer for the Bad News Bears.

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The Avengers 6.12 – Split!

The six episodes that followed “The Forget-Me-Knot” were originally shown in the United States with this fun and silly title sequence with a cartoon crosshairs following our heroes around an orange room. They were later removed and replaced with the second Tara King sequence, the one with the suits of armor in a field. For some reason, they missed out on “Split!”, and it has the correct opening sequence. Sadly, the closing credits are the ones with the hands doing card tricks that should only be on the ends of the 26 suits of armor episodes. One of these days, somebody will get all these right on DVD.

Incidentally, there’s a third title sequence – well, third-ish – that is even more common to American viewers. Somebody cut the fifty second suits of armor sequence down to twenty-five seconds so that the ABC network could cram in one additional commercial. When A&E was running the Tara King episodes in the early nineties, we always sat up when we got the full version. We knew instantly that we were in for a better experience. Most of A&E’s copies of the Tara King stories were grotty, beat-up old 16mm prints, but there were a few that came from a fresh 35mm source and looked comparatively glorious. I remember that “Take-Over” was one of these. They all still had between one and three minutes of edits, but while they weren’t uncut, at least the full version of the credits let us know that it was going to look great.

As for tonight’s content, Brian Clemens’ “Split!” is a very entertaining story about a supposedly dead enemy agent who still seems to be active more than four years after Steed shot him through the heart. The cast includes familiar faces like Bernard Archard, Christopher Benjamin, Nigel Davenport, and Julian Glover, and the villains are so diabolical that our son got incredibly ticked off and outraged about their plans for Tara. He insists that he knows that she wasn’t in real trouble, just that these bad guys are much more cruel than he is used to seeing.

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The Twilight Zone 5.6 – Living Doll

This wasn’t the first time that we went into a celebrated and famous installment of The Twilight Zone, this one written by Charles Beaumont, and I ended up loathing it. Yet again, it’s a trip back to the weird, stupid, and bizarre days when completely incompatible people got married for God-knows-why.

I started with a grain of sympathy for Telly Savalas’s character, because it’s strongly implied that he did not know that his wife had a daughter from a previous marriage, and his new(ish) wife deliberately hid this, surprising him with “two for the price of one.” He is apparently unable to have children, and she judges everything he does as resentment. But he’s far from sympathetic. That grain I had dwindled and died pretty quickly as his already aggressive and unlikable character descends into irrationality, and when he privately smiles when nobody can find his stepdaughter’s Talky Tina doll, which he’d thrown out, I was ready for Talky Tina to go all Chucky-from-Child’s Play on him.

There’s value in old TV like The Twilight Zone even when it doesn’t entertain. It’s a window to the awful world that the Greatest Generation and the Boomers perpetuated, where it was preferable to be miserable together than either happily divorced or “living in sin.” As fiction, it’s impossible for me to look at this as anything other than the story of two horrible adults getting what they deserve. As history, it’s another reminder that the “good ol’ days” were often incredibly rotten.

On the other hand, our son at least seemed to enjoy the amusing shock of the stepdad answering that telephone call at the commercial break…

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MacGyver 3.10 – Blow Out

“Blow Out” is a considerably more interesting installment of the show than the last one we watched. It’s a more traditional heroes versus terrorists story, building up to a hidden bomb and no time to defuse it. It’s the fourth appearance of the Nikki Carpenter character played by Elyssa Davalos, but despite coming on board as a full-time employee / operative of the Phoenix Foundation, she’d be written out a couple of months later.

Right at the end, in a very small part, eagle-eyed viewers might catch Don S. Davis as the driver of a cement truck. Davis was also Dana Elcar’s stunt double this season, and it turns out he plays another character in another episode that we’ll watch in a couple of weeks. Ten years later, Davis and Richard Dean Anderson would star together in Stargate SG-1, which was also filmed in Vancouver.

But the most memorable moment watching this one with our son came with a little trick that MacGyver does to keep track of a truck while tailing it from a safe distance. Yesterday, as regular readers know, we watched The Avengers for the first time, and our son first saw the cute scene where Captain America recognizes what somebody means when they mention flying monkeys and then enters meme immortality:

MacGyver’s trick involves a can of paint with a hole punched in the bottom, allowing Nikki and him to “follow the yellow brick road.” Our son said, “Hey! That’s a thing from The Wizard of Oz!” We paused the show and reminded him of the bit in The Avengers. The cute character moments were kind of lost among all that movie’s mayhem, but I couldn’t resist. But he kept paying close attention. The trail leads them to the “industrial sector,” and MacGyver says that it’s not quite the Emerald City. “That’s also a reference to The Wizard of Oz,” he said with a huge grin.

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Pom Poko (1994)

The great people at Fathom Events have been sending a monthly cartoon feature from Japan’s Studio Ghibli to theaters nationwide, a mix of both dubbed and subtitled selections. Today, we went to see Pom Poko, a 1994 movie directed by Isao Takahata, who passed away earlier this year.

There’s a hint of Watership Down in this story about magical raccoons trying to defend their forest against real estate developers in Japan, but this is a very different, and much lighter experience! Many of the raccoons have the power to change their form, and they try lots of amusing tricks to drive families and construction crews off their land, but their successes are all short-lived, and they might need to look into the strategies suggested by some wily foxes. If you can’t beat ’em…

The dub of this film features some unmistakable voices. The movie is narrated by Maurice LaMarche, and Clancy Brown plays one of the short-tempered raccoons. That’s right, Lex Luthor and the Brain teamed up. Somebody should make a movie about that. The movie’s sweet, but very long at a full two hours. Our son said that he liked it, but he doesn’t know that he needs to see it again. I kind of agree, actually. A good experience, but not a great one.

Click the image above for more anime films and features coming to US theaters this year, including Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies in August and My Neighbor Totoro in September!

Image credit: All Your Anime

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