Sunday, September 25, 2016
Created by Lee David Zlotoff and produced by the Fonz himself, Henry Winkler, MacGyver aired from 1985 to 1992 on ABC, starring Richard Dean Anderson in his career-making role as Angus MacGyver, a dashing, wisecracking government operative with an aversion to guns who instead uses his preternatural knowledge of science and his ability to make use of whatever everyday items are available to intuit clever ways out of various death traps. Each week, MacGyver (or "Mac" to his friends) would be sent on a troubleshooting assignment by the fictitious Phoenix Foundation, and action and adventure would ensue. Here's the intro:
That theme, lodged in my permanent memory, was composed by Randy Edelman, who would go on to do such memorable scores as Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story and the theme for Fox's The Adventures of Brisco Country, Jr. Anyway, In addition to its supremely charismatic star, who effortlessly anchored the proceedings, MacGyver's strongest selling point was the anti-gun stance of its hero, which was a stark contrast with what pop culture was offering up during the mid-'80s, between Rambo at the movies and Miami Vice on TV. Instead, he'd use his wits, helped along by a voiceover from Anderson explaining exactly what he was doing. Similar such day-to-day life hacks have come to be called "MacGyverisms" thanks to the show's influence, and here's a playlist of some examples:
Another arrow in the show's quiver was that it was also refreshingly family friendly, which I certainly appreciated. The action was thrilling, but never gory, which meant I could actually watch the thing with my folks, which I certainly appreciated. Anyway, MacGyver was a solid performer for ABC right out the gate (though never a breakout hit), and managed to rack up an impressive 139 episodes over seven seasons before production finally wrapped in spring of 1992 (when it was replaced by the short-lived The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles). But even that wouldn't be the end, as Mac would return to the network in 1994 for two TV movies, The Lost Treasure of Atlantis and Trail to Doomsday.
While that marked the end of Anderson's tenure, MacGyver never really left the cultural consciousness, thanks to stuff like the Saturday Night Live skit-turned-feature MacGruber, and the general ubiquity of the term "MacGyverism" (which was even used in the pilot episode of Anderson's other hit series, Stargate SG-1). The entire series is available on DVD (and streaming), but home studio Paramount was also trying almost since it ended to revive it in some form, and while have no idea whether the new version (currently airing Fridays on CBS) will be able to match its predecessor's distance record, but given how much the original MacGyver was able to accomplish, it almost doesn't matter.
One Year Ago in Nostalgia Theater: Street Justice