Film and drama

Screen Themes — MacGyver and the 2016 Remake Obsession

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Are remakes ever as good as the original? If something was racist 18 years ago, could it possibly be any less racist today? How did the word MacGyver become a verb? Entertainment editor John Turnbull ponders all of these questions and more …

MacGyver (2016)

The original version of MacGyver ran from 1985 to 1992 and starred Richard Dean Anderson as a former Army ranger and bomb technician with a physics degree, which was a common combination of skills in the mid-80s.

A mechanical genius with a magnificent mullet, MacGyver used his brain, paper clips and construction skills to get him out of increasingly implausible situations over the seven year series duration.

While I was never a massive fan of the original series, the limited number of TV channels in Australia in the 1980s ensured that MacGyver was part of my cultural consciousness. So pervasive was the series influence that the word MacGyver became a verb, as in: "I had to MacGyver the washing machine with duct tape, but it totally works now". Of course, all good things must come to an end and Richard Dean Anderson moved on to Stargate as MacGyver became a go-to joke in The Simpsons.

Now it’s 2016 and everything old is new again, so Paramount decided to reboot the series, with Lucas Till (X-Men: Days of Future Past) taking over the lead role of Angus MacGyver. Accompanying Till is former CSI star George Eads (valiantly fighting male pattern baldness) as wisecracking partner Jack Dalton and Sandrine Holt as Director of Operations Patricia Thornton.

With the exception of Eads comic relief, MacGyver 2016 is pretty faithful to the original series. Mac uses his brain rather than his fists, uses science to get out of hairy situations and has a hairstyle that is only a strong breeze away from being a mullet. Plot-wise, it is entirely ludicrous, but that isn’t really a problem for the target audience: kids and tweens.

Both of my kids love the new MacGyver and if you’re looking for safe family entertainment that advocates non-violence (pretty much) you could do far worse than this …

Other Remakes in Development

Minority Report

You might remember Minority Report as a not-bad Speilberg flick starring Tom Cruise. told the story of "precogs" who worked for the police force to prevent crime before it was committed. Sure, it didn’t really hold up to intellectual scrutiny, had a typical amount of Speilbergian plot holes and degenerated into a mindless action flick in the final act, but it wasn’t terrible.

Set following the events of the movie, Minority Report the series stars a bunch of B-listers including Meagan Good, Stark Sands and Wilmer Vanderrama, and when your biggest name is Fez from That 70’s Show then you may have reason to be concerned. On the upside, Speilberg has come on board as executive producer, but it should also be remembered that Speilberg was EP on stuff like Transformers: Age of Extinction, Men in Black 3 and Real Steel, so it’s not exactly a stamp of guaranteed quality.


Based on the laugh-fest starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey, this remake features Oscar winner Idina Menzel in the Midler role of CC and Nia Long as long-suffering best friend Hilary. How the producers plan to turn a relatively simple film into an ongoing series is something of a mystery, although we can probably be confident that it will take a couple of seasons before CC pops her clogs and sings Wind Beneath My Wings.

On an almost completely unrelated note, am I the only one that finds that song odd? It’s like a belated thanks to all of the minions a famous person has used as stepping stones and completely ignores the fact that if a bird has a high takeoff point, it doesn’t even need wind beneath it’s wings …

Ash vs Evil Dead

Less of a remake and more of a continuation of the Evil Dead movie series (ignoring the time-travelling, legally-mired Army of Darkness), Ash vs Evil Dead sees the return of both lead actor Bruce Campbell and original director Sam Raimi. The story revolves around Ash’s inability to get out of his own way, inadvertently raising the dead while trying to pick up a drunk woman at a bar.

New characters include Ash’s eager sidekick Pablo (Ray Santiago), the feisty Kelly (Dana DeLorenzo) and the mysterious Ruby, played by Lucy Lawless, better known as Xena: Warrior Princess. The second season also stars Lee Majors (The Bionic Man) as Ash’s curmudgeonly father in an inspired piece of casting. Laugh out loud funny, packed with over-the-top violence and dropping with gore, Ash vs Evil Dead certainly isn’t for everyone, but fans of the original films will find much to love.

Rush Hour

Let’s face it, most of the humour in the original Rush Hour movie was kinda racist. Jackie Chan had a funny accent (the source of 60 per cent of the jokes) and Chris Tucker was hilariously ignorant (the other 40 per cent), but they eventually got over their differences and blah, blah, blah…

Far from shying away from these outdated conventions, the TV reboot seems to embrace them, making the Asian guy incomprehensible and the African American guy a gibbering stereotype. Expect this series to be cancelled before the end of season one.

And the rest …

Also in development are TV remakes of Lethal Weapon, Owen Wilson flick Behind Enemy Lines, surf flick Blue Crush, teen thriller Cruel Intentions and the Scorsese masterpiece The Departed. From the TV realm we have a new take on Bewtiched, Fuller House, Dynasty and another season of the rapidly declining Arrested Development — the best argument ever for quitting while you’re ahead.

Currently on hold or struggling to find a home are The A-Team, Buckaroo Banzai, FAME and Fantasy Island.

Like what you read? John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee, you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller Damnation’s Flame, action/romance Reaper, black comedy City Boy and travel guidebook Bar Trek: Europe. Check them out!

You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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