'MacGyver' is strange to me. Why? Because I've been a 1980's action-adventure nut my whole life (well, almost - I was born two years before the '80s); I've always loved all of those kinds of shows. 'The A-Team' is my all-time favourite series (I even run my own detailed fan site dedicated to it – check my profile for more); I love 'The Dukes of Hazzard', I love 'Knight Rider', I love 'Airwolf', I love 'Magnum'... the list is endless. But for some reason, I never really "discovered" 'MacGyver'. Which is very strange considering my tastes both then and now.
Here in the United Kingdom, I recall the first season or so was shown on BBC One, early Saturday evenings. I don't think I caught it then due to it clashing with whatever ITV were running at the time. Neither, it seemed, did any of my school friends – it certainly didn't become one of our playground talking points / objects of re-creation as other shows did; it never seemed to really catch on here, which is presumably why the Beeb didn't purchase further episodes. Later, the odd ITV region picked up a few later episodes, but wasn't given much of a run. So for whatever reason, 'MacGyver' somehow bypassed me first time round.
I've watched those aforementioned other shows over and over, both from many off-air recordings, and more recently DVD releases. I still really love them, but all these years later I know them pretty much word-by-word. So as it's something new to me from that era, I finally decided to give 'MacGyver' a go, and purchased the complete DVD set. So I'll be reviewing this Pilot and the series in a sorta "first time" sense; it's one of the few shows that I'm won't be blinded by nostalgia with, so I'll try and review it evenly.
The character of Mac is very interesting. He's a sort of one-man 'A-Team' with all of his various makeshift inventions. Actually, judging by this Pilot, his creations are much cleverer – I'll be the first to admit that, by mid-run, some of The A-Team's "builds" were by-the-numbers and served little point logically within the story. I also like that MacGyver always tries to find the non-violent solution where possible – a nice counterpoint to some of the more gun-happy shows of the era.
The opening scene, with Mac rescuing the crashed pilot being held prisoner, is very good (though his opening narration tries way too hard to be 'Magnum' for my liking) and pretty spectacular. After that, when the main story of the explosion at the science laboratory kicks in… well, its okay I suppose, but for a Pilot, I was kinda hoping for much more. It would have been an average story if it was a regular episode, but for the first outing, I found it a little basic, and had kinda hoped that they would've pulled out all the stops for the Pilot. But reading other reviews, it seems that fans love it, so maybe it's one of those cases that I'll come to like it more on hindsight as I watch later episodes.
Production-wise, it's not bad, but after the excellent almost James-Bond-esque opening rescue, the main story does have a bit of a "cheap and cheerful" feel compared to some of the other such shows of the era. Reading up on the series, maybe this is something that improved as the series progressed. And as others have commented, the acting isn't exactly the best.
The theme tune is good, quite catchy, but it and the whole music set-up, as evidenced here in the Pilot, is too synthesised sounding. Something that many shows became after more affordable and (supposedly) flexible synthesiser equipment came in, in the '80s.
All-in-all, I know I'm gonna get into this series as I watch it. But personally, after the great opening, I found this one a bit plain considering it's the Pilot n' all.