Doug Snauffer sees “MacGyver”

This is MacGyver?

by Douglas Snauffer

CBS’ reboot of MacGyver (Fridays, 8 p.m.) is another freshman series I was curious about all summer.  

Not that I had high hopes for it.  The odds are typically against recycled TV shows.  MacGyver, though, is being used as a lead-in for Hawaii Five-O, another title resurrected by CBS that is now entering its seventh-season.  So if CBS believed in it that much (if they didn’t, they would’ve had McGarrett & Company be the lead-in instead of the follower), I didn’t want to completely discount Mac’s chances.

My optimism, however, turned out to be short-lived. Just five minutes into the premiere episode my mind was already made up – I hated it. I dutifully sat through the rest of the hour, but that merely reinforced my initial opinion.  MacGyver is another case of a TV classic receiving a modern make-over with disastrous results.

First, a bit of history for those who fall into TV’s most-desired demographic (ages 18-34) and missed the original series.

MacGyver ran on ABC from 1985-92. Its hero (Richard Dean Anderson) was an incredibly resourceful loner who was (initially) a freelance intelligence agent. By the second season, he was employed by the Phoenix Foundation, a think-tank which worked closely with the U.S. government.

Richard Dean Anderson portrayed MacGyver with the perfect combination of cool and nerdy
(Richard Dean Anderson portrayed MacGyver with the perfect combination of cool and nerdy.)

What made Mac unique is that he detested the use of violence (especially guns) and typically won his battles by out-thinking his adversaries.  He was a master of invention and ingenuity and could jury-rig his way out of any scrape with nothing more than the materials at hand.

Sound a bit familiar? It should. Not only was MacGyver a long-running hit, but the quick-witted hero’s moniker actually became a part of the American lexicon.

Some may argue against comparisons to the original series. But if CBS is going to use the title, the concept, and the characters, the nostalgia comes with it.  And the new MacGyver just isn’t true to its origins, in execution or in spirit. Instead, its basic structure reminds me most of another CBS hit – Scorpion.

This time around, as might be expected on CBS, Mac (X-Men‘s Lucas Till) is part of a team of operatives including old friend Jack Dalton (former C.S.I. co-star George Eads), paroled ex-hacker Riley Davis (Tristin Mays), and their handler, Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt).

And while Mac resorts to the occasional trick in the guise of ingenuity, he and his compatriots rely even more heavily on high-tech gadgets.

In the pilot, Mac was betrayed by another fellow team member, Nikki Carpenter (Tracy Spiridakos), who sabotaged a mission and then faked her own death.  She and Mac had also been lovers, so he now has both personal and professional reasons for wanting to find her.

Mac also has a roommate, Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires), whose purpose seems to be comic relief.  But I think it’s safe to assume, given the genre, that should the show survive long enough there will be more to Bozer than meets the eye.

Right now, I don’t think it’s likely to get that far. I predict the same fate for MacGyver that befell previously reimagined series’ like The Bionic Woman, Knight Rider, Charlie’s Angels and Ironside.

TVWriter™ and its visitors enjoyed Doug Snauffer’s first appearance here so much that we tied him up in the garage so he’ll give us more. But he’s far from inexperienced, as you can see:

Douglas Snauffer is an Ohio-based freelance writer. His work has appeared in myriad publications and on SyFy Channel and includes several cult horror films and the books The Show Must Go On and Crime Television. Check him out on IMDB.