Paramount // 1989 // 1003 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 14th, 2006
Shark ahead! Prepare to jump!
The fifth season of ABC's vaunted Alpha Boy Scout drama finds its titular character (Richard Dean Anderson) beefed up and sporting a mullet that demands to be taken seriously. But beware of telltale signs of idea drought!
Application for Employment at the Phoenix Foundation
DATE OF BIRTH:
Three slips down from Billy's Live Bait Shack.
Dr. Zito, a deranged, manipulative psychiatrist and Murdoc, a deranged, manipulative professional assassin. Oh, and white guys too.
One or two weekends a year and every other Christmas I volunteer at the "Challenger's Club," a non-profit organization located in the inner city that is currently being sued by the Boys and Girls Club of America for copyright infringement. I am also active in the Northeast Chapter of "Swiss Army Knife Rescue and Relocation."
LOOSE CANNON ASSOCIATES THAT MAY JEOPARDIZE SENSITIVE MISSIONS:
I have a friend named Jack Dalton. I believe he may be mildly retarded. He also has a tendency to piss off Central American drug cartels and violent rebel factions.
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT GUNS?
I hate guns. Hate them. I have never, ever fired a gun at someone in my life. They are crude, violent, and lead to the deaths of innocent bystanders. I have never carried a gun, nor will ever carry a gun. Ever.
HOW ABOUT BOMBS?
Bombs are awesome.
WHAT STRENGTHS WOULD YOU BRING TO THIS POSITION?
I think fast on my feet, can disarm all types of explosive devices, know how to mix household chemicals to a) render a grown man unconscious, b) create a diversionary smokescreen, or c) put together a fine tasting coolatta. I am loyal, patient, and generous and will always do the right thing. I have fantastic hair and a wide assortment of leather jackets. Women want me and men want to be me. I am excellent with children and have successfully negotiated peace terms between violent Middle Eastern nations who have engaged in centuries of blood-soaked war. Finally, I can repair a car's brake system while the vehicle's going 70 mph and I'm on the hood.
Besides my floating house? None.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POACHERS?
LOGGING CREWS WHO OVERLY CLEAR-CUT FORESTS?
APATHETIC CONSTRUCTION SITE MANAGERS WHO TAKE BRIBES AT THE EXPENSE OF
Burn in Hell, sons of @#$%&!!!
WHAT DEPARTMENTS IN THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION WOULD YOU BE MOST INTERESTED IN?
(PLEASE UNDERLINE YOUR CHOICE)
Department of Nautical Research and Development
Department of Middle Eastern Nation-State Peace Brokering
Department of At-Risk Urban Youth Counseling
Department of Advanced Nuclear Weapon Design
Department of Advanced Nuclear Weapon Disarmament
Department of Education
Department of Rain Forest Preservation
Department of International Volcano Control
Department of South American Death Squad Mediation
Department of Robot Slave Emancipation
Department of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile Smelting
All of the Above
* "The Legend of the Holy Rose, Part I"
* "The Legend of the Holy Rose, Part II"
* "The Black Corsage"
* "Cease Fire"
* "Second Chance"
* "Halloween Knights"
* "Children of Light"
* "Black Rhino"
* "The Ten Percent Solution"
* "Two Times Trouble"
* "The Madonna"
* "Live and Learn"
* "Log Jam"
* "The Treasure of Manco"
* "Jenny's Chance"
* "Deep Cover"
* "The Lost Amadeus"
* "Hearts of Steel"
* "Rush to Judgment"
Mac is back on the attack, and this season finds him involved in crazy, new adventures (searching for the Holy Grail) and the same-old same-old (saving the Challenger Club yet again from financial ruin). And while there certainly is a mixture of old and new, as I watched this fifth set of feats of daring-do, the looming reality was clear: the writers were running out of ideas.
The season kicks off with a big two-parter episode, where MacGyver and the most annoying sidekick he's ever been paired with ever take off on a global romp looking for the Holy Grail. Only, it's not the Christian Holy Grail. It's some kind of New Age, eternal life bestowing, cup of goddesses. Elements from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade are liberally lifted, and MacGyver escapes from a near-death situation in the most improbable manner to date: he shuts down a swinging pendulum blade of death with his left shoe. The whole affair culminates in the bad guy getting perforated with an ancient laser beam.
