Saturday, December 10, 2016

MacGyver Reboot -- Episode 10: Pliers

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver visits his hometown junior high and talks to a science class, but one of the students is kidnapped after class by some drug runners who blackmailed her father.  MacGyver and Jack chase down the girl while Riley and Bozer provide recon from the school.

Memorable Quote:
I know what you're thinking.  This isn't gonna be a fair fight.  There's only two of them, and I'm in a science lab.  ~MacGyver

The secret treehouse was pretty cool, even if it was in much better condition than I would have expected after years of neglect.

I was glad to hear they got the name of MacGyver's hometown correct (Mission City), but that gladness turned to confusion and disappointment when I heard "California."  MacGyver's from Minnesota, and that's a big part of his backstory and upbringing.  Why couldn't they have just said they were in Minnesota?

Best MacGyverism:
Instructs Bozer in making an "antenna array for a radio direction finding system" out of musical instruments duct taped to antennas and music stands.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • I guess the opening with MacGyver on the hood of the car is a "tribute" to The Enemy Within, but a more meaningful tribute would have involved a less random and disconnected scene.
  • The guy who plays the science teacher was Kevin's dad in Home Alone.  Quick holiday-related hot take: Home Alone 3 was a decent movie.
  • This is the first episode where they stumble onto a problem instead of going off on a mission (another "tribute" to the original MacGyver which had many such episodes).
  • I know I've made the same point a thousand times already, but here's 1001: not every scene has to have music!  Especially schmaltzy or generic filler!  For example see (or hear) the scene where MacGyver is talking to the students and notice the background noise that interferes with and cheapens the scene by attempting to excessively manipulate the audience into feeling a certain way.  I know people work hard to make this show and I don't enjoy being a critic, but the music on this series makes me want to shove my eardrums out with a pencil.
  • 23:00 minute mark when Bozer tells MacGyver and Jack that the girl's father worked on the bad guy's car:
    • He knows who took his daughter.  ~MacGyver
    • Which means he knows how to find her.  ~Jack
    • Uh, guys, I think that was already pretty clear when he asked you to leave his house because he was afraid they'd hurt his daughter.

Final Analysis:
Yikes.  I may have hit the wall with this show (I'm also hungry at the moment which doesn't help). Other than Lucas (who I really like), I don't know if there's a single other thing I'm enjoying about the show.  I don't care for the trying-to-be-witty dialogue, the uninspired music, the omnipresence of Riley's hacks, or the rushed MacGyverisms. I also don't care for Jack, Bozer, Riley, or Patricia -- not even for an occasional episode let alone every single one.  Based on the respect that Peter Lenkov has given to the original series, I thought maybe there was a chance that they would recapture even a bit of the old magic.  But so far all I see is generic uninspiration, no magic. Sigh. 


  1. I was checking out earlier today to see what critics and audiences were rating the show, and the results were unsurprising. They hate it.

    Critics: avg score 4.05/10 (overall is 26%) - out of 34 reviews
    Audiences: avg score 2.7/5 (overall is 41%) - out of 117 votes

    People aren't impressed with the way the reboot is going.

    They really put him as from Mission City, CA? *sigh* I'm glad I stopped watching.

    1. Yeah, Mission City California. *teardrop*

    2. I was surprised by that because silly me somehow still expected MacGyver being from Minnesota. But I guess it fits the premise of him playing Basketball und Surfing (we've never seen him do it, but I remember reading in an interview that New MacGyver likes to surf).

      I should have expected it but I'm still a bit disappointed by this.

  2. This was rough. Very rough. I think it may be the worst one yet. I was also hopeful when I saw the Mission City continuity but having MacGyver from northern California was a really unnecessary corruption of the roots of a character that was quintessentially Midwestern. It was hard for me to recover from that but the first segment had potential with MacGyver talking to a class full of middle-schoolers on science along with the mystery of whip-smart young blond girl, a storyline that I figured would be a replication of the "Ugly Duckling" episode where the girl's intelligence was being used by bad guys trying to create or get their hands on a weapon. If only....

