MacGyver 37 Years On: The Zlotoff Era

In 2012 Lee Zlotoff, looking to re-activate the franchise, decided to try a different medium. He joined forces with comic book writer Tony Lee and released a 5 part comic book series set within the TV show universe.  The series released well with the first edition selling out and requiring a second print run. Feedback from the fans was mostly positive with many saying it felt like a new episode of the show. Unfortunately,  it didn’t sell well enough outside of the fandom to justify a second series. Printing of the series was discontinued a couple of years later and released, instead, as a graphic novel, which is still available today.

2013 saw Richard Dean Anderson reprise his MacGyver role in a Zlotoff sanctioned 3 part action-packed web series which was actually a commercial for the Mercedes-Benz Citan van and was heavily promoted at the time with posters, street advertising, behind-the-scenes extras, a “MacGyver takeover” of the Mercedes-Benz Vans YouTube channel, and a website that contained a unique “Easter egg” – a link to the website of ‘Mac’s Pro Repairs’ (MacGyver’s business in this series), from where people who called the promoted number would receive a signed movie poster. The series made automobile news headlines around the world and garnered over 800,000 Google hits and 6 million website hits within the first few days of release. Fans applauded the series with many saying this confirmed that RDA could in fact still play the role in a new series or movie and led to many fan discussions on how and when this could/should happen.

In May of 2014 Lee Zlotoff released a mobile game for both Android and IOS devices. Called Deadly Decent, the game was an interactive 3D puzzle game with a similar plot to the original pilot episode. The player takes on the role of MacGyver in a race against time to save scientists trapped in a high-tech laboratory as he descends into the facility working his way through a labyrinth of puzzles for the player to solve. It was met with a mediocre response from fans with many criticizing the puzzle format instead of a first-person-styled game.

2015 had both highs and lows for the fans.  We got the first ever Richard Dean Anderson sanctioned MacGyver collectible. A limited-edition framed display created by Legends Canada on behalf of Richard Dean Anderson which contained a MacGyver engraved Swiss Army Knife, a still of MacGyver holding the knife, and RDA’s signature along with a short blurb about the show all beautifully housed and framed in black. The item was so well received by fans that Legends Canada put out a statement saying that due to the overwhelming demand orders were taking up to a month to ship. Unfortunately, only weeks after its release, the item was permanently withdrawn from sale due to copyright claims by CBS leaving those who were able to purchase it with a truly rare MacGyver collectible.

Later this same year CBS announced they were planning to reboot MacGyver. The news was met with both excitement and then trepidation as we heard that James Wan was attached as a producer and director of the pilot episode, but more so at the description of a Twenty-something Angus MacGyver who gets recruited into the clandestine organization from the original series. This immediately turned many fans off as the description alone seemed to be straying well away from the original show. Other fans stayed hopeful that the show could be worthy of its name. Those hopes were somewhat dashed when character descriptions leaked to the public showing MacGyver as the only recognizable character from the original show. The hope faded, even more, when it was announced that CBS had ordered the show to series with all secondary cast members fired and the pilot scraped. CBS reboot master, Peter Lenkov, was then brought in to rebuild the show and write a new script. The show would go on to realize fans fears as a shallow CBS formula show pandering to fans with well-known character names that had completed different personalities and roles from the originals. Despite the fan’s lack of interest in the reboot it did manage to survive the first season and score a second. By this time it was gaining a base of new, younger fans who weren’t as familiar with the original show so were willing to accept it on its own merits. This fanbase would continue to grow as they pushed the show on for another 5 seasons.

Regardless of the misgivings original fans had for the reboot it did have some positive outcomes which we’ll take a closer look at in the next installment.



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