Mac built that missile out of some PVC pipe, potting soil, and an old sprinkler head.
Barbara Spencer: Blow an opening. With what? Don't tell me you know how to make a bomb out of a stick of chewing gum? MacGyver:Why, you got some?
— pilot episode
Adventure TV series, running from 1985 to 1992, starring Richard Dean Anderson. The title character didn't like guns (after a friend of his died in a revolver accident when he was a child), preferring to solve problems with his intelligence, resourcefulness and improvised gadgets. He often created some device worthy of Rube Goldberg out of whatever odds and ends were at hand, which is why MacGyvering is named after him.In the first season, he was an agent for the "Department of External Security", after which he left in favor of a philanthropic Heroes R Us organisation called the Phoenix Foundation for Research, an organization that, if not a front for the CIA, is almost certainly on its speed-dial, where his boss was one Pete Thornton (played by Dana Elcar).Mac would travel all over the world performing missions for good ol' Uncle Sam, retrieving spy satellite information and helping defectors from Commie Land get to the United States, but spent most of his time in California. He seems to have had several Busman's Holidays as well.The man seems to have had a plethora of ex-girlfriends and "old friends", who would turn up every so often, usually in need of help, though more often than not they would get killed in the first few minutes of the episode. As the show went on, an increasing percentage of episodes were devoted to Mac's attempts to help an old friend out of trouble.Among the show's cast of recurring characters were Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), Mac's boss and friend at the Phoenix Foundation, Jack Dalton (played by veteran character actor Bruce McGill), airplane pilot, part time spy, and con artist, who was constantly embroiling Mac in backfiring get-rich-quick schemes, and Murdoc (played by British Rock Singer Michael Des Barres), an assassin for "Homicide International Trust", reputed Master of Disguise, or so we're told. He had a penchant for leaving every episode by falling off of something very high while shouting an enraged "MacGyver!" Mac's most featured love interest was the scatter-brained Penny Parker, played by Teri Hatcher before Lois and Clark or Desperate Housewives.It is however, probably true that later seasons had a few too many Very Special Episodes, an indulgence that likely led to its declining popularity.Still, the show remains hugely memorable in the US (it was heavily referenced in the The Simpsons as a favorite show of Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, and is parodied in the regular Saturday Night Live skit MacGruber where Richard Dean Anderson once made an appearance). It shows in prime-time in Indonesia and Ukraine. According to TV Cream (which doesn't like the show), it didn't really work in the UK.The Film of the Series was set to be released in 2011, and then 2013, with Dino De Laurentiis as executive producer. Following the death of De Laurentiis in November 2010 it remains to be seen if the production will continue.Not to be confused with Guyver or MacGruber, an Affectionate Parody. Not to be confused with the trope of the same name, either.Trope Codifier of MacGyvering.
This show provides examples of:
Accidental Kidnapping: In "Hearts of Steel", kidnappers accidentally kidnap the housekeeper's daughter rather than the daughter of a business magnate because the two girls have swapped jackets.
Badass: He plays ice hockey and climbs mountains (the latter despite his acrophobia) in his spare time, used to serve in the military as a bomb defuser, used to be a race car driver, regularly faces enemies who do have guns and tends to make them look like chumps, is the key to defeating pretty much every security system conceivable, and is now synonymous with the concept of getting a bunch of random trash and making it do something amazing.
Badass Bookworm: He doesn't look physically imposing, but he's more than capable of handling himself in a fight, whether through quick thinking or a punch to the face.
Bamboo Technology: In the opening of "Legend of the Holy Rose Part 1", MacGyver, with only a few hours, manages to design and build a whole working gyroplane out of bamboo, tarps, and an old cement-mixer engine.
Banana In The Tail Pipe: In "A Prisoner of Conscience", Mac stalls the car of the secret police who are tailing him by sticking a potato in the exhaust pipe.
Bitter Almonds: Used to identify a cyanide poisoning attempt on Peter Thorton, in one episode.
Blade Brake: MacGyver once got down from a catwalk by sticking his pocket knife through his wallet (as a guard) and then that through a curtain.
