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MacGyver

By Kathleen C. Fennessy

Like James Bond--but without the high-tech gadgets--Angus MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) is one of those rare beings who can avert any crisis without mussing a hair. (The rest of us should be so lucky.) In the pilot alone, the secret agent dismantles a missile using a paper clip and fashions a rocket thruster out of a pistol. Is there anything MacGyver can't do? As the first season of ABC's long-running adventure series proves, the answer is a resounding no. MacGyver's secret: the everyday items he "finds along the way," like matches or gum wrappers, and the ingenuity to put them to a myriad of uses (a background in physics and chemistry doesn't hurt). Unlike Alias' Sidney Bristow, he isn't a multi-linguist, a martial artist, or a master of disguises. Wits are MacGyver's weapon of choice.

MacGyver is joined by Phoenix Foundation director of operations Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), who is introduced in "Nightmares." Also, his grandfather, Harry Jackson (John Anderson), makes his first appearance in "Target MacGyver," while friend Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives) makes hers in "Every Time She Smiles" (they will appear more frequently in future seasons). Other notable guest stars include Joan Chen (The Last Emperor) in "The Golden Triangle," Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) in "Hellfire," and John De Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in "The Escape."

MacGyver's second season begins by following the same blueprint as the first (although the opening gambit is gone). Richard Dean Anderson is back as the eponymous secret agent. So is Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), operations director of the Phoenix Foundation. In addition, Mac's ditzy pal, Penny (Teri Hatcher), and beloved grandfather, Harry (John Anderson), return for a few episodes. In the season premiere ("The Human Factor"), a skeptical military man says to Thornton, "So this is your main guy. He doesn't even have any gear." Responds Thornton, "That's what makes him so special." As before, Mac doesn't drink, smoke, or carry a firearm. He puts it plainly in the fourth episode ("The Wish Child"): "I hate guns." Mac would rather use non-violent means, i.e. "MacGyverisms," to fight crime. Midway through the 22-episode year, however, creator Lee David Zlotoff (Remington Steele) decided to shake up the formula by introducing two new characters. First there's Mac's college buddy, Jack Dalton (busy character actor Bruce McGill from Animal House, The Cinderella Man, etc.), who makes his first appearance in the sixth episode ("Jack of Lies"). Then there's Mac's arch-nemesis Murdoc (actor/musician Michael Des Barres from Melrose Place), who makes his in the eighteenth ("Partners").

Other notable second season guest stars include Fast Times At Ridgemont High's Vincent Schiavelli ("Soft Touch"), Murphy Brown's Robert Pastorelli ("Out in the Cold"), and Star Trek's George Takei and Wayne's World's Tia Carrere ("The Wish Child"). MacGyver also had a tendency to bring back actors from previous seasons for different roles. Second year returnees include Mean Streets' Richard Romanus ("Twice Stung"), Barney Miller's Gregory Sierra ("Jack of Lies"), and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor ("D.O.A. MacGyver").

In "Ghost Ship," MacGyver's boss, Pete (Dana Elcar), is asked to define what makes Mac (Richard Dean Anderson) so special. He replies, "You know, I've known him for eight years now, and I've never quite been able to put my finger on it. He just always comes through, no matter what." And that he does. MacGyver's third season begins with a blast from the past when Mac runs into Lisa (Elyssa Davalos), a woman he thought he had killed (unintentionally, of course). Turns out Lisa's just fine, but she did do a little time in a Russian gulag, proceeding to marry the ex-KGB operative who set her free. The two-part season opener ("Lost Love") allows Mac to make it up to his former flame with a little help from pal Jack (Bruce "D-Day" McGill), AKA "The Great Sheldrake," whose latest career move is magician.

