The School of Reruns

Mission Impossible

My children and I are in rerun marathon mode.

First came the Mythbusters marathon on the first night of summer vacation (“Can he grasp the roof of the speeding car and hang on? Will a life raft inflated in midair float our hero to a safe landing? What are the chances that my hair cream will explode?”). Luckily the kids fell asleep during the Mythbusters superhero episode where Jamie had to cut himself down from a 30-foot ceiling when his motorized grappling hook/zip line didn’t go into reverse, causing him to flip over, clock himself in the head, and, from my vantage, come this close to slitting his own throat.

That’s some good family viewing, right?

Then came the weekend Mission: Impossible marathon—and here we’re talking Season One, no Peter Graves, no Tom Cruise, lotsa Peter Lupus (who?) and measured doses of Steven Hill (isn’t that the grouchy DA from Law & Order?). We’re enjoying it so much that I’m starting to wonder, can you fan Martin Landau on Facebook?

What’s great about Mission: Impossible (besides the iconic theme song, iconic imposter masks, and iconic self-destructing tape recordings) is that it’s so darn optimistic. Sure, the Cold War is chilling its way through the ’60’s, but with a little chilling of their own on Dan Briggs’ black leather couch, nobody on the IMF team is getting marched off to Siberia in disavowed disgrace. What Cinnamon Carter (top fashion model), Rollin Hand (man of 1,000 faces), Barney Collier (mechanical and electronics genius), and Willy Armitage (record-holding weight lifter) know is that with advanced planning, team spirit, calm focus, cheerful cooperation, good costumes, and profuse brow perspiration, there’s no aspiring tyrant that’s going to get away with it.

Sorry, Jack Bauer, but when was the last time you blew up Ricardo Montalban with his own cache of heat sensitive cesium, which you’d swiped and put into a refrigerated silver mini-tank, a tank which you’d then set on “heat” and sent crawling at a snail’s pace through the tunnel under his bad guy compound? Yeah, I thought so.

On Mission: Impossible there’s no need for urgent scrambling to chase down our only lead. No table flipping to get the suspect to talk. No one sacrificing his personal safety to keep the virulent biologic agent from ripping through the unsuspecting population of the East Coast. With some good gimmicks, a couple of fake-o accents, and not a cell phone in sight, the IMF team managed to bust bad guys left and right—and they always drove away intact and smiling.

The IMF team was so successful (and so darn consistent!) that I’m going to adopt its approach as my own. Before any family endeavor, I’ll devise an elaborate plan which assigns each family member a job suited to his or her talent. My husband—the geek squad! My son—the comedian! My daughter—the physical adventurer! Me—the writer? (—the baker? —the candlestick maker?) We’ll brush up on our behaviorism principles so we can predict the responses of every ticket seller, every driver, every kid who’s come over to play. And we’ll stay up until all hours, assembling sweat-producing gadgets (out of cardboard and duct tape, of course) that’ll be the lynchpin of every operation.

Too bad, but we’re sort of lacking in the mask department. Wait—I’ve got some crazy Einstein hair, a pirate vest, and a purple magician’s cape in the basement! Unfortunately I’d need Barney’s know-how and Willy’s brawn just to tunnel through the mess of playing cards, stuffed animals, cardboard bricks, and assorted you-name-it that are all over the basement floor. Mission: Impossible? You betcha.

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