Have you ever encountered a problem you didn’t have the tools to fix, and found a way to fix it anyway? Do you remember that rush of self-admiration and excitement you felt as you cobbled together random pieces or elements in unique ways to substitute the pieces or tools you needed? Do you remember thinking to yourself “I must be the smartest person alive” as you admired you handiwork, and proudly explained to others what you just did?
That feeling is essentially the entire premise of MacGyver.
MacGyver, as you might guess, is a show about a man named Angus MacGyver. He works for the Phoenix Foundation, which the show will tell you is a private research and development facility that serves as a security-oriented “think-tank” organization for both private sector and government clients. In practice, they’re essentially the on-call maintenance for the world’s problems. As soon as a problem comes up, the Foundation sends out one of their agents to fix the problem. Usually, it’s MacGyver. In the event it’s someone else, MacGyver ends up helping them.
A typical MacGyver plot (read: nearly every MacGyver plot) goes like this:
- A client/friend in trouble presents a problem for The Phoenix Foundation/MacGyver to solve.
- MacGyver proceeds to attempt to fix said problem, almost inevitably ends up in trouble with the odds against him.
- MacGyver then proceeds to almost-flawlessly solve the problem, using methods that are best described as “unconventional”, and defined by most as “total bullshit”.
A prime example: In the pilot episode, MacGyver goes down into an underground bunker and is asked to stop a critical leak of sulfuric acid. You may remember sulfuric acid as the substance you may have heard about in your chemistry classes or cartoons. Depending on which you learned it from, it’s “a highly corrosive strong mineral acid”, or “that acid substance that melts through everything and kills everyone”. Bad news, right?
I kid you not, MacGyver blocks the leak with chocolate bars. CHOCOLATE BARS. MacGyver’s young female tagalong understandably suggests that attempting to plug a sulfuric acid leak with chocolate bars will do nothing except make MacGyver look stupid before getting killed. However, MacGyver, in what would later be a much-reduced Southern drawl, explains: “To you they’re milk chocolate. To sulfuric acid, it’s lactose and sucrose, C12H22O11, disaccharides. The acid will react with the sugar to form an elemental carbon and a thick gummy residue.” Sure enough, the leak is successfully plugged up, MacGyver gets the girl, and the day is saved.
The crazy thing? MacGyver’s ridiculous plot is scientifically sound, and proven to work (check out the link below):
This is one of the coolest aspects of MacGyver. Often – though admittedly, not always – you can take the devices and solutions MacGyver comes up with and recreate them at home like some kind of take-home science experiment*. It’s such a central aspect of the show that the colloquialism “to MacGyver something” is to find an unconventional way to fix a problem.
And outside of watching MacGyver being able to creatively ‘MacGyver’ things, there’s not too much complexity to the show. The two main characters are MacGyver, and MacGyver’s sidekick, Pete. It’s true that Pete is technically MacGyver’s boss, and he rarely leaves the Phoenix Foundation, but he only serves to make MacGyver look even cooler by comparison; ergo, sidekick. There are women involved – no shortage of them, actually – but MacGyver never has any long-term love interest. This is no Game of Thrones-style ensemble show. This is a guy named MacGyver, doing his thing – which is the act of MacGyvering.
If you’re interested in learning how to MacGyver things yourself, the whole series is on Netflix. It’s also available on DVD, and as a bonus, the DVD collection contains the two made-for-TV movies, Trail to Doomsday and Lost Treasure of Atlantis.
*Ed. Note – The GeeKon Record does not endorse trying to recreate any stunts from MacGyver. Do not attempt to unseat drug lords with jimmied flares, rice wine/ash smoke screens, and motivational speeches. Yes, that happens in the show too.