Like James Bond--but without the high-tech gadgets--Angus MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) is one of those rare beings who can avert any crisis without mussing a hair. (The rest of us should be so lucky.) In the pilot alone, the secret agent dismantles a missile using a paper clip and fashions a rocket thruster out of a pistol. Is there anything MacGyver can't do? As the first season of ABC's long-running adventure series proves, the answer is a resounding no. MacGyver's secret: the everyday items he "finds along the way," like matches or gum wrappers, and the ingenuity to put them to a myriad of uses (a background in physics and chemistry doesn't hurt). Unlike Alias
' Sidney Bristow, he isn't a multi-linguist, a martial artist, or a master of disguises. Wits are MacGyver's weapon of choice.
Produced by Henry Winkler (Arrested Development), The Complete First Season includes all 22 episodes from 1985-1986 (alas, there are no extras). MacGyver is joined by Phoenix Foundation director of operations Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), who is introduced in "Nightmares." Also, his grandfather, Harry Jackson (John Anderson), makes his first appearance in "Target MacGyver," while friend Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher of Desperate Housewives) makes hers in "Every Time She Smiles" (they will appear more frequently in future seasons). Other notable guest stars include Joan Chen (The Last Emperor) in "The Golden Triangle," Nana Visitor (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) in "Hellfire," and John De Lancie (Star Trek: The Next Generation) in "The Escape."
MacGyver ran for seven seasons and was followed by two made-for-TV movies in 1994, Lost Treasure of Atlantis and Trail to Doomsday. In 1997, after a short-lived series for UPN (1995's Legend), Anderson landed the lead in an even longer-running series, Stargate SG-1, based on the sci-fi extravaganza with Kurt Russell. --Kathleen C. Fennessy Season TwoMacGyver
's second season begins by following the same blueprint as the first (although the opening gambit is gone). Richard Dean Anderson is back as the eponymous secret agent. So is Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), operations director of the Phoenix Foundation. In addition, Mac's ditzy pal, Penny (Teri Hatcher), and beloved grandfather, Harry (John Anderson), return for a few episodes. In the season premiere ("The Human Factor"), a skeptical military man says to Thornton, "So this is your main guy. He doesn't even have any gear." Responds Thornton, "That's what makes him so special." As before, Mac doesn't drink, smoke, or carry a firearm. He puts it plainly in the fourth episode ("The Wish Child"): "I hate guns." Mac would rather use non-violent means, i.e. "MacGyverisms," to fight crime. Midway through the 22-episode year, however, creator Lee David Zlotoff (Remington Steele
) decided to shake up the formula by introducing two new characters. First there's Mac's college buddy, Jack Dalton (busy character actor Bruce McGill from Animal House
, The Cinderella Man
, etc.), who makes his first appearance in the sixth episode ("Jack of Lies"). Then there's Mac's arch-nemesis Murdoc (actor/musician Michael Des Barres from Melrose Place
), who makes his in the eighteenth ("Partners").
Other notable second season guest stars include Fast Times At Ridgemont High's Vincent Schiavelli ("Soft Touch"), Murphy Brown's Robert Pastorelli ("Out in the Cold"), and Star Trek's George Takei and Wayne's World's Tia Carrere ("The Wish Child"). MacGyver also had a tendency to bring back actors from previous seasons for different roles. Second year returnees include Mean Streets' Richard Romanus ("Twice Stung"), Barney Miller's Gregory Sierra ("Jack of Lies"), and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Nana Visitor ("D.O.A. MacGyver"). As with the first season, there are no extras. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
In "Ghost Ship," MacGyver's boss, Pete (Dana Elcar), is asked to define what makes Mac (Richard Dean Anderson) so special. He replies, "You know, I've known him for eight years now, and I've never quite been able to put my finger on it. He just always comes through, no matter what." And that he does. MacGyver's third season begins with a blast from the past when Mac runs into Lisa (Elyssa Davalos), a woman he thought he had killed (unintentionally, of course). Turns out Lisa's just fine, but she did do a little time in a Russian gulag, proceeding to marry the ex-KGB operative who set her free. The two-part season opener ("Lost Love") allows Mac to make it up to his former flame with a little help from pal Jack (Bruce "D-Day" McGill), AKA "The Great Sheldrake," whose latest career move is magician.
