Case Number 08147


Paramount // 1988 // 916 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // December 6th, 2005

The Charge

He acts fast and thinks faster.

Opening Statement

MacGyver was my favorite show of the late '80s/early '90s. Having reviewed Season 2 and Season 3 previously, I was a bit disappointed to realize that my beloved series has not aged well. Though there was still hope: a trend of steadily cooler episodes as the seasons progressed. Let's see if this fourth installment continues the up tick.

Facts of the Case

Season Four of MacGyver continues the tradition of self-contained episodes, with the only running theme being Mac's employment by the omnipresent Phoenix Foundation (which, if MacGyver were set in a dystopian future, the Phoenix Foundation would be the ruling corporation, subverting all to its tyrannical will) and his unbalanced friendship with Pete Thornton, who he's always rescuing from capture.

This season is also the shortest of the four, clocking in at only 18 episodes. Throughout our time with MacGyver this go-round, we'll reconnect with guest-star mainstays such as Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill) and Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher, looking foine), as well as the always loveable Murdoc (Michael Des Barres) and a brand new villain who will pop up every now and then in future episodes. All 18 episodes are broken up among five discs:

Disc One
* "The Secret of Parker House"
* "Blood Brothers"
* "The Outsiders"
* "On a Wing and a Prayer"

Disc Two
* "Collision Course"
* "The Survivors"
* "Deadly Dreams"
* "Ma Dalton"

Disc Three
* "Cleo Rocks"
* "Fraternity of Thieves"
* "The Battle of Tommy Giordano"
* "The Challenge"

Disc Four
* "Runners"
* "Gold Rush"
* "The Invisible Killer"
* "Brainwashed"

Disc Five
* "Easy Target"
* "Renegade"
* "Unfinished Business"

The Evidence

MacGyver: the bane of evil white guys all around the world. Seriously, it seems like all the terrorists and evildoers and thugs that Mac encounters and eventually incapacitates with a branch are comprised of balding, middle-aged white dudes. Hey nothing's wrong with that, but if you're Caucasian and in your forties, and have hatched a diabolical plot to blow up a city or sell crack to street kids -- watch the #$%& out! MacGyver's on the case!

Of the three seasons of MacGyver I've reviewed, this one is easily the most entertaining and closer to the fond memories I have of the show. Yes there is still lots of cheesiness at play here, and the life lessons MacGyver imparts to troubled youth/his pal Jack/the ex-girlfriend/Pete Thornton are as heavy-handed as ever. But there are some great episodes in the bunch, and that lifts this season above its predecessors.

And the body count is much higher in season four than anywhere else. True, MacGyver never directly causes someone's demise, but the villains are much nastier and eager to dispatch any extra that crosses their path. I was actually surprised at some of the violence at play here (e.g. in "Deadly Dreams" some poor schmo gets a fire-axe to the chest in vivid detail). But that makes the comeuppance MacGyver dishes out that much more satisfying ("I see your fire-axe and raise you a cross-wired fuse box that will blow up in your face! Boo-yah!!!")

So here are a few of my favorite episodes from season four. See if these sound familiar:

* "Cleo Rocks"
It's a Murdoc episode, which is always entertaining, and it features Teri Hatcher running around in a leotard.

* "Deadly Dreams"
Introduces Dr. Zito, a painfully obvious Hannibal Lecter knock-off, who battles wits with MacGyver -- and loses.

* "The Outsiders"
The feelest-goodest episode of the bunch, with MacGyver working to help an Amish community save its land. That final scene where the construction worker and the Amish elder shake hands...goosebumps, baby.

* "Gold Rush"
One of the first "adventure" episodes (which would later flame out with MacGyver finding the Holy Grail and firing a laser at some guy in a later season), this show pits Mac against -- you guessed it -- a middle-aged white guy who's after some gold. Booby traps and valuable lessons about trusting Soviets ensue.

* "The Invisible Killer"
This well-plotted episode finds MacGyver leading a pack of Phoenix Foundation employees on a stress-relieving hike and facing down a couple of escaped convicts. A real healthy body count here.

* "Easy Target"
Nice! MacGyver and Pete must thwart a terrorist attack by some greasy Eastern-Europeans (of course) who plan on detonating an EMP bomb and disabling a major city. Naturally, MacGyver must rescue Pete's fat ass.

And to be fair, here are the turkeys:

* "The Secret of Parker House"
MacGyver must solve the mystery of Penny Parker's haunted house. The secret? Nobody cares.

* "Brainwashed"
I find all Jack Dalton episodes lame, but this one is numero uno. Jack is kidnapped and programmed to kill some big-shot from a fictional African country. Now if someone would only program him to go far away.

* "Unfinished Business"
A cheap-ass clip show, saved only by a sweet ending where MacGyver lays the smack down on an arch-nemesis. Pete gets captured here, too.

Overall, this is the best season yet, and captures a lot of the fun I had with this series back in the day. I think the formula for determining quality MacGyver seasons is looking at his hair: the longer the mullet, the cooler the episodes. Season four has Richard Dean Anderson's coiffure sprouting some serious legs (which pales in comparison to the Mississippi Mudslide he had going in the last season; that thing qualified for U.S. citizenship).

The same bare-bones treatment accompanies these discs that characterized the previous releases: an under-performing full screen transfer backed by an okay 2.0 stereo audio track. No bonuses make Penny Parker cry...

Closing Statement

As always, Anderson carries this show with his charisma and that gosh-darned squeaky-clean Grade-A American Boy Scoutishness he's got going on. This set features some classic episodes and is easily the hardest-core MacGyver we've seen thus far. Recommended.

The Verdict

Not guilty -- hey, where'd he go? Did someone leave a paper clip on the table?

Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2016 HipClick Designs LLC

Scales of Justice
Video: 75
Audio: 75
Extras: 0
Acting: 85
Story: 85
Judgment: 83

Perp Profile
Studio: Paramount
Video Formats:
* Full Frame

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)

* None

Running Time: 916 Minutes
Release Year: 1988
MPAA Rating: Not Rated

Distinguishing Marks
* None

* IMDb

* MacGyver Season One Review

* MacGyver Season Two Review

* MacGyver Season Three Review