Even a Swiss Army knife-equipped MacGyver couldn't hide that a major chase scene from the show's first season was lifted wholesale from the 1969 film The Italian Job. Luckily, mullets and Minis go together like cheesy music and ‘80s TV.
Click to view
This is the episode in question. If the dancing Minis don't ring any bells, here's a quick primer: The scene above isn't just any car chase. All things considered, it's probably the most famous car chase ever filmed. Was there really a time when the producers of a successful prime-time TV show thought they could get away with splicing footage of Richard Dean Anderson into an iconic Hollywood car chase?
The 1969 version of The Italian Job — this isn't the Mark Wahlberg-led 2003 remake — stars Michael Caine as fun-loving cockney crook Charlie Croker. Croker wants to steal a huge shipment of gold from under the Mafia's nose in Turin; he does this by creating a massive traffic jam and then using a handful of then-novel original Minis to escape the city by an unconventional route. The chase rambled through sewers, up staircases, and over the racetrack-equipped roof of the Fiat factory.
The Italian Job:
The title of the episode — the third in MacGyver's first season — only amps up the ridiculousness. "The Thief of Budapest" takes place in Hungary, where Mac encounters a band of gypsies that help him acquire a stolen watch full of KGB secrets. MacGyver then agrees to help these gypsies escape to America, but first they have to create a traffic jam (which he does using a Swiss Army Knife and a credit card, natch) and cue up The Italian Job. Random Russian baddies were then cut into scenes of the trailing Alfa Romeo police cars in place of the Italian Carabinieri.
To review, the audience is supposed to not only not have seen The Italian Job before, but also believe that Turin is Budapest, that a show filmed almost exclusively in L.A. takes place all over the world, and that a government contractor could instantly arrange U.S. citizenship for a ragtag family of immigrant workers. Was all this merely an homage to a much-loved movie classic? Maybe, though don't seem to acknowledge it. Either way, it's pretty funny. Oh, 1985 — you were so innocent.
If you're interested, you can watch the full MacGyver episode on CBS's website.