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DVD Review: Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season

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Mission: Impossible is back. Peter Graves is back (as master spy Jim Phleps). Bob Johnson’s distinctive voice (on the tape) is back, too. And look, M:I regulars Greg Morris (as gadget/electronics wizard Barney Collier) and Peter Lupus (as the big dumb strongman Willy Armitage) have returned, as well. Lesley Ann Warren and Leonard Nimoy on the other hand are nowhere to be seen in Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season — and frankly, neither Cinderella or Spock is missed. This, the second-to-last season Bruce Gellar’s hit series, wisely condensed the master of disguise character and the token female character down to just one part, to which up-and-coming actress Lynda Day George took over as Lisa Casey — and succeeded admirably, earning a nomination for a Golden Globe in the process.

Towards the end of the Fifth Season (as ratings began to drop), the members of the IMF (Impossible Missions Force) began to slow down with taking the occasional trek across the globe in order to stop power-hungry madmen from starting a nuclear war — apparently, they were spending excessive amounts of U.S. dollars on first class airfare, some positively bangin’ hotel accommodations, those big buffets to satisfy Willy’s huge appetite, and of course Jim Phelps’ habitual boozing and late-night rendezvousing with hookers (and so forth). And so, most of Season Six has the IMF team going up against members of “the Syndicate,” domestic terrorists, and other dastardly evils such as smugglers and corrupt politicians that “conventional law enforcement agencies” were unable to lay a finger on (if only the Impossible Missions Force was active today: they could put an end to all of this bail-out bullshit.).

Each episode of Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season finds our crew once more accomplishing, the unfeasible (or the “highly improbable,” the “very unlikely,” or even the “pretty much unattainable, really”) by either turning the tables against the leaders of the underworld or by setting up some of the most elaborate schemes ever devised in order to convince the bad guys that it’s time for a change — and boy, let me tell you, some of the schemes in the Sixth Season break the delicate border of nuttiness, including convincing aging gangster William Shatner that he has somehow gone back in time to relive the murder of his rival (using silicone to smooth out the wrinkles in his face); setting up rat fink Kevin McCarthy (who has sold his own country) out to thinking that the bad guys have invaded and conquered America (which kinda takes us back to those wonderfully bad Red Scare films of the '50s — hey, they come complete with a McCarthy, too.); and (the winner here) trying to con a UFO-obsessed news guru Steve Forrest into believing the aliens have in fact landed so that he will renounce his ties with the Syndicate (which is done with a light, a collapsible fog machine, and by wearing white clothes).

Of course, like the previous seasons, Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season wouldn’t be much to watch if it weren’t for its guest stars — and this season delivers: not only do we get to see the aforementioned Shatner, McCarthy, and Forrest, but Season Six also boasts some wonderfully deep and sometimes campy performances by Jason Evers, Tom Bosley, Billy Benedict, Sam Elliott (making his final appearance as IMF member Dr. Doug Robert), Victor French, Sidney Clute, Donald Moffat (and his scene-stealing eyebrows), Gerald S. O’Loughlin, Lawrence Dane, Elizabeth Ashley, Fritz Weaver, William Windom, Alex Rocco, Tyne Daly, Richard Jaeckel, Charles Napier (briefly), Anthony Zerbe, James Gregory, Bradford Dillman, Warren Stevens, Woodrow Parfrey, Georg Stanford Brown, Irene Tsu, Russ Conway, Geoffrey Lewis, and Jack Donner (the latter of whom shows up twice). Naturally, no onscreen performance with Lynda Day George would be complete without a visit from her then-hubby, the now late Christopher George — so he’s there, too, chewing up the scenery every step of the way. But for me, the crowning moment of guest stars had to be seeing cult favorites Joe Don Baker and Billy Dee Williams together as bad guys, long before either actor ever had any fans (yes, they do have fans now — honest).

For those of you who just can’t get into the action and drama the series is still known for, Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season carries its fair share of unintentional humor that will most assuredly warrant the purchase of the 6-Disc, 22-Episode set. Scenes of Greg Morris trying to get down with his “soul” side are about as laughable as Leonard Nimoy’s music numbers in the previous season and the fashions are god-awful — but the absolute finest moment of accidental humor occurs when Peter Graves is pretending to be a hungover scuba instructor while wearing the gayest pair of shades imaginable and clad in some swinging white trousers and striped blue shirt, uttering the phrase “Oh, boy, am I hung!

Oh, my. Go, Graves, go!

Mission: Impossible – The Sixth TV Season comes to DVD courtesy of another splendid transfer from the folks at CBS/Paramount. Each episode has been digitally remastered and looks nothing short of stellar considering their age. Accompanying the above-average video presentation is a choice between three audio tracks: a modest 5.1 Dolby Digital English, the original English Mono Stereo, and a Spanish Mono Stereo option. The newly-mixed 5.1 will most likely be the preferred soundtrack (it’s also the default), but the original Mono Stereo track should not be ignored, either. That said, the Spanish track should only be turned on if you need to hear how truly awful dubbing can get — or if you grew up in Southern California and want to rekindle your bizarre fascination with Spanish-dubbed American TV shows. Subtitles are offered up in English, Spanish and Portuguese. English Closed Captioning is also available.

Like the previous season sets, there are no special features to be found here save for a few promo previews at the beginning of Disc One — and, with only Season Seven left from the original Mission: Impossible series to find its way to DVD (there are also two seasons of the late ’80s revival series that I hope will be released), one would hope that CBS/Paramount would do us all a favor and film some interviews with the cast and crew soon. However, the lack of bonus material here certainly doesn’t call for you to start up a tea party — because if you do, Peter Graves will come kick your ass…and boy, is he hung!

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About Luigi Bastardo

Luigi Bastardo is the disgruntled alter-ego of a thirtysomething lad from Northern California who has watched so many weird movies since the tender age of 3 that a conventional life is out of the question. He currently lives in Chico, CA with four cats named Groucho, Harpo, Chico, and Margaret. Seriously.