Wednesday, January 21, 2015

#55: The Coltons

Season: 7

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:

The Colton brothers search for a girl in Chinatown who was the eyewitness to murders committed by a crime lord.  They find the girl but then fall for a trap set by the crooked assistant district attorney, and they end up handing her over to the crime lord.  While Frank and Jesse are tied up, Billy and Frog arrive to free them and help save the day. 

Memorable Quote:
Now there's one lesson I won't learn in college!   ~Billy Colton
You got that right.   ~Jesse Colton

The first ten minutes are fantastic as MacGyver and Frank are rescued by the one and only Frog dog. Now I'm much more of a cat person, but if all dogs were as cool and awesome as Frog, I might have to reconsider. We first meet him in The Black Corsage, and then he makes a brief appearance in Squeeze Play.  He's always a big help, and he absolutely deservers to be added to the wingman page.  Anyway, the opening is fun as MacGyver and Frank take turns cajoling and berating Frog into bringing a bottle of sulfuric acid over and dropping it on the end of a ruler. MacGyver then kicks down on the end of the ruler (which rests like a fulcrum on a round pencil case) and catches the sulfuric acid behind him in his tied up hands.  He could have tried that move 10,000 times and have been lucky to do it once, and that's after convincing Frog to drop the bottle in exactly the right spot. In other words, it's one of his most improbable escapes ever.  

Not wild about the two cops that harass Frank and Jesse.  Not great actors and they don't bring much to the story.

Best MacGyverism:
See highlight.  

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I remember as a kid being really fascinated by bullet-proof vests.  You don't hear much about them any more on tv shows, but if I was a cop, I'd wear one (unless there was some downside that I'm not aware of). 
  • If Frank distrusts Johnny Denmark to the point that he asks Momma to do a trace of the number he called from the house, shouldn't they wait before going alone to the boatyard?
  • 39:30 mark - funny scene where Billy tries to pass himself off as a factory worker ("Workee workee").  Cuba Gooding Jr. is the best. 
  • Youtube has a series of links posted by Richard Lawson (who plays Jesse Colton) that are videos of this episode (e.g. Part 1, Part 2, etc).  I looked at them briefly and noticed they contain a ton of deleted scenes, and at the beginning of the first one it says "Special Guest Star = Richard Dean Anderson."  I read online that ABC was considering a spin-off, so this must have been how it was going to look at one point.  I didn't watch all the videos, but I saw a part where Frank was flirting with the housekeeper, and I wonder if she was the "Shari" that he mentions a few times (and it doesn't make much sense in the final cut, probably because the context was lost with the deleted scenes). 

Final Analysis:
RDA is only in this episode for about five minutes, but who cares?  Actually I know quite a few ladies on the message boards who probably care a lot.  But I don't care - the man's earned some time off, and when all four Coltons plus Frog Dog are involved, I'm happy. Each of the Coltons are great characters and great actors on their own, so when finally they're all together, it's wonderful.  The spin-off idea was axed after this episode, and too bad, because I would have been all in.  But I guess I was in the minority on that one, just as I probably am in the minority with having this episode as high as it is.  All I can say is that I really enjoy it, and the Colton Family and their precious Frog Dog are welcome on my screen any time! Next up, MacGyver squares off against a memorable villain.  


  1. I don't have this one slotted nearly as high as you do. And, yes, this was aimed as a back-door Pilot for a show called "The Coltons". I used to have a tv guide article about it. (I may still have it somewhere.) I'm guessing the show was axed before the pilot aired, so the pilot was reworked into an episode of MacGyver so they didn't 'waste' all of that production time and money.

    The episode isn't bad, but it's not one of my faves. I do love the scene with Frog. Frog is one of the best guest characters on the show. =)

  2. I definitely didn't see the "true hero" as being Frog! You got me with that one! You seem to know at least some of the background to this episode but I'll drone on with extra details anyway to fill in any blanks you may or may not have. This episode was produced as an episode for Season 6, originally scheduled to air on May 20, 1991, only a couple of days before ABC announced its fall schedule. If the ratings had been decent, "The Coltons" may have been picked up for that schedule. Instead, ABC pulled it at the last minute in favor of a 20/20 special and "The Coltons" was merely burned off in October as part of Season 7. You're not really on an "island" with this episode but it's one of the series' most polarizing episode. I know a number of people who really think it's great. I'm not one of them, and it has nothing to do with the fact that MacGyver was only in the episode for five minutes as I thought the Colton brothers were fun and would have made for a great series with the right material, but I can see why ABC passed based on this would-be pilot that I found incredibly lazy and incoherent.

