September 24, 2016

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “MacGyver”


MACGYVER:  Friday 8PM on CBS – Change the Channel

CBS’s reboot of the 30-year old MACGYVER was the fall’s problem child.  After picking up the series, the network didn’t just dump the original pilot, it fired the showrunner and most of the cast, virtually starting from scratch.  (The original showrunner, Paul Downs Colaizzo, retains a co-story credit on the new pilot.)  Now that the series is on the air, one can only wonder just how much worse it could have been than the uninspired, by-the-numbers product the network preferred.

CBS didn’t look particularly far for its new showrunner, choosing Peter M. Lenkov, already a member of the fold as creator of the rebooted Hawaii 5-0.  Lenkov didn’t work very hard either.  This MacGyver is basically the old one, with a little Scorpion mixed in.  Angus MacGyver, master of jerry-rigging contraptions from ordinary items (on-screen graphics identify “paper-clip,” “battery,” and other ingredients so we can marvel at his ingenuity as he works), is played by Lucas Till, and his genial blue-collar back-up Jack Dalton is CSI veteran George Eads, with their slightly more stern but still good-humored supervisor Thornton a paycheck for Sandrine Holt.

The plot of the retooled pilot is some nonsense about a virus that’s going to be released in San Francisco by some very wealthy version of a terrorist organization.  The main interest, though, is meant to be the shooting of MacGyver’s computer expert and girlfriend Nikki (Revolution‘s Tracy Spiridakos) in the opening act by the bad guys, which plunges MacGyver into a light depression until he’s summoned to recover the virus, which requires a new master hacker, the punkier ex-con Riley (Tristin Mays).  Has anyone not guessed the Twist yet?  Spoiler Alert:  yes, it turns out that Nikki was actually working with the villains and faked her own death.  Shock!  (She’s allowed to escape from custody at the end of the episode, presumably so she can be the show’s recurring Moriarity.)

It’s all as threadbare as that.  Pilot director James Wan, of the Conjuring, Insidious and Fast & Furious franchises, punches through the action set-pieces, with the supposed highlight being an unimpressive retread of the big Tom Cruise jumping-on-a-moving-airplane stunt from the last Mission: Impossible, and the actors stoutly recite their lines.  Even if a new MacGyver were done well, it wouldn’t have much impact, because there have been decades of heroes assembling similar homemade gadgets, not least of them on CBS, where Scorpion is basically about a team of (smarter) MacGyvers.  That show has been getting creaky itself, but it’s got a broader ensemble cast and better writing.  MacGyver has even been the subject of a feature film parody with MacGruber, not to mention the many SNL sketches that preceded it.  If the idea was that the material was now so stale that it was freshly retro, the current square approach doesn’t sustain that hope.

Of course, the Friday line-up on CBS is the home of old-time TV comfort food, and McGyver will share the real estate with Lenkov’s Hawaii 5-0 and with Blue Bloods, a series so ancient it feels as though it’s already a reboot.  The bar is very low there, and McGyver may well fit in.  Even as undemanding genre entertainment, though, it’s empty.  It seems to be intended for viewers who want to nap during the hour and know they can wake up without having missed anything.

NETWORK FINAL:  Badly Assembled

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."