MacGyver intro.jpg
Genre Action/Adventure
Created by Lee David Zlotoff
Starring Richard Dean Anderson
Dana Elcar
Theme music composer Randy Edelman
Country of origin United States
Language(s) English
No. of seasons 7
No. of episodes 139 (List of episodes)
2 films
Executive producer(s) Henry Winkler
John Rich
Location(s) California
British Columbia
Running time 60 minutes
Original channel ABC
Audio format Mono (Seasons 1–2),
Stereo (Season 3–7)
Original run September 29, 1985 (1985-09-29) – May 21, 1992 (1992-05-21)
External links

MacGyver is an American action-adventure television series created by Lee David Zlotoff. Henry Winkler and John Rich were the executive producers. The show ran for seven seasons on ABC in the United States and various other networks abroad from 1985 to 1992. The series was filmed in Los Angeles during seasons 1, 2 and 7, and in Vancouver, British Columbia, during seasons 3–6. The show's final episode aired on April 25, 1992 on ABC (the network aired a previously unseen episode for the first time on May 21, 1992, but it was originally intended to air before the series finale).

The originally aired episodes for the initial seasons (? - ?) used the title 'McGyver' but later changed it to 'MacGyver' to apparently provide him with a first name. All current copies show the later spelling.

The show follows the intelligent, optimistic, laid-back, resourceful secret agent Angus MacGyver, played by Richard Dean Anderson. He prefers a non-violent resolution to violence where possible and refuses to handle a gun. MacGyver works as a troubleshooter for the fictional 'Phoenix Foundation' in Los Angeles. Educated as a scientist with a background as a Bomb Team Technician/EOD in Vietnam ("Countdown"), and from a fictional United States government agency, the Department of External Services (DXS), he is a resourceful agent able to solve complex problems with everyday materials he finds at hand, along with his ever-present duct tape and Swiss Army knife.

The series was a ratings success for ABC and was particularly popular in the United States, Europe, Australia, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Middle East, Brazil, Canada, Mexico and New Zealand. Two television movies, MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis and MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday, aired on ABC in 1994. A spin-off series, Young MacGyver, was planned in 2003, but only the pilot was made. Merchandise for the MacGyver media franchise includes games and toys, print media and an original audio series. There have even been a few comedic spin-offs of the famous show, such as Saturday Night Live's "MacGruber," which later was made into a full feature film named MacGruber, and a parody of the song "Hey There Delilah", which was given the name "Hey There MacGyver." A feature film based on the series is being developed[1] and may possibly be produced by 2013.[2]


Series overview

The series revolved around Angus MacGyver (known to his friends as "MacGyver" or "Mac"), whose main asset is his practical application of scientific knowledge and inventive use of common items—along with his ever-present Swiss Army knife. The clever solutions MacGyver implemented to seemingly unsolvable problems — often in life-or-death situations requiring him to improvise complex devices in a matter of minutes — were a major attraction of the show, which was praised for generating interest in the applied sciences, particularly engineering,[3] and for providing entertaining story lines. All of MacGyver's exploits on the show were ostensibly vetted to be based on scientific principles (even though, the creators acknowledged, in real life one would have to be extraordinarily lucky for most of MacGyver's ideas to succeed). In the few cases where MacGyver used household chemicals to create poisons, explosives, or other things deemed too dangerous to be accurately described to the public, details were altered or left vague.[4]

The use of ordinary household items to jury rig devices shows an influence from The A-Team (though MacGyver eschewed firearms). The idea has entered United States popular culture: such constructions are referred to as "MacGyverisms" (a term first used in episode 3 of season 2, "Twice Stung"). MacGyver has become a verb, as in "The car broke down but he MacGyvered a fix to get home", and was even used in Stargate SG-1, a later show featuring Richard Dean Anderson as a protagonist. The show often dealt with social issues, though more so in seasons 4–7 than 1–3, which were mostly about MacGyver's adventures working for the United States government and then later the Phoenix Foundation.


