Properly reviewing the Lionsgate February 20, 2018 DVD release of S1 of "MacGyver" requires the analytical thinking needed to be on the payroll of the Phoenix Foundation as a member of Team MacGyver.
The good news is that this entertaining reimagining of the '80s action-adventure series about the exploits of hunky 30-something science-whiz-secret agent Angus MacGyver stays very true to the original concept; it also has an abundance of fresh elements that prevent undue deja-vu regarding the original.
The following YouTube clip of the Lionsgate promo. for "MacGyver" S1 provides a good look at the new faces in this franchise and includes plenty of action shots.
Lucas Till, who aptly plays young Havok in the "The X-Men" prequel films, has the good looks and boy-next-door persona that filling the shoes of hunky original star Richard Dean Anderson requires.
The reimagining includes replacing middle-age desk jockey handler Pete Thornton with younger and more active Patricia Thornton, who does not seem to be related to her Mac Universe predecessor. Further, longtime friend-colossal flake Penny Parker keeps her name and relative age to MacGyver but is a more frequent presence and is much less flighty.
Producers Lee David Zlotoff and Henry "Fonzie" Winkler also alter Nikki Carpenter. Her background is less fleshed out this time, and we meet her after she is the spy who loves MacGyver.
Nikki also reflects an element that requires the aforementioned analysis regarding the '16 series. Her apparent departure from the series in the pilot sends our hero in a tail spin that is an element for many S1 episodes. However, folks who are familiar with this genre in general and with the OS specifically can predict the subsequent developments. The same is true regarding the general plot line regarding allegedly literary-loving arch-nemesis Murdoc.
Thoughts regarding the recasting of recurring character buddy/irritant Jack Dalton likely are more controversial. A purely objective opinion is that the (arguably skilled) portrayal of that character by Bruce McGill is so loathsome that there is a memory of avoiding episodes in which he appears.
The same bias reflects liking the new Dalton, who appears in every S1 episode. Zlotoff and Winkler properly rely on the fan base of George Eads from his 335 episodes on "CSI" in casting him as the permanent sidekick of MacGyver. This likable Dalton plays up his good ole boy persona to entertain Team McGyver, always looks out for MacGyver rather than tries to con him, and actively puts himself in a position in which he may take a bullet to protect his buddy. For his part, Dalton makes an amusing joke that he hates nerdy CSI (i.e., forensic science) stuff.
Similarly, the aforementioned loved Murdoc is a more constant presence than his roughly once a season OS appearances. He first shows up mid-season as an assassin with a contract that is very personal to our group.
We further see bounty hunters/proposed spin-off stars the Colton Family get a makeover.
The aspect that requires the aforementioned perspective regarding this fast-paced series (which provides at least three lessons in how to MacGyver household items in each episode) reflects the difference in the television landscape between 1985 and 2016.
The OS was a "guy" show competing with the Monday-night sitcom lineups of CBS and NBC. Additionally, the relatively few cable networks of that era mostly either aired very specialized content or obscure reruns.
Conversely, network broadcast series of 2016 compete with 100s of basic and premium cable channels that mostly show original content. This is not to mention the numerous streaming services that do the same. One need not be a rocket scientist to realize that this makes going with a sure bet much safer then being experimental.
One only need to look at the new "Fuller House" and "Will & Grace," both of which seem to SOLELY exist to amuse the stars, and the upcoming "Roseanne" that likely will be more of the same to see that content providers are looking to the past to put butts in front of a screen in the present.
The '16 "MacGyver" outshines the other reboots by being completely free of smirks as the star does things such as use a Mylar balloon to lift a foot print and utilize common kitchen items to transform a wine bottle into a potentially lethal projectile. We further do not get any lame insider jokes regarding the former incarnations of the characters.
(A side note is that your not-so-humble reviewer is proud of once using a coat hanger to retrieve a kitchen sink sprayer hose from a bend in a drain.)
What we get are well-crafted stories that (sometimes repeatedly) center around cliched plots; this reflects a statement by Roseanne before the premiere of her OS that there are only 10 sitcom plots. A hilarious aspect of that is her saying then that she never is going to resort to the lower middle-class Conners winning the lottery.
At the same time, Tom and Jerry chasing and battering each other have entertained us for more than 60 years, and the Scooby gang has done the same regarding their pursuits of bad guys who try to scare off meddling kids and others. This demonstrates that a properly executed concept can be eternal. One should remember as well that some shows are crave-worthy comfort food, rather than rare delicacies.
The reason for mentioning this is that the (again entertaining and well-produced) 21 episodes in S1 of the '16 series packs in several seasons' worth of fan-favorite concepts. This includes Murdoc appearing in four of the twenty-one offerings.
We also get two episodes in a row in which a good person does a really bad thing because the real villain is holding a family member, two separate episodes in which a sort of a homecoming for MacGyver embroils him in intrigue, MacGyver not allowing a contract on his head to prevent him from going out in the field, Team MacGyver having a dangerous mole, and a season finale in which the bad guys obtain control of the Phoenix headquarters.
We further get a cross-over episode in which MacGyver and Dalton team up with the finest from the new "Hawaii Five-O" to save the day. Folks who recall the excitement of seeing folks from "Cheers" and "Frasier" visiting each other, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel reuniting a few times, the "Star Trek" crews merging, and even "CSI" teams joining forces can relate to the appeal of this one.
Two other plot lines pay homage to the "CSI" past of Eads. One episode finds him buried alive. Another one in which a hunt for a serial killer is personal for a member of Team MacGyver and requires especially heavy use of forensic science is another awesome nod to the CBS classic procedural that precedes "MacGyver."
The debriefing regarding this mission to provide a sense of '16 S1 is that "MacGyver" is unique in having a strong ensemble with a lead who appeals to viewers from 8-to-80. Further, a barrage of familiar elements in S1 often is needed these days to help ensure an S2. This site will review the DVD of that season in a year
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