Every time I dig through my folders, I come across the Unaired MacGyver Reboot Pilot, filmed in Spring 2016. I’m still trying to find new material; putting together all the interesting information. In this series of blog posts, I write about the first draft of the Unaired Pilot script.
If you missed previous posts about the Unaired Pilot, here’s a quick overview:
- Part I (Origins)
- Part II (Promo Material)
- Part III (BtS Photos, Part 1)
- Part IV (BtS Photos, Part 2)
- Part V (Storyboard, Part 1)
- Part VI (Storyboard, Part 2)
- Part VII (Storyboard, Part 3)
- Part VIII (Storyboard, Part 4)
- Part IX (Official Stills)
- Part X (The Script, Part 1)
Don’t worry, there’s more to come – it just takes time. Sadly, the days never seem to have enough hours… and my blogging isn’t paid.
The Unaired Pilot Script
A short recap: The Unaired Pilot was filmed in April and May of 2016; based on a script written by Paul Downs Colaizzo and directed by David Von Ancken. The pilot itself or its 20-minute-promo-cut for the Upfronts hasn’t surfaced so far.
The first draft of the script is dated February 26, 2016. In case the promo cut or the full episode ever get released, I will omit some of the most spoilery lines and plot twists in the upcoming blog posts regarding the script. I don’t want to ruin your fun, after all.
The Location: Portland
The First Draft of the Unaired Pilot is set in Portland. I haven’t figured out why, because the location doesn’t really matter for the storyline. According to Wikipedia, Paul Downs Colaizzo was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in Alpharetta, Georgia. He studied in New York City and still lives there.
The Unaired Pilot was initially set to film in Portland, so it’s possible that CBS demanded of Colaizzo to make Portland the main location.
The Characters: Earl and David
In this blog post, I will focus on two characters appearing in the first draft of the script. They’re both related to lead character Angus MacGyver. One has a speaking role, while the other is being mentioned only (because he’s already dead).
Yes, it’s Grandpa MacGyver (Earl) and Papa MacGyver (David). Not much is known about them. They only seem to serve the backstory of the lead character. We don’t know what actors would have played them since they were never listed on IMDb and didn’t appear in the teaser trailer or the storyboard excerpts.
As mentioned in my last blog post regarding the script, there must have been heavy rewrites between the first draft and the filming process. It’s possible their scenes were written out or cut in the editing room.
Grandpa Earl is in his 60s. He owns a hardware store. I don’t remember a wife or other kids being mentioned. Or any hobbies. And there’s not much personality to discover. Overall, the character stays bland – similarly to Patricia Thornton (Sandrine Holt) who made it to the rebooted version that aired on TV.
I’m not sure how big Grandpa Earl’s role would have been. If he was intended as a recurring characer, then probably only to book-end the episodes and only as long as MacGyver was still living there and/or occasionally visiting in between missions.
We meet Earl at the airport in Portland, when Angus MacGyver returns from his hospital stay after a 5-year-long-stint as a POW (prisoner of war). It’s implied that Earl travelled with Mac back to Portland – but we don’t know what happened in between as the reunion of Mac and Earl wasn’t written into the script. The scene switches to MacGyver’s bedroom. Apparently, Earl never cleared it out.
According to the script, MacGyver lost both his parents while being young, so he moved in with Earl as a kid. He also collected boomerangs (which might have been an Easter Eggs since this fact doesn’t matter as the story progresses).
There’s not much information about the place otherwise. In the few BtS photos of the Unaired Pilot, it looks like Mac lives on his own, although the place looks like he might have inherited it from his grandpa.
MacGyver helps Earl in the store one day, and there’s a robbery. Or was it terrorism? Mac was a POW for 5 years, so everyone deems him paranoid and in need of more veteran support group meetings. Mac investigates with Lincoln and his friends, so Earl doesn’t have much scenes overall.
What about Harry?
Original MacGyver fans know that Mac’s grandfather from his mother’s side was named Harry Jackson. Harry became a father-figure to MacGyver after his father and grandmother were killed in a car accident. If you’re interested in Harry, you can find more information here.
Judging by the Easter Eggs in the Unaired Pilot Script, we have to assume that Paul Downs Colaizzo has at least watched the OG Pilot. Or not? While doing promo for another project back in August 2019, Colaizzo stated in an interview:
I got a phone call in the middle of the night that said, “We need you to move to LA tomorrow and start working on the pilot of ‘MacGyver.’” And when you’re on an overall deal, that’s sort of the agreement, that you work for the studio. I’d never seen an episode of “MacGyver” in my life. I wrote a pilot, though, and at that point, the studio was determined to keep that thing going, and I was along for the ride.The Playlist, August 22, 2019
In theory, you don’t need to watch any episodes with OG Grandpa Harry to know about Harry. You can read the IMDb synopsis of each episode, check Wikipedia or the extensive character backlog and the forum of MacGyver Online.
So why didn’t Colaizzo use Harry as the name for rebooted MacGyver’s grandpa? Maybe it was a hommage to his own grandpa. Or he felt some liberty since this is presumably the father of Papa MacGyver, not the father of Mama MacGyver (contrary to the OG show).
Also, we don’t know if the name was changed for the script that was used for filming. It’s both possible that they did it during revisions and Showrunner Peter Lenkov took it for his own script, or that he changed the name later; implementing an Easter Egg of his own.
As seen in the script snippets posted here, MacGyver’s dad died during Desert Storm. Little MacGyver was only one year old – raised by his mother until she died in a car crash when he was six.
What about James?
Original MacGyver fans know that Mac’s dad was named James MacGyver. Mac’s dad being a soldier being killed during Desert Storm is quite a difference from the OG storyline, but also of the Reboot storyline that Lenkov implemented.
When SpoilerTV provided character descriptions just before the Upfronts, they already revealed that Lincoln knew MacGyver’s father. This is presented as a plot twist in the script (perfectly placed for a commercial break).
MacGyver will later learn about this, and will be angry with Lincoln about being kept in the dark. (I will come back to this scene in an upcoming blog post about Lincoln.)
Earl and Lincoln
Interestingly, Lincoln enters Earl’s hardware store to check out the crime scene, but Earl isn’t there. Would he have recognized Lincoln from the photo? Have they met before? Maybe that’s backstory stuff that was supposed to touch upon in later episodes.
Both Earl and Lincoln are in the last scene, but don’t acknowledge each other. It’s a bit weird. Maybe I missed something and have to read it again. Maybe I’ll find the missing piece while doing “research” for my next blog post.