The new 2016 ‘MacGyver’ attempts something I don’t recall seeing before. It tries to consolidate and reboot two shows in one. It really ought to be called ‘MacGyver: Impossible’.
Considering that the ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie franchise has little to nothing to do with the old TV series, I can certainly understand why CBS would want to revive its original formula. Unfortunately, legal ownership and naming rights being what they are, the network couldn’t actually use the ‘Mission: Impossible’ title again. But hey, wait, ‘MacGyver’ was once a popular show that people still have nostalgia for, and CBS owns the rights to it. So let’s combine the loosest possible interpretation of either show’s concept into one ungainly mutant hybrid under the ‘MacGyver’ brand, and cast a kid who looks like he’s about 17-years-old in the lead in order to appeal to the youth market that so frustratingly eludes America’s oldest-skewing television network. Yeah, that’ll work!
I watched the hell out of the original ‘MacGyver’ back in the day, but to be honest, I don’t remember a damn thing about it beyond the parts that were parodied in the ‘MacGruber‘ movie and ‘SNL’ sketches. Richard Dean Anderson had a mullet and he could disarm a nuclear bomb with some chewing gum and a paperclip – that’s about the extent of my remaining ‘MacGyver’ knowledge today. He worked for the government, I think? Was he a spy, though? I don’t know. Maybe ‘MacGyver’ was always a thinly-veiled ‘Mission: Impossible’ knockoff, though that doesn’t sound right to me. Whatever the case, the new version definitely is, and is pretty shameless about it.
CBS has been eager to reboot ‘MacGyver’ for a while now and wanted the show to appeal to a younger crowd. Lucas Till, who plays Havoc in the ‘X-Men’ movies, was cast in the lead. The actor is actually 26 but looks like he should still be in high school. So as not to completely alienate the older viewers who are still the network’s core audience, George Eads from ‘CSI’ was also brought in to play MacGyver’s partner and best friend, Jack Dalton. (The fact that Eads is literally old enough to be Till’s father is never addressed in the show when they banter like long-time BFFs.) The version of the pilot episode that aired last week is the second one to be shot. After the network executives hated the initial pilot, they scrapped the whole thing, keeping only Till and Eads, and brought in ‘Furious 7’ director James Wan to pump the show up with lots of mindless action and ‘splosions.
The new Angus “Mac” MacGyver is a brilliant kid who dropped out of school because he was just too smart for his teachers, and was immediately recruited by a secretive government intelligence agency called the Department of External Services, which operates undercover as a political think-tank. Per the old show, he’s a genius at improvising tools and weapons out of whatever is at hand. Conveniently, he always happens to run into exactly the right materials and ingredients to whip up something useful whenever he’s in a bind.
We’re introduced to Mac and his spy team – buddy Jack for muscle and sexy girlfriend Nikki (Tracy Spiridakos from ‘Revolution’) for computer hacking and techie stuff – in a scene you’ve watched in countless ‘Mission: Impossible’ TV episodes, movies and knockoffs. Using just his wits and charm, plus a radio earpiece and fancy glasses with a hidden camera and heads-up computer graphic display, Mac slips into a foreign embassy party, sneaks around, and locates a hidden room where he steals a canister holding a bright-green, liquidy something-or-other. You can tell that it’s really bad by the cylinder shape of the canister and the fact that the liquid glows through the window in the center. That’s never a good sign.
Mac absconds with the loot, is chased by baddies, dodges bullets, and has a boat chase before returning to the rendezvous point and discovering that – Oh no! – Nikki is being held captive by Vinnie Jones! Mac gives up the canister in exchange for Nikki’s life, but Vinnie Jones shoots the both of them anyway, plunging their bodies off a bridge into a river below. That evil sonuvabitch.
Three months later, Mac survives with just a teensy-tiny, adorable scar on his chest. Nikki’s body was never found, but she obviously must be dead. Right? I mean, there’s just no way she’d show up again at the end of the episode, is there? Nah…
Anyway, Mac is sad about his girlfriend being dead for, like, a minute. Then his boss lady (Sandrine Holt, who seems to be on every TV show I watch lately) tells him that the canister he lost to Vinnie Jones contains a weaponized virus that will kill every single person in the entire world if Mac doesn’t get it back right then. But how can the team do that if they don’t have their computer techie person? Jack has a suggestion for that, and – this is important – she must be a twentysomething-year-old girl of equal hotness to the last one. This isn’t ‘Mr. Robot’. No grungy or beady-eyed computer hackers will be allowed on this show.
Mac and Jack spring a computer hacker hottie named Riley (Tristin Mays from ‘The Vampire Diaries’) from prison to be their new Nikki. She uses her hacking magic to search security cameras from all over the world and instantly locate Vinnie Jones in San Francisco. They fly there to capture him, and OH MY GOD HE’S WITH NIKKI! SHE’S STILL ALIVE??? HOW CAN THIS POSSIBLY BE?? I HAD NO IDEA!!!!
Yeah, Nikki is evil and faked her death. She was behind the canister theft and is planning to sell the apocalyptic virus to terrorists or something. Mac chases her to a small airport, runs across the tarmac and jumps into her plane’s landing gear, then disables the plane’s hydraulics and forces it to land again. They capture Nikki, only to find that she already unloaded the virus and it’s going to be dispersed in downtown San Francisco.
Mac and Jack hop in a helicopter and chase an army truck with the virus canister in the back (conveniently unguarded). Mac jumps out of the helicopter onto the moving truck and finds the canister attached to a bomb with a big countdown timer which is going to explode in 10 seconds. (The truck is nowhere near the city at this point, mind you.) Mac uses a paperclip (ha ha ha ha ha, fan-service…) to detach the canister, then fashions a parachute out of the canvas roof of the truck and flies to safety while the truck drives off and explodes harmlessly.
Hooray! The day is saved! Let’s celebrate by having a drink and renaming the Department of External Services to the “Phoenix Foundation,” because that’s presumably something meaningful that fans of the old show will remember.
Episode Verdict / Grade: D-
This show is so fucking godawful I can’t believe I’ve wasted far too much of my life writing this recap. Everything about it is misguided. The new MacGyver is a total douchebag. The plot is stupid. The forced banter and humor are wretched. Even the action scenes are lame.
The pilot episode is inundated with annoying gimmicks including voiceover narration and on-screen text and graphics to explain MacGyver’s improvised inventions, and tons of split-screen montages which are so over-used that they sometimes show the same image on both sides of the screen for no reason. I have a feeling those tricks were all added by James Wan and will probably not recur in later episodes.
I can only hope that this is the worst new TV show of the fall season, because if there’s something worse than this on the way, I don’t want to see it.