IAm Lee Zlotoff creator of MacGyver and here to talk about THE NEXT MACGYVER TV show crowdsourcing competition. AMA!
Hi reddit! I’m Lee Zlotoff, the creator of the classic television show MacGyver. The character MacGyver is a quick-thinking problem solver, and we need more problem solvers in the world!
Have you heard of The Next MacGyver? I’ve teamed up with the National Academy of Engineering and University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering to start a crowdsourcing competition to find great ideas for a new TV show starring a female engineer character. We want to enlist pop culture to inspire girls to be engineers.
I would love to answer questions about The Next MacGyver competition, why we need engineer role models, my life in show business, and maybe even how to diffuse a bomb with a paperclip! AMA!
Information and enter to win here: www.thenextmacgyver.com
Yes! And I couldn't be happier that they've not only kept the name out there but really appreciated what the character was all about.
How do you diffuse a bomb with a rubberband?
Got ya there.
Put the rubber band around your wrist to remind yourself not to play with bombs. Then run as quickly as possible in the opposite direction!
What did you think of MacGruber?
When it was just a skit on SNL, I thought it was great. When they tried to stretch that skit idea into a full length feature film…well, let's say I was neither amused nor impressed-- which was, I think, the general reaction of the audience since the movie-- no pun intended-- bombed!
Hi! Thanks for doing this!! I'm so excited to see a strong female character on a TV show that's not about finding love, etc
My question is how different do you think the Next MacGyver will be from other big shows on TV right now? Do you think people will respond to a character who is so different from other female leads? Could this start a revolution of new, strong, smart female TV characters?!?
It's hard to say exactly how the concepts submitted in the contest will be different from shows with current female leads: that's half of fun of crowdsourcing this rather than trying to create such a show 'in house' as it were. But, I think we're all hoping someone will come up with a great way to break the mold and open up some new possibilities for female leads across the board.
Can you make sure that your new MacGyver has some flaws in their character?
We have seen too many nerds on TV that are awesome at everything, like it is some kind of superpower. I understand the character will need to be good at problem solving and building stuff because that is who they are. I won't assume anything about your new character, but please stay away from the putting the following into the same character: knowing more than 2 languages, mastering a skill in a short amount of time, computer hacking, having an encyclopedic knowledge about any one topic and knowing everything about a region's history.
Feel free to reference this article from Cracked.com http://www.cracked.com/article_18960_5-things-tv-writers-apparently-believe-about-smart-people.html
Okay. Thanks for your advice. But better to enter with the character YOU want to see, don't you think? And, some flaws in a character always make that character much more real and accessible. Nobody's perfect. Especially the people who THINK THEY ARE. Truth is, anti-heroes are all the rage these days. So go for it.
Hi! The Next MacGyver is such a cool idea. I'm interested in if you're expecting criticism, specifically about people worried about tokenism? That is, how are you hoping to create an interesting character who-just-happens-to-be-a-woman rather than letting the fact that the new protagonist is a woman being the driving interest?
Alas, there are people who will criticize you no matter what you do. So you can't really let that be a factor. The ultimate portrayal of the characters that emerge from the contest will be I suspect, that indefinable balance between the writing, the actress, the directing, etc. There just is no way to manufacture magic. You just have to choose the right elements and let me go in order to catch lightening in a bottle so to speak.
Would MacGyver be better at fighting a horse-sized duck or 100 duck-sized horses? Which would be easier to defeat if all you have are a paperclip and a rubber band?
I would go with 100 duck-sized horses. 1) horses, whatever their size are herd animals so, with a paper clip and a rubber band, you could probably come up with something to get them all running the way you want. With a horse-sized duck, I'm thinking a paper clip and a rubber band are not going to be enough to take that sucker down. Plus, even if you could, it would be touch to find a pot and an oven big enough to cook it in. So, yeah, 100 little horses would be my choice.
Have you been encouraged by the response you have received to The Next MacGyver so far, and what's the best advice for someone who wants to submit their idea, but might not be confident enough to do so?
We have been blown away by the response so far. Not only from the media but I think, within 24 hours of going public, there were like 10,000 visits to the site. As for advice submitting your idea-- be fearless! Be fierce! Be like MacGyver, after all! Have a sense of humor and humility in the face of even the most life-threatening situation. And then, DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO! So submit your idea because YOU CAN! And what do you really have to lose?
