Looking Back at Season Zero (XI) – The Script (Part 2): Earl and David

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.

(Minor Spoiler Alert: You might get spoilered about the Unaired Pilot storylines and characters. For daily news and discussions, you can find me on Twitter and on the MacGyverOnline Forums.)

If you missed previous posts about the Unaired Pilot, here’s a quick overview:

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 Portland Beavers (via LogoLynx)

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.

About Earl
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).

Mac’s Home; built on Location (via John Mott)

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.

Harry Jackson (John Anderson, via MacGyverOnline)

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.

Harry MacGyver (Michael O’Keefe, via MacGyverOnline)

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.

About David
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.

Looking Back at Season Zero (X) – The Script (Part 1)

Every time I dig through my folders, I come across material about the Unaired MacGyver Reboot Pilot, filmed in Spring 2016. I’m still trying to find new material; putting together all the interesting information.

(Minor Spoiler Alert: You might get spoilered about the Unaired Pilot storylines. For daily news and to discuss, you can find me on Twitter and on the MacGyverOnline Forums.)

If you missed previous posts about the Unaired Pilot, here’s a quick overview:

Don’t worry, there’s more to come. Problem is that the days never have enough hours…

Script Title Page for the Unaired MacGyver Pilot 2016 (via Anita Kalathara)

Rebooting the Reboot
A short recap for fans who recently joined the fandom (or have faulty memories): 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 (who sadly died in July 2021 at the age of 56). Production wrapped two weeks before the CBS Upfronts.

The Upfronts are a press event where networks present their upcoming TV schedules and rookie shows. They release art work and previews to get the press to write positive reviews so the projects attract a big audience and international buyers.

Unaired MacGyver Pilot Synopsis (via Season Zero)

On the 13th of May, Variety confirmed that the Reboot had been ordered to Series. Deadline added that Showrunner Peter Lenkov would write a new script with the general premise remaining the same; confirming an earlier report by The Hollywood Reporter that the supporting cast was not coming back.

Within a few days, CBS erased all their former tweets, posts, the trailer and official stills regarding the discarded pilot from their social media accounts. The pilot itself or its 20-minute-promo-cut for the Upfronts has never surfaced. Ironically, it has an IMDb-rating of 9.7 stars.

Script Title Page for the Unaired MacGyver Pilot 2016 (via Eileen Cox Baker)

Note that 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 *hehe*.

The Unaired Pilot Script
I never got my hands on the final script used for filming. I recently did get my hands on what looks like the first draft of the script, though. It’s dated with February 26, 2016.

(Don’t ask me how I came to it, as I can’t reveal my source. I won’t upload it anywhere or send it out since said source could get into trouble.)

In April 2016, cast member Anita Kalathara (who played Neha) had provided a look at the script title page used during a table read. It was the “Yellow Draft”, dated for March 25 and now listing Brett Mahoney (Empire, Code Black, CSI: Miami) alongside Paul Downs Colaizzo as writers. The title page also carries the red logo that was used for production.

The script title page provided by Costume Designer Eileen Cox Baker has 2nd Blue Revisions, dated for April 3. A photo of the script title page by Second Assistant Director Clint Buckner shows 2nd Cherry Revisions, dated for April 12.

Unaired MacGyver Pilot Production Office Sign (via Jennica Schwarzman)

Fun Fact: There is a standard order for script revision colors. According to the WGA West, the standard script revision color sets are:

  • White (unrevised)
  • Blue
  • Pink
  • Yellow
  • Green
  • Goldenrod
  • Buff
  • Salmon
  • Cherry
  • Second Blue Revision
  • Second Pink Revision and so on…

Using Second Cherry Revisions means that in theory, there could have been 16! revisions up to this point; possibly more. Just by judging the teaser trailer alone, the pilot that was filmed has many differences to the first draft (more about that further down). In fact, it seems to be a completely different episode.

Script Title Page for the Unaired MacGyver Pilot 2016 (via Clint Buckner)

The Synopsis
Not much is officially known about the storyline of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot. All we got for promo was a few stills and a teaser trailer. There are a handful of BtS photos and excerpts of the storyboard.

