2016-2017 TV Season Review: MacGYVER

 Lucas Till. Photo: Annette Brown/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Lucas Till. Photo: Annette Brown/CBS ©2016 CBS Broadcasting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

I don’t think I’ve seen more than a couple episodes of the original MacGYVER, so I went into CBS’ new reboot with a totally open mind and no nostalgic baggage. I could look at it as a new series, rather than comparing it to my memories of a beloved old show. I wasn’t wowed. In fact, it was a battle to keeping watching and not check my email, browse my Facebook feed, or nod off. Without the existing IP to ride on, I doubt this pilot would have sold.

The episode opened with a James Bond-esque action sequence…featuring young, tuxedoed secret agent Angus MacGyver (played charmlessly by Lucas Till) who uses found objects as weapons, tools, etc. and who never seems to take the danger around him seriously. The same could be said for his back-up Jack Dalton, (George Eads from CSI), who presumably is the muscle and the comic relief…though he didn’t offer any muscle and or laughs. He was MacGyver’s ride…driving the boat, or van, or chopper while MacGyver did his heroics. MacGyver’s expositional and cheerleading team also includes the default procedural character: the smoking hot female computer hacker with a criminal past (the other choices for this default computer hacker being 1. a clever kid, 2. a smart ass in a wheelchair or 3. a geeky with no social skills) who can get into any system in a split second. And all three agents have a cold, but thin and attractive, female boss (Sandrine Holt) who is a boss in title only since she takes orders from MacGyver, Dalton and the smoking hot computer hacker…and apparently has no other agents under her command. Her job is to assign the missions, stress the stakes, and then tell them all the things they can’t do, but that they will do anyway, and that she will then agree with, as if she’s under a spell. Come to think of it, the boss seemed to be in an expressionless trance for most of the episode.

The pilot story was simple, and the “twist” obvious, but it worked as a simple springboard for the action sequences that probably read big on paper but somehow played small on screen. It all adds up to the TV equivalent of Captain Crunch. I don’t think I’ll be going back for a second bowl.

BTW, this was actually the second pilot shot for this reboot — the original pilot was entirely scrapped along with everyone in the cast except Till and Eads. That said, the promotional clip from the scrapped pilot looked a lot more entertaining than the episode I saw.


2016-2017 TV Season Review: THIS IS US and LETHAL WEAPON

LETHAL WEAPON: L-R: Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford in LETHAL WEAPON coming soon to FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Richard Foreman/FOX
LETHAL WEAPON: L-R: Damon Wayans and Clayne Crawford in LETHAL WEAPON coming soon to FOX. ©2016 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Richard Foreman/FOX

THIS IS US is an unbearably schmaltzy dramedy about–actually, I don’t know what the hell it’s about. The pilot showed us three cardboard characters on their 36th birthdays trying way, way, way too hard to be lovable, thoughtful, tender and sympathetic while dealing with all kinds of cutesy, cliche-ridden, TV-show problems… contrasted with a lovable, thoughtful, tender, and sympathetic couple about to give birth to triplets on the father’s 36th birthday. It’s enough to make you wish the show came with air sickness bags. The big twist at the end of the pilot was obvious from the get-go. This felt like a feature script cut down to 44 minutes, but was too long even at that length. It’s not clear to me where the series is supposed to go from here. All I know is that I won’t be going with it.

LETHAL WEAPON isn’t the worst buddy cop movie-to-TV series adaptation, but it may be one of the dumbest. It’s every bit as watered-down and unmemorable as the TV versions of FOUL PLAY, FREEBIE & THE BEAN, MIDNIGHT RUN and last season’s RUSH HOUR…and nowhere near as good as ALIEN NATION, which actually bested the movie. Clayne Crawford isn’t bad as Martin Riggs, the role originated by Mel Gibson, but he has zero chemistry with Damon Wayons, who is utterly unconvincing as Roger Murtaugh, played in the movies by Danny Glover. Wayons treats the role like he’s in a skit, giving a superficial performance that gives Crawford nothing to work with. That said, neither actor is helped by the lazy script, which does fine with the action scenes but offers a truly lame “mystery” for the cops to solve that undermines the integrity, such as it is, of both characters. Riggs and Murtaugh are presented as two very dumb cops, matched only by the stupidity of their boss and the medical examiner. Audiences today, schooled by decades of CSI and LAW & ORDER, might be willing to suspend their disbelief for a show, but this one requires a frontal lobotomy.





