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Old 12-03-05, 11:45 AM   #1
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DVD Talk review of 'MacGyver - The Complete Fourth Season'

I read Francis Rizzo III's DVD review of MacGyver - The Complete Fourth Season at and...

This was MacGyver's best season and "Cleo Rocks" was its best episode. That you failed to mention the exceptional writing and production genius of classics like "Deadly Dreams," "Gold Rush," and "The Invisible Killer" has to go down as one of the great injustices of the modern era. You did make note of the sinisterly delicious "Brainwashed", but only in passing and certainly not giving it the credit that it deserves. And you manipulate "The Secret of Parker House" by suggesting it was merely about Penny Parker getting back to her roots
when it was really a cleverly-crafted Halloween story that originally aired on October 31, 1988.

This was MacGyver's "dark season" where the character, writing and production values shifted towards an intensity rarely seen in the previous seasons. Richard Dean Anderson even traded in his brown leather jacket for a black jacket that fit the mood of the stories this season....and he also got to flex his muscles as an actor and put in performances far more three-dimensional than he got to when he defusing bombs every week. The fact that the series was stuck filming in bleak Vancouver throughout the winter months prompted the decision to go dark, and in my opinion, it was the right decision. The writers' strike of 1988 limited the show to 19 episodes (most hourlong series, including those with weaker production values like "Matlock", were unable to crank out that many episodes). "MacGyver" was thought to be at a huge deficit since its sitcom competitors got a six-week head start on Monday nights, but the delay turned out to be for the best since fewer episodes aired after Monday Night Football on the West Coast, a programming problem that consistently impaired the series every fall.

I also think that the "social worker" episodes were well played this season, and as often as certain people say they didn't like those episodes, the three back-to-back-to-back episodes saw some of the highest ratings of the seasons. "The Battle of Tommy Giordano," "The Challenge" (my favorite of the three) and "Runners" respectively pulled in ratings of 14.6, 15.0 and 15.2 in February and March 1989 compared to 12.5, 12.3, and 13.2 for the first three episodes of the season. There is no doubt in my mind that the decision to fuse in the "social worker" themes kept the show from being complacent and flaming out at least two years earlier than it did. The early espionage-oriented episodes were fantastic, but as were finding out with "Alias", there's only so much a weekly TV show can do with that theme before audiences get deja vu. Like their series' character, "MacGyver" producers were crafty enough to recognize this and make the necessary adjustments which prolonged their show with mostly quality episodes in the later seasons

Even if one is to exclude the three social worker episodes this season (one of which was excellent....if more than a little dated), this was still the series best season with ingeniusly clever writing, stronger acting and top-shelf production values for its era. "Gold Rush" should go down as perhaps the best-produced hour of a weekly TV series in the medium's history.
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