It’s something which had caused more than a few arguments and confusion between fans over the years, and with good reason. There have been two very different birthdays shown for MacGyver in the show.
The first, Jan 23 1951, appears on his passport in season one’s ‘Every Time She Smiles’ and again in season 7 on his driver’s license, minus the year. The second date, March 23, is seen by way of the date on MacGyver’s resignation letter at his birthday party in season two’s ‘Friends’ episode.
Many argue that the passport is wrong because it’s used RDA’s birthday and just made him a year younger. There’s also the issue of the year of birth (1951) not matching other dates given in the show. For example… His father and grandmother died in a car accident on December 14 1962 and he said in Passages that he hasn’t seen his father since he was 10. So count 10 years backwards from 1962 and we get to 1952. In Thin Ice MacGyver talked about Turk Donner winning his gold medal in 1960 when he was 8 years old. Count backwards 8 years from 1960 and we end up in 1952 again.
It should also be noted that Penny Parker’s DOB is also wrong in this scene. Her passport shows February 20 1962 but we find out in ‘Secret of Parker House’ that she is born on October 31 1963. All this lends credence to the argument that it was a quick production decision made with no planning or considerations of character background in mind (“Just use Richards birthday. We need to get this scene done.”) and the drivers license seen in season 7 was just a mistaken use of an old prop. However the drivers license is actually from season 6 episode ‘Strictly Business’ and has MacGyver’s houseboat address indicating it was made after the “Friends’ episode so may have been a production decision that they wanted to keep the Jan 23 date as his birthday after all, but realized that the year shown in season 1 didn’t work for the timeline of events (or maybe it was a typo) so covered it up in the scene.
The March 23 date carries more weight for some fans because we see MacGyver’s actual birthday party on this date. There’s lots of people there (including Harry) to celebrate with him when he decides to resign and askes Pete to write up a resignation letter; it is from this letter that we see the date of 23 March 1987. There’s also some more weight given to this date with season 2 being considered more canon because the Background Bible had been developed between seasons indicating they had long-term character developments in mind by then. Some fans even consider season 2 to be a soft-reboot of the show where many ideas from season 1 were either dropped or re-developed into the ideas which would stay for the remaining 6 years of the show. It could be argued though, that March 23 was the original schedule airdate for the episode and they wanted to show the episode was happening in present day by having the same date on the letter – as it turned out the episode actually aired later due to episodes being pushed back for other events. Another argument could be that is was hoped that the episode could be scheduled to air around Jan 23 but instead got pushed further back in the season.
As you can see, there’s no definitive answer to this conundrum. Both dates have good arguments for and against. Let us know in the comments below which date you think is correct.