Television Fast Forward: Book on TV Revivals is Revived

Television Fast Forward by Lee Goldberg

Television Fast Forward by Lee GoldbergI’ve just re-published a revised, and substantially updated, edition of my book Television Fast Forward: Sequels and Remakes of Cancelled Series in ebook (Kindle, Apple, Nook) and trade paperback.

This book was originally published in 1992 under the title Television Series Revivals and was a labor of love for me. It was a book I wanted to read and, since nobody else had written it, I wrote it myself out of frustration.

There have been dozens of television series revivals since the book came out… enough for another book, which I hope to write some day, because I am still a big TV geek. In the mean time, I’ve only updated series that were in the first edition that have been revived yet again since then. All of the other TV revivals and remakes produced since 1992 are listed in two appendices at the end of the book…which will have to do until I get around to writing a new volume. I’ve collected all the information…and most of the shows themselves in one form or another (DVD, VHS, digital) I just have to sit down and write it.

In addition to adding that new stuff, I’ve also deleted the entries on the new Twilight Zone, Alfred Hitchcock and Ultraman that were in the previous edition because they did not meet the inclusion criteria for the book. So why were those shows included in the first edition? My ego got in the way of my good sense. I’d written articles about those three shows, interviewed the key creative talent involved, and even visited the sets of the new Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock during production. I thought I had some really good stuff and I wanted to save it for posterity. So I came up with a lame justification for shoe-horning the material into the book. That was a mistake. I’m older and wiser now or maybe my ego has simply defalted a bit, though I think that’s unlikely.

Anyway, I hope you like Television Fast Forward….. Maybe I’ll do another edition between writing Fox & O’Hare novels.

Interceptors, Immediate Launch!

 Variety reports that the feature film version of the TV series UFO is taking shape. Joshua Jackson has been cast as Capt. Paul Foster, the role originally played by Michael Billington in Gerry Anderson's 1970s series. No word yet on who is in line to play Commander Straker (Ed Bishop), the leader of SHADO (Supreme Headquarters Alien Defense Organization), with secret bases on the moon and underneath a movie studio. (Michael Billington and Ed Bishop are pictured above, Joshua Jackson below).


Good News for Fanboys

Looks like BORAT director Larry Charles and CHARLIE'S ANGELS director McG have been watching STAR TREK: THE NEW VOYAGES, PHASE II,  the fan-produced sequel to STAR TREK. Variety reports they've sold a pilot to NBC about a group of fans in a small town who produce their own version of a canceled TV show.

Speaking of CHARLIE'S ANGELS, Variety reports that Josh Friedman is scripting a remake for ABC. Friedman previously wrote & produced the Fox series TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES with writer/producer John Wirth who, incidentally, wrote a CHARLIE'S ANGELS reboot with LOST's Carleton Cuse that ABC passed on a few years ago.

Why Daily Variety is No Longer Relevant

Today, Daily Variety reported that the new version of V not only won wide critical acclaim, but also did great in the ratings. In a brief, separate article, they report that the show shut down for a month, and that a new showrunner has been brought in. Those two articles create an interesting contrast…one Variety doesn't bother to explore because that might actually require the reporter do some work beyond retyping a press release. What's missing here is the context and detail that would make this a meaningful, interesting, and newsworthy story. What went wrong with V? Why did ABC bring in a new showrunner? If ABC had trouble with the creative direction of the show, does the wide critical acclaim and high ratings suggest that the network may have made a mistake by benching the series and retooling it? What were the creative, financial, and strategic reasons behind the network's actions? That's the story that a credible and relevant Daily Variety would be reporting. Instead, we get the straight-forward ratings in one article and a short, rewritten press release in another.