Bloody Handprint: In one episode Mac comes across a deserted ship that's been run ashore and ransacked on the inside. Within he finds a Bloody Handprint several times the size of his own, which obviously could not belong to a human.
Bond Villain Stupidity: It's amazing how often MacGyver finds himself in some form of death trap that always has plenty of "useless" items lying around for him to use for escape. Lampshaded in the episode "The Ten Percent Solution", where a Nazi-lady tries to use a gas chamber on the heroes while a henchman ponders, "Why not just shoot them?"
Booze Flamethrower: In "The Eye of Osiris", Mac throws alcohol in the face of a man holding a torch, setting the man's hat and shirt on fire.
Buffy Speak: Penny Parker tends to lapse into this whenever she shows signs of intelligence.
Bullet Proof Vest: In "The Coltons" we learn that both Frank and Jesse wear these: a fact that saves their lives.
Bulungi: MacGyver featured several of these over the course of the show's run; the episode featuring Kembezi was unusual in that the country was actually indicated on a map (specifically, as being in the vicinity of South Africa).
Burn the Witch!: In "Good Knight, MacGyver'', Sir Duncan attempts to burn Merlin at the stake after framing him for attempting to murder King Arthur.
Commie Nazis: Played straight in "The Enemy Within" which began with Mac on a mission behind the Iron Curtain narrowly escaping from East German troops dressed in World War Two era Wehrmacht uniforms.
The Commies Made Me Do It: In "Deathlock", the girl of the week turns out to be acting as a mole for the bad guys because they have her brother hostage.
Complaining About Rescues They Don't Like: In one episode, Mac and this other guy are saved from being "processed" on a conveyor belt by being shunted... into a container of fish. The man's response? "Oh no! Fish! I hate fish!"
CPR (Clean, Pretty, Reliable): In "The Enemy Within", MacGyver and a friend apply CPR to the victim of an induced heart attack, demonstrating technique that would make a first aid teacher fail them on the spot, and keeping at it only long enough to show they tried before giving up and saying "He's dead" in a suitably dramatic voice. Later in the same episode, there's also a dodgy scene involving a defibrillator.
Cunning Linguist: He is proficient to a greater or lesser extent in Russian, German, French, Italian, Spanish, and American Sign Language, and knows how to use International maritime signal flags and Morse code.
Destination Defenestration: In "Phoenix Under Siege", the villain of the week happens to be a martial arts expert and makes a jump-kick at our hero in a high-rise building, but misses and ends up crashing through the window instead.
The Diaper Change: Happens when Mac and Jack Dalton have a baby dumped on them in "Rock the Cradle". Mac's solution to a unsatisfactory makeshift diaper is duct tape(obviously).
Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: One episode involved a stock car race between the title character and an old rival. The rival had nitrous oxide installed in his car without his permission ("That's illegal"), but even though he was already ahead of MacGyver and would have won had he just kept the course, he decides to use the nitrous oxide he criticized anyway and ends up spinning out on the shoulder.
Diplomatic Impunity: A murderer and jewel thief has diplomatic immunity as a cultural attaché. Mac and his team prove said attaché's criminality to the ambassador, who insists the attaché be returned to their home country to stand trial. The attaché pleads unsuccessfully to be allowed to face American justice instead.
Early-Installment Weirdness: In the first few episodes MacGyver charms ladies he happens to end up working with at the rate of James Bond. In the pilot episode he also is shown living in a very nice house surrounded with gardens and fences that would fit right into Beverly Hills. His living conditions were quickly downgraded as well as his intimacy with girl of the week.
Enemy Mine: Murdoc and MacGyver work together to rescue Murdoc's sister in "Halloween Knights"
Enhance Button: Coupled with some superficially realistic-sounding Techno Babble: "Create a bitmap. Now increase the Z-axis while holding the X and Y axis steady." While this sounds ludicrous, it's basically the 1980's equivalent of getting a high resolution image file from a film negative ("Create a bitmap."), and using the zoom function on your computer ("Increase the Z-axis...").
Everyone Knows Morse: In "The Widowmaker", where Murdoc is hot on his trail in an off-season backwoods cabin location, MacGyver climbs a telephone pole and uses a copper bracelet to tap SOS directly into a phone line to summon help. The owner of the general store who hears the interference is retired military, and knows Morse from his military training.
