Fall 2016 Review: MacGyver

After years of trying to bring back an official MacGyver reboot, CBS has finally brought back the man whose very name as become a verb.

And what’s the verdict?


Yes. That’s it. Eh. Just that. Yes, granted, you could do worse if you’re spending a Friday night waiting for Hawaii 5-0 to start, but that’s about it.

I would love to write this off as “CBS studio mandate.” The original commercial was almost completely scrubbed. The pilot that aired was obviously put together in a hurry.

How can I tell? You mean aside from the acting that was a poor dress rehearsal, and a slap-dash, color by numbers script?

In the original commercial, Angus MacGyver rescues himself from a terrorist camp with explosions, makeshift weapons, and a press conference with him in front of an American flag? And MacGyver infiltrating a high tech building?

That commercial looked like fun.

It looked like this.

That has nothing to do with the aired pilot.

The first 10 minutes of the aired pilot shows MacGyver working for … a government alphabet agency cobbled together from leftover letters of the alphabet, DGX. Yes, I know it was the random agency mentioned in the early years of the original MacGyver, but did they have to try spelling it out?

Of course, OCP consists of: MacGyver, a computer nerd he’s having sex with, a leftover CSI actor with some charisma remaining, and their boss, “Patricia Thornton.” Because an older, pudgy, balding actor just couldn’t fit in with all the beautiful people..

For the record, note that I did not refer to MacGyver’s lady friend the computer nerd as “a girlfriend.” They have sex, and all the emotional connection of actors in Twilight.

The first ten minutes continue with grabbing a MacGuffin device from the mansion out of True Lies. Mac returns to their CTU modified mystery machine, only to find his sex partner at gunpoint. MacGyver, being lobotomized in this version, hands over the MacGuffin, gets shot, and his “friend” is also shot, her body never to be found…

What’s that? The magically disappeared body of the sex partner sounds out of play and eyebrow raising? Almost like she’s bound to turn up alive? If she’s alive, what does that mean, gentle reader?

If you said, “She must be a bad guy,” then you’d be right.

Guess what happens about 15 minute later? She’s still alive. She’s the villain. She how easy it was to write that episode?

Agency XYZ is dissolved (because security has more holes than a sieve) and they reform as the Phoenix Foundation think tank….because the writers had to get in that somewhere.

Oh good God I hated that pilot.

My SOP is to try three episodes. Truthfully, things get better after the pilot. The show is now “just okay.” This MacGyver (played by Lucas Till, a reject from the latest round of X-Men films) doesn’t have that salt-of-the-Earth, mildly snarky narration, but a smug, self-satisfied explanation of what he’s doing that make me think, “I miss Michael Weston and Burn Notice. He did MacGyver much better. Was Matt Nix busy?”

And remember how MacGyver never really used a gun unless he was making something out of it? Richard Dean Anderson insisted that it was in response to The A-Team shooting up most of every episode. Now, bullets are flying everywhere. It’s like they  need to get rid of all their squibs.

You remember how MacGyver worked with a team every episode, right?

Correct, the answer is “no, he didn’t, that’s why he had to explain everything in narration, because he had no one else to explain it to.: At most, he had a really annoying friend come out of the woodwork to cause trouble, or a side kick he’d pick up over the course of an episode.

Speaking of MacGyver’s troublemaking friends, you remember Jack Dalton from the original, right? Played by Bruce MacGill (most recently of Rizzoli and Isles)? He was a bit of a con man, shyster, and mildly insane? He was a short, stocky fellow, who usually meant well, but would almost unavoidably get MacGyver into trouble one way or another? Yeah, that guy.

This being CBS, they decided to dig up George Eads, one of the usual suspects from CSI, to play Jack Dalton as a smart mouth CIA shooter…

No, they couldn’t get Michael Weatherly for that part; he’s got his own show now…

Nor could they get Bruce Campbell; got his own show…

And Jeffrey Donovan not only did this show, he’s on a TV show and two other movies this year.

God, I miss Burn Notice.  Every time the narration starts, I want it to start with When you’re a spy….

It’s a problem that half the time, I can’t track what MacGyver is supposed to be making, or how. Which was one of the interesting draws of the original show.

You want the big let down? It’s not how they’ve jettisoned Richard Dean Anderson’s show from continuity (seriously, they didn’t want him on the show at all?). It’s not how this MacGyver is a womanizing twit who fished off the company pier. It’s not even that Jack Dalton has been rewritten, or that they need a goth Chloe O’Brian knockoff from prison, or gave him an annoying roommate instead of a house boat…it’s that they only used the first ten notes of the opening theme song.

This is the new version.

To help you recover, this is the old version.


Until further notice, I’ll keep watching this show. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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