    And then things went to the bottom of the barrel pretty quickly. I'm now longing for the days when Bozer's "comic relief" role was limited to a couple random scenes at the beginning and end of each episode. Enduring his insufferable banter with Riley throughout the action scenes cheapens the core of the episode, or in this case, cheapens it beyond the degree it was already dime-store cheap. And as you said, the banter with MacGyver and Jack was little better. It's not clever. It's not funny. It's not helpful. The banter between McGarrett and Danny on "Hawaii Five-O" always exceeds what we see between MacGyver and Jack, likewise with the banter between Riggs and Murtaugh on the surprisingly great TV reboot of "Lethal Weapon", which I regret to say is putting the "MacGyver" reboot to shame. Pretty bad when the new "MacGyver" is not even the best action franchise reboot of the 2016 fall season!

    About the only things that made me smile in the episode were MacGyver's chemistry class explosion gimmick in the beginning (even though it's replication in the car at the end was absurd as it forced the audience to believe MacGyver had access to the same chemicals in a random California woods as he had in the chemistry lab), the doomsday music ringtone accompanying a call from Patricia Thornton, and the absurdity of MacGyver's boyhood treehouse remaining untouched and dust-free more than a decade after he left. When they mentioned "the incident" in Mission City, I thought they were alluding to the accidental shooting of "friend Jesse", but even that ended up being discarded in the interest of not-so-funny comic relief.

    This was a struggle. I kind of liked the Latvian embassy episode that was the last new one. We've seen nothing even remotely "great" in this reboot, but I felt like the latter few had incrementally improved from the first few. Only a few episodes in, it was clear this show was never going to be able to see the quality of the original even with a neutron telescope but I'm now starting to come to terms with the likelihood that it will never, even for a single episode, be able to live up to even my lowest expectations back in mid-September.

    You touched upon my feelings about the character in your closing. Lucas Till is putting forth a competent performance and if he had more individual time to shine, I might grow to genuinely like him in the role, but the showrunners feel the incessant need to drown him out in a deluge of silly banter with the other characters, who some weeks (like this one) played out more like Lulu, Pinky Burnett, and Abe Sherman all crammed into one episode in terms of offering nothing but annoyance. I'm surprised the ratings are as good as they've been, especially given the viewer perception that Highlander points out. It's hard to imagine there's too many viewers out there who find this genuinely good television. All I can figure is the original show's famously loyal audience is like us, continuing to give this reboot chance after chance after chance to prove itself worthy.

    1. Yeah it's clear they're going all in on "banter" but the banter is not as clever or well done as McG and Danny on Five-0, and even if it was, I didn't want the crux of the new show to be silly banter.

      Despite Lenkov talking about not wanting to mess it up for the fans of the show, the series so far is totally tone deaf to the original. I think one barrier to this or future MacGyver ventures relates to Zlotoff in that he owns the rights as the creator but he wasn't involved in the show after writing the pilot. If there was a reboot of Quantum Leap, for instance, Donald Bellisario would have to sign off on it and it would have to be to his liking. But with all due respect to LDZ, I don't know that he lived and breathed the series in the same way that we did -- I started reading his MacGyver comic book (might do a full post on that at some point) and so far it doesn't come off like the MacGyver that we know. And if he did have any gripes, I don't think he has the clout to overrule big-time producers or network execs.

      In any event, I'm back on the fence as to whether or not to keep doing these reboot posts since I feel like I've said everything I have to say.

    2. Not every action show needs to be about "buddy banter". It makes sense on "Hawaii Five-O" and "Lethal Weapon". It doesn't make sense on "MacGyver", which should have been evident based on a cursory viewing of a handful of episodes. You might be right that a more active showrunner than LDZ would be less likely to sign away the rights to a pale imitator, but I'm a little skeptical that Downing or Greenburg would be willing to stop the remake in its tracks. Maybe they would though. I know LDZ had a bit of a hissy fit over "MacGruber". Are you at all tempted to e-mail Downing or Greenburg and see what their thoughts are of the reboot, either on or off the record?

