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MacGyver 3.20 – Murderers’ Sky

There’s a great bit in this story that emphasizes how different the business world was in the eighties. MacGyver has a lead on a villain who’d jumped him earlier, thanks to a distinctive wrench used by workers in a shipping yard. Some random security guy in an office that was blown up at the beginning of the episode goes to a computer terminal that really shouldn’t be plugged in at the moment, presses about six buttons, and our hero has the guy’s photo, name, and address in a hilarious screen-filling image. These days, the guy’d have a legitimate complaint with his HR department, wouldn’t he?

Another thing that was different in the eighties: ninjas. Tia Carrere plays a submachine gun-packing ninja with all the requisite crazy ninja weapons and gear and insanely overcomplicated ninja traps, including a birdcage that explodes with poisoned needles, and a cobra just in case that doesn’t work. I’d say the writer’s grandkids really enjoyed playing with GI Joe toys.

The writer, incidentally, was Hollywood veteran Herman Miller, who had earlier created that iconic early seventies show Kung Fu. Keye Luke, who had played in that series, has a small part here, along with some other familiar faces like Soon-Tek Oh and Al Leong. The highlight of the episode is a genuinely great fight scene in a car park about halfway through the proceedings. Our son was a little more thrilled than I was, but, you know kids and ninjas.

That’s all for MacGyver for now, but we’ll select ten episodes from the show’s fourth season and give them a look in August. Stay tuned!

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MacGyver 3.19 – The Endangered

As you might expect from any adventure show, the hero has a lot more incredibly important old girlfriends than anybody in the real world. In Peter Filardi’s “The Endangered,” MacGyver has such a close call on an assignment, only saved from death by the gunman’s pistol jamming, that he decides he doesn’t want his old college sweetie Karen to be the one that got away any longer. Oblivious to the reality that she moved on long ago, he drops in / imposes on her in extreme upstate Washington, where she works as a ranger in a huge national park that borders Canada. They run afoul of three poachers who shoot Karen and then start tracking them through the wilderness to finish the job.

Typically, the usual TV adventure hero isn’t shown to be as downright wrongheaded about his old romances as MacGyver is here. He says that he wouldn’t have come to the park had Karen told him about her current boyfriend. You can find plenty of examples of a character looking up an old flame to find that she has married or has a strong relationship, but there’s something a little awkward and different about the way MacGyver just pathetically tries to tell himself that this can’t be true. I liked the honesty. The character feels more like a real, dumb human than a superhuman TV character here.

Karen is played by Moira Walley, who racked up a few dozen guest star parts in the eighties and nineties. Credited today as Moira Walley-Beckett, she’s principally a producer and writer, and worked on ABC’s Pan Am, which I enjoyed more than you did, along with Breaking Bad and the CBC’s current “Green Gables” adaptation Anne. Don S. Davis plays one of the poachers. This is Davis’s other acting part in the third season of MacGyver, and it’s a much meatier role than the one we saw previously.

I was more impressed by the production of “The Endangered” than the script, because the story requires the villains to be tactical but not strategic. There is no way in any universe that such intelligent and resourceful men could possibly expect to get away with the absolutely idiotic decisions they make. I just didn’t believe in them, but I enjoyed watching the story unfold in this glorious, rain-soaked location. As for our son, he has lots of questions about hunting and poaching and conservation, and I hope we can assure him that nobody who enjoys the sport of hunting is anywhere near as ruthless and/or stupid as these guys.

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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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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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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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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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MacGyver 3.9 – Hell Week

I’m very surprised by just how bad the prints of this show are, particularly this season. True, the show is thirty-plus years old, but I am still startled by how poorly Paramount kept up with these before releasing the DVDs. These DVDs look like somebody’s old home-recorded VHS tapes on six-hour speed. The funny thing is that the first disc in each set has some ads for other Paramount releases like Laverne & Shirley and The Brady Bunch, with the announcer telling us these have been digitally remastered. They put a lot more care into Happy Days than MacGyver.

Anyway, as for the content, this one is one of MacGyver‘s stories about social issues, in this case a father and son who can’t get along, leading the kid, a college student struggling to live up to his dad’s Nobel prize-winning reputation, to hit the booze and take speed. And build a bomb and install it right underneath the nuclear physics lab. As kids do.

Before this one gets heavy with the Afterschool Specialisms, it does have a very amusing scene during the college’s annual Barricades competition, where the undergraduates build elaborate Rube Goldberg machines to keep people from opening the doors of their dorm rooms. Bit convenient that Western Tech keeps a co-ed hall for the physics majors so the competition can take place in one corridor, but it’s an amusing scene.

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MacGyver 3.7 – Jack in the Box

Jack Dalton’s back in a by-the-numbers story about corrupt “failure to communicate” wardens and sheriffs in “the deep south,” without a single plot beat that wasn’t visible from space. British Columbia does a passable job in this episode pretending to be Arkansas, which is more than I can say for the actors and actresses who are pretending to live in that state. I was annoyed just being in the same room with this one.

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