Friday, October 7, 2016

MacGyver Reboot -- Episode 3: Awl

Synopsis in 3 sentences or less:
MacGyver and his team go to Malaysia to get information from the money manager of a terrorist organization.  After making contact, the money manager is critically injured by a sniper and MacGyver must keep him alive long enough to learn the location of the terrorists' next attack.

Memorable Quote:
Yo yo yo yo, what about my baby?  We can't just leave it here unlocked.  ~Ralph
Trying to imagine how your resale value could go down any more.  ~MacGyver

Our very first shake!  If you don't know what a shake is, see my MacGyver glossary.  

The money manager, Ralph, was an unrealistic and insufferable character -- no big time hedge fund manager talks like he's 13 years old.

Best MacGyverism:
Performs a chest drain procedure on Ralph in the back of an SUV.  Cuts him open with a pocketknife and spreads his ribs apart with a tire jack.  Sucks blood out of the chest using a tube connected to the windshield wiper pump.  It's funny that MacGyver is squirting some hand sanitizer on all this stuff as if that's going to make the procedure sanitary.

Other thoughts, observations, and questions I didn’t ask when I was in fourth grade:
  • Last episode I speculated as to the significance of the Metal Saw title.  Well it's clear now that the titles don't have any significance -- they're just using the names of tools.
  • Another thing I said in my last episode post was, "I imagine we'll have a MacGyver meets his father again storyline at some point."  I wasn't expecting the storyline to begin the very next episode.
  • Why does Ralph punch the glass case with the sword, is he really that dumb?  Don't answer that.
  • Even if the headrest is made of flame resistant foam, it is giving off way more smoke than I would expect.
  • Runner up for lowlight: Riley appearing out of thin air on the same floor of the office building as MacGyver and Jack.  She not only knew where they were and got there by a different route, but she knew what their plan was going to be (since she was ready to distract the front desk person) and also had time to hack the company's servers. And what happened to the doctor that was in the car with her?
  • Faking Ralph's death was a terrible plan.  They did it on a busy street, hoping that the bad guys would come at exactly the right time and then stop looking for them after seeing he was dead.  Why not just go into hiding?
  • Once they battle the bad guys in the warehouse and save Ralph, it feels anticlimactic when he tells them that the shell company is in Miami.  First of all, isn't the whole point of a shell company to hide the activities of the bad guys, so why would they pick the location to be in the same place as the next attack?  And second of all, why couldn't Ralph have just told them that earlier?  I would have liked it better if they would have gotten some intel from the bad guys in the warehouse -- would have made everything they went through in the episode seem more worthwhile.
  • Did anyone else spot Elya Baskin (aka Yuri Demetri/Biff) in the preview for next week's episode?
  • Thumbs up still for Lucas -- he's a likable guy and a charismatic actor.

Final Analysis:
I thought this episode had better pacing than the first two episodes in that it didn't move quite so fast, but due to the various plot issues and lack of highlights I'm ranking it at the bottom (official ranking page still to come). It had the same faceless villain problem where we don't know anything about the bad guys and so there's little joy in seeing them taken down.  In Five-0 we don't always know a lot about the bad guy either, but there's usually a mystery which helps drive the plot.  In a straight up adventure, however, you gotta develop the antagonists much more than they're doing.

Now that we're three episodes in, I'd say the biggest flaw for me is that the show is way too light hearted. I remember one of the writers saying that the reboot "wouldn't be your father's MacGyver," but that implies a certain edginess that hasn't transpired at all.  Five-0 can be lighthearted but it's also more serious in tone than what we've seen from MacGyver so far.  And once again, the mystery element in each Five-0 episode is often enough to make it compelling and so the rest of the episode can be whatever it wants.  I don't need my adventure stories to be as dark and edgy as 24 or Prison Break, but I would prefer that this series be more serious.  I never watched the original MacGyver for laughs.

Maybe other viewers like the more comedic angle, and if they continue to get ratings then they'll keep doing what they're doing.  I don't enjoy being a critic -- I know the people on this show are working very hard and I'm sensitive to that.  But if the show didn't have the MacGyver name and if my blog wasn't called The MacGyver Project I think I would stop watching at this point.


  1. I liked this one quite a bit better than last week's. The story wasn't perfect by any means but at least there was a story which is hard to say about last week. As you said, the pacing was better all around but the saving grace for me was we had a steady drumbeat of original and very clever MacGyverisms, something we haven't seen in either of the prior episodes. I loved how he used pieces of the car as surgical equipment and the homemade gas masks he stitched together out of garbage, the first original signs of the kind of ingenuity that made the franchise. Goofy as it was, I even liked the beginning MacGyverism with the fire extinguishers and air rafts. I'll still give the pilot the edge for #1 but this one isn't too far behind it at #2.

    Tonally, it still needs work. I frequently grumbled about the cheekiness of the tone of most of season 2 of the original "MacGyver" but tonight's episode went way beyond the cheeky factor of just about anything seen on the original series. I've liked Jack Dalton in the first two episodes but he was annoying as hell here. How many times did he reference wanting to punch the neanderthal Ralph? Like 15? Granted the first one came with a reward as Riley uttered the funniest line so far in the series about how "her mom had a boyfriend with a face like that".