A more unique example in "Birth Day", Everyone Knows Marine Signal Flags. Mac uses some of these he steals off a docked boat in combination with a makeshift hot-air balloon to spell out "Help". The floating message is seen by a policeman, who is also a Navy veteran.
Evil Laugh: One of the Murdoc-centric episodes ends with MacGyver answering the phone to hear Murdoc's laughter.
Exact Time to Failure: In "Nightmares", an interrogator gives MacGyver a slow-acting poison, and tells him that if he doesn't get the antidote within six hours, his death will be inevitable. There is a prominently-displayed countdown timer. MacGyver gets the antidote with two and a half minutes to spare, and makes a full recovery. That's some poison.
Expansion Pack Past: MacGyver has a college degree in physics, comprehensive knowledge of mechanics, chemistry, and any other specialty required by a given plot, worked as a deck hand on a tramp steamer, was a bomb disposal expert for the Special Forces in Vietnam, was a professional racing car driver, played Olympic-calibre ice hockey but had a tragic accident that kept him out of the Olympics, worked as an apprentice and assistant to a noted archaeologist, trained as a pilot, worked as a backwoodsman in the Rockies, a lumberjack and a taxi driver, all before becoming a secret agent. Adding to the confusion, the first and second seasons gave two incompatible versions of his initial meeting with Pete Thornton. Furthermore, the final episode reveals he has a long-lost son.
Expospeak Gag: In "Last Stand", Mac is holding some piece of equipment that he's supposedly going to use to fix up a plane so the bad guys can escape. When asked by his guard what the item is, he replies "Lateral... cranial... impact... enhancer", and smacks the guard across the head with it.
In the Season 1 finale, MacGyver is pitted against a master assassin. Confronting him relatively early in the episode, Mac is able to best him in hand-to-hand combat despite his numerous concealed blades. After the assassin is arrested, it is shown that he had many other knives and weapons on his person. And they still missed a poisoned needle he concealed behind a fake scar.
Recurring villain Murdoc is meeting with his superiors at HIT, and has to pass through a metal detector first, which reveals that he's carrying multiple weapons on his person that he has to remove. Being as good as he is, he manages to slip a knife though just to prove that he doesn't play by the rules.
Fake in the Hole: In "For Love or Money", Mac removes the explosive core from a grenade and then tosses it at a group of border guards to distract them while he makes a run across the border.
Fake-Out Make-Out: Mac and his female partner pull this trick when they are caught by a motorcycle cop while scoping out the hospital they are planning to break into in "For Love or Money".
Falling Chandelier of Doom: In "The Coltons", Jesse Colton takes out a gunman who has taken cover behind a table by shooting out the chandelier above him so that it falls on him.
The Farmer And The Viper: In one episode the female antagonist is hanging from a ledge. Mac is all Take My Hand, but the woman stabs him, causing him to drop her to her death. Pete tells Mac the tale of "The Scorpion and The Frog" to calm him when he questions why she would do that.
Fingertip Drug Analysis: Mac tests a suspected drug sample this way, only to find out that it's keratin (powdered rhino horn).
Flock of Wolves: In "Honest Abe", Mac gets shanghaied by his CIA agent friend Abe to take down a South American dictator and a corrupt Army Major supplying the former with weapons. Eventually, one of the Major's lackeys reveals to the other he's a Federal agent... and the other lackey reveals he's one as well. And via background checks they find the real identities of Mac and Abe. Naturally they are dumbfounded at the revelation that they are involved in an operation involving four secret agents of different agencies while they previously thought they were acting alone.
Friend to All Living Things: Shown in "Eagles", when Mac fights some poachers who shot down a mother eagle, than at the end of the episode, saves its three babies still in their eggs.
Fright Death Trap: "Deadly Silents" used the 'Scared Stiff' version. The villains set up several stunts (a suitcase full of snakes, leaving him Chained to a Railway, etc.) to attempt to trigger a fatal heart attack in an elderly silent movie star.
