MacGyver– necessity is the mother of re-invention

by Emily Reed, Editor

It’s time to go dust off your old beaker and test tube set because MacGyver is back with some new tricks up his sleeve.

Reviews of the MacGyver reboot, airing on CBS, have fans divided like oil and water. Some say the show does not adhere to the original show’s principles. Others welcome the reboot’s major changes that were made to modernize everyone’s favorite troubleshooter.

As for me, I believe this experimental reboot has potential but must go through several more small tweaks and trials to achieve the perfect formula.

One of the biggest problems with the new MacGyver is that supporting characters from the original have different personalities in the reboot, and there are completely new characters that have no roots in the original series.

In March 2016, Lucas Till was announced as the new MacGyver and George Eads as the new Jack Dalton.With James Wan as director of the reboot, they changed Jack’s first name to Lincoln and gave him a new personality as a conspiracy theorist who was also a legitimate government employee.

In addition, they created a character who was Jack’s sister who had romantic feelings for MacGyver and worked for Homeland Security.

As MacGyver once said, “I’ve found from past experiences that the tighter your plan, the more likely you are to run into something unpredictable.”

For Wan, the unpredictable part was when CBS decided to scrap the pilot in June 2016.

Peter Lenkov, a creator of the original MacGyver, is now the director of the series.  Lenkov announced that Till will still play MacGyver while Eads plays a version of Jack that’s much closer to the original which ran from 1985-1992.

Till’s version of MacGyver radiates the same boyish charm of Richard Dean Anderson’s original portrayal of the iconic character. The one difference is that Till’s MacGyver is not a lone wolf like Anderson’s MacGyver. MacGyver now has a team at the Phoenix Foundation that includes Jack Dalton and newcomer Riley Davis played by actress Tristin Mays .

In the original, Jack was portrayed as an immature prankster who always got himself into trouble that was so bad he had to call his friend MacGyver to bail him out. In the new reboot, Jack has flipped personalities and is an aggressive expert in artillery and more mature than Macgyver.

I miss the old Jack who would crack jokes at the worst times. New Jack, so far is a bland character who lacks a quirky sense of humor. However, it is the beginning of the season. There is still time to develop his character.

Another original character with a new personality is Nikki Carpenter. In the original, Nikki was a spitfire agent who did not get along with MacGyver. Eventually, Nikki joined the Phoenix Foundation and they were forced to be civil to one another in a professional environment.

In the reboot, Nikki is MacGyver’s girlfriend, until he finds out she’s a double agent working for some mysterious corperation. Since the new Nikki is so different from the original, I would rather they invented a completely new character.

In general, Nikki is not an incredibly important supporting character since she only appears in six episodes of the original MacGyver.

The only casting change no one is complaining about is that the Pete Thornton from the original series, who was a balding senior citizen. She is now Patricia Thornton and played by the lovely Sandrine Holt. Patricia has the same personality as Pete, an ex-field agent then director of DXS (Department of External Services) and eventually the Phoenix Foundation.

One thing that has not changed is that at the Phoenix Foundation, MacGyver’s job is to go on secret government missions and succeed by using anything from tree branches to chewing gum. Often the best part of the show is seeing what crazy trick MacGyver uses in each episode.

What’s really impressive is when MacGyver’s tricks are scientifically sound.

In the original pilot, a couple of chocolate bars are used to stop sulfuric acid. Due to the disachharide sucrose found in the chocolate, the chocolate bars would react with the hot sulfuric acid and break down the sulfuric acid into elemental carbon and steam which would stop the leak. I thought to myself, “This could really work.”

Mythbusters satisfied my curiousity in a video where they proved that chocolate CAN stop a sulfuric acid leak.

In the reboot’s pilot, the science is very weak. MacGyver mixes muriatic acid, ammonia, and tin foil to make smoke to fool a security camera. This trick was already used in the original MacGyver episode “D.O.A. MacGyver”. No surprises.

However, the third episode of the reboot shows promise in the tricks department. In the episode, MacGyver performs a chest drain procedure in the back of an SUV. He cuts the injured man open with a Swiss army knife and spreads his ribs apart with a tire jack. Then, the excess blood is sucked out of his chest using a tube connected to the windshield wiper pump.

It may not be a chemical reaction, but it still is a show of MacGyver’s adaptability. What the reboot hasn’t adapted is the cheesy 80’s one liners. In fact, the new MacGyver somehow manages to be even more lighthearted.

Some of the cliche lines the characters use make me cringe, but, luckily, the frequency of these occurrences has decreased. The writing for the show has gotten progressively better in every possible way. The plot of the episodes make more sense, the characters are no longer one dimensional, and the tricks are starting to become impressive.

I estimate that the creators will have perfected the formula for a great remake around halfway through the first season.

Tune in Friday nights on CBS from 8-9 to catch the latest episode of MacGyver.