Judge David Johnson once built an explosive device out of a lighter and a digested burrito.
Our reviews of Fan Favorites: The Best of MacGyver (published March 4th, 2012), MacGyver: The Complete First Season (published February 23rd, 2005), MacGyver: The Complete Third Season (published September 6th, 2005), MacGyver: The Complete Fourth Season (published December 6th, 2005), MacGyver: The Complete Fifth Season (published March 14th, 2006), MacGyver: The Complete Sixth Season (published June 28th, 2006), MacGyver: The Complete Final Season (published November 24th, 2006), and MacGyver: The TV Movies (published June 18th, 2010) are also available.
His mind is the ultimate weapon. Or is it…his mullet?
I loved MacGyver. Loved it! Back in the day, in an ill-conceived plan to prevent our brains from liquefying, my parent allowed only one hour of television a week to me and my brother (I know, I know, one hour?! Kids these days manage to watch an hour's worth of television in twenty minutes). Well, my hour was deposited each Monday in the MacGyver fund, as I lapped up the week's excursion into crime fighting and nature preservation that Richard Dean Anderson inevitable crusaded on, anticipating the new ways applied sciences could be made to construct rudimentary thermonuclear devices.
Here, then, is MacGyver: The Complete Second Season. And I ask myself—what have I done with my life?!
Facts of the Case
The second season of ABC's mid-'80s hit MacGyver was a pivotal one. Here, Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar) was given a costarring role, and Bruce McGill's omnipresent Jack Dalton was introduced. Most important, however, was the ever-growing MacGyver mullet that would become legendary.
Paramount has spread all 22 Season Two episodes on six discs. Here's what awaits:
Mac, Mac, Mac. Oh, how the rose-colored glasses have been lifted. But I suppose we'll always have fifteen years ago.
Watching MacGyver: The Complete Second Season was as illustrative as can be of having nostalgia collide with reality, the result a disappointing BLAH. Was MacGyver really this corny? Or maybe it's just the early seasons that are afflicted with this cheesiness. Perhaps as the "Mudslide" portion of MacGyver's Mississippi Mudslide lengthened, the show grew in coolness as well. That verdict is still pending.
The success that this season enjoys entertainment-wise—and there is a decent amount of amusement to be had here—derived exclusively from the immense likeability of its show-runner. Richard Dean Anderson exudes that good-guy feel as well as anyone. In fact, I think the success MacGyver enjoys happens in spite of the show itself. Anderson may have distracted us from the relentless assault of cheese with his charm. At least, I think that's true for Season Two.
The other aspect of this series that allures is also its most infamous: the supernatural resourcefulness of its lead. Jokes about MacGyver's ingenuity when crafting an explosive device are sewn into the fabric of American pop culture: MacGyver just needs a (shoelace/stick of chewing gum/pine cone) and (masking tape/toilet paper/rubber bands) to build a (homemade grenade/nuclear warhead/rudimentary proton accelerator).
The entertainment value for these episodes ranges from hokey to not bad—just not the "wicked awesome" I so fondly recall. An example of the "not bad" end of the range is "The Road Not Taken." This show lands MacGyver and Pete, inexplicably representing the Phoenix Foundation on a dangerous field op, in Central Asia to rescue some—you guessed it—nuns and orphans! Turns out, one of the refugees is MacGyver's past girlfriend. Not a bad forty-odd minutes here. You've got slimy villains shooting innocent people, MacGyver putting together some nice trademark explosives, and a peek into Mac's past, which reveal a burning hot love affair in our largely asexual hero's life.
Then you've got "Eagles": MacGyver is sent to investigate and protect some rare golden eagles. This apparently includes hang-gliding. But leave it to some dirty hunters with no remorse to open fire on one of the eagles, forcing MacGyver to rescue the downed bird, save it, and become involved in the lives of a small boy and his mother. Inoffensive cheese. That's about the best compliment I can drum up.
And somewhere on the middle of the spectrum is "Phoenix Under Siege." MacGyver and his grandfather swing by the Phoenix Foundation to pick up some hockey tickets. Unfortunately, they happen upon a group of terrorists readying to blow up the building. Now, terrorists are cool, and MacGyver unleashes some neat tricks, but a flashback element used to shed light on his relationship with his grandfather is clumsy, foggy, and sappy. The kicker is the head terrorist, a woman in a pantsuit and a perm who looks more like a homicidal soccer mom than a ruthless mercenary.
Don't get me wrong. These shows are far from terrible. I just enjoyed them profoundly less than I when I first watched them way back when. Perhaps, then, they would be ideal for young'uns; MacGyver is a family-friendly show, light on the violence, featuring a hero who helps deaf people and never uses a gun. And that might be the ultimate calling for this series.
The packaging for this set is nice, and that's about all there is to Paramount's release. There is not a scrap of extras, and the technical areas are simply adequate. The show is presented in its original fullscreen format, and the transfer is clean enough, despite some gritty, isolated portions. The Dolby Digital mono mix fails to thrill.
A Swiss army knife can only get you so far. Thanks, Mac, for the memories, but this season may be better suited for the prepubescent uninitiated. Although there is still Murdock to look forward to…
The court will let the accused walk because of good behavior, but we're all pulling for a better showing in the future.
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