Well, it's time for me to jump. I have to stop a speeding train with a rubber band and a paper clip. Wish me luck! But thanks for all your questions. This has been great. And I promise when the next MacGyver project comes down the road, I'll be back here again. Now, go submit your entries to the contest! Thanks, Lee
I'm from Brazil and Mcguiver was and still huge here, thnks a lot.
How was the crew feelings on the success of the show with kids and if you had children in mind when making it?
Thanks for making science looking cool!
I know Brazil loves MacGyver! And I, in turn, would love Brazil just for that if not all the other amazing things about that country. Yes, MacGyver was designed to be a family friendly show, but I don't think any of us anticipated what a global phenomenon it would become, or that it would be one of those rare shows that the whole family would watch together.
Holy shit man. You don't understand how much I loved/ still love MacGyver! My mom even got me the bad ass box set that is put together with duct tape a few years ago. I used to look forward to watching MacGyver every week with her. She was a huge fan of the show too.
I just wanted to thank you for being such a huge part of my life. I look forward to checking out the new show!
So I guess my question would be, what was Richard Dean Anderson like working with? I hear he's a really great guy.
Though I only worked on the pilot-- and did not stay with the series-- I can only tell you what I heard. That RDA was a true professional and great to work with.
So the Terms & Conditions say that while the contributor owns their contribution, anyone else involved in the production can copy that contribution entirely without compensating the winner. Seems like the old Hollywood trick of getting stuff done for spec and laughing all the way to the bank.
Is that why you're doing it as a contest, so you don't have to pay a show creator more than the relatively small prize money?
I think you're referring to item #10 in the Terms & Conditions. But no matter what the legal language, the answer to your question is 'no'. We are not looking to rip off anyone. And you can have my personal assurance that this will not happen. That language was necessary to protects those working in the competition-- particularly the H'wood mentors-- from being accused of stealing someone else's idea. Trust me, they don't need to do that. Truth is, you can't copyright an idea anyway-- or a title for that matter. But, whoever comes up with a winning idea, that then actually becomes a show, will be fairly compensated for their material. We in H'wood are often accused of stealing an idea that someone else has submitted, somewhere. This is why most producers and companies will not even look at something that isn't submitted by an established agent, etc. Because we are soliciting submissions from everyone with this contest, we had to provide some language that would protect the mentors from such accusations. But again, for whatever it's worth, you have my solemn promise that WILL NOT HAPPEN. Sorry I can't offer anything better than that.
Is there a specific tone the producers are aiming for?
More specifically, are there concerns that a female lead will only be taken seriously in a dramatic show vs. an action/adventure show?
I don't think there's really a concern, either on my part or in H'wood in general about how seriously a woman lead will be taken in an action adventure show. Look at Alias, or the Hunger Games, or Lara Croft in Tomb Raider. These leads have all worked. And, let's face it, if H'wood is ultimately focused on the so-called bottom line of box office receipts, etc. these characters are taken VERY seriously! So the field is really wide open.
This is really interesting! Did you have a similar mission when it came to creating MacGyver? If not, how did you initially conceive of the idea for MacGyver?
So the best answer to how I came up with MacGyver can be found on the macgyverglobal.com website on the Creator's Corner page, all written out in a five part series. It was quite an adventure in itself. So check that out.
Did you have a real life engineering/science inspiration for the original MacGyver?
Though I'm sure I was fully aware of it at the time I wrote the pilot, I think it was my father. Who was an amazing Jack of all trades: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, masonry, you name it, my Dad could fix it-- and often had me work with him (sometimes whether I wanted to or not!) He also give me my first Swiss Army Knife, which is how that ended up in Mac's pocket on the show.
What a great idea and very exciting!
Have you thought about what balance between reality and sensationalism the project intends to strike? I'm curious not so much in terms of standard Hollywood conceits, but in terms of how you portray engineering culture. As contemporary parodies of this culture, "The Big Bang Theory" is not far off, and "Silicon Valley" is spot on. How do you capture enough of this culture to provide accuracy without tipping too far over into the comical as to ruin the inspirational quality of the show?