Several episodes began with a cold open, finding MacGyver already on a mission. MacGyver often narrated himself with a story from his childhood relating to his current situation. MacGyver resolves this situation quickly, and the main story commences after the opening credits. This opening sequence is called in the credits the "Opening Gambit" and is far more common in earlier episodes than in later ones. This segment is often written and directed by a different team than the main story of the episode. After the credits, the main story plays out in standard three-act structure. In many episodes, the opening sequence occurs after the opening credits and often does not involve MacGyver on a mission but rather in a situation used for character development. In the same manner as the "Opening Gambit" sequences, these opening segments often do not directly relate to the main story.


  • Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver, refuses to carry or use a gun, due to a childhood accident with a revolver that resulted in the death of a friend.[5] However, in the pilot episode, MacGyver is seen firing an AK-47 on a mission in the opening Gambit (7:51 into the episode), then seen using a gun in the TV movie Trail to Doomsday. He also holds two kidnappers at gunpoint in the opening scenes in episode 10, season one.[6] He is often suspicious of militaristic attitudes within the government; he sees his Phoenix Foundation employer as an alternative to the more conventional (and violent) means of law enforcement.[7]
  • Dana Elcar as Pete Thornton, MacGyver's boss and best friend. He is an operative at the Department of External Services (DXS), which is where he is impressed by Mac's ingenuity while tracking down Murdoc, an international assassin. When Thornton becomes director of operations at the Phoenix Foundation several years later, he brings MacGyver into the program. In addition to sending Mac out on various tasks for the foundation, Thornton is many times forced to bail MacGyver out of the trouble he gets into. Thornton has a son named Michael.


While creating the series MacGyver, John Rich worked on the American series, Mr. Sunshine, which was eventually canceled by ABC. After this Rich teamed up with Henry Winkler and Lee David Zlotoff to create the series which would later be known as MacGyver.[8]

The series was filmed in Southern California for its first two seasons and again in its final season. From seasons 3–6, it was filmed in various locations around Vancouver in Canada.[9] The estimated budget for each episode was around US$ 1 million.[10]

When the series was in pre-production, Winkler and Rich were looking for a suitable actor for the lead.[8] After Richard Dean Anderson's appearance in the American television series, The Love Boat, Winkler got Anderson to audition for the part of MacGyver.[11] According to Rich, every auditioning actor "hulked" his way through his audition. When Anderson eventually auditioned for the role, Winkler and Rich felt that he gave the character a human touch which the other actors couldn't. Both believed that Anderson would become one of the new "breakout" stars on American television.[8]

Anderson is known for having done many of the stunts in the series, though in later seasons he reduced his stunt participation because of accumulating injuries. He injured his back and required a foot surgery because of his accidents working as a stuntman.[12]

The producers of MacGyver had a tendency to use the same actor in multiple roles throughout a series run. Kai Wulff played Stepan Frolov in season one's "Every Time She Smiles", Hans Visser in season four's "Collision Course", Ladysmith in season five's Black Rhino, and Nicolas Von Leer in season six's episode "Eye of Osiris". Gregory Sierra appeared in the season one episode "The Gauntlet", playing General Antonio Vasquez, the season two episode "Jack of Lies", playing Colonel Antunnez, and the season five episode "The Treasure of Manco", playing Captain Diaz. Nana Visitor appeared in the season one episode "Hellfire" as Laura Farren, and in the season two episode "DOA: MacGyver" she appears again as Carol Varnay. David Ackroyd appears in the season one episode "Trumbo's World" as Mr. Trumbo, and in the season three episode "The Negotiator" as Mr. Knapp. Elyssa Davalos played Lisa Kohler/Kosov in "Lost Love: Part 1 & 2" in season 3, then just a few episodes later (in the same season) she re-appeared as Nikki Carpenter, a role which she reprised in several more episodes. Dana Elcar first appeared in the pilot episode as the chief of operations for KIVA laboratories under a different character name, Andy Colson.[13] Elcar returns later in the first season to play the main character, Pete Thornton.[14]

Several episodes of MacGyver's first season were written, or co-written, by Terry Nation, a British writer best known as the creator of the Daleks in Doctor Who.


