Personal blog - and temporary home page until new website is finished - of writer, editor and graphic artist Christopher Mills

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mission: Impossible '89

Picked up the second season of the 80s Mission: Impossible series last night. 

In 1988, in order to circumvent a long-running writer's strike and get some "new" programming on the air, ABC commissioned from Paramount Television a new version of the spy show Mission: Impossible as a mid-season replacement. The idea was that the studio would simply re-film the best of the scripts from the 1966-1973 version of the show with a new cast in Australia, and thus, not need to wait for the union writers to come back to work. That was the plan, anyway, but they only ended up using old scripts for about four or five early episodes before the strike ended.

This was actually the first version of M:I that I ever saw, so my reaction was quite different from those who found it inferior to their memories of the original series. I thought it was the coolest thing on TV at the time, and now, watching it on DVD, it's still better than most adventure shows from the late 80s.

Admittedly, the writing is generally not up to the standards of the original show's early years, but it's often better than the later, early-70s "mob-busting" seasons. Also, it was shot in Australia which offered a lot more variety in locations/environments. Unlike the 60s version, they didn't have to try and pass off the Paramount offices, parking lots and soundstages for Iron Curtain foreign cities every week. In Australia, they were able to pretty well simulate everything from London streets to the American southwest, to the Caribbean islands. In one episode, they even constructed an eerily believable replica of the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie.

The 80s M:I is also fun because it acknowledges the original show in a variety of ways. Aside from the presence of Peter Graves - reprising his iconic role as IMF team leader Jim Phelps, Greg Morris comes back as Barney a couple of times (his son, Phil Morris, is a regular - as Barney's son!), and Lynda Day George even shows up for one episode, reprising her original role as Casey.

So - overall, while the 80s M:I is not as good as the original show (and the cast is much less memorable), it's better than it has a right to be, all things considered, and at least a handful of episodes are just as good as the original series' best.


Janus said...

There is still one thing about this version of M:I that I love to have answered. Did they always plan on making Grant Collier Barney's son, or did they cast Phil Morris and then think, "Hey! We've got Greg Morris's son; why don't we make his character Barney's son while we're at it?"

And while it might not be as good as the original version, it is still light years better than any version with a certain couch-jumper in the lead.

RJR said...

I enjoyed the original version in the 60's, and enjoyed this later 80's version.


Chris Well said...

I'm like you, Chris, these were the first episodes I ever got to see all the way through. (I had snippets of memories as a kid being in the room when my mom and dad watched reruns, but that was it.)

I really liked the 1980s series. Then a few years ago, when I finally got to watch the original series on DVD, it just blew me away.

Jack Badelaire said...

I remember seeing episodes of this as a kid, but those memories are pretty vague - just snippets of scenes, really. I may have to look into Netflixing the first season and see what I think all these years later.