The producers must have felt that Anderson and Davalos had chemistry as she returns a few episodes later ("Fire and Ice")--sans Russian accent--as Nikki, a different, recurring character (oddly enough, Mac fails to note the resemblance). Like Teri Hatcher's Penny, who doesn't appear in the third season, Nikki isn't a love interest, but a friend (and Phoenix Foundation colleague). While Penny will return the following year, Nikki will not. Fortunately, Michael Des Barres' maniacal Murdoc does reappear ("The Widowmaker"), but only once before Mac neatly dispatches him yet again--or does he? Other guest stars include three Kung Fu vets: The Sopranos Joe Santos ("Back From the Dead"), Blade Runner's James Hong ("Lost Love"), and Keye "Master Po" Luke ("Murderer's Sky," the season finale). The latter two appeared in previous years, but--like Davalos--as different characters (whereas Santos's Jimmy "The Eraser" Kendall was first introduced in the second season).

MacGyver ran for seven seasons and was followed by two made-for-TV movies in 1994, Lost Treasure of Atlantis and Trail to Doomsday. In 1997, after a short-lived series for UPN (1995's Legend), Anderson landed the lead in an even longer-running series, Stargate SG-1, based on the sci-fi extravaganza with Kurt Russell.

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Season One, Season Two, Season Three

 

Share Your Memories!

Do you have a favorite episode of MacGyver? What do you remember about the series? Share your stories with the world! (We print the best stories right here!)

Your Memories Shared!

"MacGyver was definitely my favorite show throughout the Awesome80s! Okay, it's pretty much my all time favorite show! I remember watching this show from 1985 all the way through the end at 1991, getting really excited when "The Mountain of Youth" episode, the "lost episode" aired later on in 1992, and get really excited again when the two tv-movies came on in 1994! Now, I'm excited that there's talks of maybe making a MacGyver movie for theaters! Of course, it would have to still have Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver! He is MacGyver and no one else can do the role! MacGyver RULES!"

--MacLeaper

"MacGyver was without a doubt the greatest show of all time. I am lucky enough to have all 139 episodes of the series on tape. As for favorite episodes, it's a tough call considering the series' frequent displays of genius, but standing out as the all time best was "Cleo Rocks", the dark and high-energy fourth season episode where archrival Murdoc played the role of Phantom of the Opera is a demented plot of vengeance against MacGyver."

--Mark

"Hey! Big time Stargate SG-1 fan here. Wondering if any other MacGyver fans are still following Richard Dean Anderson now that he's in the great sci-fi show of our time as Col. Jack O'Neill? [Editor's note: I never watched the MacGyver (I don't remember why now - it seems like my kind of show), but now that I'm an SG1 fan, I'm interested in seeing old MacGyver shows! Here's hoping a season (or seven) shows up on DVD at some point.]"

--SidneyM

"My favorite Macgyver episode is "The Stringer", which has the appearence of Mac's son Sam. Other favorites were those that had his great adversary, Murdoc. He was excelent. I'm from Melbourne, Australia I'm desperate for the series. It is not playing down here at all. :("

--Kevin Heins

"My favorite episode was The Prometheus Syndrome with Randolph Mantooth playing Earl Stringer, a Fire Department arson investigator. Prometheus believed he was cleansing with fire and punishing fire fighters. MacGyver and Earl were old friends and with Earl's death the arson investigation took on a new urgency. The insane arsonist was finally caught by Mac and Rachel. A very young Eric Close also had a small role in this one. It was good to see Randolph back in Fire Department Uniform, although it was a far too brief appearance."

--Anonymous

"MacGyver is this kind, funny (I just *luv* his sense of humour!), and smart guy. And he is definately *not* average. Most action shows have a gun-toting hero, but Mac refuses to use a gun, and instead uses his brain to get out of tricky situations. The 'MacGyverisms', or unusual ways in which he foils the bad guys are what makes the show so enjoyable and unique. Believe and interesting, they also ensure that I'm not going to fall asleep because I know what's going to happen next.