Fun with Acronyms: Murdoc works for the Homocide International Trust... making him a literal "HIT man".
God Guise: In "Walking Dead", Mac pretends to be Baron Samedi (or, more accurately, he takes the place of a Hollywood Voodoo priest who is pretending to be Baron Samedi).
Gosh Dang It to Heck!: MacGyver's clean-cut behaviour extended to sometimes ridiculously mild cussing, including an actual "Gosh dang it!" in the pilot episode. An occasional "damn" or "crap" sometimes slipped through. Other characters were allowed to swear, subject to the limitations of the era's TV language restrictions.
Hidden in Plain Sight: One episode featured some criminals trying to get an East German expatriate to reveal where he had hidden some gold bullion they had him smuggle out when they got him through the Berlin Wall. The gold had been melted down and reshaped as figurines, which were then painted over and prominently displayed in the window of the man's toyshop. Everyone who looked at the painted toy soldiers made of a heavy metal assumed they were lead.
High Heel-Face Turn: Karen in "Deathlock", Sara in "The Escape" and Holly in "Twenty Questions".
Hoist by His Own Petard: The assassin Pierta, whose assassination methods of choice involved sharp poisoned objects. He tries to assassinate a priest, but scuffles with Mac, drops the pin, and ends up getting his hand pricked with it when he falls.
Invincible Hero: Subverted, he feels pain from attacks and punches, he expresses fear in perilous situation, and he's caught often, but he always jimmies a non-violent way to solve his problem. Which, admittedly, was the expected and entertaining part.
It's Quiet... Too Quiet: "MacGyver, something's not right. It's a little too quiet out here" - Charles Alden, "Trumbo's World"
Jailbird of Panama: In "The Escape", a woman asks MacGyver to break out her missionary brother who's been unjustly thrown into a harsh prison in North Africa. Partway through the episode, MacGyver discovers he's being played: the woman is a KGB agent, and the "missionary" is a gunrunner whose skills she wishes to make use of.
MacGyvering: The Trope Namer, of course. Special mention has to be made of MacGyver's ability to make aircraft: on separate occasions, he's built a hang glider, a two-seat fan-powered glider, a hot air balloon, and a Fan Man-type parachute-and-fan combo, all basically from scraps and duct tape. All four flew. And he patched the balloon up with a map when it got a hole in it.
Magical Defibrillator: In "The Enemy Within", Mac juryrigs a defibrillator out of two candlesticks, a floor mat, and an electrical power cord. The idea was not to reverse fibrillation, but to counteract some kind of magnetic field that was causing bubbles to form in the victim's blood... somehow. Whatever that meant, it worked.
Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Vacuum cleaner salesman Phil Sternweis in "The Visitor". He gets MacGyver out of trouble several times in very unlikely fashion, and at one point can only be seen by MacGyver. The ending leaves the possibility open that he is a Human Alien.
"The Golden Triangle" features a shot of MacGyver ducking for cover as twin lines of gunfire from a helicopter pass either side of him, which was used in the opening titles.
"The Enemy Within" has a good example of bullets kicking up dust always just behind the running hero.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: In one episode, Mac is carrying a valuable Chinese artifact which he needs to get rid of in a hurry — so he finds a shop selling cheap replicas of the thing and puts it on the back of the shelf.
Never Mess with Granny: In "The Madonna", an elderly bag lady whom Mac and Peter Thornton are helping turns out to be not only a fount of wisdom, but also turns around a troubled youth by hustling him at pool.
No One Should Survive That: His first two presumed deaths (from his first episode) were realistically survivable. His subsequent deaths through the rest of the show... not so much.
No OSHA Compliance: In "Flame's End", there is a room into which radioactive waste is dumped after 10 minutes of activation, with a door that can be pushed shut from the outside and has a timed lock that cannot be opened for 60 minutes after it is shut. And there is no emergency shutoff, handle or opening mechanism inside the room.
One-Dimensional Thinking: "Fire and Ice" almost suggests that there is a mystical force that compels people to run in a straight line in front of oncoming objects. A man hit by a truck at the beginning of the episode would have been perfectly safe if he had not gone out of his way to run in front of the truck.
