Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver
Dana Elcar as Peter Thornton
John Anderson as Harry Jackson (1985-1990)
Teri Hatcher as Penny Parker (1986-1990)
Bruce McGill as Jack Dalton (1986-1992)
Michael Des Barres as Murdoc (1987-1991)
Elyssa Davalos as Nikki Carpenter (1987-1988)
Created by: Lee David Zlotoff
Executive Producers: Henry Winkler, John Rich, and Stephen Downing
Supervising Producer: Michael Greenburg
Music by: Randy Edelman, Dennis McCarthy, Ken Harrison
A Henry Winkler/John Rich production in association with
Broadcast on ABC Television
First telecast: September 29, 1985
Last telecast: August 8, 1992
Richard Dean Anderson is best known for his role as MacGyver for seven seasons on ABC. Using science and his wits, rather than violence, MacGyver could solve almost any problem. The action-adventure format addressed social issues as well, and MacGyver became a role model praised by critics, parents, and teachers alike. Shot for the first two years in Los Angeles, the production moved north to Vancouver for the next four years before returning to Los Angeles in its final season. MacGyver continues to enjoy tremendous popularity around the world.
Fall Preview Issue
September 14, 1985
Got a light? Thanks. You wouldn't happen to have a paper clip, would you? Or maybe a chocolate bar? If this series catches on, we'll all be looking twice at mundane items like those. That's because our hero, MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson), is not only a survival expert but a scientific prodigy as well -- sort of a Mr. Wizard with dimples. When an American pilot is shot down in the Himalayas or scientists are trapped in an underground research lab, the experts call on MacGyver, a former Special Forces agent, to save the day. He'll use that paper clip to short-circuit a nuclear missle; with the chocolate, he'll stop an acid leak. It may be just a Snickers bar to you and me, but MacGyver sees it as a handy hunk of disaccharide that will turn nice and gummy. No doubt the lovely damsels he rescues each week will see MacGyver as rather a handy hunk himself.
Review by Don Merrill
February 1, 1986
MacGyver is sort of a modest James Bond, a resourceful Indiana Jones. Give him a Swiss knife and whatever he can scavenge in the immediate vicinity and he can wreck a convoy of baddies, bring down helicopters, rescue anyone from the strongest of strongholds. When all other means of solving problems are exhausted, a call goes out (you're never quite sure who's placing the call) for old Mac, and so far this season he hasn't found a deed so derring he couldn't do it.
The nice part about him is that he carries no weapons and when there's shooting going on, he's likely to be found running like mad, knitting spider webs into a bulletproof vest or manufacturing an escape car out of some handy paper clips. We exaggerate -- but not by much. Besides being terrific looking (our source for this is quite reliable), Richard Dean Anderson is just right as the brilliant, wry MacGyver, who starts his assignments with a knapsack he carries, "not for what I take but for what I find along the way." His part doesn't call for much heavy acting, but Anderson, a veteran of General Hospital and a couple of brief CBS prime-time series, manages to play it with just the right amount of tongue in his cheek. They know what they're doing: the writing is generally sharp, the directing on target and the special effects impressive.
Most adventure shows open with a "hook" -- exciting scenes from the episode designed to keep the viewer from switching channels. MacGyver begins with what the producers term an "opening gambit", which is a five or 10-minute mini-adventure featuring our hero. When that ends, the night's main story begins. It's an effective gimmick, serving both to increase the show's entertainment value and to tighten the main story.
Thus one program began with MacGyver in an auto junkyard interrupting the sale of missile secrets to espionage agents. He snags the valuable briefcase with one of those huge movable magnets, is captured by the agents, trussed up and tossed into the back seat of a car about to be flattened. He escapes through the trunk and, using available machinery, leaves the bad guys suspended about 50 feet in the air. Then come the opening credits and MacGyver is off to Burma to recover a canister of deadly poison that was lost when an Army cargo plane crashed near a village where the natives are slaves to an opium warlord. He not only recovers the canister but helps the villagers regain their freedom by using whatever items are lying about to defeat the warlord. In the final scene, MacGyver manages to tie a wire cable from the downed plane to the warlord's helicopter and reel it in. Nothing is taken too seriously. Early in the episode, when MacGyver is staked out in the hot sun by the warlord's soldiers, his voice is heard remarking, "My mom used to make great broiled chicken. I'm starting to feel real sympathetic about those chickens."
It's a charming adventure show, less violent than most, and just right for young people in its early-evening time on ABC's Wednesday schedule. By young, of course, we mean young at heart. Stay with it, ABC.
Brooks, Tim, and Earle Marsh. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network And Cable TV Shows, 1946-Present. 6th ed. New York: Ballantine Books, 1995.
Actor Henry Winkler was co-producer of this action-adventure series about a rugged, handsome hero who preferred to use paper clips and candy bars rather than more conventional weapons. MacGyver was a former Special Forces agent now working for the Phoenix Foundation, a "think tank" dedicated to righting wrongs and defeating bad guys around the world. A clever fellow, he often slipped past the enemy's defenses and undermined their foul plans with ingenuity rather than brute force, using tidbits of scientific knowledge and ordinary items that happened to be laying around; for example, the paper clip might be used to short-circuit a nuclear missile, the candy bar to stop an acid leak, or a cold capsule to ignite a makeshift bomb, all just in the nick of time. MacGyver could work wonders with the contents of a lady's handbag! His assignments came from Peter Thornton, the Director of Field Operations for the Foundation.
In later seasons the series became increasingly issue-oriented, tackling such subjects as Thornton's blindness, the environment, and teenage runaways. Introducing Mac to the latter subject was his teenage friend Lisa, played by Mayim Bialik on a few occasions. Another infrequently seen but memorable character was MacGyver's nemesis, the evil Murdoc (played by Michael Des Barres). Nikki was MacGyver's brief romantic interest, and Dalton his ne'er-do-well friend.
Like many TV heroes (Columbo, Quincy, etc.), MacGyver had no first name -- until the last season when, in a dream sequence, he was transported back to medieval times to find his ancestors. There written in flame on a castle wall, was his name: Angus! "Oh," Cooed a maiden, "it's a beautiful name." "Maybe in your time," he replied ruefully, "but where I come from... "
In the last regular episode, MacGyver discovered the son he never knew he had -- a young man named Sean "Sam" Malloy (Dalton James) -- and the two got on their motorcycles and rode off into the sunset to bond.