80s action hero relies on smarts, not violence.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

MacGyver is always trying to solve problems non-violently, using discussion and smarts instead of weapons and brawn. He's a smart, resourceful, creative role model.


The main character prefers non-violent means of solving conflict, but some scenes involve car crashes, explosions, and fistfights.

Not applicable

Very mild; only the occasional "damn," "hell," etc.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this adventure drama is about an ex-secret agent who uses his investigative skills and prowess with gadgets to ferret out bad guys on missions for his justice-seeking employer. Although MacGyver is a clever, admirable hero who prefers to use his smarts -- rather than weapons -- to defeat his opponents (making him a rarity in the media world), in some scenes he has to physically defend himself. Other scenes include relatively mild violence like car crashes and explosions (which mostly harm things, not people). Some kids might try to re-create Mac's homemade devices, so a refresher on the difference between TV and real life may be in order.

What's the story?

In the classic '80s adventure drama MACGYVER, Richard Dean Anderson plays an ex-Special Forces operative who travels the world on missions for a crime-fighting organization called the Phoenix Foundation. Any given week might find him doing anything from rescuing a Russian dissident's kidnapped son to helping the grandmother of a graffiti artist who's in danger of eviction. What makes "Mac" such an interesting character (and a strong role model) is his tendency to eschew violence, instead relying on creativity, ingenuity, and science to solve his cases. Ultimately, his ability to use everyday items -- such as cleaning solutions, barbed wire, duct tape, and his trusty Swiss Army knife -- to come up with ways to effectively fend off his enemies turned him into a TV icon. The show's only other regular character is Pete Thornton (Dana Elcar), a fellow ex-agent who runs the field operations at the Phoenix Foundation and is Mac's good friend and colleague; recurring characters include Murdoc (Michael Des Barres), a hit man who constantly goes up against MacGyver, and Penny Parker (Teri Hatcher), a loopy would-be actress who can't stay out of trouble.

Is it any good?


While MacGyver does have moments of violence (explosions, crashes, etc.), they're usually the by-product of Mac's resourcefulness and aren't gratuitous or used as a means to an end. Although some viewers who prefer today's higher-quality productions or like their dramas more action-packed might be bored, thanks to its discussion-worthy situations and lack of brutality, MacGyver is perfect fare for a family that wants to enjoy a night together in front of the tube.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the law enforcement system. What are the different branches of law enforcement -- from local police to the FBI -- and how are they distinguishable from one another? Are there some situations that mainstream law enforcement officials can't handle? Do you think there are real operatives like MacGyver out there? Families can also talk about MacGyver's methods. What makes him different from other action heroes? How do you think he learned all of the tricks he uses to get out of jams? How could a real-life person acquire that kind of knowledge? What would you do in his place?

TV details

Cast:Dana Elcar, Richard Dean Anderson
Networks:Syndicated, TV Land
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written byw1n5t0n September 2, 2010
i loved MACGYVER. he is a great role model as he actively opposes guns, drugs and smoking and is extremely healthy. he also teaches resourcefulness, determination, the importance of facing your fears and the power of knowledge. but most importantly that, if you think it through, you can solve most anything with witty humor and a Swiss Army penknife.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Kid, 11 years old April 8, 2010

Educational Entertainment

MacGyver is a cool show where (like it says above) he tries to use his smarts to beat the bad guy. There is some violence, mainly fistfights and occasional gunplay. Kids can learn from this how to survive is a dangerous situation.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Teen, 13 years old Written bychallenger December 28, 2009

Perfect for anyone at 10 and over

It's allways good


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