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MacGyver is a Verb

February 12, 2012

I come from the MacGyver generation. When I was a kid there was nothing I wanted more than to be as resourceful and clever as Richard Dean Anderson’s titular character. I copied his stunts in my backyard. I never missed a show. I memorized the opening theme tune and always carried a Swiss army knife.

MacGyver went off the air in 1991. Since then I’ve watched a variety of TV shows, from Star Trek to The Young Riders, from Kung Fu: The Legend Continues to the Astonishing X-men. They’ve all had their moments, but none have come close – in my opinion – to MacGyver.

MacGyver had two things going for him: he hated guns, and he knew how to use found objects and materials to do just about anything he needed to do. And he was out to help people.

The other shows I’ve mentioned had that in common with MacGyver: they were out to help people as well. But instead of clever, peaceable minded heroes, there were usually a group of folk – either in outer space, the wild west, a police station, or a world of mutants – helping out by shooting the bad guys. The shows boiled down to heroes in costumes that happened to be particularly good at shooting bad guys, whereas MacGyver was particularly good at solving problems without having to.

I don’t watch TV anymore. It doesn’t make sense to pay for channels with commercials when I can wait a few years and watch the shows on Netflix for eight dollars a month, commercial free. I’m from Hawaii; I’m used to being behind the times. The only thing Hawaii is ahead of the curve on is gas prices.

So when Amanda Tapping’s character dropped the line “It took us fifteen years and three supercomputers to MacGyver a system for the gate on earth,” 30 minutes into the pilot episode of Stargate SG-1, I had a moment of sheer geek delight. Richard Dean Anderson, the man himself, was on the show, and he’d already used a Kleenex box in place of an expensive MIT probe! Perhaps I had finally found something creative – and non-violent – to watch.

I lasted 7 episodes. Unfortunately that was MacGyver’s – I mean Jack O’Neill’s – only trick. And he had no quandary about carrying a gun. Once again the setting was window dressing for the theme, and this setting wasn’t altogether than interesting or believable.

MacGyver inspired a generation – my generation. Nowadays the special effects and computer technology – and haircuts – are archaic. But in an age of condoned violence on television, MacGyver stands out as an example of a show whose creative writing and acting prove that good action television can be made without violence and killing. And in an age of violence in schools and in the streets, we could use such an example. Maybe it’s time for an update. MacGyver: The Legend Continues.

I’d be happy to volunteer.

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