Looking Back at Season 1 (XI) – The Opening Title Sequence

I’ve been planning to write this post for ages, but somehow I kept procrastinating this specific topic. Maybe because I’ve written already so much about it way back when in the MacGyver Online Forums?

Alas, I’ll give it another try.

Back in February 2016, when news outlets like Deadline announced CBS had ordered a pilot for a MacGyver Reboot, the social media buzz was intense. The questions most often asked were probably these: Who will be the new MacGyver? What will he look like? What will his hair look like? Will he still have his SAK?

Besides MacGyver’s hair (about which I’ve also written a blog post recently), the Opening Title Sequence has always been something “holy” that isn’t to be touched upon; especially the Opening Title Theme.

Even people who have never watched a single episode of Original MacGyver recognize the theme. Together with the Opening Title sequences, TV shows can form a memory in people’s minds that they will always associate with that specific show, even if they don’t watch it regularly. Think about Baywatch. It’s basically just people in red swim suits running along the beach and smiling at the camera. Not that exciting, isn’t it? You get used to it after seeing it for more than one season. But still – think about what would have happened if they had changed the music or the opening sequence too much…

So it wasn’t a surprise that after the first hubbubb about Lucas Till’s casting as the main hero had ebbed down, the next questions being discussed were: Will they keep the iconic title music of the Original Show? What will the Opening Credits look like?

Back in April 2016, I wrote following statement in one of the MacGyver Online threads: I wouldn’t mind the old theme back or a variation of it. But I don’t think this will happen; I think they will go with something new… 

I’ve changed my mind a few days later; especially after comparing the original and the rebooted version of the Opening Title Sequence for Hawaii Five-0, Executive Producer Peter Lenkov’s other show.

 

I was convinced the opening theme would be a recognizable reincarnation of the original – in the same way it’s been done for Remakes and Reboots in the past.

Of course, there was the risk of not having an opening sequence at all – because most modern TV shows don’t. The newer CBS shows (e.g. Limitless, Pure Genius, Code Black, Bull) don’t have one, either. But we all agreed that they surely wouldn’t dare to do this with a Reboot of a TV show like MacGyver that had such an iconic Opening Title Theme.

I didn’t think about the scenes themselves that much, to be honest. I just assumed it would be the actors in some action scenes. Probably not MacGyver eating ice cream like in the original, but maybe jumping over things and running from the bad guys, surely? The Original Opening Title Sequence is over a minute long, although there’s only two actors being credited (Richard Dean Anderson and Dana Elcar). So the rebooted sequence would have to be as long as the original one if they had to fit at least 5 people in there?

On September 13, the official MacGyver Reboot Facebook Account by CBS uploaded a video of the Pilot Episode set where the Opening Theme was playing. I liked the music, but it was not really what I had expected.

 

 

For one, it was too short – just about 40 seconds. Second, the part with the Original Theme wasn’t that recognizable. Not at all like the rebooted version of H50 which sounds just like the original version.

Five days later, Peter Lenkov uploaded a video of the orchestra recording it onto Instagram. I was very happy it was still played by a real orchestra and I thought it sounded great, just… not what I had hoped for. It didn’t affect me in the same way as the original theme, but I was ready to accept it.

It’s difficult to judge a theme without the Opening Title Sequence that goes with it. It sounded more dramatic than the original version, as well; so I was curious if the tone for the show had changed. Also, I was happy that it didn’t sound like the promo videos they had made for the premiere of the pilot, because those had featured mainly Hip Hop.

On September 20, Yahoo! TV uploaded a “fanmade” version of the rebooted Title Sequence. It features scenes from the first two episodes plus from the Unaired Pilot Trailer while recreating the Original Main Titles and using the Original Theme. Because people had tweeted about it without sourcing it correctly, many fans (and News Outlets) had assumed it was the real one.

I have to say it’s a well-made version of an Opening Title Sequence for the Reboot – probably one of the best I’ve seen so far!

Fanmade Opening Title Sequence (via Yahoo! TV)

Only a few hours later, Entertainment Weekly finally released the new Title Sequence. This time, it was the real deal. The reactions were – varied. Some loved it, some hated it, some were disappointed.

I don’t remember exactly anymore how I felt about it back then, but I remember that I would have preferred the one by Yahoo! TV. On the other hand, I don’t think you necessarily have to see the characters’ faces in the Opening Title Sequence.

I actually liked that you see MacGyver doing MacGyverisms (even though these are not Lucas Till’s hands which is a missed opportunity). It gives an inkling to new viewers what MacGyver is about.

I’m not sure if the MacGyverisms could have been appointed to the characters in a better way – like cutting up the bullet in the Screenshot below would maybe make more sense if it was George Eads’ name appearing with it (since he’s the gun-wielding sidekick).

The Opening Title Sequence Shots were done by Picturemill. Sadly, they never shared more than one single collage of BtS shots on Facebook. I hope we get to see some kind of Making-Of one day.

They could have gone the “easy” way and just edit scenes from the Pilot Episode together – but they did something new for it, so I think it could have been promoted as some kind of “Extra” that could have been posted onto YouTube and other social media accounts by CBS.

They also solved the problem of changes in the main cast beforehand – they didn’t need to cut anything new together. They just had to exchange Sandrine Holt’s name – for one or two episodes, the slot stayed “empty” before it was replaced with Meredith Eaton.

Overall, I think they chose some good everyday objects – a battery, a paperclip, a lightbulb and so on. I like the colors as well. The texts appearing are also interesting – although they dropped the descriptions after the first five or six episodes (which I think was a necessary step), it works actually pretty well in the Opening Title Sequence.

Also, they made adjustements for other countries; e.g. in Germany (see below) or France they appear in German or French (while e.g. Italy kept the English descriptions).

One puzzling thing that I’m still wondering about: The “logo” is different. It fits better with the Original Show, but they use a different one for the official social media accounts and on Official Stills.

 

German Opening Title Screenshot

On Premiere Day (September 23rd), SlashFilm released an interview with Peter Lenkov and James Wan. The interview – done at the TCAs back on August 11 – also featured questions about the Theme Song:

Are you able to use the theme song in an age where they’ve cut theme songs out of shows entirely?
Lenkov: One of the big things in television these days is there’s no main title sequence anymore. One of the things that I was really adamant about doing the show, and they signed off on it, was doing a main title sequence and actually having a theme song. Incorporate some of the original theme from the original show and a little bit of a new theme. So it’s a combination of the two but I didn’t want to do the show without a main title sequence. I feel like this show needs that. Very much like that original show.

On Hawaii Five-0 you got the theme song down to 30 seconds. Similar thing for MacGyver?
Lenkov: I think right now it’s 21 seconds. It keeps getting shorter every time we do a redo, but I’ll tell you one thing. That’s a big battle to win, to be able to do a main title sequence and a theme song these days. That’s not something network television does anymore.
Wan: Because it eats up ad space?
Lenkov: Yeah and they feel like maybe it’s a little retro but I like that.
Wan: It sets the tone.

That sure sounds like we should be happy we got a Theme Song and an Opening Title Sequence at all, huh?

So… what’s coming for Season 2? I’ve been wondering today if they might change the Opening Title Sequence, but I doubt they will.

It’s not like CBS will grant us more time for the Opening Title if Peter Lenkov already had to fight to even have one. There will be more recurring characters next season, but there’s enough space left to fit in more actors’ names.

So far, it’s 33 days left until the premiere of Season 2 but there’s no indication that Picturemill or Composer Keith Power are working on something new. On the other hand, there’s been no promo so far.

We will know soon enough.

BtS of the Opening Title Sequence (via Picturemill)
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