Five years ago Paramount Television decided to develop a show about “an action hero who can play in early time periods who is also advertiser-friendly,” says Paramount Network TV president John Pike.
From that seed sprang “MacGyver.”
ABC executives on both coasts say “MacGyver” is very “advertiser-friendly” and in “high demand.” That’s because while it’s action packed, it doesn’t have a lot of violence – MacGyver doesn’t use a gun, champions things, like the environment, advertisers like to be associated with and comes out strongly against things like animal tusk poaching.
Advertisers also like having their name associated with a show to which educators are actually giving good grades. School teachers nationwide, while deploring the amount of time students spend in the vast network “wasteland,” have come out in favor of “Mac” because he uses his wits, not weapons, to solve crimes; he rescues damsels and escapes peril.
“It’s not like a ‘Miami Vice’ situation where, depending on the episode, it can be very violent or sexually hot,” Pike observes.
Another draw for advertisers is the series’ appeal to viewers both young and old. “If you ever find an action hero that parents and children can watch at the same time, you’ve got yourself a pretty good format,” Pike asserts. “It can perform anywhere: you can put it on early or late.”
Because it can play both early — thanks to its clean-cut image and low violence level — and late, ABC bounced the show around and finally put it to the task of solving the network’s Monday night problem.
During the Fall football season “MacGyver” runs at 8 p.m. on the East Coast. The series follows “Monday Night Football” on the West Coast, where some stations opt to preempt it in favor of NFL overruns. Although “MacGyver’s” flexibility has proven to be a mixed blessing, regardless of its schedule changes, 100 episodes and five seasons later, “MacGyver” has prospered. “One of the things that has always worked about “MacGyver” is that adults get a kick about the clever nature in which he solves the crime – it’s a mini ‘Mission: Impossible’ form,” Pike says, referring to another Paramount series for ABC.
By Lisa de Moraes, The Hollywood Reporter. March 5, 1990: p.S-1 to S-24.