It seems that the MacGyver movie is finally gaining some traction and that it has a good chance of being made. What some fans may not know is that this wasn’t the first time a new version of the classic show has been attempted.
Back in October 2002, it was announced that Paramount had made a deal with the fledgeling WB network to produce a pilot for a new MacGyver series. But, rather than focusing on Richard Dean Anderson’s character, the new series would revolve around his twentysomething nephew, Clay. Young MacGyver follows the young hero as he leaves school and, on a lark, winds up joining the Phoenix Foundation — the good-guy organization his uncle belonged to. Once there, he discovers that he’s adept at stepping into his Uncle MacGyver’s shoes.
Carolyn Bernstein, WB’s senior VP of drama development, said of the project, “Our MacGyver will be a little more irreverent than the original. It will have a lot in terms of the same elements of the original series, but with a brand-new cast of characters and updated for present day.”
The project seemed like a natural for the young network, coming on the heels of the WB’s success with a new chapter in the Superman franchise, Smallville. Bernstein noted, “We would never look a gift horse in the mouth, if given a familiar, adored franchise that came our way and we could age down to make it appealing to our audience.”
MacGyver creator Lee David Zlotoff was involved with the new project, as were original series executive producers John Rich, Henry Winkler, and Stephen Downing.
Downing wanted to assure fans that they intended to stay true to the original. He said, “We want a new show, with a new star, but we want the show and the star to resonate the DNA of the original. I promise you that we will do everything in our power to bring you a great show that sings with the stuff of the original.”
Casting got underway in late 2002 but it took awhile before they could find the right man for the job. They ended up hiring Jared Padalecki, who’d been working on the network’s Gilmore Girls. He reportedly had to pass on a big-screen role in Cheaper by the Dozen to do it. The role he was up for ended up going to Smallville’s Tom Welling but Padalecki did a brief, uncredited cameo as a bully as a favor. The rest of the Young MacGyver pilot’s cast includes Ron Canada, Tracey McCall, Alan Loayza, Lee Burns, Dominic Golden, and Kiele Sanchez.
The project was written by a young writer who was just five years out of Harvard, Samuel Baum. At the time, he jokingly told TV Guide, “It’s been an excruciating writing process for me, because I, of course, have to try all these [makeshift gadgets and] MacGyverisms out before I write them. I’ve actually blown off every finger on both hands rigging all the things that Clay uses.” His digits must have grown back somehow because Baum’s gone on to write many more projects, most recently creating FOX’s Lie to Me series.
Ultimately, the network decided to pass on the Young MacGyver series. For the project’s star, it all worked out for the best. In 2005, Padelecki began his run on Supernatural which has become one of the CW network’s most successful shows. Though the WB network never aired Young MacGyver, the pilot has found its way online. Take a look…
Image courtesy Paramount.