In 10 Words or Less
Mac versus terrorism, round three
Loves: Intelligent TV
Likes: Richard Dean Anderson, "MacGyver"
Hates: Bad transfers
The Story So Far...
The thinking-man's secret agent, Angus MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson, "Stargate SG-1") uses his extremely intelligence mind, and whatever he can find around him, to protect America, and the world, from those who want to attack it. Using his "MacGyverisms," the improvised weapons and tools he creates, to serve the Phoenix Foundation, the international organization he works for. Of course, not every mission is an official one, as he often finds himself helping out old friends who are in over their heads. The series aired on ABC from 1985 to 1992, with two TV movies to follow.
Paramount released the first season on DVD in January of 2005, and followed it with Season Two in June of the same year. DVDTalk has reviews of the sets here: Season One | Season Two.
"MacGyver" continues his mission to protect the world as an agent of The Phoenix Foundation, starting with a big two-part season opener that reveals a bit more about the main character's back story and his relationships. It's a theme common to the series. In many ways, it was one of the series' smartest moves to make Mac a man of mystery, and then have his ongoing adventures reveal who he is, piece by piece. Creating a mythology in this way is more organic and believable than laying everything out in an origin story.
Of course, it would be easier to believe if every other piece of his history wasn't connected to a former flame. With the relationship resume this show has built for Mac, Wilt Chamberlain has a challenge for his title. But it's those femme fatales and damsels in distress that help make this show so popular, whether because they are '80s-sexy or because they provide Mac with opportunities to be a hero. This season, the most popular of Mac's dames, Teri Hatcher's ditzy Penny Parker went missing, but a new lady entered his life.
TV veteran Elyssa Davalos apparently impressed the show's creators enough in her role in the two-part season opener to being her back for more as Nikki Carpenter, a woman who could hold her own with MacGyver. With a mysterious background of her own, she was a polar opposite of Parker, and a welcome addition to the show. Without Parker or the murderous Murdoc around, a sense of continuity in the storylines that cropped up in Season Two was gone, and Nikki helped bring it back a bit.
One of the other big guest stars is present and accounted for though, and that's Mac's friend and foe Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill). Six episodes are focused on Jack's exploits, and the trouble he drags Mac into, including "Jack in the Box," a great episode that sees Mac and Jack trying to escape a Southern prison camp. For a smart guy, MacGyver certainly seems a bit dim when it comes to Jack, as he is willing to put himself in the crosshairs again and again.
Some of the better non-Jack episodes in this season include a special appearance in "The Widowmaker," the fun "Hell Week," centered around a stressed college student with MacGyver-level skill and "GX-1," a Cold War-era U.S.-Soviet battle over a downed plane. There's even a geek bonanza in the season finale, as MacGyver takes on a ninja.
Guest Star Sighting continues to be a popular activity when it comes to watching "MacGyver," as Tia Carrere returns, playing a new character, and joins the great James Hong (Big Trouble in Little China), John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), Ernie Reyes Jr. ("Sidekicks") and even Hank Aaron in gracing the show with their presence. It's funny how when nostalgia lets you down in watching a childhood favorite, spotting appearances by popular actors makes everything more enjoyable.
Season Three is shorter than the previous two runs of "MacGyver," so Paramount dropped the sixth disc, which previously had held the final two episodes. The five discs, with four episodes each, are packaged in ThinkPak cases, which come in a slipcase. The menus remain the same from the first two sets, once again showing only episode titles. There's no play-all feature, no language choices and no subtitle options. Each episode does have closed captioning.
I slagged the first set, for its awful picture quality, and praised the second one for improving slightly on the product. This time, it's back to the first opinion. Taking one look at these discs told be all I would need to know. Thanks to an excessive amount of video noise and pixilation in the transfers, along with a washed-out and blurry look that's a step back from even the first DVDs. These episodes aren't really even as good as the way the show looks on TV today. These flaws are not of the nitpicking-critic variety, as even my wife, who rolls her eyes when I say the word "anamorphic," pointed them out.
"MacGyver"'s audio mix is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. It's a functional soundtrack, but nothing incredible. Thankfully, unlike the visual half of the quality, there's no distortion or concerns in the audio track. At least there's something good to this set.
Paramount is three for three in the disappointing "MacGyver" fans, once again giving them nothing extra for their DVD dollar. They also provided some of the same old DVD commercials, with some slightly more recent ads mixed in. Someone please buy up the remaining copies of "Mork & Mindy" so I don't have to watch this preview again.
The Bottom Line
After making a good second season out of multiple appearances by popular characters like Penny and Murdoc, the writers on "MacGyver" went in a different direction, limiting Murdoc to one guest spot and leaving Penny out altogether. The introduction of Nikki, six appearances by Jack, along with some call-backs to previous stories brighten things up, but changing the stories from international intrigue to teaching sportsmanship might have lessened the series' impact. The DVDs dropped in quality as well, with worse-looking transfers, and remain disappointing with zero extras. Those who bought the previous two sets will probably pick this up and grumble, while most others can just watch these episodes on cable.