Monthly Archives: June 2018

MacGyver 3.18 – Rock the Cradle

“Rock the Cradle” is certainly one of the most entertaining and fun episodes that we’ve watched so far. In the ongoing saga of Jack Dalton starting his air cargo business, he’s finally got a plane. Unfortunately, it’s one with a dud engine and faulty landing gear, leading to a first-act midair crisis that reminded me of the “opening gambits” from the first thirteen episodes.

Mitzi Kapture, the future star of Silk Stalkings, guest stars as a waitress on the run from counterfeiters, and she dumps a baby – Jack Jr.?! – with Dalton along with $95,000 in phony money before going into hiding. There are the expected mid-eighties “fellows can’t take care of a baby” gags, including MacGyver diapering the kid with duct tape, but it’s honestly better than I can make it sound, thanks in part to Richard Dean Anderson and Bruce McGill’s terrific squabbling chemistry. We all enjoyed it, and it even ends with a perfectly in-character hockey gag.

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The Avengers 6.14 – Have Guns – Will Haggle

In previous entries, I’d mentioned that John Bryce had been given the reins of The Avengers, cast Linda Thorson, and worked on three episodes. The first of these was called “Invitation to a Killing,” written by Donald James and filmed in the fall of 1967. Interestingly, all the available information we have says that this was a ninety-minute episode. I’m not sure whether this means it had as much material as a two-part adventure, or if it was seventy-five minutes of story with room for ads.

The full version of “Invitation to a Killing” has never surfaced – in public, anyway – and is presumed to have been destroyed. Some of the material from the episode, most obviously the scenes featuring Tara with blonde hair and a garish pink coat, was repurposed for “Have Guns – Will Haggle,” with reshoots taking place about five months after the original story was made. It’s a little more complicated than just saying all the stuff with Tara as a blonde was shot first and all the scenes where she’s a brunette came later, but it is interesting that the only actors with speaking parts who appear with her as a brunette are Patrick Macnee and just one of the guest stars, Jonathan Burn. (We noted that some of the exteriors, where Linda Thorson is wearing that totally fab and mod plaid sixties minidress, were very clearly filmed in the winter. She must have been freezing!)

Outside of all the production curiosities, this is far from the best Avengers episode. John Bryce and Donald James seem to have been fulfilling that apparent remit to produce a more conventional action-adventure series, and this is a fairly ordinary story of stolen rifles, mercenaries, and an auction among disgraced colonels and warlords hoping to use the guns to start coups d’état in trouble spots around the globe. It’s not bad, just ordinary, and doesn’t have that odd Avengers spark. Among the guests, Nicola Pagett plays the chief villain, and Timothy Bateson, who we’ll see again in a couple of nights, is an oddball ballistics expert.

I thought that the most interesting scene, by far, was the opening, in which the stuntmen playing the mercenaries use a trampoline to go over a barbed wire fence. Our son enjoyed both the climax and the tag scene. He got very excited and worried as the lit fuse to some ready-to-blast gelignite burns down, and loved the silly comedy of Steed and Tara receiving an unexpected and very hungry gift from the grateful president of an African nation.

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Revenge of the Sith (2005)

Star Wars is rarely far from my mind these days, in part because I have a seven year-old son who yammers about it constantly, and in part because people who call themselves fans can’t go nine straight days without doing something so silly or stupid that most people wish they’d never heard of Star Wars.

For posterity, the most recent attack on common sense has been a coterie of dingbats who scheme to remake The Last Jedi to some different set of specifications. A couple of weeks ago, it was the news that actress Kelly Marie Tran had deleted her Instagram posts after concentrated harassment from bigots and misogynists.

But it’s been that way for years, hasn’t it? At some point around the time that Revenge of the Sith was released, one of the Star Wars novelists rang up Lucasfilm to get a detail for one of her books. As I recall, she wanted to know how many clone troopers were involved in the siege of such-n-such. She was told that it was a million, and fourteen readers rioted because that was too few soldiers. The author was villified; people made little computer animations depicting her as a lizard-alien peddling false statistics.

And all I always think is, why do these movies make people so hateful? I don’t get it. Sometimes they’re stupid, and sometimes the acting is wretched, but if you get disappointed with a movie, as is pretty easy to do with the prequels, just tune it out and watch something different.

I tried working out a Star Wars timeline for my son to follow it. I figure it as about 67 years between The Phantom Menace and The Last Jedi. For him, it’s all one story, all to be explored as one, and he was delighted with it. Maybe it’s because he doesn’t have any preconceived notions and he hasn’t formed a bigoted opinion about what skin color the heroes are meant to have. And I kind of enjoyed working it out, whether or not my sums are right.

It’s a fun little universe to think about and play with. It’s inspired at least one really entertaining video game (Shadows of the Empire for the N64) and one thunderously wonderful comic (Death, Lies, and Treachery by John Wagner and Cam Kennedy), plus sixty gajillion cartoons and books I haven’t seen. It’s Star Wars and it’s meant to be fun. Maybe if it stops being fun, its “fans” should go watch something else.

Revenge of the Sith, meanwhile, has the terrific scene where R2-D2 sets a couple of robots on fire. Our son was thrilled to meet General Grievous, and hated seeing Anikin turn to the Dark Side, and didn’t quite understand why there was “all that metal” on the lava planet. He loved it and wants to see the next one. I hope he never does anything so idiotic as harass an actress on Instagram.

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The Twilight Zone 5.13 – Ring-a-Ding Girl

This is really quite strange. I have no idea why I picked “Ring-a-Ding Girl,” a fifth season Twilight Zone written by Earl Hamner Jr., for our blog. I am unfamiliar with any of the actors, and the episode doesn’t seem to have any real fame or notoriety. I’m very glad I did, though, especially because after the last two disappointing installments, I was ready for a winner, and this was a good one.

The episode stars Maggie McNamara as a Hollywood starlet who comes roaring back to her small hometown after receiving strange visions from a ring that her fan club has mailed her. She seems to be showing off, acting like a stage brat – maybe “diva,” with all the negative connotations that word used to have – and suggesting that everybody cancel the annual picnic to come see her in the high school auditorium instead.

I didn’t see where this was going until very near the end. I was curious why she didn’t try to share her premonitions with her sister, but it all ends with a wonderfully inevitable finale. It reminded me of some earlier Zone installments that had their origins in old stories, like “The Hitch-Hiker” and “Twenty-two.”

I was sad to read that Maggie McNamara retired from acting less than a year after this episode aired. She moved to New York and worked as a typist in temporary jobs for another fourteen years while occasionally trying her hand at screenwriting. Sadly, she ended her life in 1978. That’s a shame, I really enjoyed her in this. She was in Otto Preminger’s 1953 film The Moon is Blue, which was extraordinarily controversial at the time and was banned in several cities because the characters used shocking, rude words like “virgin” in it.

That’s all from The Twilight Zone for now, but we’ll continue looking at a few more stories from season five in July. Stay tuned!

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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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