Judge Cynthia Boris could use a good pack of action every now and again.
4 Heart-Pounding TV Favorites
TV shows are like potato chips—you can't have just one and yet here we have another compilation DVD that offers up only the pilot episode from four classic Paramount TV series. Loosely tied together with an "action" label, these shows span the yeas from the '60s to now and if nothing else they're a good representation of how television has changed over the decades—and not always for the better.
We begin in 1966 with the Mission Impossible pilot. Before Peter Graves, Steven Hill (Law & Order) was the man in charge. Martin Landau (Ed Wood) and Barbara Bain (Space, 1999) bring a sophisticated European feel to the story while Greg Morris, Peter Lupus, and Wally Cox play serviceable supporting roles. Like all early Mission Impossible plots, this one deals with a potential international incident; in this case, a pair of nuclear warheads in the hands of a dictator. The story is clever, the turns unpredictable and the combo of hand-held photography and unusual camera angles makes this feel like something special. This is one of those rare pilots that didn't need any tweaking before the show became a hit series.
We jump next to 1985 with the original MacGyver pilot. Richard Dean Anderson (Stargate SG-1) is young and charming as the go-to guy who can get out of any dangerous situation using only common objects you find around the house. For this episode, chocolate bars and cold capsules play a vital role in saving two scientists who are trapped after an explosion in their secret lab.
I'm not a big fan of this series, but I found the pilot episode to be very engaging. And I laughed really hard when I saw that the show was directed by Alan Smithee, the name used when the real director doesn't want to be associated with the final product. Ironically, MacGyver is now a TV classic, and the character name has become a part of the popular vernacular. (As in, this chair is broken but I can MacGyver it with a paper clip.)
Moving into 1993, we have the Walker, Texas Ranger pilot. Chuck Norris stars as a ranger with a penchant for doing things his own way. In this episode, his partner is killed during the first of a string of deadly bank robberies. While trying to solve that crime, and deal with his new partner, Walker also is charged with protecting a trio of circus folk who are due to testify in court.
This was the one of the four shows that I found the least watchable. I wasn't drawn in to the plot or the characters and I found myself skimming over the slow-moving scenes. I know this show had a solid audience back in the day, but looking at it now it comes across a near parody with the cliché dialogue and predictable turns.
The final pilot is NCIS from 2003. This is my favorite and even though I've seen it a dozen times before, I still found it exciting and entertaining. In the story, a Navy commander dies on Air Force One and it's up to NCIS to decide if it was a freak accident or an attempt on the President's life. Mark Harmon stars along with Michael Weatherly, David McCallum and Sasha Alexander as Secret Service Agent Todd.
Full of NCIS's characteristic wit, clever storytelling and tension—this one should keep you guessing all the way up to the end.
Watching these shows back to back, I noticed something interesting. The oldest show and the newest show both have a stylish, engaging storytelling tone that drew me in even though I'd seen both pilots many times before. Whereas the shows from the '80s and '90s, MacGyver and Walker, Texas Ranger, both have an almost comical innocence that makes them feel very dated.
T.V. Sets: Action Packed is stripped down to the minimum. There are no special features and no fancy navigation screens. The audio quality was good across the board but the video quality varied. Oddly, the oldest show, Mission Impossible looked best on my HDTV. MacGyver and Walker, Texas Ranger both have a grainy texture and the colors aren't very sharp, but that's about on par with what I usually see from this era of television. NCIS, which should look fantastic, had way too much red in the color mix and it just didn't have the sharpness I expected.
I wouldn't have called these four pilots "action-packed," but these four shows are true classics that any TV fan should experience at least once.
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