Filmed in Vancouver: MacGyver

Over the next while I will be looking at a few of the good, not-so-good and great shows that have been filmed in Vancouver over the years. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

Title: MacGyver
Stars: Richard Dean Anderson
Canadian Content: MacGyver is a hero that uses engineering knowledge instead of guns, pretty much the sort of action hero you’d expect Canadians to develop, though the show’s creators were American (the Mountie hero of Due South was a broad parody of a MacGyver like hero). MacGyver, like the Minnesota born Anderson, is an avid hockey fan and plays the sport in several episodes.
Lasting Impact: More than maybe any other TV series filmed in Vancouver MacGyver has become a cultural meme. MacGyver also became a verb, meaning to rig up an engineering solution to a problem using household items. Helped first bring Anderson to Vancouver, he would return for Stargate, and was an early major network show filmed locally.
Good or bad: Anything with a mullet ages badly, and the pacing of the show is sort of slow compared to current action / adventure shows now. However there’s nothing terrible there for the most part, and the show is still enjoyable if somewhat cliché in parts.

Living on a houseboat in Coal Harbour and working for the United States Government, and later the Phoenix Foundation, MacGyver was a different type of action hero one that refused to carry a gun and never tried killing an enemy. Instead of brawn he used his mind, and the central gimick of the show was that at some point in every episode there would be a situation that MacGyver would need to address by engineering a solution using nothing more than his Swiss Army knife, duct tape and whatever random objects might be laying around. That the bad guys would never just shoot MacGyver and instead would lock him up and leave him unguarded was one of those things that you learn to accept in James Bond films, but week after week it became a bit clunky.


Aside from the Coal Harbour location of MacGyver’s houseboat, Vancouver was less obvious here than in other shows. The show does make use of the wide variety of micro-climates around British Columbia to enhance the illusion that MacGyver is a globe trotting man of invention and action, from arid deserts to jungles Vancouver and the surrounding area stood in remarkably for a wide variety of exotic locations. This is one of the first times that Vancouver showed that it could be a perfect stunt double for nearly any American city, which had to be a prime factor in bringing more filmimg north and would later lead to The X-Files [mbv] being filmed here.

It would be nice to say that the lasting impact of the show was that more children took an interest in engineering, and that it helped lead us to a more creative and thoughtful way of life where we relied on and valued intelligence over strenght and firepower, but clearly that didn’t happen. These days MacGyver is remembered a more of a joke, for example the repeating gag on The Simpsons were Marge’s sisters are in love with him, than a series that stands the test of time. However it’s become an important spice in the pop culture stew, sitting right next to Chuck Norris.

1 Comment so far

  1. Melissa Middleswart (unregistered) on July 30th, 2007 @ 6:36 am

    An interesting view on MacGyver, a show I enjoy on dvd. Just one thing of note–the first two seasons of MacGyver were filmed in Los Angeles, CA, as was the shorter 7th season. The other four were filmed in Vancouver.



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