    I'll start with what I liked. The cast was great. I liked all four of the primary players and I liked Frog, and the prospect for great brotherly banter was in place, even though it was hard for me to accept that Billy was presumably supposed to be only 18 and fresh out of high school based on what he pulled off in "Black Rhino". And to a degree I liked Frog too. The explosion scene after MacGyver and Frank escaped the warehouse featured some of the best pyrotechnics in the history of the series. I was similarly impressed by the falling scene at the end with Jesse and Frank going through the window into the dumpster with the villains. Unfortunately, that's about all I could get behind in this hour.....

    The creative exhaustion of the MacGyver writers by this point in the series' run could not have been more evident with MacGyver's need to beg a bulldog to fetch him sulfuric acid in a plastic bottle (!!!) to burn the ropes and facilitate his escape. And while the Colton brothers seemed generally capable of exciting and amusing escapes from the bowels of danger in the abstract, it became evident watching this episode that their formula would include some combination of Frog and bulletproof vests in nearly every scene, and that would get old very fast as it had gotten old for me every before the hour ended. And what about that scene where the idiot cops followed a bunch of people who looked exactly like the Coltons and the girl they were supposed to protect when they got inside the Coltons van? Did they really give away their van? Were we really supposed to believe this random hair salon had three people who looked exactly like those three for the cops to follow? So much of this episode was just a mess to me. I would have still watched a Colton brothers spinoff though with the hope that it improved in quality, but I definitely didn't like the start. Unfortunately, Cleavon Little, who played Frank, died only one year later and I think after Cuba Gooding Jr's big movie debut in "Boyz N The Hood" in the summer of 1991 he would not have been long for a weekly TV show. Given your "hint" of the power going out on "season 6/7 episode" that made your top-10 list I was wondering if this was the episode you were talking about given it was sort of season 6 and sort of season 7. I feel a little less guilty about ranking this episode #135 knowing that it isn't. :)

    1. I wasn't aware of this originally being a season 6 episode, but looking back it makes sense given they use the same house that was in Squeeze Play which was season 6, and the rest of it looks more like Vancouver than L.A. I only phrased the "season 6/7 episode" from the power outage so as not to give anything away! So based on what you're saying, it sounds like by the time it aired in Season 7, it had no chance to be a spin-off series?

      Great points on some of the story inconsistencies. I'm disappointed in myself for not noticing or commenting on the bunch of people in the hair salon who dressed like the Coltons and took their van - that is totally ridiculous. I think it's partly due to that I was tired and just trying to get the post up, but it's also a good sign that I need to slow the pace down a little, especially since the top episodes are so good and need to be savored like a fine bottle of apple juice rather than rushed through. I think I'll take a few days off to recharge the "MacGyver batteries", so Al, this is your chance to catch up!

    2. You must be even forgot to put the # sign in front of 55 in the preface to this episode writeup! I suppose if the ratings for The Coltons was unusually large when they aired it in October 1991, ABC would have reconsidered their decision to shelve the project, but yes when it was taken off the schedule four months earlier that was pretty close to a death sentence. And since MacGyver's ratings fell by 20% in season 7, "The Coltons" would not experience any revival when it aired. And yes, the '57 Nomad at the end was another giveaway that "The Coltons" was produced as a season 6 episode.

      I wonder where Richard Lawson got that recording of "The Coltons" pilot with different credits than the original. Interestingly, Lawson was almost cast as a regular on another 80s action show....T.J. Hooker. He was in the pilot for that as well. I didn't realize he's a senior citizen....older than my mom! Enjoy your downtime.

