This Is Why The Original MacGyver Had To Be Canceled

It's not every TV series that gives birth to a new word that actually sticks around. But that's one of the side effects of 1985's MacGyver, an adventure series that emphasized brains and knowledge over guns. Star Richard Dean Anderson had a couple of other prime-time series on his resume, but nothing that had lasted more than a season. He was also a veteran of the soap opera General Hospital, but it was MacGyver that gave him a steady career.

He was sort of a spy, sort of an operative, but instead of tricky watches and invisible cars, MacGyver — first name, Angus, but almost never used; most people called him Mac — his real co-stars were a roll of duct tape and a Swiss army knife. He eschewed firearms, though he wasn't beyond creating a well-contained explosion from common household products, if it suited his purposes. Most of his expertise lay in basic scientific principles, especially engineering and physics (though there was also an element of "kids, don't try this at home" as the show caught on).

Richard Dean Anderson starred for seven seasons

MacGyver was successful enough that it ran for seven seasons on ABC, wrapping up in April 1992. Two made-for-TV movies followed in 1994, and an attempt at a Young MacGyver series with a pilot filmed (but not aired) in 2003, but that didn't pan out.

Besides the brain, MacGyver made serious physical demands on its lead, Richard Dean Anderson. Already an athlete — he'd aspired to professional hockey in his youth — he often performed his own stunts in the first few years, though that commitment tapered off as the series went on, partly because of injuries he suffered. His co-star, Dana Elcar, went blind from glaucoma, and although that was written into the series, it still took a toll.

The show performed solidly for the network, but was never a ratings monster. The network pulled the plug after seven seasons. As Anderson told TV Guide in 1997, "The only reason it went off the air was that everybody was ready to move on. I was physically exhausted and had no life." Not even duct tape can fix that.