    3. And given that Downing was involved with the disastrous Young MacGyver, it's no guarantee that his involvement in a new show would be any better. Hadn't thought of asking those guys what they think of the reboot but maybe I'll do that at some point.

  3. First-time poster here, been reading since the re-boot started though and am enjoying the banter. Also, a fellow Olympic nut!

    Regarding the ratings, best I can tell is that the show is doing really well with teenage girls (think One Direction fans) and housewives. Most of the replies to the official Twitter account are from these groups and they all seem to really love the show (and Lucas Till).

    I think the show also benefits from being a lead-in to the two most popular Friday night network shows. CBS views it as giving the night much better flow than The Amazing Race did, and despite average ratings, it stands a good chance of getting a second season.

    Keep in mind who the type of people are who write online reviews. Professional critics, and in this case, passionate fans of the original. The reality of that is that this show never stood a chance of being critically acclaimed (though it is up for best new drama on the People's Choice Awards!). Hell, the original wasn't either.

    Look, I'm a big fan of the original. I never came into this expecting much. It's 30 years on, and honestly, the original MacGyver trends more towards cult favorite than timeless classic (i.e. Lethal Weapon). That stuff is hard to recreate without just doing a blatant copy of the show. What I've found is that I actually enjoy the show for what it is...mindless, fun entertainment, and it's occasional nod to the original. I also find it to have a dopey charm, though I may be alone in that regard. Is it particularly good? No. Would I be bothered if it disappeared one day. Probably not. Then again, I'm one of those people that's pretty good at tampering expectations and not letting my love for something get ruined by a lesser version of something (Lord knows there's a ton of this out there).

    The original is one of those things that's really a "moment in time," we love RDA's MacGyver because it was quintessentially 80s. But therein lies the problem of a reboot of will never be able to recapture that kitschy charm no matter how hard you try. Once you divorce yourself from that idea, what you're left with is a MacGyver for a new generation...I get the impression that the big fans of the current show are those with at best a loose knowledge of the original, heck, they probably know more of "MacGruber" than RDA's "MacGyver." And there seems to be enough of these folks out there to keep the show respectable ratings-wise. So, I would disagree that the ratings are as high as they are because of fans of the original. From what I've seen, most tuned out early.

    One other thing, I haven't watched "Pliers" yet, but I'm guessing moving Mission City to California is a casualty of making Till's MacGyver 10 years younger than RDA's. With his extensive backstory (he's done quite a lot in the 6-7 years post-graduating from MIT), and the fact that Till plays Mac as more of a West Coast kinda guy, it's probably more pragmatic to the bottom line to have him as a lifelong Cali guy. Perhaps they could write in that his Grandfather lived out in Minnesota and he used to visit him often as a youth just to keep that tie-in.

    P.S. This isn't the first reference to Mission City in the reboot. In one of the first episodes, Mac is seen with a newspaper satchel labeled "Mission City Star."

    1. The primary objections from long-time fans of the original aren't that the reboot isn't 'exactly like' the original, it's that the reboot is a sad cliche of MacGyver slapped over some other tv show.

      MacGyver is supposed to be 'the thinking man's action hero'. The reboot version is 'that random guy with a couple tricks up his sleeves and 6 friends with guns to save his ass'. Not the same thing. In fact, it's sort of the complete *opposite* of MacGyver.

      So, us old school fans may be picking apart the little things, but it's the big things that are keeping the old fans from enjoying the show.

      Personally, I think Lucas Till could knock playing MacGyver out of the park, if only he wasn't given this atrocious writing and horrible gimmicky plots. He has some really great moments in the 4 episodes that I've seen that are very 'MacGyver', but then he has to deal with two doofuses: Bozer and Jack - who drag everything down to a weird, badly-written buddy cop level. He's talented, but he's not so strong an actor that he can carry the show on his own with the cast of anchors dragging him down.

      I wish I could be more excited about a show with 2 primary female characters and a female primary-ish bad guy, but they've got Bozer drooling over Riley, and Patricia is wooden and 2-D. I can't say a whole lot about Nicki (Nikki?) b/c she hasn't had much screentime, but I wasn't overly impressed with her set-up.