And again in the Season 7 episode "The Prometheus Syndrome".
Out-of-Character Alert: In "Countdown", Mac cues Pete in on the fact that he needs to speak to him on a private channel by 'reminding' him that they are due to play golf when he gets back. Mac has never played a round of golf in his life.
Parents for a Day: In "Rock the Cradle," Jack Dalton's ex-girlfriend, on the run from criminals, leaves her son "Jack Jr." in Jack's airplane hangar, with a note asking Jack to take care of him. Jack and MacGyver have to look after the kid while trying to track down Mama.
Pilot: Which did air as the first episode of the series, although it contained a couple of elements that were not continued — such as MacGyver actually pointing and firing a gun at an enemy.
Pinocchio Nose: Jack Dalton's left eye twitches whenever he lies. It's mentioned in his first scene with Mac.
Rock Bottom: casually averted in "The Gauntlet": the Girl of the Week proclaims that nothing more could go wrong, MacGyver admits she's probably right, and the scene ends without anything happening to either of them
"The Heist" has a sequence where MacGyver confronts the villain in a casino in a tuxedo; when he first appears in the tux, the background music starts with the same four notes as the James Bond theme.
In another episode, he introduces himself to a female character with "Bond, James Bond".
"Target MacGyver" has a scene where MacGyver builds a trap out of stuff he finds in the bad guys' kitchen; the first thing he finds is a bag of carrots, from which he carefully selects a single carrot that he then proceeds to not use in the trap in any way — but when the trap is ready, he picks up the carrot again and takes a bite of it Bugs Bunny style.
Skepticism Failure: In "GX-1", MacGyver helps a Russian psychic who is portrayed as real, despite Mac's skepticism.
Songs in the Key of Lock: "The Heist" features an ultra-high-tech (for the time) lock which requires four tones emitted by a remote control. This being MacGyver, he improvises by playing some wineglasses.
Spexico: Take a band of Zapatistas. The more indigenous the better. Then drop them in the Rockies, dress them with the clothes left over by the Sicilian scenes of The Godfather and make them live in wooden barracks with bananas in the porch. According to MacGyver, this is the Basque Country.
Spider-Sense: Frank Colton's eye twitches when something isn't right about a situation.
Stock Footage: many times in many episodes, but particularly noticeable in the following two episodes:
"The Thief of Budapest", in which violent handwaving is applied to justify reusing the entire car chase from The Italian Job.
"Trumbo's World", where maybe a third of the episode consists of footage from The Naked Jungle, both of which were based on the short story Leiningen Versus the Ants.
Also the second season episode "GX-1", which stole the footage for its opening aircraft sequence from another Paramount property: Top Gun. It is never explained why the secret stealth spy plane looks exactly like an F-14.
Can also see it in the episode "Out in the Cold" with a painfully obvious stock-footage avalanche.
Stuffed into the Fridge: early episodes would often kill off the newly introduced old friend to set up the rest of the episode, then never again mention the character in the series
This very thing was lampshaded in the Kid Radd web comic. Bogie is watching what's probably Read or Die, flips the channel to see what else is on — and comes across "Radd", complete with a MacGyver opening parody. "Also starring a bunch of people who are supposedly old friends of the guy yet only ever show up in one episode."
Swamps Are Evil: MacGyver must rescue Pete and his family from a Louisiana swamp in "Family Matter".
Tap on the Head: This happens all the time, what with MacGyver's no-guns policy. The likelihood of knocking a bad guy out with a single blow is inversely proportional to his position on the bad guy ladder. Mac himself has also received enough knocks on the head that he's lucky never to have got anything worse than the occasional bout of Easy Amnesia.
The Teaser: At least initially, each episode began with a mini-episode called the "Opening Gambit", which — unlike the teasers in most series — was unconnected to the rest of the episode, and often created by a different writer and director. Later episodes either had a standard teaser or went straight to the opening credits.
