MACGYVER: ON TURNING 30!!

1985-macep-001-07aFor those of you who may not have in marked in your calendars, it is exactly 30 years ago this week that the first episode of MacGyver appeared on our TV sets. Not that I’ve been counting the days exactly but, there it is. Who even knew back then that Mac would still be around now, much less turn into a global meme and a part of our everyday vocabulary? (Again, in case you didn’t know, even the prestigious Oxford English Dictionary has just be-knighted ‘MacGyver’ as a bona fide verb. Probably because
we’ve all been using it as one for several decades. Still, nice that they made it official, no?)

And though I obviously encountered Mac myself sometime before he—and the inimitable Richard Dean Anderson—first took their bow on the stage of popular culture, perhaps it’s worth a few moments to consider this milestone for not only how and why we got to this point but where Mac might go from here.

As to how we got here, the answer is, I think, both simple and yet profound. Clearly,
something about this character struck a chord with, well, pretty much everybody. I mean,
the series has run continuously around the world for the past three decades—and still
does! I’m no whiz at math but that’s got to translate into billions of viewers, spanning
more than at least a generation, doesn’t it?

So was it that Mac didn’t use a gun? Or had the ingenuity and resourcefulness—and just
plain smarts—to solve the problem with whatever was at hand? Or that he somehow
managed to do all that while maintaining a sense of humor and humility? I guess, for the
simple answer, I’d say ‘all of the above’. And, for those of you who are interested in the
more profound version, I will re-post the MacGyver Global piece that I offered some
time back. Because, after giving it some serious consideration, I was as amazed and
surprised by Mac’s indelible impact as anyone.

But whatever the reason Mac’s still with us—and seemingly growing bigger by the
year—now we all get to ask the question, ‘what does it mean for a character like
MacGyver to turn 30?’

mac_webWell, at 30, most of us still have a good bit of life ahead of us. And, with all the new
Mac projects in the pipeline and on the drawing board—all of which will be revealed in
due course—I’d say the same of Mac. We’ve slowly but steadily been bringing
MacGyver out of hibernation and back to his rightful place on the world stage. First with
the new MacGyverGlobal.com website, followed by the comic book series, then the
graphic novel, then the mobile/app game, The MacGyver Method, and most recently with
The Next MacGyver global script competition. But trust me, those were just the
appetizers. There’s even more and better still to come.

Still, at 30, though we may be young and vibrant, we’re not exactly a kid anymore either.
Turning 30 is a moment to take stock, look around at the world–and at oneself—and ask
some real questions, like ‘what am I really about?’, ‘and what am I meant to be doing
with myself?’, ‘and is there something larger than me, like a bigger picture, that I should
be seeing?’.

And those questions can apply to Mac as well: what is MacGyver really about? What should he be doing now?, especially with all the changes in technology that have appeared in the last three decades, and ‘Is Mac now meant to be a part of something even larger than just himself?

So, as Mac’s creator, I’ve asked those questions. And here’s what I came up with.

As to what Mac’s really about, first and foremost Mac was, is and will always be about a good story. There are few better ways to engage the hearts and minds of the world than through entertainment. And, let’s face it, even when there were seemingly lives at stake, watching Mac has always been just great fun. And, if I have anything to say about it, that’s how it will continue to be. Though there are some serious challenges out there these days, the minute we take ourselves too seriously, I fear we become more a part of the problem than the solution. I don’t know, maybe it’s that humor and humility thing again.

mac-the-bomb

But having fun doesn’t mean you can’t still be about something meaningful or important, does it? Look at all the lives that have been affected—if not actually saved—by emulating Mac and his approach to a problem: by stopping to fully consider what tools or resources you really have, and how to transform that into what you really need to deal with a problem. I’ve lost count of all the true stories that have come my way about someone invoking Mac to get themselves through a tough spot. And isn’t that something we’re all doing more and more to cope with the fluctuations in our economies, or our food, water, energy resources and so on?

And while I marvel at the stunning leaps and pirouettes of changing tech as much as we all do, it’s good to remember that all this new technology is awesome until, you know, it isn’t. When there’s a massive blackout, or the cell system gets overloaded by a storm or some other act of nature, does that simply render us all suddenly helpless? Would Mac be helpless then? I think not. So why should we?