Hawaii 5-0 is G-O

CBS has greenlit production on a pilot for a new version of HAWAII FIVE-O from a dream team of scribes — red-hot feature writers & FRINGE producers Alex Kurtzman & Roberto Orci and CSI: NY executive producer Peter Lenkov. You may recall that CBS passed on a take from CRIMINAL MINDS showrunner Ed Bernero last season and, several years before that, scuttled a filmed pilot from Steve Cannell & Kim LeMasters that starred Russell Wong and Gary Busey (the main title from that unaired pilot is below). Kurtzman and Orci know a thing or two about reviving old TV concepts…they wrote the feature versions of STAR TREK, MISSION IMPOSSIBLE and TRANSFORMERS.

Who is the Clueless Moron now?

Back in 2004, under the heading "Clueless Morons," I blogged about a group calling themselves the Colonial Fan Force, who took out a full-page ad in Variety clamoring for a BATTLESTAR GALACTICA movie starring the original cast. The ad read, in part: 

Millions of fans still dream of seeing the Battlestar Galactica roam the heavens once more in a big screen continuations of the epic story that began in 1978 with the original cast and characters leading a new generation of warriors

I wrote:

Yeah, right… there are millions, no TENS of millions, of fans clamoring for the return of Herb Jefferson, Laurette Sprang, Dirk Benedict, and Richard Hatch (who is not nearly as powerful an actor as the nude guy of the same name on "Survivor"… nor as successful). I suspect the real audience is about 100 fat guys in their 40s, who at this very moment are busily duping all their Heather Thomas videos onto DVD..

[…]I am always amused by the losers who spend their comic book money on pointless ads like this (or, worse, the ones who publish a synopsis of, or excerpt from, their unsold screenplays)

[…] the folks at "The Colonial Fan Force" urge the readers of Variety (most of whom are entertainment industry professionals) to write writer/producer Glen A. Larson and Tom DeSanto, a guy who once tried to launch a movie version of the TV show. This shows just how little the people who paid for this ad understand about how the business works…and even sillier when you consider the SciFi Channel is already in the midst of shooting a new "Battlestar Galactica" TV series from NBC/Universal Studios with an all-new cast led by Edward James Olmos.

And that was the nicest thing I had to say about the Colonial Fan Force. 

Well, ladies and gentlemen, the joke is on me. Today Variety reported that Universal, Glen A. Larson, Bryan Singer and Tom DeSanto are mounting a feature film version of BATTLESTAR GALACTICA that will be a "complete re-imagining" that is unrelated to the recently wrapped series.

While this isn't the reunion the Colonial Fan Force was clamoring for, and it's happening after the end of the new BATTLESTAR GALACTICA series, and it isn't the result of a letter-writing campaign, it is a feature film and it's likely to be closer to the original series than the SciFi Channel series was.

So who is the clueless moron now? It looks like it is me.

Gunsmoke to ride again

CBS Films is developing a theatrical version of GUNSMOKE, and they’ve hired Gregory Poirier, screenwriter of NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS to write it:

The action-adventure will re-imagine Marshal Matt Dillon, the hero of the classic Western, for modern audiences. The story will be set in the same American West as the original but will feature a contemporary look and modern action twists.
Poirier is said to be close to completing a first draft of the script.

(Thanks to Thierry Attard for the heads-up.)


Variety reports that HOUSE creator/showrunner David Shore has been tapped by NBC/Universal and Steve Carrell's production company to revive Stephen J. Cannell's THE ROCKFORD FILES. It's no surprise that they approached Shore for the coveted gig…he's a TV A-lister who tried to spin-off a Rockf0rd-esque character from HOUSE last season.

"It's one of the shows that made me want to become a writer," Shore said. "I had no interest in adapting any old stuff, but this was the one exception."

Shore's just starting to think about an approach to bring "The Rockford Files" into the present day, but he intends to stick with the basic foundation of a private eye in L.A. just trying to make a living.

"What makes 'Rockford' timeless is that he's vulnerable, he's flawed. He's used to hustling and getting hustled," Shore said. "Sometimes he's a hero and sometimes he runs away."

The hard part won't be getting the script right…it will be finding this generation's equivalent of  James Garner to the play the part. (Is George Clooney still a movie star?)