Technical Pacifist: MacGyver vocally and obviously hates guns, but isn't averse to hitting people (with fists, or with a variety of heavy things), and for a "pacifist", he's awfully fond of creating explosives. He also doesn't hesitate to put people in what would, in reality, be very dangerous situations: shocking them with high voltage, suspending them high up in the air by flimsy cords, driving towards them at high speeds, slamming them headfirst into heavy objects, blinding drivers of fast-moving vehicles, hiding unconscious bodies inside heavy machinery, and so on. Probably the most egregious example of this is when he set up a trap that shot a bunch of automatic weapons at cars full of people... but aimed them at the tires.
Television Geography: the show was primarily set in Los Angeles. Production moved to British Columbia from the third through the sixth seasons, then returned to LA. As a result, Southern California looked very much like Canada for four years.
Too Dumb to Live: At the start of "Target MacGyver", MacGyver takes his ski mask off in the middle of a covert raid for no in-story reason, just so the people he's raiding can get a look at his face and spend the rest of the episode trying to kill him.
Translation Convention: wherever MacGyver goes, everyone apparently speaks English, albeit with a range of funny accents
Trapped in Containment: In "Kill Zone" a scientist creates a chemical for maturing plants. When her dog knocks over the vial, she is trapped with it and ages to death.
Trash Landing: In "The Coltons", Frank and Jesse tackle a pair of bad guys out throw a second storey window and land in a dumpster which is miraculously full of bags of shredded paper.
Tree Buchet: When he needs to throw off some pursuers in the jungle in "The Road Not taken", MacGyver builds a tree-based catapult to throw stones, and puts a light-based fuse on it. First he pulls four flimsy trees together and bends them down to the ground. He routes them under a solid tree branch and ties them together with a thin vine. Then he sets down his friend's rosary to refract sunlight onto the thin vine, creating a fuse. He stakes the thin vine into the ground with a good knot on a pointed stick, and attaches the pockets from his jacket (filled with rocks) to the tree trunks.
Trigger Phrase: In one episode, Pete gets brainwashed into shooting whoever utters the trigger phrase "From the bottom of my heart, I salute you". The villain of the episode wanted to use him to kill a visiting dignitary (who was scheduled to give a speech containing that phrase at a dinner Pete would be attending).
Villain Decay: Played with. Murdoc starts out as a one-dimensional villain who would return once per season, try to kill MacGyver in progressively crazier ways, and fail miserably. However, these repeated failures convince him that he's "over the hill" and that it's time to retire... but his employers won't let him, kicking off his next cycle where he's trying to find a way out first by allying with MacGyver to take down his employers, then by asking them to take him back in exchange for MacGyver's head, and then by seeking another protector/employer.
Voodoo Zombie: The 'living person in a deathlike trance' variety appear in "Walking Dead". The villain attempts to do it to Mac, but he is able to hold the effect at bay long enough to find the antidote.
When She Smiles: Penny Parker made her debut in an episode called... "Every Time She Smiles."
Whole Plot Reference: Several episodes are either rare examples of a Whole Plot Reference played entirely straight, or a cynical attempt to rip off the plot of a film most of MacGyver's audience wouldn't have seen — these include "Countdown" (Juggernaut), "Trumbo's World" (The Naked Jungle, which as noted above it even uses actual footage from), and "Kill Zone" (The Andromeda Strain).
Writers Cannot Do Math: "Ugly Duckling" shows a pretty accurate example of how triangulation works, with one little problem: the two base points they were taking readings off of were so close together, and the two angles they found were so different, that the third point would have had to be so close they could already see it. To get useful triangulation readings, they would have had to be a significant distance further apart.
Dana Elcar developed glaucoma which led to blindness; Pete Thornton accordingly developed the same condition.
"Every Time She Smiles" had MacGyver's arm in a cast from the start, supposedly due to a skiing accident in Switzerland, rather than have him injured somewhere in the middle of the episode. This was because Richard Dean Anderson had injured that arm and needed to have the cast written in. The same injury re-appeared in the next episode, "To Be A Man", with a different backstory.
You Look Familiar: Dana Elcar played a one-off character in the pilot before being cast as Pete Thornton in the ongoing series. Numerous other actors appeared in multiple roles over the course of seven years.
Zorro Mark: In one episode Murdoc blowtorches "R.I.P. MacGyver" onto the wall of Mac's home.