"With what?" Spencer asks. "Don't tell me you know how to make a bomb with a stick of chewing gum." Wow, the first ever MacGyver joke was actually in the first ever episode of MacGyver. That's actually kind of impressive.
Notable mention goes to Shirou Amada from Mobile Suit Gundam: MS 08th Team. His team uses highly limited production RX-79(G)s made from leftover high spec parts of the namesake RX-78 Gundam, so spare parts for repairs are limited. Unfortunately enough, his mobile suit gets turned into a heap of junk. Rather than using the spare parts, which weren't enough anyway, he uses parts from normal military things such as jeeps, helicopters, and tanks to rebuild his RX-79(G) into the EZ-8, which performs *BETTER* than the RX-79(G).
Important to note that the new Gundam only had slightly improved performance due to the removal of some armor and the chest-mounted weapons, which freed up space and weight for an improved reactor at the cost of the multi-launcher, a Gatling gun, and added protection.
At the end of Gundam 00 season 1, Setsuna F. Seiei disappears after his Gundam Exia is all but destroyed... then reappears 4 years later, having repaired the Gundam all by himself, with scraps replacing missing or heavily-damaged armor, a large cape covering a missing arm, and a glowing red eye on the missing side of its face earning it the Fan Nickname Termin-Exia or Exia-Two-face
This is somewhat subverted in that it took 4 years for Setsuna to show himself and in this case, it was less of a case of MacGyvering and more of a case of scrounging for parts that he needed. The replacement camera eye was probably dug out of an old Tieren, while a lot of the missing pieces of armor may attribute to him breaking them down for spare parts. This is less of a case of MacGyvering and more of a case of replacing a broken car tire with a sturdier but smaller tire.
Yusei from Yu-Gi-Oh 5Ds, in episode 88, disarmed a high tech battle royal collar with a nail.
Shogetsu from Dazzle got a can of mackerel for lunch... but no can opener. So, with a few tools he got from the school's kitchen and science lab and the graphite from a pencil, he made a welding torch in the hopes that it would open the can. It did, but sadly, it also burned the mackerel. Oh, and Rahzel and Fay both had can openers.
Rena in Higurashi no Naku Koro ni, builds a homemade bomb by blocking the school's gutter with a base-ball, pouring gasoline in said gutter, and setting a cook-timer to ignite the explosive gas and blow up the school (in which she has also poured a generous amount of gasoline). It's only thanks to Satoko that Keiichi can find the bomb and defuse it in time.
Taichi Hiraga-Keaton in Master Keaton do stuff like stopping bulldozers(?) with soapy water and defusing bombs with chocolate.
Subverted in Marvel Zombies vs. Ultimate Fantastic Four, where zombie Mr. Fantastic convinces the soldiers guarding the Ultimate Frightful Four's cell that he's built a teleporter out of stuff lying around the cell and they promptly disappear. Turns out Zombie Invisble Woman had just made them all invisible so that the guards would open the cell to investigate, whereupon they were eaten.
Lex Luthor, on the other hand, has been known to build a teleporter out out of stuff lying around his cell. During his appearance in the short-lived The Joker comic, he improvised a jetpack out of a couple of bottles of pop and some paint flakes.
Spectacular jailbreaks based on his MacGyvering skills were a huge part of Pre CrisisMad Scientist Luthor's character. One story has him consider that it has reached the point where his guards won't allow him to have anything other than a pad of paper and a pen. He knows perfectly well how to turn to the ink, metal, plastic, wood pulp, and glue into a high explosive to blast his way out... but he would never do that, because then they wouldn't let him have a pen and paper any more.
Mocked, inevitably, in MAD's spoof of MacGyver. MacGyver remarks the the room the bad guys have locked him in has nothing he can use to escape, to which the woman with him points out that the room is full of explosives. He complains about the indignity of having to actually use explosives as explosives instead of improvising.
Tintin tends to resort to this after being kidnapped by the villain-of-the-week. Interestingly, while they're still ingenious a lot of his inventions are surprisingly plausible.