The producers must have felt that Anderson and Davalos had chemistry as she returns a few episodes later ("Fire and Ice")--sans Russian accent--as Nikki, a different, recurring character (oddly enough, Mac fails to note the resemblance). Like Teri Hatcher's Penny, who doesn't appear in the third season, Nikki isn't a love interest, but a friend (and Phoenix Foundation colleague). While Penny will return the following year, Nikki will not. Fortunately, Michael Des Barres' maniacal Murdoc does reappear ("The Widowmaker"), but only once before Mac neatly dispatches him yet again--or does he? Other guest stars include three Kung Fu vets: The Sopranos Joe Santos ("Back From the Dead"), Blade Runner's James Hong ("Lost Love"), and Keye "Master Po" Luke ("Murderer's Sky," the season finale). The latter two appeared in previous years, but--like Davalos--as different characters (whereas Santos's Jimmy "The Eraser" Kendall was first introduced in the second season). --Kathleen C. Fennessy
Desperate times call for desperate measures--and the desperate will stop at nothing to get MacGyver's attention. In the fifth season premiere ("Legend of the Holy Rose"), an old friend releases his houseboat from its moorings--while he's in it. Four episodes later ("Halloween Knights"), an old enemy relieves his boat of its belongings. It works, of course. Mac lives to help people in need, even if those people include obnoxious archeology professor Zoë (Lise Cutter), who enlists his aid in tracking down an ancient artifact, and the mysterious Murdoc (Michael Des Barres), who does the same to rescue his kidnapped sister. Joining forces with arch-enemy Murdoc marks a break with previous seasons. Otherwise, the fifth features the same resourceful secret agent as the first four (though he’s relying on those inventive "MacGyverisms" less often as the series continues). MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) still travels the world on behalf of the Phoenix Foundation, while reporting to supportive superior Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar). As before, he goes it alone: no gun, no back-up, no wisecracking sidekick--not counting reckless rogue Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill), who drops by on occasion to shake up MacGyver's well-ordered world.
Aside from a greater interest in socially conscious causes, like the protection of endangered species, the 1989-1990 season also breaks with the past by an episode set in the Old West ("Serenity") and another set in the afterlife ("Passages"). In the former, Jack and Penny (Teri Hatcher in her final appearance) return as prototypes for their present day characters. Murdoc returns, as well--this time wearing a black hat. In the latter, Grandpa Harry (John Anderson) bids adieu. Other fifth year guests include Blossom’s Mayim Bialik ("Cease Fire," "Hearts of Steel"), The Exorcist’s Linda Blair ("Jenny's Chance"), and Jerry Maguire’s Cuba Gooding Jr. ("Black Rhino," "Serenity"). --Kathleen C. Fennessy
The houseboat is history. In the final season, MacGyver (Richard Dean Anderson) moves to a loft in an eccentric inner-city neighborhood. The point seems to be to paint the secret agent as less of a loner, but living away from the rest of the world seemed to suit MacGyver better. Fortunately for fans, Mac's ever-enthusiastic buddy, Jack (Bruce McGill), and surprisingly lively nemesis, Murdoc (Michael Des Barres), who faked his death in year six, come back to add a little zest to proceedings that were starting to grow stale (see "Obsessed" and "The Mountain of Youth"). Aside from Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar, now wearing dark glasses due to glaucoma), MacGyver's boss, other recurring characters include Mama Lorraine (Kimberly Scott), a voodoo priestess, and the Colton brothers (Cleavon Little, Richard Lawson, and Cuba Gooding Jr.), who return in "The Coltons," pilot for a series that never materialized (Della Reese, who plays their mother, would have better luck with Touched by and Angel). In addition, Mac's son, Sam (Dalton James), is introduced in "The Stringer," the series' fitting finale. Sadly, Elcar, who also starred in Barretta and Black Sheep Squadron, would pass away in 2005.
Instead of a full season, only 14 episodes were produced for the seventh, including the silly two-parter "Good Knight MacGyver," in which a bump on the noggin transports Mac to Camelot. As he spends more time with the Challengers Club than the Phoenix Foundation, other stories revolve around domestic matters rather than the international crises of yore. Guest stars include Shelley Berman ("Honest Abe"), Wendy Malick ("Obsessed"), Henry Gibson ("Deadly Silents"), and Dick Butkus ("Split Decision"). The final season was followed by two tele-films, an appearance on The Simpsons, and a Super Bowl 2006 MasterCard commercial in which Anderson revived his most famous character. Priceless, indeed. --Kathleen C. Fennessy