Amazingly enough, it's been 25 years since actor Richard Dean Anderson heeded the call of TV heroism as the crafty secret agent Angus MacGyver. (The TV show ended in 1992, but there were two follow-up TV movies.) Since then, CBS brought to life the primetime MacGyver reboot, with Lucas Till in the title role. Unfortunately for anyone thinking that Anderson has been pleased with the new MacGyver, that's almost certainly not the case.
Richard Dean Anderson spoke up about CBS' MacGyver during a convention panel recently, and he first revealed that he specifically turned down the option to appear on the reboot when he was first asked. In his words:
I’m not real crazy about it, I’ll be honest. They approached me at some point early on – they had done some testing for the show, and found out that it wasn’t as attractive as they wanted it to be – and then they called and asked if I wanted to have anything to do with it. And I said, ‘Noooo.’ And I’m glad.
As some will remember, CBS' MacGyver went through a major creative overhaul on its way to Season 1 becoming a reality. Though the initial pilot was enough to convince the network to stick with MacGyver, they decided to bring in Hollywood draw James Wan to direct a new pilot. As well, Lucas Till and co-star George Eads were the only main stars that stuck around from one version to the next.
It sounds like this is around the time the producers reached out to Richard Dean Anderson to see if he would be interesting in popping by MacGyver, though no further details of that potential appearance were shared. In any case, it's clear that Anderson wasn't intrigued by what the current iteration of MacGyver said about the character and the show's history.
It was during the Stargate Q&A panel during Wales Comic Con 2019 that Richard Dean Anderson was on stage (alongside former Stargate SG-1 co-star Amanda Tapping) to answer questions about his most iconic TV role outside of the sci-fi realm. Here, he goes deeper into what his problems are with the new version in comparison to the show he starred on for seven seasons.
Once I saw the product, I wasn’t offended, because it’s a business, and I don’t own the title; they can do whatever they want. But I don’t think they’ve been fair in continuing the franchise [while] being true to the franchise. They’re shooting up everybody, there’s so much going on, but you don’t see the thought process that we prided ourselves on being able to institute into our show. You know, MacGyver sees the problem, he sees solutions to the problem. You see him gathering the solutions, putting it together, and then solving. In this new one, it’s boom-boom-boom, and it all just happens so fast.
In the 25+ years since MacGyver ended its TV run, the character has inspired a bajillion comedic solutions to solving problems quickly, and in unexpected manners. From Family Guy and Simpsons gags to Stephen Baldwin's "MacGyver smoker" in Half Baked to the actual MacGyver reference on Stargate SG-1, pop culture has long been obsessed with how inventive and resourceful the secret agent is with just a limited array of options.
Yet, the CBS reboot doesn't have Lucas Till's MacGyver handling his own problems in quite the same ways. Sure, one can argue that modern criminals have schemes that are a tad too complicated to solve using paper clips, rubber erasers and twine, but a villain is only as complex as the person writing its actions, so perhaps there are ways to give 2019's MacGyver more shades of Richard Dean Anderson's character.
MacGyver has already been renewed for Season 4, which will be its first full season without former star George Eads. The series will be boosting up the character played by Levy Tran, who basically took Eads' place. As well, Peter Weller's new villain that got introduced in the Season 3 finale will be getting a much bigger arc in Season 4 as a "bad MacGyver," for what that's worth. Maybe the show can slow down and take more time to show off more creative problem-solving.
MacGyver has already crossed over with its fellow CBS fare, and though that doesn't exactly open the door wider for Richard Dean Anderson to make a comeback to the franchise, here's hoping he's able to find things to enjoy about the reboot...which then makes him able to appear. Just without more lawsuits clogging things up.