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The New MacGyver Is a Quick Fix on the Original

The quick-thinking D.I.Y is back, and a new crew joins the formula

Tim Surette

MacGyver fans, it's your turn for a ride in the reboot carousel that networks can't seem to stop going 'round and 'round on. CBS's new take on the extreme handyman drama that ran from 1985 to 1992 sticks to the spirit of the original, which helps it inject some fun into Friday nights. But beyond that, it doesn't necessarily add a whole lot more -- which can be a good, or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

The new MacGyverisn't a straight prequel, even though we catch up with Angus MacGyver (Lucas Till) when he's in his 20s, as opposed to the 30-something special agent that Richard Dean Anderson portrayed in the original. Instead, it's a reimagining of the original with some new licenses taken.

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For example, this MacGyver is a member of the Department of External Services, and a war vet who spent his years after graduating from M.I.T. disarming bombs for the military. He relies heavily on a team for support, whereas Anderson's MacGyver was more of a lone wolf. That fits CBS's preferred mold of an ensemble procedural, where guys who are good with guns work side-by-side with guys who are good with computers in order to stop bad guys with funny accents, and so forth. You know the drill.

But the real deal here -- and MacGyver fans should rest easy -- is that all the science-fair abracadabra magic that MacGyver is known for is all over the first episode, complete with Till's voiceover giving us explanations for exactly what he's doing, whether it's over your head or basic science. "D.I.Y. or die" is his and executive producer Peter Lenkov's mantra, whether it's building a magnet to interfere with electronics or replicating a handprint to get into a high-tech safe. (Spoiler alert: He does a lot more than dying.)

Lucas Till, George Eads; MacGyver

Lucas Till, George Eads; MacGyver

Annette Brown/CBS

And that's good! Even if you never watched MacGyver, you know that to "MacGyver" something is to repurpose an object for a new use. Few characters from '80s and '90s television became their own verbs. (Though we would all know what it would mean if someone said they "Alf'd a cat.")

Till is solid as a younger MacGyver, even though he abandoned the Anderson mullet in favor of a mane that looks coiffed by Jared Padalecki's salon. And with Till's charm, this MacGyver is less Mr. Wizard and more sexy scientist, a predictable update for today's audience. But the real star here is CSI alum George Eads, who plays MacGyver's trigger-happy muscle Jack Dalton. MacGyver isn't a serious show per se, and Dalton's goofiness keeps things lighter than the intended comic relief. Eads fits the part really, really well.

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That intended comic relief is Justin Hires -- fresh off another CBS reboot in Rush Hour -- who plays MacGyver's waffle-making roommate (yes, MacGyver has a roommate) Wilt Bozer. He's in the dark on what MacGyver actually does for a living, but it's obvious he won't be in the dark for long. The fourth big player is Tristin Mays' Riley Davis, who plays the stereotypical computer hacker who keeps the plot moving along or grinds it to a halt so MacGyver can figure it out, whatever the script calls for. (Need to find a missing terrorist who is somewhere on the planet? She'll tap into every security camera in the world and use facial recognition tech to find him! Need something else that'll make the mission too easy? Sorry, it's encrypted behind a Tor network.)

Like Lenkov's other show Hawaii Five-O, the tone here is fun first. It pairs nicely with Five-O, which will follow MacGyver on Friday nights. Reboots are a tricky thing to pull off. You don't want them too new to lose the spirit of the original and you don't want them too old to feel dated. CBS's MacGyver falls right in that safe zone in the middle.

(Full disclosure: is owned by CBS.)