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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
Perception, time, and fashion just don’t mix. I remember (parts of) 1987 pretty well. I remember that my mates and I made fun of the clothes and haircuts of the sixties and early seventies, particularly once I found a pair of plaid bell bottoms and found any excuse to wear those with my Beatle boots. Modern clothes were just so much nicer. Then.
For example, Richard Dean Anderson was running around television looking trendy with what will now make any viewer cringe, with his hair in that Nik Kershaw mullet and rocking that unspeakable suit. His co-star Elyssa Davalos spends part of this story wearing this blue dress with shoulder pads that were molded from solid concrete. Given the choice, I’d stick with the bell bottoms, man.
This story is an unusual diversion into the sort of con artist games that they’d play on Mission: Impossible, using the apparently limitless resources of Pete and the Phoenix Foundation to set up an elaborate scheme to draw out a foreign diplomat who enjoys a little sideline in diamond heists. Davalos plays a new recurring character, Nikki Carpenter, in this story. She appears in six episodes this season, and it looks like we’ve picked just one more to check out in a couple of weeks. Telling you good readers this probably spoils one good twist in this story, though. Since we don’t absolutely know that Carpenter is telling our heroes the truth about herself, the presence of a mysterious man following her around is an amusing diversion, and makes it look like their con is about to collapse.
Our son enjoyed this one despite it having very few of the show’s patented improvised gadgets. I was afraid the con might have been a little over his head, but he followed it just fine. I was disappointed by some egregious and silly tough guy dialogue early on, in the wake of yet another childhood friend of a TV hero dying before the first commercial break, but the con was amusing, and, just like the best Mission: Impossible stories, it was very satisfying watching everything fall into place.
And so now back to the 1987-88 season and another ten episodes of MacGyver. I see that the production of MacGyver moved from Los Angeles to Vancouver between seasons two and three. Looking at eighties LA has been one of the more interesting things about even the weaker episodes, blast it. Fingers crossed!
This one, written by Stephen Kandel, at least starts like it means to be memorable. Mac is in the Alaskan wilderness doing the most difficult phase of a mapping project when he spots an abandoned freighter just chilling in an inlet on the river. It doesn’t look like anybody’s aboard, so what’s going on?
Sadly, what starts intriguing, and includes one effective shock scene when a window gets broken, rapidly deteriorates into an inevitable Scooby Doo plot. It’s obvious to adult eyes where this mess is going, but our son is young enough to have enjoyed the shocks, even if the unmasking left him a little discouraged.
For Jack Dalton’s second appearance on MacGyver, they put together a showreel of all the many occasions he’d got our hero into some scrape or other. Of course, there was only one previous episode from which to draw this footage, so they reordered the material to make it look and feel like it came from a whole host of other adventures. MacGyver’s narration goes “He was always doing this, and he was always doing that,” and if you’ve actually seen “Jack of Lies”, your eyes are bound to roll. Is this supposed to fool anybody?
The answer, amazingly, is yes. Marie volunteered that this was the first episode she saw with the character, and she convinced herself there was a pile of episodes that she had missed! Since I’ve been a little hard on this show for repurposing footage, I guess I should give them a good mark for doing it well enough to get away with it. Although they really, really missed a trick by not giving the actors some different clothes and faking a couple of new scenes from previous adventures. Sure, this is the old guerrilla filmmaker in me talking, but when they had the cameras set up with at least two police cars and uniformed extras for the on-location scene at the end, they should have just given Richard Dean Anderson and Bruce McGill each new shirts and come up with some quickie dialogue about the mess they were in this time. What would that have taken? Twenty extra minutes?
Speaking of shirts, Lee Purcell is in this story as a CIA agent called Shadow – yes, her partner was named Light – and she has the two least suitable outfits for secret agenting you’ve ever seen. We meet her in a PG-rated okay-for-eight-pm strip club wearing something not entirely unlike what Vanity wore in the “Nasty Girl” video, and for the following morning’s adventure, she’s wearing an awfully 1980s church outfit, a conservative blue dress completely unsuitable for climbing under chain link fences or getting thrust into garbage trucks by thugs with pistols. She’s not dressed like she’s going into the field on assignment, but like she’s having a meeting with the new district assistant manager of direct sales for Amway. No wonder the wardrobe manager couldn’t find extra shirts for Anderson and McGill if he or she couldn’t even find a pair of blue jeans for the female lead!
That’s all from MacGyver for now, but we’ll be back with a look at some selections from season three in June. Stay tuned!