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Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Spy With No Gun – MacGyver to MacGruber in 25 Years

By Tom Murray


Fictional super-spy MacGyver celebrates his 25th birthday today, with his first show being featured all the way back in 1985, giving us a quarter century of quick-thinking, scientific secret agent shenanigans.

Now, I actually had no idea who MacGyver even was until yesterday when a friend clocked the 25th anniversary coming up. Having been ruthlessly mocked by my mates for my lack of MacGyver familiarity, I felt compelled to go and check out the show. It’s an old-school revelation, people. MacGyver is seriously badass, but with a twist.

For those of you who are not familiar with MacGyver, he was a secret agent with a difference. He refused to use a gun to solve problems and complete his missions. Instead, he would rely on a combination of his quick wits, knowledge of science and a selection of everyday items to get himself out of a jam.
What follows is a selection of the finest fanciful solutions that MacGyver managed to manufacture during his time on screen. By all means, imitate the spirit of MacGyver‘s creativity next time you’re in a pickle, but just don’t expect concrete results!

Paperclips: Never Diffuse Bombs Without Them

The foremost weapon in MacGyver‘s arsenal (along with his trusty pen knife) is the mighty paperclip. In the MacGyver pilot you get the first taste of our hero’s style: cool, calm and collected under pressure. See how he nonchalantly hangs his hat off the wing tip of the rocket? That’s a man whom time has no power over.

Duct Tape Fixes Everything

After a 20 second bomb diffusion, all that’s left to do is make a serviceable glider in under 2 minutes as angry assailants motor the crap out of the area. Not a problem for MacGyver and a trusty roll of duct tape.

It’s a Trap!

In an inspired piece of classic MacGyver magic, our mild-mannered hero constructs quite the cunning trap! Admiral Ackbar would be proud.

Three Words: Jet Ski Coffin

“Possibly the only man to have attended his own funeral and lived”, now that’s going out with style. One of MacGyver‘s more complicated inventions by a long shot but still unassailably cool. You can’t help but love the unnecessary water doughnut he pulls before escaping.

Blown Out of Proportion

That’s how a real man takes care of his enemies, with a blow dart to the neck. Or failing that, a big stick to the face. With his knowledge of toxins and herbalism MacGyver would make an excellent rogue in World of Warcraft.

Room Extensions MacGyver Style

Smooth talking with the ladies as well as in his own head, MacGyver can add an edge of romance to a demolitions escapade. No doubt he helps the little lady make another controlled explosion later on.

MacGyver Don’t Blow Hot Air

A mini hot air balloon from newspaper, bits of wire and olive oil, that’s MacGyver for you. Still, he was pretty damn lucky that the guards were so relaxed/lazy.

MacGruber: Less Charm More Harm

MacGyver‘s popularity was such that it earned the character his very own spoof alter-ego on Saturday Night Live, high praise indeed. The SNL comedy parody “MacGruber” took the inventiveness and quick thinking style of MacGyver…. and totally ignored it.

In their portrayal, MacGruber is constantly locked in rooms that are about to explode and he fails to act quickly enough as his team-mates refuse to hand him the items he’s asking for. This is usually because of their horrible nature or because MacGruber is actually trying to rob them.
The format worked like a charm and viewers loved the bare-faced sillyness of the MacGyver parody. So much so that MGM thought it was a safe enough bet to take on MacGruber‘s SNL actor Will Forte and make a MacGruber movie back in June this year.

While the short, sharp and snappy skits on SNL might have gone down well enough, the MacGruber movie did not. Burning out quicker than MacGruber blowing himself up, the movie was a lame duck, earning itself an over-generous 56% rating on The Internet Movie Database (imdb) and a general slating by its audience. It didn’t even make back its $10 million budget, leaving MGM out of pocket.
Luckless parody movie aside, MacGyver continues to enjoy a strong following 25 years on, both in viewing audiences and in pop culture. The wily secret agent has also scored quite a few references in cartoon mainstay The Simpsons and sci-fi sensation Star Gate SG-1.