Not too long ago, CBS included a lengthy preview of the upcoming MacGyver reboot in its network upfronts presentation. The preview/trailer offered viewers (but really, advertisers) a chance to get a feel for what the 2016 version of the popular series that ran from 1985-1992 would be like. Viewers were treated to a long-haired Lucas Till (X-Men: Apocalypse) as the titular character with a knack for accomplishing amazing feats with limited resources, as well as CSI alum George Eads as his in-the-field liaison and go-to guy for astonished facial expressions every time Mac conjures up an incredible device with little more than some chewing gum and a paperclip.
The trailer presented aspects of the series from the pilot episode directed by David Von Ancken (Hell on Wheels, The Following), an episode that was good enough CBS gave MacGyver a series order and a spot on its fall 2016 schedule as the lead-in to the long-running Hawaii Five-0 and Blue Bloods. As it turns out, however, that trailer is not representative of what MacGyver will end up being, as some significant changes are in store for the reboot. While the series is still at CBS, word has come that the premiere episode will not be the pilot from Von Ancken, but will instead be replaced by a new premiere to be directed by series executive producer James Wan.
While there’s a clear benefit for the network, as it now has a recognizable and marketable name in Wan, who recently scored a box-office hit with The Conjuring 2 and is slated to direct Warner Bros.’ upcoming Aquaman film with Jason Momoa in the lead, the situation isn’t that unusual. Pilots are reshot ahead of their premieres all the time, and in MacGyver‘s case, Wan was originally set to direct the pilot episode anyway, but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts and was replaced by Von Ancken.
As reported by Deadline, however, there’s more to the situation than the obvious value of a Wan-directed pilot. A considerable retooling of the series is set to take place as well, one that alters the standing of both Till’s and Eads’ characters on the show. Furthermore, while Till and Eads’ roles are being reconfigured, the rest of the series is being completely recast.
The new premiere is set to be written by Hawaii Five-0 showrunner Peter Lenkov and will see MacGyver go from a recruit of the secret “think-tank” organization from the original series to being its originator. Eads, meanwhile, will be playing an entirely new character name Jack Dalton. Whereas his previous character, Lincoln, was, according to THR, set to be something of an “eccentric conspiracy theorist,” but also “a legit government employee with a great capability for compassion,” Eads’ new role is described as a “maverick former CIA agent… who joins [MacGyver’s] team on high-risk missions around the globe.”
The scope of the series also seems to have been altered. Mac’s function was previously described as using “his knack for solving problems in unconventional ways to help prevent disasters from happening,” whereas now “MacGyver takes on the responsibility of saving the world.” This seems like a significant change that may also have an impact on the series’ tone, shifting it from the somewhat lighthearted adventures of a resourceful scientist to a more high-stakes kind of series, wherein the fate of the world is in the hands of a guy known for improvising his way through impossible situations. While there is no word on whether or not the tone of the series will shift to something more dramatic or action-oriented, the jettisoning of the supporting cast suggests the upcoming changes are enough to require that sort of substantial reorganization.
This seems like a massive undertaking with the show only a few months away from its fall premiere, but with the broadcast networks scrambling to stay relevant in an era of Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and so many cable channels all producing original scripted content, this change may have been deemed necessary in order for the series to stand out in an increasingly crowded market. With any luck, the changes will all be for the better and CBS will offer audiences a glimpse of Wan’s retooled premiere episode soon.
MacGyver is set to air in the fall on CBS.