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CBS is facing lawsuits over whether MacGyver is a spin-off or a remake



MacGyver

MacGyver
Photo: Mark Hill / CBS

TV studios like to throw the words “remake”, “reboot”, “revival” and “spin-off” around, many of which have seemingly interchangeable definitions, but what, actually, is the difference? The simplest interpretation will most likely be that a remake is a new version of an old thing, a reboot is a different version of an old thing, a revival is a continuation of an old thing, and a spin-off is a new thing that is related to another thing. Regardless of whether these definitions check out, CBS is now facing a lawsuit that partly depends on how these words are interpreted.

According to Deadline, two groups called Hanzer Holdings and Arlita Inc. filed a lawsuit against CBS in 2018 due to the network’s then new MacGyverand claimed that they are “successors in the interest” of the well-known Major Talent Agency, which was the packaging behind the original MacGyver series. You may remember the term “packaging” from the battle between Hollywood writers and agents that happened a few years ago, but the relevant part here is that the Major Talent Agency apparently got some sort of nebulous third-party share in the original MacGyver in 1984 as well as “each series produced” as part of the same agreement, and now these two other companies say they have inherited that share.

It sounds like Hanzer and Arlita’s argument is that, as a “spin-off” of the original series, the new MacGyver is part of the original MacGyver franchise and therefore qualifies as part of the original agreement MTA entered into. Meanwhile, the answer from CBS is mainly: “That’s not how it works, it’s not how any of this works.” CBS says that neither it nor Paramount (who held MacGyver rights previously) had ever had any kind of agreement with Hanzer Holdings, and they had “never even heard of plaintiff Arlita Inc.” until the lawsuit was filed, but even if they did, the writing of the original agreement (as presented by the plaintiffs) does not even apply to re-recording ”- that is what CBS says the new MacGyver in fact is.

So there are two angles here: Does the old paperwork say what Hanzer and Arlita say it says, and in that case an agreement that applies to the original MacGyver also applies to the new MacGyver? If it comes to the second point, the studios may actually have to start paying attention to what they call these projects, and we may one day stop referring to any remake / restart / revival / playback / anything like a remake / restart / revival / spin-off / whatever.


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