Batman, of course, has pulled this off several times, usually on those rare instances where he is without his utility belt.
Somewhat grounded in reality, believe it or not; the heat-exchanger from a fridge would be powerful enough to counteract a hell of a lot of overclocking.
Angelina Jolie's rocket launcher in Salt, built from a swivel chair and cleaning chemicals.
The Star Trek example below is satirized (with so many other Star Trek tropes) in Galaxy Quest; with Tim Allen's Kirk-like character fighting a giant rock monster in a barren rocky valley and one of his crew-members suggesting over the communicator "Look around...can you fashion some kind of rudimentary lathe?" He's met with Tim Allen's character screaming, "A lathe? Get off the line, Guy!"
Iron Man: Tony Stark creates a revolutionary way of generating huge amounts of power and a bulletproof power suit whilst captured by terrorists and only some scrap weapons parts at his disposal. As explained in one of the quotes above. In Iron Man 3, he even manages to make several homemade non-lethal weapons out of products bought at a hardware store, which he then uses to storm into the villains' hideout with maximum efficiency.
Common in the Tremors films and series, whenever they run out of ammo and need to improvise defenses against the latest Graboid life-cycle stage or Monster of the Week.
In Cast Away, Chuck finds himself stranded on a remote island with several Fed Ex packages full of stuff that initially looks worthless in his current setting, like a taffeta party dress (used for a fishing net), a pair of ice skates (which make handy axeheads when tied to a stick) and lots of videocassettes (whose videotape innards can be woven into some handy rope). There was also one package, the one he used to float to the island, that he never opened. According to one draft of the script, it contained two bottles of salsa verde and a note. In the FedEx commercial parodying it, it held [[ a satellite phone, a GPS locator, fishing pole, water purifier, and seeds]].
Vintage example: In the 1952 swashbuckler-spoof The Crimson Pirate, rebel townsfolk cobble together a hot-air balloon, cart-mounted cannons, a proto-gatling gun, and a flamethrower from old barrels, wagon wheels, wickerwork and some stolen long guns.
In Revenge of the Nerds II, the nerds get dumped on a desert island and have to find their way off it using their brains. In one of the most hilariously implausible scenes in the movie, one of them builds a metal detector out of coconuts, sand and seawater, leaving even his companions dumbfounded.
Jason Bourne of The Bourne Series has a talent for this. The stand-out example is probably him blowing up a building through the use of a toaster and a newspaper.
In A Series of Unfortunate Events, the character Violet uses her skills as an inventor to create gadgets off-the-cuff with available materials, often in dire situations.
In Circumference of Darkness, the main character is locked in a barn along with some friends. Using a broken tractor, some copper tubing, and some other random items, he builds a fully functional giant tesla coil inside the barn. This also leads to a You Have Failed Me moment from the mooks responsible by their Genre Savvy boss.
Ciaphas Cain is not only a Hero of the Imperium! but apparently also the MacGyver of the 41st millennium; in Death or Glory, while escaping from a large mass of pursuing Orks, he takes shelter in an abandoned warehouse. Using AdMech-sanctioned cleaning fluids in a non-sanctioned way (apparently learned from pulling pranks back at the schola), he constructs a firebomb in a truck to go off in the Orks' faces when they follow it, and another bomb to blow up any Orks who burst in the building's back door. The second one is powerful enough to drop the warehouse roof.
Also, the classic, Older Than Radio example called The Mysterious Island, where a few people build a civilization on a remote island with nothing but two watches and a metallic dog collar.
Ragnar Benson has written multiple books on how to make deadly weapons from stuff lying around the house. These are encrusted with warnings that doing so before the Day Of The Jackboot will land you in prison, hospital, or the morgue.
Live Action TV
Second only to the trope namer in fame would be The A-Team who would consistently be imprisoned by villains who would inexplicably lock the 'Team in a warehouse (or other location) full of enough PVC piping, broken-down all-terrain vehicles, used engine parts, and potentially-explosive material to ensure that they could (after an A-Team Montage) build a makeshift tank, equip themselves with heavy artillery (usually consisting of the aforementioned PVC piping and explosive chemicals), stockpile massive amounts of ammunition, and still have enough material left over to escape from captivity via a very large, door-breaking (if not violently building-destroying) explosion.