Hence, even with all the advances in technology, having the wits and whereabouts to deal with an unexpected turn of events or a crisis seems just as relevant—if not more so—than it did 30 years ago. And I’ll just bet that it wouldn’t take you more than a few seconds to recall the last time you—or someone you know—had to MacGyver something. And called it just that.

So, if Mac’s meant to be doing anything now, reminding us that there’s probably a better way to tackle all the little challenges of everyday life is cause enough to keep him—and his approach—handy. Because our lives are rarely as predictable as we’d like and, well, stuff happens!

1985-macpro-window-01aFinally then there’s the question if Mac is now in some way part of something even larger than himself? Well, like it or not, I think we’re now all part of something larger than ourselves. The fact is that we’ve had a global economy for at least the last 50 years, and with the introduction and integration of the internet, we are now all not only more wired together but more dependent on one another than anytime in human history. Add to that there are right now more people living on the planet than have ever lived—and died—in all of that same history, and with the increasing impact of climate change, there’s no escaping the reality that we are now a true global civilization.

This is it folks, good or bad, the bottom line is we are all in this together. And we’re all going to have to find a way to work together if this civilization is to survive through the new century. There is no longer any country, including America, that can claim to have all the resources it needs and that can hope to sustain its citizens without trading goods, information and new ways to address the issues we all face.

And, from where I sit, we need MacGyver—and his approach—more than ever. Because if we’re going to provide a decent life for our children, and their children and so on, we’ll all need to human up and get our individual and collective MacGyver on. Big time. We’re all going to need to learn how to put down our guns, turn what we have into what we need, and keep a sense of humor and humility if we hope to continue living on this precious little planet of ours. And if any character can help us get there, it’s not going to be Spiderman, or Batman, or the Avengers—much fun as they all are— but, in my humble opinion, it’s going to be MacGyver. Not because I created him, but because all of you have somehow recognized the truth and made Mac what he is, and not only because you like him, but because you all know we need him!

And I can’t think of a better 30th birthday present for a character than that. So thanks for not only taking Mac to your hearts, but for having the wisdom to see we should keep him around for at least the next 30 years…if not longer.

Respectfully—and gratefully—yours,

Lee D. Zlotoff

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CBS Offers Web Viewers Access to ‘MacGyver’

Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver

Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver

CBS has announced today the launch of a subscription service which allows streaming of local CBS stations as well as full seasons of current Prime-time shows and access to thousands of episodes from CBS’s library of classics, such as “MacGyver”, “Star Trek” and “Cheers” all for just $5.99 per month.

CBS All Access is available beginning today at CBS.com and on mobile devices through the CBS App for iOS and Android. The service allows fans to watch more CBS programming online and on mobile devices, while introducing yet another monetization window for the Company’s industry-leading content.

CBS All Access is another key step in the Company’s long-standing strategy of monetizing our local and national content in the ways that viewers want it,” said Leslie Moonves, President and CEO, CBS Corporation. “This new subscription service will deliver the most of CBS to our biggest fans while being additive to the overall ecosystem. Across the board, we continue to capitalize on technological advances that help consumers engage with our world-class programming, and we look forward to serving our viewers in this new and exciting way.”

Read the full CBS Press Release here.

 

 

 

Lee David Zlotoff Teams Up With CBS

CBS Consumer Products will represent the merchandising rights for the iconic TV series “MacGyver” on behalf of series creator Lee David Zlotoff.

The series ran on ABC for seven seasons, spanning 137 episodes while introducing new terms into the American lexicon and changing the way everyone looked at the usefulness of duct tape.

Currently streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and CBS.com, the action-adventure series revolved around the exploits of a secret agent armed with almost infinite scientific resourcefulness. 2015 will mark the 30th anniversary of series, which debuted in 1985.

“MacGyver was such a unique series that it quickly became an international phenomenon,” says Liz Kalodner, executive vice president and general manager, CBS Consumer Products. “The character’s innovative escapes from any situation helped set it apart from other television programs, and we’ll look to work with licensees known for that same type of creativity.”