It's a fair question about finding the right balance. That's why we've recruited the top H'wood mentors to work with the winners on their scripts: to help them find just the right balance between entertainment, science, and character that, ideally, will connect with a global audience. Just as MacGyver did.
Do you feel optimistic that having a leading female MacGyver could encourage young women to get into the STEM fields? What sorts of impacts do you predict could happen from your new show?
I am supremely optimistic that seeing a female engineer type lead could open the door for more young women to go into the STEM fields. Why? Well, when creating MacGyver I never imagined the kind of global impact such a character would have, or how it would inspire so many people to pursue careers in science and engineering. But, now that I know such a thing is possible, I can't wait to see what kind of original female characters emerge from the competition and what effect a successful TV show about them might have on both young women, and the world at large.
What ply toilet paper is the best?
The kind that you have when you need it. Duh...
What do you eat for breakfast?
Woohoo! 100th comment here! OK so here's the big question: why do you think our world needs more engineers?
Why does the world need more engineers? Well, let's see, there's like 7.5 billion people on the planet, which will soon be like 9 billion. Even without climate change, which is literally rocking our world now, there's growing pressure on food resources, fresh water, energy and waste management. Many of these issues are becoming critical. The more engineers we have out there solving these problems, the better our chances of tackling them and ultimately sustaining our global civilization. Don't you think?
I have three paperclips, a rubber band, and some chewing gum, how do I diffuse this bomb?
*P.S. I am currently tied to a chair
If you are currently tied to a chair, exactly how is it you wrote this question on your computer? Just saying.
Can the storyline be set in the future? Like Firefly?
The premise of the show we're looking for can be set anywhere you think will be the most cool to have it! The past, the present, the future, another parallel universe. Whatever works. And don't limit yourself. Surprise us! Because that's what we're really hoping for.
As an engineer on a construction site the crazy scenarios that I run into daily are un-jamming the copier, crappy cell phone service, and gut busting coffee.
Will this show be a type that every episode is a different problem, or will she pitted against an always under lying threat, kind of like Spectre from The James Bond novels?
One more thing, women in this field are still not taken seriously, how do you approach this issue?
One, congrats on dealing with all the stuff that comes up on a construction site. Two, I can't tell you what the show will be like because someone like you is going to come up with that, not me. As for women not being taken seriously in these fields…THAT'S EXACTLY WHY WE'RE TRYING TO DO A SHOW LIKE THIS. BECAUSE IT'S HIGH TIME WE CHANGED THAT KIND OF THINKING!, don't you agree?
Mr. Zlotoff, do you get asked to help out with or advise on MacGyver remakes a lot? If you do, can you talk about what made you decide to join this team?
Good question. But a bit of clarification: thought the contest is called The Next MacGyver, the female characters that come out of it will NOT BE CALLED MacGyver: they will all be original creations of the contestants. We're using the name MacGyver in this to suggest the KIND of character we're looking for but not, actually, a new MacGyver. We are working on a host of new MacGyver projects: a big budget feature film, a musical-- believe it or not-- a live interactive experience called MacGyver's Maze, and a bunch more. So I'm pretty much involved in all MacGyver projects. As for this contest, when the USC Viterbi School of Engineering suggested this competition to me, I said if we put the name MacGyver on it, then it would probably get more recognition and provide a model of the kind of iconic character we were looking for. Then the National Academy of Engineering got behind it, as did the White House, and here we are!
Aww bummer, so it won't be MacGyver's long lost grand daughter who also happens to be a badass NASA astrophysics engineer?
Not as a result of this contest I'm afraid. BUT that doesn't mean somewhere down the road, there won't be a new MacGyver TV series just like that! So don't lose hope. If the response from this contest is half what we're expecting, it can only help to encourage H'wood to want to do just that.
Quick question: Would you be open to doing cameos in the new show? Or have a small recurring part? Or do you want to stay behind the scenes
I'm not an actor and can't imagine why anyone would want to see me on TV. So I think the answer to your question would be 'no'. Not my job, man. Best to leave that to the pros.
Hey Lee! Thanks so much for doing this! I was a huge huge huge fan growing up, got to meet Henry Winkler once and the only thing I talked to him about was MacGyver (nothing about the Fonz). When the DVDs started being released I couldn't believe it and have the whole set now! Anyhow I am definitely excited for The Next MacGyver and hope that it has an impact on kids today as the original show did for me!