Initial broadcast history

After a slow start in its first season, MacGyver became a sleeper hit for ABC in its second season, during which it began a six-year run as the lead-in to ABC's Monday Night Football (the longest such run in history).[15] During the show's fourth season, Richard Dean Anderson complained that ABC was not marketing the series enough. Saying that the series is "just another action show" for ABC, he further stated that ABC didn't give the series enough promotion.[16] MacGyver was canceled after the seventh season because ABC wished to broadcast a new series, entitled Young Indiana Jones Chronicles (from the same production company as MacGyver, Paramount Television), which became a minor success compared to MacGyver.[17] When asked why the series was cancelled, Anderson replied: "The only reason it went off the air was that everybody was ready to move on. I was physically exhausted and had no life."[18]

Syndication and movies

In 1994, the series was released in over seventy different worldwide markets.[19] Because of popular demand, two TV-movies were created, both released in 1994. The first movie MacGyver: Lost Treasure of Atlantis premiered in the United States in May. The film was shot in England and Greece. The second movie was entitled MacGyver: Trail to Doomsday. Anderson served as executive producer for both films,[19] which were filmed in Europe.[20] Re-runs of the series still air in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.[21]


In 2003, The WB Television Network had a pilot for a possible new Young MacGyver series starring Jared Padalecki as MacGyver's nephew Clay, but opted to pass on it.[22] In an August 2007 survey commissioned by the McCormick Tribune Foundation, Americans polled voted MacGyver as the favorite fictional hero they would want to have if they were ever caught in an emergency.[23] Lee David Zlotoff, creator of the series, announced on May 3, 2008, that a MacGyver film was in the planning stages.[24] He would produce the film along with Martha De Laurentiis and Raffaella De Laurentiis through her Raffaella Productions.[25] Richard Dean Anderson has expressed interest in revisiting his role,[26] however there is no confirmation on who would be playing the role of MacGyver in the film.[27]

Home releases

Paramount Home Entertainment has released all 7 seasons of MacGyver on DVD in Regions 1, 2 and 4. On October 16, 2007, CBS DVD released MacGyver: The Complete Series, a special collectors' edition box set that features all 139 episodes of the series as well as the two TV movies that followed.

On June 15, 2010, Paramount released the two TV movies on DVD in Region 1 in a separate single-disc release entitled MacGyver - The TV Movies.[28]



In 2006, Anderson appeared in a MasterCard television commercial for Super Bowl XL, the last ever NFL game to air on ABC. The spot poked fun at the character's ability to use everyday objects to perform extraordinary feats: In it, he manages to cut the ropes binding him to a chair using a pine tree air freshener, uses an ordinary tube sock as the pulley for a zip-line, and somehow repairs and hot-wires a nonfunctional truck using a paper clip, ballpoint pen, rubber band, tweezers, nasal spray and a turkey baster. In contrast to previous MasterCard commercials showing people making extravagant purchases to accomplish some mundane task, MacGyver is here portrayed as escaping from some sort of deathtrap using less than $20 worth of common household items. The commercial ends by showing him purposefully buying an assortment of such things at a department store with his credit card (as a tongue-in-cheek explanation for how Mac seems to always have items he needs on hand no matter where he goes). Although the commercial insinuates Anderson is portraying the role of MacGyver, he is not identified.[29]

The series is referenced in episodes of The Simpsons, primarily detailing Marge Simpson's sisters Patty and Selma's obsession with the show and their crush on the MacGyver character. The sisters' regular viewing of the show is an unalterable element of their daily schedule to the point of death as demonstrated in the episode "Black Widower". The episode featured a fictional scene of MacGyver where he downplays his role in saving a village ("Don't thank me. Thank the moon's gravitational pull").[30] In another episode, "A Star is Burns", Homer tricks Jay Sherman into insulting MacGyver in front of Patty and Selma; Sherman ends up being hung from the rain gutter by his underpants, and Bart asks "You badmouthed MacGyver, didn't you?" Anderson himself is an avid fan of The Simpsons, and even provided his voice for an episode of the show titled "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore", which first aired April 6, 2006, where Patty and Selma kidnap Richard Dean Anderson after he admits that he never liked doing MacGyver and only did the show for the money.

