MacGyver Missing More than the Mullet

The late comedian George Carlin once did a routine in which he pointed out that when an advertisement says “new and improved” that logically cannot be both. If it is truly new then it cannot be an improved version of something else. Similarly if it is improved that it is not entirely new but just a revised version of something else. Scripture also reminds us in Ecclesiastes 1:9 “there is nothing new under the sun”. Unfortunately in the case of MacGyver, the CBS reboot of the original MacGyver that ran from 1985-1982, it is neither new nor improved.

Although our hero played by Lucas Till has a shaggy hairdo, it isn’t a mullet. For some strange reason I miss the mullet. If that was my only complaint about the show it might be worth watching. I can understand why with modern technology to exploit as a storyline and with more modern special effects they might want to bring back in action show like this one. Both the old and the new MacGyver a guy who can jury rig any kind of device out of ordinary objects. At one point he says to a computer hacker “You can hack computers… I hack everything else.” Which is a pretty good description of this classic character.

While MacGyver’s gadgets always stretched the bounds of believability, you always had the feeling that is maybe the gadgets he put together by the have actually worked. Countless episodes of MythBusters were devoted to his gadgets and devices and some of them did actually work. However in this new incarnation the second thing that he did about five minutes into the show was that he created interference in the communication earpiece of a security guard by making an electromagnet out of a piece of metal, a coil of wire, and a AA battery. Any fifth grade science student will tell you that such a device might make a strong enough magnet to pick up a paperclip or two but not much else. The idea that you can use DC current to create any kind of significant radio waves to jam a radio also is completely of everyday science. I don’t know how much C4 explosive it takes to blow something up. I don’t know what combination of everyday chemicals you can put together to get some unusual reaction. There are a million other things that MacGyver could pull off that I might say “Well maybe that could work”. But when right out of the gates he did something that stupid that so obviously would not work, it tells me that the writers think we’re stupid.

A friend of mine also pointed out to me that the voiceover narration is especially condescending towards the audience as well. At one point he picks a lock with a straightened paperclip and while showing it to us took the time to explain in voiceover that it was a straightened paperclip like we had no idea what it was.

I’m not going to apologize for the following spoiler because the whole show is fairly rotten to begin with. In this incarnation MacGyver has a female assistant who also happens to be his girlfriend. The bad guys capture her and kill her and he spends three months trying to get over it. When he finally does get back to work he discovers his girlfriend was actually still alive and working with the bad guys. This show really doesn’t need that kind of a continuing subplot that the villain is an ex girlfriend.

I have to admit I don’t remember a lot about the original series but it seemed to me that MacGyver usually worked alone. In this incarnation he has a sidekick played by George Eads formerly of CSI. And after his girlfriend died/came back to life he replaced her with a hacker girl that he helped get out of prison to join his organization. I seem to recall Richard Dean Anderson’s original MacGyver have a sort of dry wit about him that is lacking. And the comic relief provided by his new sidekicks don’t make up for that lack of humor in the new version.

I have to give a bit of disclaimer for badmouthing this show for lack of credibility because I’m also a big fan Scorpion in which our heroes routinely come up with a MacGyver-like solutions to problems that stretch credibility and the laws of science to their very limits and often beyond. But they are more interesting people to begin with and the personalities play off one another really well. I just don’t think I’m in the mood for that much mindless action trying to be scientifically grounded and failing. If I wasn’t already watching Scorpion you might talk me into watching a few more episodes of MacGyver in hopes that it would get better. But as far as I’m concerned my sense of nostalgia for this character isn’t strong enough for it to make the cut. I’m getting this one a very definite “skip it”.

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