The Doctor in Doctor Who does not carry a gun (though he has used them on occasion), and often cooks up homebrew supertech. In the episode "The Time Monster", he built a "time flow analogue" out of cups, spoons, a pie pan, and other objects found in a small house.
In "Time Crash" the Tenth Doctor lampshades this based on the fact that the Fifth Doctor never used a sonic screwdriver. "Like, 'Hey, I'm the Doctor. I can save the universe with a kettle and some string. And look at me, I'm wearing a vegetable.'"
The Kahler race introduced in "A Town Called Mercy" is described by the Doctor as being one of the most ingenious races in the galaxy, being able to build a spaceship "out of Tupperware and moss".
Sam on Quantum Leap had MacGyver moments, but only when he used his brain to make a gadget to save the day. Thus, a successful MacGyverist is different from a hero who is simply smart.
In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Arena", Kirk manages to build a primitive cannon out of bamboo, sulfur, and other ingredients for gunpowder he tripped over while stranded on a uninhabited asteroid. Partly justified by the fact that the asteroid was set up by powerful aliens so the combatants could fashion their own weapons, but still, a cannon... (The Chinese used similar mortars out of bamboo or ceramics centuries before Europeans made cannons out of metal.)
One Expanded Universe novel mentioned that that episode was turned into a training exercise that was considered hellishly difficult, and that 90% of the people who tried Kirk's approach ended up blowing themselves up when the cannon misfired. Riker's solution was to use the makeshift cannon as a giant mine, and clubbed the Gorn with a rock while it was disoriented from the blast.
In-universe, Starfleet officers (engineers in particular) have this reputation. It's even lampshaded by a captured enemy who mocks them for having "one of those famed Starfleet engineers who can turn rocks into replicators."
The enemy said it in more of a Worthy Opponent tone. That said, redunkulously awesome engineering/Macguyvering/bullshit-invoking skills are sort of the humans' hat.
In the Babylon 5 episode "Grey 17 is Missing", Garibaldi makes use of a steam line and some bullets he had in his pocket to make an impromptu gun to kill a monster running loose on the level in the title.
Angel has Fred building a contraption that is either something lethal based on catapults, or a machine to make toast. It decapitates via flying blades.
Mike Westen of Burn Notice does this constantly, either preparing at home or in the field. He has particular expertise with cell phones. His friends Fiona and Sam has also demonstrated some competence in this area. The narration provided by Michael often explains that this is part of his training as a spy since it is assumed that operatives will rarely have access to actual 'spy gear' and will have to improvise from readily available items.
In an episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Gil Grissom's crime lab kit was stolen while he was up in the middle of nowhere alone investigating a murder. Instead of filling out a form with the local police or request a new one from the lab in Vegas, he uses items he buys at a home maintenance supply shop as a makeshift kit.
Catherine did it once too, when she feared she'd been raped in "Built To Kill", though it was more like the CSI NY example with using stuff on the scene than Grissom's.
Also done in CSI: NY when Danny got stuck in a panic room and had to improvise with super glue, a hot plate, coffee filter, and several other items the victim had stockpiled. He even calls Stella "Miss MacGyver".
Used explicitly as a verb in the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1, where Samantha Carter refers to having been forced to "macgyver" a crucial device to make the Stargate work. The fact that Richard Dean Anderson used to BE MacGyver makes this a cheeky Shout Out (which was apparently ad-libbed on-set by Amanda Tapping, much to Anderson's surprise).
And don't forget the one-shot Stargate in "Ascension", made out of (among other things) toaster parts.
There's also a prank executed for the bloopers reel in "Solitudes," (planned by Amanda Tapping and episode director Martin Wood) where Carter and O'Neill are stranded in a glacier, and she laments that she's "stuck in a glacier with MacGyver" and he can't figure a way out for them.
