The situation bordered on the critical. The airwaves were fraught with vice and violence. Gone were Buck Rogers and the Lone Ranger.
Heroes were as scarce as raindrops in the desert — until a sandy-haired man with a ready smile and a penchant for wanderlust came along on the small screen three years ago.
Meet “MacGyver.” He doesn’t don a white hat or wear a cape. This is a down-to-earth troubleshooter who traverses the globe, nabs crooks, cleans up corruption and even makes the environment safer — all without killing a soul.
Richard Dean Anderson, who stars as MacGyver, was drawn to the ABC show initially because of the character’s reliance on nonviolence.
“I was intrigued by the idea of a TV hero who had an aversion to guns,” Anderson explained. “and the image of a hero who had alternate ways of beating the bad guys was definitely novel. There’s a nice strong moral fiber that runs through the show.”
Anderson liked the fact also that MacGyver wasn’t cast from the tired mold of most heroes.
“MacGyver’s not a huge. hulking, muscle-bound, macho guy who pulls out a gun and kills people,” Anderson says. “He doesn’t puff up his chest and deflect bullets off it. He’s a thinking man, an adventurer.”
“He’s a human being, first and foremost. He’s afraid of heights; he hates to get hit. He has normal, human reactions to things and not unlike myself, he likes to wander and encounter adventures along the way. That’s one of the parallels we have.”
MacGyver is employed by the Phoenix Foundation, a think tank that dispatches him to wherever there’s big trouble. Dana Elcar plays his harried boss, Pete Thornton.
“MacGyver” returns with a special new-season preview Oct 31. Then the show will move to its regular Monday night slot with its fourth season premiere at 8 p.m. on Nov. 21.
What’s on tap for the new season? There’ll be plenty of action, but also some segments dealing with MacGyver’s personal feelings.
“Everyone wants to know about MacGyver’s relationship with other human beings, especially those with women,” Anderson says. “So we’ll be dealing with those feelings.”
Anderson, 38, was born in Minneapolis. He also starred in “General Hospital,” “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” and Emerald Point, N.A.S.” But he calls MacGyver “my favorite role, by far.” The program is shot on location in British Columbia.
MacGyver is doubtless the most adventuresome character on the tube, scaling mountains, climbing trees and leaping over obstacles.
But the athletic Anderson wouldn’t think of leaving the fun to professional stunt men.
“I love that aspect of the show; it’s the icing on the cake,” he says enthusiastically.
The stunt coordinator and my stunt man have been shaking their heads the last three years because I’ve essentially been trying to put them out of work.”
But Anderson’s acts of daring-do haven’t left him unscathed.
“I hurt my back a couple years ago and I had surgery about four months ago because I compressed a couple discs, one which blew into my spinal cord, which resulted in a severe sciatic condition,” he says. But he isn’t fazed by the injuries. After all, nothing is supposed to thwart a hero.
George Bulanda. Iowa TV. Oct. 23, 1988.