MacGyver – The Real Origin Story

Part 5 – Who You Gonna Call?

If you recall from the last installment, I had just managed to navigate the Scylla and Charybdis of Henry Winkler and his alter ego, The Fonz, to be faced with concocting a suitable alternative to the ‘Hourglass’ concept that preserved the notion of a single-lead, action/adventure series.  Piece of cake, you’re thinking, right?

And I’d like to report that, having repaired to my office in Santa Monica, I cogitated for a brief period and—in a stunning epiphany—the concept of MacGyver in all his inimitable details simply sprang full-blown into my fertile mind.  That’s what I’d like to report, but no such luck I’m afraid because it took a good deal more than that for Mac to enter the world.
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MacGyver – The Real Origin Story

Part 4 – The Fonz: Up Close and Personal

So, just to recap, in the last issue I was on my way to meet with Henry Winkler who asked to see me after I informed the studio that the ‘Hourglass’ concept wouldn’t work—at least in my humble opinion.

Now Henry’s office was on the Paramount studio lot, which is smack dab in the heart of Hollywood. And the traffic there is usually terrible, so I’m really counting on the long crawl across town to rehearse the encounter in my head and get my nerves under control. No such luck. In some freak occurrence that defies all explanation there is no traffic. The roads are deserted and you just know I make every single traffic light. It’s almost as if I’m being inexorably pulled toward his office like it’s some black hole from which any escape is hopeless and I will be sucked into oblivion— forever.

And before I know it I’m inside the studio gates and marching across the acres of parking lots, sound stages and twisting warrens of offices— in the searing southern California heat—so that, by the time I finally locate Henry’s office, you could wring the sweat from my clothes, my nerves are in wicked knots, and when his smiling assistant chirps, “Would you like something to drink?” it takes a Herculean effort NOT to ask for a double scotch and instead mumble that a water will be fine, before I’m ushered in to meet my fate.
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MacGyver – The Real Origin Story

Part 3 – Write or Wrong?

In the last chapter, if you recall, I left you to ponder why the ‘Hourglass’ concept as it was pitched to me—one hour of TV time was one hour of actual time—was ultimately not going to fly as a TV series.  And I promised in this installment to explain how I knew—even upon hearing it—that, no matter how cool it sounded in the room— I had a major problem on my hands.  So here goes—but this may get a bit technical so just bear with me…

They told me they wanted a single-lead, action/adventure show of ‘stand alone’ episodes: that is, each show had to be a complete story in itself built around a single, main character and NOT a serial where the story carried over from episode to episode. (For example, NCIS, BONES or CASTLE, say, are ‘stand alone’ shows where the character stories may arc over a whole season but each show is a ‘case’ to be solved in that episode: whereas GREY’S ANATOMY and BOARDWALK EMPIRE are more ‘serials’ where the stories carry over from show to show and each episode is just a part of a larger story that arcs across an entire season, sort of like a soap opera.  The networks’ desire for stand alone series vs. serials in prime time tended to move in cycles, but in the early 80s when I got this assignment, trust me, no one wanted a serial so there was no point in even exploring that option.)

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MacGyver – The Real Origin Story

Part 2 – The Bomb in the Hourglass….

So, after the usual haggling between my agent and the studio’s business affairs department, the deal for me to write their ‘Hourglass’ pilot was finally made and it was time for me to head over to Paramount TV to meet with the studio execs and the producers to find out what exactly was ‘Hourglass’.  (Since all I’d been able to glean so far was that is was supposed to be a ‘single-lead, action/adventure show’ – “single-lead” meaning one hero instead of an ensemble cast or ‘a team’.)

Now ‘meetings’ in Hollywood are a lot like dating; there’s usually a round of ‘pre-meeting’ calls between the agents, producers and execs to stroke everyone about how excited we all are to be meeting, followed by the meeting itself of course, and then another round of ‘post-meeting’ calls to determine how the meeting really went, and was everyone pleased with the outcome or just pretending that they were.  I mean, nobody likes to blow it on the first date, right?  And since we already had a deal in place, all involved were eager to see things got off on the right foot.

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