All in all, I love MacGyver, and he looks darn good in a leather jacket too! ;)"

--Starre

"I would have to agree with you. Although I don't own any MacGyver episodes on tape, I do enjoy watching the old episodes on TVLand. Some of them are really cheesy, but the idea of using your mind to get out of situations like he finds himself in is quite original. My favorite episode is most definitely "Countdown", where Mac has to disarm, in my opinion, the greatest bomb ever created.

-TVLand Haiku:
duct tape miracles
Sweet swiss army knife escapes
Murdoc never dies…"

--Will

"MacGyver is the best TV show ever. I liked the way he worked things out without using guns. The show made me wake up every morning saying, "Another morning, a whole new set of possibilties." I Can't say I have a favorite one, but if I had to pick just one, I would pick Theif of Bubapest. In the episode, Mac is on a mission to get a watch with KGB names on it from a man named Nickolie. Only a gypsey get a hold of it first. Mac must make a deal with a famely of gypseys to get the watch back and get the family of of Hungry. It's a edge of your seet episode. All for now. "Only a fool is sure of anything, a wise man keeps on guessing.""

--Jeff "MacMan"

"Hiya. I love MacGyver. I remember loving it when I was 6 or 7 and I still love it now. The theme song is also very catchy. I get nostalgic just listening to it. I'm in Sydney, Australia and it hasn't screened here since the early 90s when they showed the MacGyver Lost in Atlantis movie on Channel 9. The best episodes I remember were the Legend of The Holy Rose 2 parter. It was so cool how they went on a treasure hunt around the world."

--Anonymous

"MacGyver was my favorite show on TV and I hope they put all of the episodes on DVD soon. I have almost every episode on VHS but my copies are dying due to the amount of times they have been watched over the years. The best episodes ever made are "Blood Brothers" (which showcases the talents of Jason Priestly 2 years before 90210) where Mac shuts down drug dealers when he goes back to his hometown, "The Widowmaker" (the best Murdoc episode, although all Murdoc episodes are above average) where Mac thinks he accidentaly killed his best friend who had a crush on him while they are rock climbing, and lastly "The Stringer" where Mac finds out he has a son. What makes these episodes stand out from the rest are the great acting and great emotional storyline, exciting soundtrack, as well as the usual gadgets and close escapes. These episodes really let you see Mac's character, frailties and abilities that make this the best tv show ever made."

--Lexi

"Dude, I LOVE MacGyver!! My favorite episode was when he jumped off the cliff and he used the string and the leaf as his parachute and he didnt even get hurt!! Tubular dude!! Or the other episode when he was stuck in a closet with another man and he didnt come out for like 10 minutes, , YUCK!! haha well MacGyver rules!"

--Bill Johnson

"I was just in Best Buy and talked to one of the guys there. He said to expect MacGyver (as well as other Awesome80s shows) at the end of this year, beginning of next year!!! There is supposedly a HUGE demand for these Awesome80s shows on DVD - let's hope it's true. MacGyver is the greatest show in TV history. Hands down."

--RizzMan

"Angus MacGyver is an agent with a difference. He is quiet, deeply principled and hates guns. Instead choosing to use his brain and armed only with his trusty Swiss army knife, he draws on a vast practical knowledge of science; MacGyver is able to make use of any mundane materials around him to create unorthodox solutions the problems he faces. "

--Rockatteer

"MacGyver is great! The show was aired with Chinese dubbing in Taiwan. I watched it when I was in grade school. This may sounds cheesy, but before I immigrated to U. S. MacGyver was a symbol of what I believe Americans are. Intelligent, sensible, optimistic, cool under pressure, willing to help others, sense of adventure etc. I still carry a Swiss army knife where ever I go, even after it was confiscated in the airport due to September 11th terrorist attack. Mac's belief where knowledge is the most powerful weapon encourages me.

July 5th, 2004"

--Aeolus

"MacGyver was definitely my favorite show back in the Awesome80s and is still ranks up there (tied with Stargate now!). Richard Dean Anderson is probably one of the most versatile actors and I've watch him just get better and better with time!"