Carter: We got belt buckles and shoelaces and a piece of gum: build a nuclear reactor, for crying out loud! (RDA's face is priceless)
When The Wizard does not have a high-tech toy handy, he can also macgyver one to save the day.
Real life example: Alton Brown of Good Eats. Basically, his credo of cooking is "the only single-purpose item in your kitchen should be the fire extinguisher". And in the 10th anniversary special, he uses that to cook too.
Ziva and Tony manage to MacGyver a means of getting a cell phone signal from inside a metal shipping container, using Ziva's necklace and bits of DVD cases in NCIS.
Lampshaded in another episode. When a woman who has access to pretty much all iris scanners in existance is kidnapped, she eats blood pressure medicine she finds in the kidnapper's bathroom in an attempt to alter the blood vessels in her eyes, thus blocking her ability to unlock iris scanners. Abby's comment: "It didn't work, but A+ for the MacGyver!"
In an episode of Chuck, Casey handcuffs Chuck to a counter in a frozen yogurt shop (long story). After failing to get the Action Girl to come free him, he freezes the chain with some kind of nefarious yogurt device and breaks it in two. His quip afterwards was something along the lines of "all those years of watching MacGyver finally paid off."
The MythBusters often refer to MacGyver as their patron saint. So, for their 100th episode, they did a MacGyver special, consisting of several of Mac's myths, followed by Tory and Grant putting Adam and Jamie through their own "MacGyver obstacle course". Though both the myths were busted, Adam and Jamie managed to go three for four on the obstacle course.
No, saying three out of four does not do it justice. In true MacGyver fashion, they managed to escape the first part of the obstacle course, then had to use items found at a campsite to signal for pick up by the helicopter. The original plan was that they would build a Potato Gun, instead, they built a kite out of the same materials, plus the rope they were tied up with at the beginning of the segment.
The one task they failed was because they lacked the scientific knowledge to develop a roll of film. The apparatus they set up would have worked had Adam been able to remember one key aspect of the process.
Australian Aboriginal show Bush Mechanics is built around this trope - the first episode sees the protagonists claim an ancient car and macgyver it into (barely) working order out of scraps from a car yard and fix it up along the way using garbage, trees and an axe. When they stop for tea and find they're out of matches, one makes a fire the way "the old folks" taught him - with jumper leads and the car battery.
The British series Scrapheap Challenge, known as Junkyard Wars in the US, had two teams compete to MacGyver together some sort of machine from parts found in the junkyard each episode.
The USA series Royal Pains features the lead doctor utilizing "A bottle of vodka, a sharp knife, a plastic sandwich bag, a BIC pen, and some duct tape" to save the life of a hemophiliac who was bleeding internally. The girl helping him remarked "What are you, MacGyver?"
The Professor on Gilligan's Island could make a lot of things from the materials on the island, and jokes about the show made him able to make anything if he had enough coconuts.
In Breaking Bad, Walt and Jesse are left stranded in the wilderness when their RV's battery dies. They eventually are able to construct a new battery out of coins, bolts, brake pads, and their meth-making chemicals.
Then there's the episode where Walt creates a bunch of smoke bombs that look exactly like meth, or the pilot episode, where he creates a poison-gas bomb on the fly, while two guys are trying to make him teach them his method at gunpoint.
Then near the end of the first half of the fifth and final season Walt finds himself strapped to a pipe in an office. He has somewhere he needs to be, pronto. He takes two wires, grits his teeth, and brings them together to make a circuit, burning his plastic cuffs, (and a bit of his skin, too.)
In the show Future Food, there is an element of this in some of the cooking methods employed.
In Torchwood: Miracle Day, the team creates a chelation agent (to treat cyanide poisoning) from only chemicals available on an airplane.
In The X-Files episode "Detour", Scully tries to open a bullet and use the gunpowder to start a fire. She does open it (what a badass!), but the gunpowder explodes in one bright flash and the wood doesn’t catch.