    3. Good catch on the pound sign - it's back now!

    4. And I had a feeling that the "true hero" would be a tough one to guess!

  3. Phew I'm finding it hard to keep up with the postings and am falling behind again! This one is easy to comment on as I don't need (or want) to re-watch it. I'm with Mark and would rank it at the bottom, purely based , for me, on the fact that you can't have a MacGyver episode without MacGyver however good the Coltons are or engaging the dog. I enjoyed the first five minutes and even the implausible sulphuric acid escape, although you have to ask why were they getting so frustrated that Frog was taking so long to knock down the bottle - how many dogs do you know that could understand 'sulphuric acid'! Enough said and can't be bothered to watch any more of this one. Apologies to the Coltons who would probably been fine in their own series but not taking over in MacGyver!

  4. Hmm, it seems the consensus is that this episode was a little "ruff" around the edges!

  5. I agree with others - this episode was NOT enjoyable at all to me. Enough said. MacGyver without RDA simply is NOT an RDA show.

  6. This was perhaps the only episode of MacGyver where I couldn't wait for it to end. I thought is was complete ridiculous and one of the most boring hours of TV I've ever seen. I agree with some of the others that it's not MacGyver without RDA. The Coltons were all great actors and decent characters, but there is no way they could have succeeded in a show by themselves with scripts like this one. I like Frog as much as the next guy but the scene where he brings the sulphuric acid and places it exactly on the ruler is completely laughable. As you can tell I didn't like this one. I also noticed this was Vancouver and not LA, so the Season 6 discussion above makes total sense. Onward and upward.

  7. I really wish they had spun this off. It was a great team and great premise. I didnt see much wrong with it. The bulletproof vests were a bit cheap, but did make it fun. Frog definitely should have been a frequent guest, but having him save the day each time would not have been good. It would be interesting to see someone pickup the idea of bounty hunting brothers even nowadays. Heck maybe bring back Gooding and Lawson, but thats not necessary. Della Reese (Mama) is also still alive. Thinking about it, they should have cast her as the new Oracle in the Matrix Revolutions instead of Mary Alice. I dont like Mary Alice. I loved Gloria Foster and Alice just didnt capture it at all.

    Its a shame Cleavon Little (Frank) died of cancer shortly after this. It shows how quick it can take people since he seemed pretty solid in the episodes. Who knew he was in his 50s there. And to make things worse, Richard Lawson (Jesse) almost died in a plane crash that same year. Of the 50 something on board, about half died.

    If this was originally meant for season 6 (it does have that pleasant lighting compared to the harsh LA sun), that would also narrow the time of Frog appearances, meaning he probably was the same dog. Quite a number of shows were produced in the Vancouver area. I remember seeing BC and Vancouver in the credits of a few shows as a kid. Incidentally, the faltering of the Canadian dollar could make such productions financially beneficial again. They would cut labor costs by maybe 20%. I would love to work on a production there. I love BC. Its on my top 5 places to live.

  8. It was an alright episode, Fog was awesome. But I just wish they would have at least had a line of why Willy was not there I mean Jess and him had decided to be a family and then we have this with a Asian theme and they don't bring him up.

  9. After watching this episode of MacGyver which starred the brilliant actor Cuba Gooding Jr. I was very impressed and found to be funny in some parts. I thought that episode would lead to a new series and spin off for Cuba Gooding and Della Reese.

  10. Just finished watching this one for the first time. When it was over, I turned to my husband and said "That's the best episode of the original Macgyver I've ever seen!" He hurled an expletive or two in my direction, lol.

    Like you and many others, my husband loved this show growing up. I bought him a DVD set of the complete series and movies for Christmas and I've watched most of the episodes with him. We also watch the new Macgyver, and on that series I love the Coltons and remarked on a tv message board that maybe they should get their own show. So I find it interesting that they did once consider giving the original Coltons a spin-off. I think the characters are uniformly great and a series based around them and their adventures would've been/would be a hoot.

    This is a great blog and has been quite informative! It's definitely helped to enhance my viewing of the show. Truth be told, this series is not my favorite and slogging through many of the episodes has been a bit tough. But reading your take on things has been interesting, as well as reading the comments from other fans.