--barbkap

"I'm happened to tune into WGN a few years ago when I found the MacGyver series. Never saw the series when it first aired, but I got so interested I taped all the episodes. My favorite ones are. . . Mac's Women, Humanity, The Madonna, The Secret House of Penny Parker, The Gauntlet and the Amadaeus. Well, it's really hard to pin point just one or two, and I know I'm leaving some of the eps out but RDA does such a great job! He's the man!"

--Kay

" I'm an Awesome80s brat (born in the year 1980). I was lucky to have MacGyver to watch, while growing up. The show was not only fun and exciting, but also sent a positive message. Episodes like "Harry's Will", where as a kid Mac learns good sportsmanship, are an example of this.

The theme song is awesome too! Everytime I watch the opening credits, I get a strong nostalgic feeling. I think back to when, I use to jump all around my parents living room, pretending to do the things Mac did. I really hope they put the series on DVD soon."

--Leah Holland

"Ok. Can you realy make a bomb out of a necktie lining and a piece of gum and some foil? Only man I know who can is MacGyver. Ok, your stuck in a elevator and you have to open the doors. ok, what do you do, ask for a piece of gum, necktie lining, and foil. this has to be one of the most impossible episodes I ever saw. Even I said no way can it be done. I jumped off my chair when I saw this episode. and yelled out loud. no way!! I think thats how it went in the show. But overall a good show."

--Anonymous

"I must admit, MacGyver is an old favourite of mine. I remember we always looked forward to the Christmas break in Australia as channel 9 would inevitably pull out the old MacGyver re-runs. It might have been the second or third time seeing them, but none of us minded with this classic show, which is a lot more than I can say for the (insert appropriate 4 letter word here) that comes out of Hollywood or wherever these days. Bring back the classics I say. "

--poida

"Hi it's all coming back to me now that I'am waching MacGyver on Tvland. I remember when I was just 9 or 10 year old in my contry Dominican Republic itching to be this guy. Another thing that I remember was that MacGyver was on every Wednesday night at 8:00pm after seem MacGyver I would go the next morning to the back yard and try to the same thing this guy did noting that I would be in danger this is the guy who made me become an Electonics Technician.

Richard Dean Anderson or Col. Jack O'Neill On the Startgate-sg1 that a great show!

If you didnt know MacGyver first name It was Angus MacGyver"

--Ro'King

"I like the episode "The Gauntlet" because only MacGyver knows how to make an ordinary map useful in about six different ways, and also "Out In The Cold" In which you can see Pete Thornton's strong friendship towards Mac realy stand out. Absolute best show!"

--Scott

"MacGyver is da bomb! If Paramount doesn&'t release this series on Dvd, well they would be making a serious mistake! I like the episode "The Gauntlet" because only MacGyver knows how to make an ordinary map useful in about six different ways, and also "Out In The Cold" In which you can see Pete Thornton&'s strong friendship towards Mac realy stand out. Absolute best show!"

--Scott

"I LOVE MACGYVER. I LIKE THE WAY MACGYVER CAN TAKE SOMETHING AND USE IT TO GET OUT OF JAMS. MY FAVORITE EPISODE IS WITHOUT A DOUBT "THE MADONNA" HOLIDAY SPECIAL. AND THE SERIES FINALE OF MACGYVER WHERE MACGYVER FOUND OUT HE HAD A SON HE NEVER KNEW HE HAD. I LIKED IT WHEN MACGYVER AND HIS SON LEFT LOS ANGELES AND HEADED SOMEWHERE ELSE. MACGYVER QUIT THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION AND HEADED OFF INTO THE SUNSET. MACGYVER RULES!!!!!!! RODNEY SEXTON"

--Anonymous

 

TV TIDBITS

Aired: September 29, 1985 - August 9, 1992

Cast: Richard Dean Anderson, Dana Elcar

Network: ABC

Genre: Adventure

Theme song

Image courtesy of ABC


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