In the M*A*S*H episode "A War For All Seasons", Hawkeye and B.J. rig a primitive dialysis machine using meat casings from a Toledo sausage company and a washtub ordered from Sears & Roebuck.
In Genius The Transgression a Genius can "kitbash" a Wonder together in hours, minutes, or even seconds if they're powerful or have bought the right merit.
Warhammer 40000 is not devoid of this kind of stuff either, strangely enough. Da orkz build a majority of their own inventions from random scraps of junk, including most of their firearms and vehicles. Ironically, due to the generic mindset of the whole race, most of their inventions work simply because they ''think'' it will work.
Ork players have been known to construct vehicles using strategies ranging from "leftovers from other vehicles" to "grab all the spare parts, put them in a box, pour in glue, and stick wheels on whatever comes out".
Although it's not like non-Ork players don't get in on the action either. Because of the price of the hobby, any 40k player (or indeed, wargamer) worth their salt will have a bitz box wether they are Orks, Humans, Eldar, whatever. It is the most efficient way to go about doing things and anyone who has played for a long time will have closets full of hoarded spare parts that they can cobble together into just about anything.
Played for laughs in an early BattleTech sourcebook, as a pair of very efficient (but prank-prone) technicians repaired a lance of 'Mechs with various pieces of machinery... that included a lard rendering tank, a truck that advertised processed chicken, and metal labeled for Spam cans. Most of the Mechwarriors were amused, but one went after the techs with a wrench.
This one's Older Than They Think: Hamlet features the title character forging a letter that will result in the execution of his Poisonous Friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with various items around the ship where he's being taken to his own execution.
Alone In The Dark 2008 demands that the player combine odd items (without pausing, even during battle) in a way that would be cool yet MacGuyveresque. Usually, however, those brave enough to make an attempt have little success except for those who cheat and read the tips for good combinations of items, or worse, using trial and error.
The main character in the Tex Murphy games is all about this. It's necessary to advance past dozens of puzzles throughout the games.
Another video game example would be any of the Monkey Island games where Guybrush Threepwood has to use all manner of wacky items to save the day. One is in The Curse Of Monkey Island, where you have to pour cooking oil on a guy's back so he'll get sun burnt and you can then peel off the skin on his back which just happens to have a map tattooed on to it.
In Fallout 3, you can do things like make a gauntlet out of a monster's arm and a medical brace, make a nail-launching rifle out of a steam gauge assembly and a pressure cooker, or make a Flaming Sword out of motorcycle parts and a lawnmower blade.
Also, by combining a leaf blower with a vacuum cleaner, you can build a cannon that launches anything you put in, from tin cans to teddy bears. or a toaster
In Fallout New Vegas, when faced with a broken world item (fuse box, food processor...), you can either: go hunt for parts or use a high repair skill to fix it. Special mention for the food processor at Camp Mac Carran, which you can fix with a repair skill of 80 by using a paper clip, a swiss army knife and other stuff.
The Infocom game Leather Goddesses Of Phobos revolves around MacGyvering a machine to prevent the titular aliens from turning the population of Earth into their sex slaves out of, among other things, a pair of cotton balls, a blender, and a small white mouse.
"Gadgeteer" class in Wizardry 8 is all about this trope.
This is the superpower that fans have inferred Nitori of Touhou to have. She lives in a Medieval Stasis world, but has access to books from the real world, and is nevertheless capable of producing working machines of the modern age (or even better than modern equipment, as with her stealth suit) without access to an industrial base, education system, or any kind of energy source (until the end of the tenth game, at least). Western fans even directly state MacGyver to be her personal hero/romantic fantasy.
In Cave Story, a character makes a bomb out of charcoal, "jellyfish juice" and gum base.
In Jagged Alliance 2 you can make some gadgets out of random items you find. For example: duct tape and a steel tube can be used to make a barrel extender for your rifle, which increases its range (though it's prone to get fired off since it's only held on with duct tape), or combining a game system, an x-ray tube, and a couple other things to make an x-ray scanner (reports of massive doses of x-ray radiation when in use are "unconfirmed").