The website Season Zero used to review scripts during Pilot Season. Back in May 2016, they had posted a synopsis and a review online (the site was deleted a few years ago; the company being incorporated into Primetimer). Their verdict:

CBS didn’t like the first version of the script written by NCIS: Los Angeles executive producer R. Scott Gemmill. They could have abandoned the idea. But they comissioned another one instead, by newcomer Paul Downs Colaizzo, who’s under an overall deal with them. My guess: he didn’t really have a choice and did it without any pleasure. And it shows.

Season Zero, May 1st, 2016

Fun Fact: The title of the article was “And you thought Scorpion was stupid?”. They later changed the URL to “the-handsome-and-adventurous-version-of-tbbts-sheldon”, but kept the title.

Regarding MacGyver, the author was a bit confused about why the origin story is set in 2015. He cites the dialogue as poor, that there are too many flashbacks from war and that the script is never fun:

Well. Not entirely true. The opening scene kinda is. In a ridiculous way. The way he escapes from prison… It’s clever. And laughable. (…) Spoiler alert: Mac ends the sequence on a hand-made parachute over a giant cliff! That’s one hell of a cliffhanger. But as soon as he returns home, right after the main titles, it’s never fun again.

Season Zero, May 1st, 2016

Of course, we know what Parachute Scene he’s talking about, as this was shown in the teaser trailer and also used in the header for the official Facebook page.

Social Media Header (via MacGyverOnCBS)

While doing promo for another project back in August 2019, Colaizzo admitted in an interview:

MacGyver was a bit of a one-off. It was sort of a jumble of influences, trying to get that show going. It’s not something I really worked on for long, or with passion.

Deadline, August 29, 2019

It’s still not clear to me why CBS was in such a hurry to get the project going; ordering two scripts they weren’t happy with, yet still getting one of them filmed only to drop it and have it re-written and re-filmed again.

Generally, it’s a typical CBS crime drama storyline, peppered with MacGyverisms. A war hero returns home, seeing a threat. No one believes him, but he teams up with some interesting characters and saves a lot of people.

Unaired Pilot Character Description for Angus MacGyver (via SpoilerTV)

My Review
As mentioned above, the storyline isn’t anything that blows your mind – but it’s not a total failure. The characters stay a bit bland (similarly to the rebooted version of Patricia Thornton in Season 1), but we don’t know how they would have handled their backstories in follow-up episodes.

There’s some clever MacGyverisms, but I didn’t understand them all (probably due to the language barrier since English isn’t my First Language). But if you take them out, it would be a standard CBS crime show episode; written for any of the current crime dramas on air.

Original MacGyver fans will immediately recognize several Easter Eggs, meaning that Colaizzo must have watched at least the pilot episode (which isn’t saying much, sadly). There aren’t many, though. We have a Phoenix on a messenger bag, for example.

Sadly, there’s no mention at all of a Swiss Army Knife, which is certainly the biggest failures of them all. (There’s talk about paper clips, though.)

BtS Photo of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot 2016 (via Scott Klein)

Yes, there are several flashbacks to Mac’s time as a POW (Prisoner of War), but they didn’t bother me. I could see the flashbacks playing a role in further episodes (similarly to TV-Show Arrow), especially if they had picked up on the storyline of the two soldiers who were taken with Mac.

There’s a hint of MacGyver being whumped (beaten and whipped), so it would be weird if they would have glossed over it (although that’s not unusual for a show on CBS). In the script, Mac goes to veteran support group meetings, an idea that was never incorporated in the rebooted version.

Yes, the Unaired Pilot Script is darker than the pilot we’ve seen on TV. There aren’t many fun quips as seen in the teaser trailer, so they must have added those later to add some levity. (Although I’m not sure if they didn’t backfire; as many OG viewers found rebooted MacGyver to be arrogant and full of himself.)

In general, it feels like the pilot was written in a hurry. The storyline didn’t really stick with me. And it shows that it was a writer who was tasked with it because he was under an overall contract and not because he really wanted to do it.

