How MacGyver Mesmerized Us Kids Of The 80’s

An Explosive Show

MacGyver, starring the enigmatic Richard Dean Anderson, was a television staple for anyone alive during the 80’s. The series ran from 1985 to 1992 and revolved around the protagonist Angus MacGyver, a covert operative who worked for the Phoenix Foundation. 

The plot was pretty simple – MacGyver would travel around the globe, armed with his Swiss Army knife and razor-sharp mind. He would improvise tools using mundane objects to create some kind of apparatus or structure required to escape a sticky situation or save the day in some way. He could fix anything and always remained cool under pressure and perhaps this was how MacGyver mesmerized us kids of the 80’s.

Crazy Contraptions

MacGyver awed us with such ingenious contraptions, that his name even became part of everyday vernac. The temp ‘MacGyver’, in the Merriam-Webster and Oxford English dictionary, essentially means “to make or repair with what is on hand.” In each of the 139 episodes of the show, our witty superspy whipped up some concoction or gadget using everyday items. These contraptions were always ingeniusly brilliant albeit perhaps a tad on the far-fetched side.

There wasn't much he couldn't do with this trusty penknife
Angus Jones and Indiana MacGyver

The MacGyver Look

Our protagonist’s get-up suited him so well that it’s hard to imagine him without it. I mean, is he really MacGyver without that hairstyle? Complement that hair with a leather bomber jacket and never-say-die attitude, and he starts seeming like Indiana Jones – just replace the whip with a pen knife. 

Snappy Title Sequence

Even if we could skip the intro of MacGyver, like we can now on Netflix, I would never do it because it’s catchy and fun to watch. It was a perfect opening theme because it allowed us to pretty much learn everything we needed to know about our hero.

My favourite moments are: just making it through the gate and the shot of him grinning beside the plane just oozing cool, self-assuredness.

Non-violent Conflict Resolution

Sure, there are superheros, spies and other strong characters who can beat the hell out of their opponents. We have plenty of them already, but what separates MacGyver from the rest is his aversion to violence and brawling. MacGyver is undoubtedly a good guy, but he is even made better by the fact that he is averse to violence. He is a pacifist to the point that instead of using a gun the way it is intended to be used, he dismantles it and improvises a wrench out of it. If I was a parent in the 80’s I wouldn’t worry about my kids learning brutality from the show because that is exactly what MacGyver is against.

The show is unique because it gives the thrill of an action flick without the scary, violent parts. In lieu of that, MacGyver displays creativity, resourcefulness, quick-thinking, and technical know-how, which are actual life skills that can be used everyday.

Yes, use your word MacGyver
Giving hope to all the nerds out there

Making Nerdiness Cool

MacGyver is a cool action hero, but he’s also very scientifically smart and rather nerdy by virtue of it. Because he is so cool though, he makes being nerdy cool as well since he wouldn’t be able to get out of trouble without it. Kudus to the show for showing us kids how useful chemistry can be because up until then, I didn’t really see the point of test tubes and bunsen burners. Suddenly, we could see real and practical examples of why chemistry was important. It also gave hope to the nerdy kids in school because it exemplified the fact that geeking out can be pretty awesome.

Believable Hacks

The creators of the show said in interviews that in order to pull off most of the improvisation that MacGyver did, he would have had to be unbelievably lucky and be textbook smart about pretty much everything. In other words, it is very unlikely that some of the contraptions would work in real life.

Having said that, many of them were completely plausible and with the show’s rising popularity came concerns about the possibility that kids would try and recreate his inventions which would no doubt lead to all kinds of accidents. For parents, this is understandably alarming, but for kids, the world had suddenly been transformed into a huge science lab where every object was a potential ingredient in a cool experiment. Fortunately, the efforts of these MacGyver-wannabe’s was thwarted by the intentional lack of too many details of the stuff that he used.

I'm not sure what he's making, but it seems safe

Final Thoughts

The show had a reboot in 2016, but it couldn’t replicate how MacGyver mesmerized us kids of the 80’s. When it comes to an iconic character like that, it’s practically impossible to recreate the original hero’s former glory. I think it is better to just leave the show as it was because the shoddy reboot just sullies the good name of MacGyver.

The new MacGyver looking way too smug for comfort

Were you a fan of MacGyver? Let me know in the comments section below.

For more cool stuff about the 80’s, read 17 Cool Things From The 80’s.

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MacGyver Gift Ideas

There is a lot of memorabilia out there, especially on Amazon, Etsy and Ebay. Amazon is usually cheaper with more selection and so I’ve chosen them. And if you’re not super satisfied with what you’ve bought, their returns policy is really good.

With so much to choose from, where do you start? My focus has been on cool, fun and quirky items, all garnering decent ratings from well-priced sellers.

Please note that I am an Amazon Affiliate and receive a small compensation if you use my links, but it will not increase your purchase price. If you use my links, I truly appreciate it 😉

Swiss Army Knife

You can’t be a real MacGyver fan without owning the classic Swiss Army Knife. 

Check it out on Amazon.

MacGyver Tee

Show your allegiance by wearing a quirky MacGyver T-Shirt. 

Check it out on Amazon.

MacGyver Travel Mug

A useful and cool MacGyver gift idea for anyone who enjoys a cup of Joe. 

Check it out on Amazon.

6 thoughts on “How MacGyver Mesmerized Us Kids Of The 80’s”

  1. Anthony Beatrice

    I was one of the people who didn’t normally watch MacGyver.  I don’t think there’s any particular reason for it, it just never caught my attention.  But I always thought the concept was cool when I did watch it.  I wish I could be as smart as this MacGyver guy.  You couldn’t help but see him, he was advertised constantly, I got to know him, despite my lack of true devotion to the show.  It did teach good values, by taking the violence out of it.  I’m just decadent in that I like violence, as long as it is not real.  Real violence abhors me.  Maybe MacGyver could teach lessons to others, especially in this day and age.  Violence is all too common on our screens, especially when it is real violence. 

    1. Nice comment, Anthony and yes I agree, there is way too much violence on our screens these days. They keep raising the bar and as viewers, we get more and more desensitized to it. MacGyver and the A-Team were two shows where, although had a lot of action sequences, very few people were killed. 

  2. I was born in the 90’s, so i never watched or even knew about MacGyver. Still, the way you wrote about the show makes me want to watch it as it sounds incredibly interesting. I love the part that he uses non violent ways to solve problems for a lot of real life issues, that’s pretty cool. I know the actor Richard Dean Anderson though, he also starred in the Stargate SG-1, which was one of my favorite shows(still is a little bit), Do you happen to know it?

    Thanks for sharing the article, it was a good read!

    Mark.

    1. You can always watch a few reruns on Amazon Prime if you’re curious about MacGyver, Mark. Still kinda holds up. I did watch a bit of Stargate, my mate had a small role in it so was mainly watching for him.

  3. Reading your article ‘How MacGyver Mesmerized Us Kids Of The 80’s’ really got me in a nostalgic mood and I’m glad that I came across this article. MacGyver was an amazing show that show the benefits of using your intellects to solve unique problems and Richard Dean Anderson was a talented actor who brought the character to life. 

    1. I think that is the overall message of MacGyver – the use of brains over brawn to deal with difficult situations in life. 

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