Parodied in Leisure Suit Larry: Love For Sail. When you try to combine random objects, the announcers says something along the lines of, "Larry, sometimes you try to mix two things together, but what do you always get? An ass".
EarthBound: Jeff Andonuts. He's the Badass Bookworm that can make anything from a Slime Generator from a broken iron to a Gaia Beam from a broken antenna.
Fotbar Laboratory in Choro Q HG 4 allows you to make powerful parts out of spoon, wrist strap, piece of cloth, paper bag, and others. The strongest chassis of the game is happened to be made of eraser.
At the end of Professor Layton and the Curious Village, the titular character manages to build a functioning glider from some poles, drapes, and other junk. Not only could it carry three people, but he was able to thwart the villain's own sinister flying contraption with it.
That's nothing - in Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, Layton manages to produce a functioning helicopter out of a bunch of odds and ends in a shack on a deserted island. As above, it carries three people. And somehow works.
Not to be outdone, Professor Layton and the Unwound Future has the good professor create a working machine gun out of some spare slot machine parts. He's under heavy gunfire, but when a bullet knocks the parts loose, he's only one quick puzzle away from sending the Mooks running with their tails between their legs.
In Dead Rising 2, Chuck can make a weapon out of every last thing he finds. These range from simple (Nails + Baseball Bat = Baseball Bat With Nails Through It) to creative (Knifes + Boxing Gloves = Wolverine Claws) to really weird (Chainsaws + Paddle = Double Ended Polearm With Chainsaws at both ends) to just plain crazy (Gas Can + Super Soaker = Flamethrower.)
Actually, that last one is pretty realistic
So you're saying the first one isn't?
Rikku in Final Fantasy X, as part of her Limit Break, she can create powerful bombs or healing items just by combining two often ordinary items.
Most of the challenges in Return to Mysterious Island and its sequel are this trope.
Technologist in Arcanum can assemble explosives, chemicals, guns and various mechanical devices from random junk. This includes a device which can resurrect dead and is made from a capacitor, snake venom and three different herbs.
Dark Chronicle has the protagonist, Max, who is able to come up with ideas and create things out off photos he takes: trash can, belt, pipe, streetlight, hospital skeleton, tree, iron maiden, etc. Also, there's even more bizarre case where he can synthesize element out of bread to upgrade his weapon.
In Dead Space 2 the protagonist, Isaac, builds a plasma cutter (the main weapon of the series) out of a flashlight and a surgical laser.
In Minecraft, all the player has at the beginning of the game is their bare hands and the clothes on their back. They can fashion a crafting table after chopping down a tree and processing it into planks with their bare hands, use that table and those planks to make makeshift wooden tools, use those tools to gather cobblestone, which they can then use to build a furnace and upgrade to makeshift stone tools, which they can use in turn to gather coal and iron ore... and so on. With the right raw materials and a crafting table (which can be crafted on the spot in a pinch), the player can make whatever they need almost instantly.
In one 8-Bit Theater strip, Red Mage saves the day using a portable hole, an immovable rod, a bag of holding, and an ice spell. Of course, it all takes place off screen.
One instance of possible Mac Gyvering is found in the webcomic Control-Alt-Delete, where the main character, Ethan, makes a bipedal, sentient robot out of a single Xbox. This robot then develops a taste for gaming and becomes another character in the comic.
In Masks, there's a superpower that allows people to do this.
According to Troll Science, it seems there is nothing a Troll cannot achive using only flashlights, magnets, and a complete disregard of the laws of physics. exibt A is this charming little wagon.
Satirized in the Family Guy episode "Brian: Portrait of a Dog". Peter writes a letter: "Dear MacGyver, Enclosed is a rubber band, a paper clip, and a drinking straw. Please save my dog."
MacGyver proceeds to fumble around with the rubber band and the paper clip and accidentally shoot himself in the eye.
