MacGyver: Season 3
People in general but specifically Americans have always admired a man that can live by his wits, the rugged individual that doesn’t need weapons or force to extract himself form danger but one who can think his way out. The penultimate of this class of person with little doubt the television character MacGyver. Working for the Phoenix Foundation, a group dedicated to helping people, MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) treks around the world saving the innocent, protecting freedom and saving beautiful women. MacGyver is a man of reason that is well versed in many scientific principles which he uses to extricate himself from the dastardly plots the weekly bad guys devise to kill him. As a kid I always loved the television series Mister Wizard, a fatherly gentleman that each week would amaze the audience with a demonstration of some scientifically based trick or wonder. MacGyver has taken this format and incorporated it into an action series, and as unlikely as the combination sounds with was one of the most successful formats in television history. MacGyver has a great distain for weapons of any kind. Unlike just about every other character in an action series he doesn’t carry a gun and even if one becomes available refrains from using it. His plethora of scientific knowledge permits him to devise on the spot, with materials he finds at hand to create something that will go boom, flash light or otherwise distract or disable his foes. For the fans of this show these tricks have been affectionately known as ‘MacGyverism’. They were based on actual working principles although the writers are careful to omit key steps to prevent imitation. Considering this series was first shown in the mid eighties it was refreshing to see something on television that should thinking is better than fighting. This was a time when America was faced with financial woes; war was looming and generally thinks where bad off for most. MacGyver showed that imagination could reign, intelligence was more important than sheer brute force; it gave us hope while entertaining us each week.
Although MacGyver may seem like a loner he has friends that rally around to help out. Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar) his is boss at the Phoenix Foundation and Mac’s best friend. Although a little bit older Pete is always willing to do whatever it takes to help MacGyver, usually he does arrive after MacGyver already has won the day. Every good hero needs a sidekick and for MacGyver this role is served by Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill). Jack is a pilot whose endeavors usually are a bit on the illegal side. He constantly finds himself in trouble and looks to his buddy MacGyver to rescue him. Like any good sidekick Jack offers a contrast to the always good hero. Has a young, virile man it si only natural that MacGyver have some female in his life. In season three she is Nikki Carpenter (Elyssa Davalos). Unlike the previous seasons Penny Parker, the ditzy female friend Nikki is self assured, mysterious and a perfect match in many ways for MacGyver. Of course we also need an arch villain to give MacGyver trouble again and again, for this we have Murdoc (Michael Des Barres) a man who seems to live just to rid his world of MacGyver.
Many of the episodes of this third season have a theme that is very appropriate for today’s world, terrorism. MacGyver is often called upon to make sure some splinter group’s plan for mass destruction is spoiled. Appropriate for the mid eighties is the recurring theme of The Soviet Union and the cold war. In the two part season opener MacGyver must help an old flame who just happens to be a Soviet spy trying to escape the clutches of the Evil Empire. The KGB, who seems to be everywhere, kidnaps her and MacGyver must figure out how to get her back. Needless to say MacGyver’s missions are varied. In another episode he must help save an undercover law enforcement agent from the mob. In another episode MacGyver faces a ghost ship, runaway girl and even big foot. There are even some environmental themes present as MacGyver rushes to save some mountain streams from pollution at the hands of a character who calls himself ‘Earthquake’. Yes, no matter what form evil takes MacGyver is there.
Richard Dean Anderson is perfectly cast in the title role. Three generations of women in my family find him handsome in a smart, boyish fashion. Men can admire him for with intelligence; he gives hopes to young science geeks everywhere that even they can get the girl. Anderson is one of the better actors on television and remains popular today due to his role in Stargate SG-1. Although he prefers to think his way out of situations he is more than capable when it comes to trading punches with the villains. Considering this role has to combine action and smarts few actors could have succeeded as well as Anderson did. Dana Elcar is a character actor of exceptional talent whose contribution to the series may have been somewhat underplayed but vital no the less. Elyssa Davalos gives a partner to MacGyver with a little touch of romantic interest. She is more than able to combine a little girl next door with the femme fatale. Bruce McGill adds a lot to the episodes that feature him. He is the bad boy that many women are attracted to yet there are McGill plays Jack as a person who is basically a good guy just caught in shady circumstances. He has great chemistry with Anderson as they portray friends who see the world differently.
Paramount could have paid more attention to the technical specifications of this box set. The full frame video is marred with pixilation and noise. The color palette is a bit on the faded side. The audio is presented in Dolby 2.0 and has a limited dynamic range with very little channel separation. Despite the flaws the material holds its own and makes the set worthwhile. As with the previous two seasons there are no extras provided. A little behind the scenes look would have been nice to view. Even though you will not use this set to show off your home theater it is some of the best entertainment ever presented on television. With so many bland shows on television it is refreshing to have some quality to watch.