‘MacGyver’ review: Remake needs smart, compelling rethinking
THE SHOW “MacGyver”
WHEN | WHERE Premieres Friday at 8 p.m. on CBS/2
WHAT IT’S ABOUT Young Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till, Havok of “X-Men”) works for a secret government organization that almost seems to work for him, mostly because his talents are so extraordinary. With the help of his pocket knife, and whatever else he can cobble together, he can get out of dangerous situations, or exploit them. And he has help — the ex-SEAL Jack Dalton (George Eads, “CSI”), and the genius hacker Riley Davis (Tristin Mays). His roomie and BFF, Wilt Bozer (Justin Hires), doesn’t have a clue what he does. Mac’s boss, Head of Operations Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) watches over her brilliant employee with a mixture of awe and exasperation. This reboot is based on the ABC series that aired from 1985 to 1992.
MY SAY Poor Angus “Mac” MacGyver. You save the world over 139 episodes with the help of bubble gum, paper clips and other assorted odds and ends, and you’d think you’d earned the right to a dignified retirement. But it hasn’t worked out that way. First there were the mediocre TV movies (three of them). Next came the “SNL” parody, followed by a big screen movie, “MacGruber,” which wasn’t just merely bad but entertained only crickets at the cineplex.
And now, this latest indignity. At least the crickets will applaud.
This reboot isn’t terrible — though at moments perilously close to terrible — as much as irrelevant. As the latest demonstration of TV’s slavish devotion to the past, “MacGyver’s” pilot makes no case for why that past — or why this one — should be exhumed. It does, however, make a compelling case for why it shouldn’t.
The original “MacGyver” was one of the last gasps of a genre that had kicked around prime time for decades — the “high-concept” thriller with an outlandish hook (contemporary “Quantum Leap” was another example). The still shameless networks were beginning to be shamed by the genre, some of the showrunners too. The director of the original “MacGyver” refused to put his name on the pilot, subbing instead the famous Hollywood protest pseudonym, Alan Smithee. But “MacGyver” was a success by virtue of positioning — as “Monday Night Football” lead-in — and its star. Mop-headed, ironic and mock-cool, Richard Dean Anderson became the character, and an indelible one.
To rebuild the show required a character rebuild, too. But that’s difficult if not impossible. So on to plan B, which apparently means you “MacGyver” it with the TV equivalent of chewing gum and paper clips. You know: Exploding boats, bad guys with English accents, biological super weapons, and racy double-entendre sight gags accompanied by explanatory dialogue, like “no one’s better on the keyboard.”
Some of the dialogue is so ghastly even Anderson would have insisted on a Smithee pseudonymin in the credits. For example: “That dress may look dangerous, but trust me, the woman inside it is way more deadly.”
A few of the critical “makeshift” moments defy logic, if not ridicule.
Is the new “MacGyver” beyond hope? Hardly. CBS is a patient network, and the cast is good. Till’s got charm and his on-screen bromance with Eads is one of the few elements that actually works. But patience and bromances won’t save this. A smart, compelling, up-to-date rethinking just might.
BOTTOM LINE MacSilly, MacNonense, MacDumb. Take your pick.