Subverted in the Futurama episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before". Fry tries to make a bowstring out of caterpillars, but the first time he uses it the string breaks and leaves him with caterpillars all over his face and clothing.
In one of The Simpsons gags, Homer makes a powerful bomb out of a can of soda pop and a packet of pop rocks.
Richard Dean Anderson: "I've come up with another escape. I want you to tie me up and lock me in the trunk of your car, under the pier at low tide. All I need are these everyday objects — a toothpick, some liquor, a gun with no bullets, bullets, and three of my MacGyver writers."
In "Black Widower," Patty, Selma and Sideshow Bob watch an episode of MacGyver, which concludes with this exchange:
"Thank you, Senor MacGyver, for saving our village."
"Don't thank me. Thank the moon's gravitational pull."
Subverted in Dave The Barbarian, where Dave makes a megaphone out of "a squirrel, a string, and a megaphone." It was simply a squirrel tied to a megaphone.
"You might be wondering why I tied a squirrel to a megaphone." (beat) "Well, goodnight."
Grampy from the old Betty Boop cartoons usually did this. A prominent example comes from the 1937 cartoon "Christmas Comes But Once a Year", wherein Grampy MacGuyvers together several Christmas toys for a group of downtrodden orphans, using nothing more than common household items.
Played with on G.I. Joe: Renegades. Being fugitives on the run, it's a given. Duke manages to diffuse a bomb with a wad of chewing gum, but Roadblock's attempts to jury-rig an engine-cable for the truck don't go as smoothly.
Both subverted and played straight in Codename Kids Next Door: the KND's self-parodying Bamboo Technology equipment mostly consists of random objects, pieces of wood, and duct tape, fondly referred to as '2x4 Technology.'
On Beast Wars, Rhinox often had to improvise with whatever spare parts were available to build new useful tech. Lampshaded in "Chain of Command":
"Make a device to extract physical molecular structure from an alien probe? Man, I gotta be a miracle worker."
And it worked, too!
My Little Pony: In "The Return Of Tambelon", the ponies are able to break out of Grogan's dungeon by using their gruel ration and Fizzy's bubble-making magic to turn a crack in the ceiling into a gaping hole that they can escape through.
Thomas the Tank Engine: In "James and the Coaches", James' rough riding causes the brake pipe on one of his coaches to rupture, bringing the train to a standstill. The crew covers the hole with newspaper and pressures a reluctant passenger to hand over his leather bootlaces to seal it up. It works.
Brazil and Portugal are two nations whose whole philosophy is based on improvisation, and this is taught in schools. They even have a word for it: desenrascanço.
That term is probably exclusive to Portugal. In Brazil, the improv way of life is usually called "Jeitinho Brasileiro", or "Brazilian (Little) Way", which is not limited to MacGyvering, but also any sort of problem-solving in non-conventional ways, including amoral ones.
French call that système D. A convenient way to do things without any annoying organisation.
In a similar vein, the Egyptians have a stereotype about themselves that they can always find a way to make what they need. As it turns out, this might be true of Arabs in general, judging by the jury-rigged weapons systems of Hamas and Hezbollah in the Arab Israeli Conflict, and of the Libyan rebels in their Civil War.
The website There, I Fixed It archives photos of some of the more amusing attempts at this. Some of them apparently do the job; they just look humorously thrown-together.
I know it's on the Cracked list, but it deserves its own line. The Apollo 13 astronauts found themselves with square air scrubbers and round air scrubber holes. The solution they cooked up was made out of a plastic bag, a hose, a sock, and, of course, some Duct Tape.
One of the most useful devices in amateur telecommunications is pretty much only available in MacGyver form. The 'can-tenna' is a directional (meaning it has to be aimed) antenna made out of an ordinary metal can (anything from a soup can all the way up to a metal trash can will work) and some wire. Splice it into a normal antenna and you can pick up wifi from hundreds of yards away. One using a Pringles can to hook up by bluetooth is even featured in an episode of Burn Notice.
One episode of The Screen Savers covered making a Pringles can directional antenna.