The Characters
Just before the Upfronts, SpoilerTV had provided character descriptions. They differ from the script I’ve read, so I’m not sure if some stuff was added to be revealed later in the season or if the descriptions are based on a revised script (or even the final draft). They might have been written for the Upfronts; e.g. the press kit that was handed out. I’m not sure about the original source.

Unaired Pilot Character Description for Lincoln (via SpoilerTV)

In the script, Lincoln is described as being in his forties, so the age might have been changed after George Eads had been cast. Interestingly, Jack Dalton in the rebooted version is younger than George while at the same time, they used Lucas Till’s real age for Mac. Maybe CBS or Peter Lenkov wanted the age difference smaller to make it a more believable bromance.

The description says that Gunner works as a handy man. In the script, he used to be a coast guard. He now works at Portlife Life Insurance, and boasts about being named the 16th best life insurance broker in Portland by Oregon Magazine. They kept the fact of Gunner dating MacGyver’s ex, so they sure wanted to hold onto the potential love triangle drama.

Lucas Till in the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

In the script, MacGyver says that specialists Zwickey and O’Neill have been shot. Otherwise, they’re barely mentioned. In the character description, it says that they are still alive and in need of rescue. Also, they seem to be civilians, not fellow EOD Techs anymore. This plot point might have been rewritten as a cliffhanger. Maybe one of them was supposed to come back for revenge (similarly to Episode 3×11: Mac + Fallout + Jack)?

I will touch upon the characters in upcoming blog posts; presumably MacGyver, Lincoln, Gunner, Mickey and Earl. There was also another character named Sipps in the script that wasn’t mentioned in the character descriptions. It’s possible that Sipps and Mickey were fused to one character; played by Addison Timlin in the filmed version.

Having MacGyver’s ex on missions sure would have led to some tension and drama in later episodes. Some baselines of the characters were rewritten and incorporated into The Rising, the pilot written by Peter Lenkov. So that could be another blog post. (So much stuff to write about! Do you even want to read about all that?)

Script versus Trailer
As mentioned above, the scenes in the teaser trailer and the storyboard excerpts differ a lot from the script. There’s also differences in the character descriptions provided by SpoilerTV.

Unaired Pilot Character Description for Gunner and Mickey (via SpoilerTV)

In fact, none of the scenes or lines apart from the beggining and the end of the trailer make an appearance in the script at all. There’s no Kresson building, no MacGyver and Lincoln masquerading as lab rats going undercover, no Mac standing in front of the press in the hangar, no Mac tripping a bad guy with a fire house and also no Mac shooting a bow and arrow.

The storyboard excerpts and the official stills made it look like there was some bio weapon involved, but there’s none of that in the script, either. The only line in the script that made it into the trailer is the one at the end, when Mac is asking for bubblegum and a q-tip.

This all indicates that there were indeed heavy rewrites before filming. Even with reading the first draft of the script, we might never know what the Unaired Pilot would have been like if we never get to watch it.

Great, now I’m even more curious to watch it.

Looking Back at Season Zero (IX) – The Official Stills

Every time I dig through my stash of photos, I come across material about the Unaired MacGyver Reboot Pilot, filmed in Spring 2016. I’m trying to put all the necessary information together for interested readers – especially since many of you accidentally landed on my blog after looking for information about it by using search engines.

MacGyver-4
Unofficial Still of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

(Minor Spoiler Alert: You might get spoilered about the Unaired Pilot storylines. For daily news and to discuss, you can find me on Twitter and on the MacGyverOnline Forums.)

If you missed previous posts about the Unaired Pilot, here’s a quick overview:

Don’t worry, there’s more to come. Problem is that the days never seem to have enough hours…

Official Still of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (Ron P. Jaffe/CBS, via NY Times)

Rebooting the Reboot
A short recap for fans who recently joined the fandom: 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. Production wrapped two weeks before the CBS Upfronts – the press event for networks to present their TV schedules and rookie shows.