"The Holy Rose" sets the table for what will be a buffet of MacGyver oddities. The series makes some changes in the way it does business, and the storylines reflect a more out-of-the-box mining for new adventures. Is this good or bad? Well, that's the $10,000 question. There are some personal favorites on these discs ("Halloween Nights" and "Two Times Trouble"), but the overall batch, I think, is showing signs of narrative grasping, no episode so reflective of this than "Serenity," where MacGyver dreams he's in the old west. And once you've done one wacky dream episode, King Arthur and Merlin aren't too far behind.
Let's pop the hood and take a broad overview of the fifth season:
No more MacGyver voiceover.
Previous seasons featured Richard Dean Anderson setting the stage for the episode, delivering a droll bit of narration over the opening credits. For example: "I love eagles and trees. So when my good friend Bernadette DelFluvio called and asked me to speak at her annual Save the Eagles and Trees Breakfast, I couldn't say no. So I took some time off, packed my bags, and headed to the southern Appalachians for a quiet weekend of talking about eagles and trees. Or so I thought." Nope, no more of that. This season, we're launched straight into the action and, I have to admit, the charm of the show is hurt by this excision.
Lots more killing.
The fatality rate skyrockets in this season. Where smiting one's enemies was largely taboo in shows prior, MacGyver's nemeses often end up with a toe-tag this time around. No complaints here, but it's obvious producers were going for an "edgier" MacGyver. And the methods of dispatch are noteworthy: impaled on a boatload of sawed-off rhino horns, dumped into a pit of venomous snakes then blown up with a grenade (!), and the aforementioned laser rape. My favorite: the climax of "Logjam" gives us, probably, the lengthiest MacGyver fight scene in the history of the show, as he and a corrupt Japanese black market logger (I'm assuming there is such a thing) beat the snot out of each other up and down a sawmill, culminating in a Spielbergian battle on a conveyor belt and the villain nose-diving from like 200 feet.
You've got the Grail quest, the old west dream sequence, and "Passages," the finale, where MacGyver is tossed from a parking garage and lands on a car, putting him in a coma. While barely scraping by on life support, he has a vision of the afterlife, apparently nothing more than a big steamship, and meets his deceased parents and his beloved grandfather. There you have it: one day Mac is helping drug-addled youth discover the joys of physics, the next he's going to Heaven on the Love Boat.
Back to the boat o' corpses: MacGyver decides he's not ready to shuffle loose the mortal coil just yet (after having a vision of Pete getting capped by a corrupt Egyptian diplomat, which he of course saw through a magical viewfinder) so he tries to leave the good ship purgatory, but the ship's personnel lock him and his grandfather in the hold. Well, not even the afterlife can hold MacGyver, who uses his trademark ingenuity to break free in his most metaphysical escape ever.
But my favorite of the season is a sequence on another boat (this time in the real world) where MacGyver incapacitates his foes in the most inconvenient and outlandish ways possible: he traps two guys in a cabin by attacking them with an inflatable raft, for another thug, he pulls a life jacket over the guy's head and knocks him out, and the last opponent is hooked to a crane through his belt buckle and suspended over the deck. When you don't use guns, I guess you're forced to be more creative when eliminating foes, but there must have been something heavy somewhere he could have swung at their heads!
Always the best episodes in my opinion are the Murdoc-centric ones. "Halloween Knights" pairs the two enemies together to best the leader of H.I.T. (Homicide International Trust!) and rescue Murdoc's sister. It's a fun show and the bad guy gets wasted at the end, but the wardrobe supervisor's decision to have MacGyver run around in giant jester pants for the duration of the episode was a miscalculation. Murdoc also makes an appearance in "Serenity" as the hit man hired to take out MacGyver, who, along the way, caps Cuba Gooding Jr.'s ass.
Pistol Pete Thornton.
Pete Thornton is the shiz-nit!
I enjoy MacGyver's adventures, and this season sports some of my favorite episodes. But it is folly to deny that the series started showing signs of creative aridity. The presentation is typical of past sets, with episodes arriving in their original full screen aspect ratio with varying degrees of picture quality and a complete lack of extras.
The only thing guilty is that mullet -- of sheer awesomeness!
Review content copyright © 2006 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 1003 Minutes
Release Year: 1989
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* DVD Verdict Review: Season One
* DVD Verdict Review: Season Two
* DVD Verdict Review: Season Three
* DVD Verdict Review: Season Four