On The Daily Show, Jon Stewart makes reference directly to MacGyvering when interviewing William Kamkwamba, a young man from Malawi who created a functioning windmill for his village during a famine, using only, according to That Other Wiki, "blue gum trees, bicycle parts, and materials collected in a local scrapyard."
During the American Civil War, the South was strapped for cash and couldn't stand a protracted naval blockade, especially with the North's greater resources for building ironclads. Considering that the South's main resource was cotton, they strapped bales onto the decks of merchant ships and used them to absorb enemy fire. Thus, the Cotton-clad was born.
Americans are known for coming up with crazy ideas that just happen to work like using human hair to soak up oil. At the Battle of Midway, the carrier Yorktown had been redeployed after improvised repairs were rushed after taking heavy damage at Coral Sea. The Yorktown was bombed by Zeroes, but the Damage Control units not only kept her afloat, but got her back up to speed, to the point that when the Japanese bombed her again, they thought they had sunk two carriers, rather than hitting the Yorktown twice. She did sink, but not before turning the tide of the battle by means of improvised repairs and sheer endurance.
In the Iraq War, American soldiers, lacking suitable armor for their Humvees and trucks, created what came to be called "hillbilly armor" made from scrap metal, kevlar, bulletproof glass and even plywood. The result◊ looks like something out of Mad Max.
In the wake of the major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, basically everyone and their uncle came up with an idea to either A) get the oil from the water, B) fix the gushing oil pipe or C) clean the oil off the poor helpless animals. Almost all these ideas (well, maybe not the "stop the gushing pipe" one) usually involved simple materials that could be found in either the average home, the average High School, or the average supermarket. And most of them either worked or would have worked, although not on a Gulf-wide scale.
The phrases "Yankee ingenuity" and "Kiwi ingenuity" refer to the tendencies of early colonists in, respectively, New England and New Zealand to make do with whatever was available in order to perform the task at hand, such as using a pole saw to cut brush in the absence of a machete.
Often called Number 8 Wire here in New Zealand (after the amount of jury-rigging done with the stuff).
Nuclear physicist Ted Taylor, while waiting out a delay during a nuclear weapons test, found a parabolic mirror. He placed this outside the observation bunker and used wire to fix a Pall Mall at the mirror's focal point. When the bomb went off, the mirror focused the heat flash on the cigarette, and Ted Taylor became the first person to light a cigarette with an atomic bomb.
The British Home Guard was left to fall back upon its own resources in the early days, as priority had to be given to re-equipping the regular Army. Their most deadly anti-tank weapon was a sort of self-igniting Molotov Cocktail, so one especially enterprising Home Guard officer designed and built a mortar from a length of old drainpipe and some black powder to launch one of these further than it could be thrown.
Averted probably more times than not in Real Life. Many an ER attending and trauma surgeon has put away some retirement money from homemade MacGyver devices. The tragedy is that most lay people can scrounge together just enough information, skill, and resources to build something that gets themselves really, really hurt. What professionals have is not only the ability to build devices, but do so safely with a low margin of error. As Adam and Jamie would say, don't try this at home. They're what you call professionals.
Once the Mythbusters showed the museum of weapons made in prison, including a gun made from the sink pipes.
On the Apollo 13 a failure left the crew stranded in the crew stranded in their capsule in the void of space. They came up with the idea to use the Lunar Lander as a lifeboat and send it back to Earth. The real problem came when they found out mid-way that the lander was built for two, and not the entire three-man crew. Carbon Dioxide levels were rising fast, and they needed to fix the filter, by fitting a square tube into a round hole. The N.A.S.A crew back at Earth sent it's men, armed with only the objects on the ship, to find a solution. Lo and behold, using random things lying around the lander, they Mac Gyvered a working filter.
Self-injurers will often use whatever they can find to harm, if their regular razors or knives are missing.
In the hands of orthopedic surgeon Angus Wallace, a coathanger, knife and fork became surgical tools and five-star brandy became disinfectant when the airplane's first-aid kit proved inadequate to treat a woman for tension pneumothorax.