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MacGyver (1985 Seasons 1-3) Review

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

Name of Show: MacGyver

Genre: Action and Adventure

Executive Producer: Henry Wrinkler, John Rich

Created by: Lee David Zlotoff

Aired Dates (Season 1): September 29th, 1985 to May 7th, 1986

Aired Dates (Season 2): September 22nd, 1986 to May 4th, 1987

Aired Dates (Season 3): September 21st, 1987 to May 9th, 1988


So I finally finished watching the whole original MacGyver series. It took me about a month but I finally made it. I have to admit that it brought back old memories of watching this with my dad. I was going to review MacGyver in parts, but many other sites have done that already. Notably:


The site does a really good job of breaking down every episode. However for me, I am a fan but not a super fan. I just wanted to see if this show still holds up to this day. Let us see if it is as good as I remember.

Opening Theme

The MacGyver theme is iconic. For any fan of the series, it is etched in our collective minds with the visual of the MacGyver logo with an explosion in the background. I think it ranks up there with other series from the 80's. I think Night Rider is still my number 1 in my book though.

MacGyver Theme

Through the seasons they changed the theme slightly but the spirit of the original remained the same.


I think that you can breakdown the series into 3 parts. The beginning which would be the first 2 or 3 seasons. Then there are the status quo year which would be season 4. Then there are the years where ideas were running thin which are seasons, 5, 6 and 7.

Let me explain what I mean by the above. I never realized but most of the memories that I have of MacGyver are from the first few seasons. Before watching the series again, I remembered, MacGyver, Pete and the Phoenix Foundation. I remembered that the Phoenix Foundation would give MacGyver a mission and he would solve it. I also remembered Jack Dalton which would appear form time to time.

Now that I have watched it, most of that is still true but there is an aspect that I forgot. In the later years, MacGyver did episodes that focused more on causes. It was less of the spy thing but more of trying to help communities. There are also a few odd episodes in the later seasons which makes you think that they were running out of ideas for this show.

Seasons 1, 2, and 3

These are by far the best seasons of MacGyver. The pilot episode was not the greatest but it set the table for the rest of the series. As I mentioned in the intro of the series, Dana Elcar plays another character than the Pete Thornton that we know and love. I did not remember that part before rewatching the show. Also, one fact that sticks out when talking about MacGyver is his hate of guns. However, in the pilot, MacGyver actually shoots a gun. I will give it a pass as it was the pilot and the show did not iron out all of the details. Some fans find that fact disappointing.

As the series progresses, you can see the budget being cut somewhat. In the first seasons, there were grand openings of shows (known as gambits) and the shooting locations seem pretty exotic. In the later years, MacGyver is usually confined to the city or low cost locations.

The first 3 seasons saw the series introduce many recurring characters such as Penny (Teri Hatcher), Jack Dalton (Bruce McGill) and Murdoc (Michael des Barres).

Memorable Episodes

There are quite a few to mention but here are the best ones.

Thief of Budapest (Season 1):

MacGyver is tasked with getting a watch that has a list of KGB agents. It was a big budget affair and when watching this episode, you remember why you loved this show. The first 10 minutes are awesome. However, there is 8 minutes of footage, that are known to be taken from a movie. I believe that the movie was The Italian Job. I guess this is where they cut costs on shooting. It does not take away from the writing and action in this one.

Nightmares (Season 1):

This is an awesome show as it shows a side of Mac that we are not used to. MacGyver gets injected with this cocktail that periodically gives pain and hallucinations. He is helped by a young lady who he helped at the beginning of the show. The great part about this show is the fact that it is the first time you feel like MacGyver does not have everything covered. He seems vulnerable. Even throughout the series this was a rarity.

The Negotiator (Season 3):

This is a classic female seductress trying to manipulate the good guy. The premise is that someone has hired a lady assassin named Deborah played by Kristin Alfonso. She is conniving in trying to get MacGyver to fall in love with her. She tried a few times to murder him, but always misses the mark. In the end, after a boat explosion, MacGyver is blind. This leads to an epic final quarter of the show where Deborah tries to kill MacGyver and MacGyver struggling to stay alive. This was a very exciting episode and worth watching again.

Weaker Episodes

Everytime She Smiles (Season 1):

This episode is where we meet Miss Penny Parker played by Teri Hatcher. Basically in short, Penny puts some jewellery in MacGyver's pockets and due to this MacGyver gets detained. Then they try to escape and get away from the agents. I rate as a weaker episode because, frankly, Penny is annoying. Did the writers have to make her so ditzy? I get it that she means no harm but I just get annoyed by her. The only saving grace in this episode is Richard Dean Anderson.

Dalton, Jack of Spies (Season 2):

This show is not horrible but I never liked most of the shows with Jack Dalton. I understand that he brings comedy but a lot of time, he just seems like a bumbling fool. In this case, Mac goes to the funeral of Jack Dalton to realize that he is not really dead and that he is involved in some kind of CIA business. Jack and MacGyver will need to recover a cipher machine that could compromise National Security. it is not a memorable show by any means and this epsiode felt more like a filler than an actual episode.

Final Approach (Season 2):

This episode is about four gang members that are part of a new Phoenix Foundation rehabilitation program. So, when they are on a plane, something goes wrong and the plan goes down. Now, with a passenger injured they must find a way to help each other out until MacGyver can find a way to get the plane going again. Although the episode has its heart in the right place, I did not feel for any of the characters. Again, I think it is one of the weaker written episodes.


Looking at the first 3 seasons, there are many more good episodes than bad. Even the bad ones are not that horrible. It is more of a preference thing for me. If you were on a budget and wanted to scratch that MacGyver itch, I would go with any of these seasons. It will have all of the things that you remember MacGyver for and the storylines were much more interesting.

Let me know what you think about the first 3 MacGyver seasons. Which episodes do you like the best?




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