One quick question that I am sure you have been asked but would love to know: What was your favorite episode and why?
This is an impossible question to answer. There are so many great episodes and I love different things in different episodes. I once tried to answer that question for myself but, after something like 149 episodes were made, I just gave up. What was your favorite?
It used to be the Cruise Ship episode in season 1. So many cool macgyverisms going on with those bombs! I also was partial to most episodes with Murdoc. I liked Halloween Knights especially!
Me too. Great choices!!
I just read the rules of your competition (awesome idea, by the way).
Quick question: does this new show have to be set in the present time? I was just thinking about how much everybody loves Indiana-Jonesy stuff, like huge airships, evil Nazi villains and borderline cheesy legends & artifacts..
See my answer to a similar questions below: it can be set anywhere, in any time. So long as it's awesome, the rest will take care of itself.
This is such an exciting project. As someone who grew up watching MacGyver (and can maybe credit him in part for a lifelong interest in science & engineering), the idea of a female exemplar of "action engineering" is much needed and long overdue.
How much of the focus of the show will be placed on the character as a woman as opposed to her occupation/adventures?
You tell us! That's the whole idea behind doing this contest. But, as the winning concepts get turned into scripts, I'm sure questions like yours will be asked…and answered!
What is your inspiration when you write a script?
Inspiration for a script came come from anywhere-- and I mean ANYWHERE! The real trick is to keep an open mind-- and heart-- so that you'll know it when you see it.
Who would be the actress to play Ms. MacGyver if you will be continuing the series today?
Hard to say. Who would you like to see?
Why do you think media is so influential on the population? Do you think TV show creators/producers have the responsibility to think about influence - positive inspiration, or on the negative side, enforcing stereotypes?
Why media is so influential is a complex question, I think, with a whole bunch of components. But the short answer would be, the more you experience ANYTHING the more influence it will have on you, whether you are aware of it or not. As for the responsibility TV creators and producers have, knowing the kind of influence that their work can have, is ultimately a very personal decision. Some people are simply in it for the money, and don't much care what they put out there to get it. Witness the persistent element of humiliation in much of reality television. Do we constantly need to watch people be humiliated for our amusement? But there it is. For me, yes, I give such thought to what I do. I have children. I now even have grandchildren. So, before I make something, I ask myself, "Is this something I would want my children and grandchildren to watch?" And that tends to help focus my creativity. It's not to say I won't write things with either sex or violence, but are those elements there because the story demands it? or are they there for gratuitous purposes? Those are the sort of questions I look at. But again, that's just me. And I don't pass judgement on those who see it differently. I just know that whatever I put out there, I need to be able to live with myself.
I'm an engineering student, I live in Socal. How can I try out for a role as, an engineering student/intern on the show?
Since we don't even know what the show is yet, I'd check back with this question once you hear one of the shows from the contest is actually going to air!
So what's the premise? Will she be solving architectural issues or will she be fighting crime AND macgyvering at the same time?
Yes, no, maybe! We don't know! Why don't you enter the competition and tell us how YOU think it should play.
Would iWoman as in -intelligentWoman and ironWoman- an Astronaut, Professor, Rocket Scientist with a Doctoral in Aerospace Engineering and whose primary mission is to build a Spherical Orbital Crewed Exploration Research Stations (SOCERS) orbiting the Moon and Mars, merit a TVSeries?
Sounds good to me! Enter the contest with it and then we'll all see if that's the kind of winning concept we're looking for. I won't be judging all the initial entries myself, there'll be three teams of folks to do that: H'wood types, engineers, and TV and film academics. Once they've chosen the top 12, then I'll help winnow those lists down to the final twelve contestants and, then work with the other judges to pick the final five.
What is your favorite book?
This is another impossible question to answer. After attending St. John's college in Annapolis MD., where you read and discuss the great books of the western world for all four years, I discovered so many works that changed my way of thinking, that I came to realize my favorite book could be the next one that I read! So trying to limit that love of books to one or two was really not a good use of my mind.
are you aware of the running joke on the Simpsons about your show ?
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