The Internet is abuzz with rumors that MacGyver (America’s favorite duct tape-wielding secret agent) is planning a return to primetime. As mind-blowingly awesome as that would be, it isn’t exactly true.
What is true is that the show’s creator, Lee Zlotoff, has partnered with the National Academy of Engineering and the University of Southern California’s Viterbi School of Engineering to create a potential new MacGyver-inspired series.
The twist? They’re specifically looking to feature a female lead character.
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“We’re not looking to reboot or remake MacGyver,” says Adam Smith, a spokesperson for USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering who has been involved in the project since its inception. “We’re looking to launch a new TV show with an iconic female engineering character.”
With that spirit, “The Next MacGyver” was born – a global crowdsourcing competition that’s directly engaging the public to help create the new series. The contest is currently accepting pitches that require participants to provide a pilot episode summary, main character description and more.
“It could be a comedy, drama, sci-fi; but the main character has to be either a female engineer or a woman protagonist who uses engineering as a primary skillset,” says Smith.
Why a woman? According to Smith, the whole point of the new show is to find the next iconic character that will excite young people into engineering. Citing the glaring gender gap in the tech industry, Smith says they couldn’t help but recognize an urgent need to recruit more young women into the STEM workforce (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math).
“If we’re only leveraging half of the creative capital of this country, we’re going be in a bad place,” Smith told Metro. “There’s this assumption that we’ll only get our best ideas from half the population, which is sort of an absurd idea.”
The idea of using pop culture as a way to hook bright, young women into engineering isn’t a bad one. After CSI debuted in 2000, there was a huge surge in the number of people going into forensic science. “The Next MacGyver” creators hope they’ll see a similar ripple effect with regard to female engineers.
One study out of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media found that out of 275 primetime TV shows that aired in the spring of 2012, not one of them featured a female engineer.
The competition will ultimately be narrowed down to five winners who’ll each receive $5,000. They’ll also be paired with a Hollywood television producer to help flesh out the details of a pilot episode.
“By the end of this year, we hope to have five excellent pilot screenplays that a producer feels strongly enough to champion to move forward,” says Smith. “Our ultimate hope here is that young women will see a strong female protagonist doing amazing things and say, ‘You know what? That could be me.’”