      I want my 'thinking action hero' to do some 'thinking' in his 'action-ing'.

    2. Thanks for reading the blog DB and hope you enjoy the Olympic podcasts! Haven't thought about doing a new one in a while but maybe at some point next year I'll get back into it.

      I suspect you're right about the ratings and the target audience, and from the network's perspective I guess the show has been a modest success due to the ratings. Even if it's not a show that people will be talking about 30 years later, I imagine the network just cares about the short term numbers and accompanying ad revenue.

      I'll admit that I'm pretty selective when it comes to tv and movies in general and most of it doesn't appeal to me, and so remaking my favorite show was an enormously high bar and I'm not surprised that it wasn't reached. But I'd also like to think that there was a way to get modest ratings while also making a quality show that wasn't exactly like the original but at least more in the same vein like H2 said.

      I've been watching Burn Notice here and there for the first time (currently at the beginning of Season 5), and while it's not a perfect show it's still like 100 times better than this and much more in line with what I'm looking for in a modern secret agent-type show.

    3. DB, thanks for chiming in. Curious if you've looked at Nick's rankings and episode analysis for the original series since you've dropped in on the site?

      I'd be surprised if teenage girls were a substantial share of the reboot's audience since CBS has the oldest-skewing audience of the networks and since it's on Friday nights when teen girls are typically not watching TV. I suppose if we're talking 13-14-year-olds, perhaps. "MacGyver" might be their new "TGIF" franchise. I suspect most viewers are over 50 and have some vague memories of enjoying the original, but they're the least likely to chime in on Twitter with opinions. In that respect, I agree with your Friday "comfort food" analysis on CBS. It's a good fit with "Five-O" and "Blue Bloods", and those geriatric CBS households in Middle America are likely to turn their TV from "Wheel of FOrtune" at 6:30 (central time) to the CBS primetime lineup for three hours of popcorn dramas at 7:00. And when I said "fans" of the original, I didn't necessarily mean the die-hards raging about the remake on social media....but the second and third-ring "fans" who were regular viewers of the original from 1985 to 1992 but haven't spent much time thinking about it since. Those people, now middle-aged to senior citizens, are who I believe most of these 7+ million weekly viewers are.

      No network show gets critical acclaim these days, so a broadcast network like CBS isn't making any attempts at that with anything they put out anymore. The Emmy dominance of comparative mediocrities like "Cheers" and "L.A. Law" in the "MacGyver" era was harder for me to understand and still is. Even next to the shows that were considered the Holy Grail of their era, I found "MacGyver" more compelling, and am still dismayed it was never even considered for industry acclaim while formulaic dreck like "Murder, She Wrote" was.

      Glad you're getting some enjoyment out of the reboot. My expectations were low going in as well....very low in fact. All of what you said about "MacGyver" being a product of its era that couldn't be recreated effectively held true for me going in. But I hoped it would be at least as good as "Scorpion"! I didn't think that was too much to ask for since "Scorpion" was an existing "MacGyver" ripoff on the same network. So far, "Scorpion" is running circles around it as far as I'm concerned.

      I did catch the reference to the "Mission City Star" but don't recall the episode.

    4. Mark, I've looked at a few of the original MacGyver reviews, but time being what it is, haven't delved into them thoroughly.

      Might give me a reason to go back and watch the whole series again! it's been awhile.

  4. It's still not the MacGyver Reboot I wanted - but overall, I liked this one. Comparing it to the first few episodes, it has improved a lot!

    The change in scenery (school, tree house and outdoors instead of Phoenix Offices and "foreign" countries) was very refreshing and we finally got our wish for a "non-mission-episode" with the team stumbling into a plot where someone needed help. I also liked Amiah's portrayal of Valerie.

    On the other hand, 10 episodes in and I still have the same complaints - too much team instead of MacGyver, too fast MacGyverisms, plot holes as big as an ocean, music where there shouldn't be any and so on *sigh*.