On the 13th of May, Variety confirmed that the Reboot had been ordered to Series by CBS. The Hollywood Reporter stated that the script might be tossed out and that the secondary cast members were unlikely to return. Deadline added that newly-appointed Showrunner Peter Lenkov would write a new script with the general premise of the series remaining the same; confirming that the supporting cast was not coming back.

Lucas Till in the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

The Promo that disappeared
Just a few days before the CBS Upfronts, we got the first Official Still of Lucas Till and George Eads via NY Times; probably taken during a scene set in MacGyver’s home lab. It’s interesting to note that this photo was used for several articles for the premiere and sometimes still finds its way into online articles.

On May 18, CBS released two new Official Stills. One shows MacGyver doing a MacGyverism. The other one is also available on IMDb and has MacGyver in the lobby of the Kresson Building (presumably the “lair” of the bad guys). If you’re interested: The Kresson Building is not a stage set, but a real building with an impressive lobby; located on 5551 Katella Avenue in Cypress, California.

Official Still of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (Ron P. Jaffe/CBS)

At the Upfronts, the networks traditionally release art work and teaser trailers or featurettes to attract the potential audience and international buyers. According to Deadline, a 20-minute-cut-down of the pilot episode had sparked a lot of interest. Nonetheless, CBS declared the trailer to “promo non grata” and erased all their former tweets, posts and Official Stills concerning promo for the discarded pilot from their social media accounts within a few days.

While the Official Stills are still used in newer articles, the pilot so far has never surfaced. Nevertheless, it has an IMDb-rating of 9.6 stars.

Lucas Till and George Eads in the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

Hunting for Treasure
It’s still difficult to find material regarding the Unaired Pilot. I never got my hands on the final script used for filming, and the IMDb page had been wiped (it’s been re-added last year, but is still missing a lot of information regarding cast and crew). Many of the social media accounts have been locked private, closed down for good or deleted old photos.

Back in July 2018, when picking up the research for some more Unaired Pilot stuff to add to new blog posts during hiatus, I stumbled over the first “official” set photos, curtesy of Production Designer John Mott on his website.

Mac’s Home; built on Location (via John Mott)

One is of MacGyver’s home, built on location. We can see Mac’s friend and roommate Hunter (Joshua Boone), MacGyver and Mickey (Addison Timlin), plus an unknown character on the left. Sadly, that’s the only photo of this set; which looks very interesting.

The other Still is of MacGyver being kept hostage in an underground lab. Considering the parts of the storyboard I’ve seen, I’m assuming that the villain is holding a bio-weapon.

Secret Lab; built on Location (via John Mott)

The Unofficial Official Stills
Last year, Set Designer John Mott uploaded 6 additional “Unofficial” Stills. One shows MacGyver locked in a cell. Judging by the handful of BtS photos and the teaser trailer, this is our hero during his years as a POW. While parts of the set might have been on stage, some of the scenes were filmed in the “Batman Cave” aka the Bronson Canyon near Griffith Park in LA.

Another one has Mac and Jack (sorry, Lincoln) sitting in a restaurant. I wasn’t able to find out the location, but fun fact: MacGyver is doing some “Fork Art” that is probably a thing that Lucas likes doing (as seen in Episode 1×08: Corkscrew or in a video taken during downtime between promo events in Monte Carlo back in 2017).

Lucas Till and George Eads in the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

The other Stills via John Mott look like screenshots also seen in the Teaser Trailer. One scene is taken of Lincoln and Mac infiltrating a lab, the other one during MacGyver’s escape from the cave in Afghanistan. A third one has MacGyver in front of the press, probably talking about his rescue.

The scene was shot in a hangar, and we have seen a few BtS photos by Extras.

Unofficial Still of the Unaired MacGyver Pilot (via John Mott)

While Still Photographer Ron P. Jaffe does have a website with Stills of his work (e.g. CBS shows Code Black or NCIS), he hasn’t uploaded any Stills of the Unaired Pilot. But who knows. Maybe one day, someone else working on this pilot stumbles over some photos sitting on a computer or phone and posts them on the internet.