    The reboot is still on thin ice with me but with tonight's episode I saw the signs of inventiveness that at least offer some justification for this reboot's existence. They have a long way's to go to make the characters genuinely and consistently interesting but at least they got the nuts and bolts accounted for here.

    1. To borrow your thin ice metaphor, the ice has been cracking a bit each week to the point where I've now fallen through. If only Pete Thornton was around to throw me a life preserver. I think this will probably be my last episode recap post (I may of course change my mind). I'll still watch but don't really want to be continually finding fault or ripping it publicly out of respect for the people who are working on it.

    2. Fair enough. I figured you'd like this one more....or at least respect the MacGyverisms which I thought were solid throughout here. Kind of surprised you're at your wit's end over the point of crying uncle before you did on "Legend"! Would you say you find this reboot worse than "Legend"? Aside from a couple of episodes that I enjoyed, I'd definitely put "Legend" a rung or two below this reboot.

    3. The MacGyverisms did less for me than they did for you. I would also put Legend below the reboot -- if it was much more than 12 episodes I might not have been able to go through with it.

    4. How can "The MacGyver Project" not review the new episodes? What's a bigger slap in the face? Offering constructive criticism or ignoring the show altogether? The question answers itself. Besides, we, your readers are counting on you.

    5. There's also the bit where it's his blog and he can choose to review, or not review, whatever he wants. He doesn't owe you reviews of anything. * is being a cranky fan today *

    6. I may end up doing more posts or take it one post at a time depending on how I feel - I am a P after all (i.e. Meyers Briggs P) so I change my mind often.

    7. Of course he will write or not write as he sees fit. I just wanted to point out that his criticism really is of the constructive type. I happen to think that what he writes here could actually improve the show in the future. And the part about "we're counting on you" was meant more as a compliment than in the literal sense.

  2. Wow! This show doesn't have any of the (often corny) charm of the original. Other than being called MacGyver, there's no MacGyver in it.

  3. I haven't watched this one yet... but the MacGyverism you referenced... *shaking my head* Marhsall Mann walked Mary Shannon through inserting a chest tube made from a water bottle and a piece of tubing from the car on "In Plain Sight".

    re: The episode titles... it looks like they're running through the various items on a Swiss Army Knife.

  4. Once again, I watched after the show aired so that I could run through the commercials. This might get old in my entries but I will keep on saying it, just in case anyone is listening.
    I watched the show once so I do not a great deal of specifics. But I noticed the handshake after the punch. I also saw Mac’s messenger pouch like the one he used in the “Gosh Darn It Spencer” episode. Nick, you can help me out with this one for confirmation and title of the episode.
    I like the MacGyverisms. However, I am not prepared to try them out. Jumping of a building in a body bag filled with CO2. I might actually need the body bag. And how often are there unused body bags lying around?
    Blood on the windshield was a good effect…not very appealing; but good.
    My one big suggestion (other than bring back the music) is lose the roommate. He is really unnecessary and very annoying.
    So, Mac is going to contact his father the old fashioned way by writing a “snail” mail letter. Let’s see where this goes.
    Final comment, I like Mac’s outdoor patio. It is very southwestern, comfortable, and fits his character.

    1. "Spencer gosh darn it" is from the Pilot. I would be fine if they lost all the characters other than MacGyver.

    2. I also noticed that on Jack Dalton's dad's gravestone his birth date was September 29, 1945.....Sept. 29 being the day the original "MacGyver" premiered. I didn't see the date he died to see if it was the date of the original's finale, but it may have been a coincidence anyway.

  5. 8.2 million viewers this week, down from 9.1 million viewers. That's still good for Friday night at 8/7 central but the attrition I predicted is happening and the show will be in the danger zone if it keeps losing 10% of its audience each week. It's not entirely out of the question it won't get a full season order if this level of attrition continues.

    The Phoenix Foundation podcast guys pointed out that Ralph's character was a direct lift from the real-life AIDS drug executive villain Martin Shkreli, with many of the details from the episode directly connected to Shkreli. It's even where they came up with the whole "punchable face" gimmick repeated to exhaustion over the course of the hour. With that said, I think they should have played Ralph's character as more of a smart but unbearably smug, self-centered creep than the dopey dumbass he was.

    1. I've heard of Shkreli but what's the connection with him and the punchable face? And if it is canceled, do you think that studio people see that as a failure of the concept of MacGyver and thus there wouldn't be any future attempted MacGyver related tv shows/movies? Not that I want a whole lot more tv shows/movies if the quality isn't there, but it seems like a shame if people think that the character can't succeed because I think it could still be relevant with today's audiences if done well.

    2. Apparently there's a website called "punchable face" dedicated to Martin Shkreli. Hence, Jack bringing that up about 20 different times. There were other connections discussed on the Phoenix Foundation podcast.

      I'm getting ahead of myself a bit saying it will be canceled. They will definitely air all 13 episodes of the original order and I'm betting they consider the ratings thus far sufficient to order a full season. And the "MacGyver" feature film recently discussed would probably not happen if this TV remake tanks, and other properties connected to "MacGyver" will probably stop dead in their tracks too. It's not clear whether they'd blame a lack of inspiration for this specific remake or not, but either way I think the takeaway would be that the lightning a bottle captured by the original series is just not something that can be recaptured, at least in the eyes of audiences.