In the first episode of Anderson's later show, Stargate SG-1, Amanda Tapping mentions that the Air Force had to "MacGyver" a Dial Home Device for the Stargate (a split-second shot following this shows Anderson twitching an eyebrow). There is a blooper reel where Tapping's character, who is trapped with Anderson's character on a glacier, begins ranting about how "we got belt buckles, shoelaces and a piece of gum. Build a nuclear reactor, for cryin' out loud! You used to be MacGyver, MacGadget, MacGimmick... now you're Mr. MacUseless... Dear God, I'm stuck on a glacier with MacGyver!" Later, various episodes establish that Jack O'Neil's (Anderson's character) has an immense love of the cartoon series "The Simpsons"

In 2007, the NBC sketch show Saturday Night Live featured a parody of MacGyver called "MacGruber" with Will Forte as the title character. The intros for these skits featured scenes from the MacGyver series. MacGruber and cohorts are always locked in a control room of some type with a bomb set to go off in 15–20 seconds. MacGruber has his co-stars hand him components to defuse the device, but something inevitably gets in the way (either situational, because MacGruber himself interferes, or because no one wants to touch what he has asked for) and the bomb detonates. In the March 7, 2009 installment of the "MacGruber" sketches, it was revealed that MacGyver is MacGruber's long-lost father. In 2010 the character was featured in its own R-rated spinoff movie, entitled MacGruber; the film was released by Rogue Pictures.

In February 2008, the science show Mythbusters featured a MacGyver special which tested several of MacGyver's tactics.

In 2008 the phrase "What would MacGyver do?" was used in a New Zealand television commercial for Gregg's "freestyle cooking" range of herbs and spices. The commercial featured the word MacGyver unfolding like a puzzle with a potato peeler and chopping knife opening out like the blades of a Swiss Army Knife.[31]

The XKCD webcomic #444 from August 2, 2008, "Macgyver Gets Lazy", portrays MacGyver providing an elaborate, MacGyver-like explanation for the act of simply shooting a guard with a handgun.[32]


MacGyver employs his resourcefulness and his knowledge of chemistry, physics,[4] technology, and outdoorsmanship to resolve what are often life-or-death crises. He creates inventions from simple items to solve these problems. These inventions became synonymous with the character and were called MacGyverisms by fans.[33] MacGyver was unlike secret agents in other television series and films because, instead of relying on high-tech weapons and tools, he carried only a Swiss Army knife and duct tape but never a gun.[4] One episode shows the reason being that a boyhood friend of his was accidentally killed by a revolver he was not supposed to have. One other episode shows him only using a captured gun by taking it apart to use as a kind of wrench, with the trigger guard doing the job of shutting down a valve tap. In the opening gambit of the pilot episode, MacGyver is briefly seen shooting an AK-47 at a group of enemy soldiers before passing the gun off to the man he was rescuing. This is the only time MacGyver fired a weapon during the series.

This also led to the verb, "to MacGyver". "MacGyverism" was first used by Joanne Remmings (played by Pamela Bowen) in the third episode of Season 2. When MacGyver introduces himself to her, she uses the term in a manner that suggests other people had used it before:[34]

"Oh I've heard about you! You're the guy who does the whatchamacallits, you know, MacGyverisms; turns one thing into another?"

In an 1989 interview with Richard Dean Anderson, Arsenio Hall said that he had heard the word MacGyver used as a verb meaning "to do the impossible." Anderson then used it as an adjective meaning "impossible." Anderson stated that his show's producers had just missed out on getting the word "MacGyverism" entered into the Webster's Dictionary and that "we" intended to try to get it in the next update.[35]

The show's writers based MacGyver's inventions on items they found on location, concepts from scientific advisers John Koivula and Jim Green, and real events.[4] The show offered a monetary prize to people who sent good ideas for the show. A young fan suggested that MacGyver could patch up a vehicle's radiator by cracking an egg into it. The episode "Bushmaster" was constructed around this trick, and the fan was rewarded (producer Henry Winkler said in a 2005 NPR interview that that was his favorite "MacGyverism"). Although staff read every letter, few usable ideas were obtained in this way.[33]


  • In the series Murder, She Wrote episode "Snow White, Blood Red" there was a world ski contender with the same name.


  1. ^ Daniel Hubschman (May 21, 2010). "MacGyver Movie On The Way". 
  2. ^ "MacGyver (2013) entry". 
  3. ^ Design News Staff (December 17, 2001). "Engineers making a difference; Five engineers find the time to teach kids that engineering is cool". Design News: 50. 
  4. ^ a b c d Britton, Wesley, Spy Television, Praeger/Greenwood, ISBN 0275981630, p. 212.
  5. ^ "Brothers". MacGyver. American Broadcasting Company. No. 2, season 4.
  6. ^ "Target MacGyver". MacGyver. American Broadcasting Company. No. 10, season 1.
  7. ^ Pieter Jacobus Fourie (2004-04-28). Media Studies: Content, audiences, and production. Google Books. ISBN 9780702156564.,M1. 
  8. ^ a b c John Rich (2006-10). Warm Up the Snake. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 9780472115785.,M1. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  9. ^ Canadaka. "TV Series Filmed in Canada". 
  10. ^ Jenny Wake (December 3, 1990). "MacGyver Madness". The New Zealand Listener. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  11. ^ James Brady (December 27, 1998). "In Step With Richard Dean Anderson". Parade Magazine. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  12. ^ Lindsey Greenstein, Laura Giles and Alex Bogdan (February 4, 1990). "Kidsday: Talking with Richard Dean Anderson". Newsday. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  13. ^ "Pilot". MacGyver. American Broadcasting Company. No. 1, season 1.
  14. ^ "Nightmares". MacGyver. American Broadcasting Company. No. 11, season 1.
  15. ^ Suzanne Stevens (January 19, 1987). "In a fix? Call MacGyver, not the average Joe who plays him". People Weekly. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  16. ^ David Walstad (July 24, 1988). "Series gets no respect, star says; Richard Dean Anderson faces his fourth season as MacGyver". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  17. ^ Susan King (December 13, 1992). "No More Mr. Nice Guy". TV Guide. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  18. ^ Mark Nollinger (July 15, 1997). "Ice Man". TV Guide. TV Guide. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  19. ^ a b Susan King (May 8, 1994). "Richard Dean Anderson producing Macsqual". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  20. ^ Jerry Buck (May 8, 1994). "A New Image for MacGyver". Associated Press. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  21. ^ Allan Johnson (July 15, 1997). "Role reversal Richard Dean Anderson goes west to leave MacGyver behind". The Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 2009-05-14. 
  22. ^ "MacGyver: Watch Jared Padalecki as the Hero's Nephew, Young MacGyver". March 17, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  23. ^ "MacGyver is favorite disaster hero". The Sydney Morning Herald. September 13, 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-13. 
  24. ^ "In brief: MacGyver creator talks up film". The Guardian. May 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-26. 
  25. ^ ""MacGyver" being reassembled as feature film". Reuters. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-16. 
  26. ^ "Comic Con: Richard Dean Anderson Talks MacGyver Movie". Cinema Blend. July 27, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  27. ^ "New Line Gears Up For 'MacGyver' Film". Attack of the Show! – The Feed. March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-03. 
  28. ^ "MacGyver DVD news: Date Change for MacGyver - The TV Movies". Retrieved 2011-02-25. 
  29. ^ "MacGyver MasterCard Commercial". 20 Dec. 2010. 
  30. ^ "A Star Is Burns". The Simpsons. 1995-03-05. No. 18, season 6.
  31. ^ MacGyver Online web site has this commercial to watch online
  32. ^
  33. ^ a b Rich, John, 2006, Warm Up the Snake: A Hollywood Memoir, ISBN 0472115782, p. 167.
  34. ^ Season 2, Episode 3 – "Twice Stung". Her phrasing suggests it's a popular term to those who know of MacGyver's track record, although MacGyver himself was unaware of the term.
  35. ^ Arsenio Hall interview of Richard Dean Anderson. The Arsenio Hall Show. 1989. MacGyver Online. accessed July 30, 2011.

Further reading

External links

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