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13 Quick-Fix Facts About MacGyver

When Paramount’s television division decided they needed an action hero that was both family- and advertiser-friendly, writer Lee David Zlotoff had the answer: MacGyver, an adventure series about a freelance Samaritan who uses unlikely tools (paper clips, gum, chocolate) to get out of everywhere from a locked room to the Middle East.

The series, which ran for seven seasons, turned Richard Dean Anderson into America’s favorite science geek. Here's a look back at the show, its production, and why MacGyver wasn’t allowed to have a girlfriend.

1. THERE'S A "REAL" MACGYVER. (KIND OF.)

After Lee David Zlotoff decided his protagonist would be armed with little more than a Swiss Army knife and a formidable intellect, he stumbled upon a gemologist at Caltech named John Koivula, who seemed to have experience in everything from physics to chemistry. When MacGyver was ordered by ABC, Koivula became the show’s scientific consultant. Writers would think of a logistical problem, then call Koivula, who would come up with the “MacGyverism,” or solution. Anything deemed harmful usually omitted a step or two so that people who attempted to recreate the experiments at home wouldn't blow themselves up.

2. HIS FIRST NAME WAS ORIGINALLY STACEY.


The seventh (and final) season of MacGyver satisfied fan curiosity by revealing the character’s first name: Angus. (In a not-very-Dickens move, Richard Dean Anderson suggested it because he saw it on a banner in Vancouver.) But prior to the show’s premiere, Paramount publicity circulated a flyer that credited Anderson as playing “Stacey MacGyver.” The name was thought to be taken from an early version of the pilot script.

3. HIS LAST NAME WAS INSPIRED BY MCDONALD'S.

Zlotoff wanted a masculine-sounding name for the character and had intended to simply call him “Guy,” but friends convinced him that it didn’t sound too compelling. Instead, Zlotoff picked up on the fact that the popularity of McDonald’s was prompting people to facetiously add a “Mc” or "Mac" in front of words. “So I suggested we call our hero MacGuy,” Zlotoff recalled. “But everyone thought it really needed to have three syllables ... and we finally got MacGyver and agreed that was the one.”

4. THE PILOT WAS SO BAD THE DIRECTOR HAD HIS NAME REMOVED.

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Executive producer John Rich told the Archive of American Television that the pilot for MacGyver came in at a running time of 90 minutes—and it was awful. “It was dreary,” Rich said. “It was no good … it was an hour and a half of dreadful.” Over an Easter holiday, Rich re-cut the episode, removing 30 minutes. As a result of the perceived meddling, director Jerrold Freedman wanted his name taken off. The generic pseudonym “Alan Smithee” appears in the credits.  

5. VIEWERS THOUGHT THE SHOW KILLED A RHINO.

For an episode in which MacGyver confronts poachers, the show’s effects team spent $40,000 crafting a fake rhinoceros for a key scene in which the animal is destroyed. The money made for an effective moment, but it also prompted viewers to call in condemning the producers for victimizing a helpless creature. (In fact, only Richard Dean Anderson was harmed during filming: he accidentally stepped into a ditch and injured his back in the first season, causing a nagging injury that needed surgery two years later.)   

6. POOR MAC COULDN'T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND. 

While the show was popular for its clever approach to science, it didn’t hurt that Anderson was a former soap opera star and a frequent target of affection for swooning viewers. As a consequence, MacGyver getting romantically involved with a woman in the series was usually met with indignation. When a love interest was introduced for several episodes in the third season, the show’s fans voiced their displeasure over the potential of the show turning into Moonlighting.  

7. THE SHOW PAID FANS TO COME UP WITH "MACGYVERISMS."

Getting MacGyver out of hairy situations using a variety of items within arm’s reach was a clever conceit—and one that got increasingly difficult to orchestrate as the series continued. At one point, John Rich offered viewers a cash reward if they could submit a scenario for use on the show. While all incoming letters were read, very few had plausible ideas: one successful entry described a way in which MacGyver could fix a leaking cooling system in a vehicle by cracking an egg into the radiator. As it heated and hardened, it would seal the hole.

8. MAC DID USE A GUN—TWICE. 

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Among the character’s many distinctive traits, his disdain for firearms was possibly the most defining: because MacGyver couldn’t rely on weapons, he was forced to improvise alternative solutions. But in the pilot episode, Anderson (who didn’t like guns, either) is seen shooting an automatic weapon. In a later season, MacGyver used a gun, smashed out the barrel, and used the remaining piece as a makeshift hand wrench.

9. NOT EVERYONE WAS A FAN OF HIS NO-BAZOOKA POLICY.

When an episode aired in 1988 that depicted the origins of MacGyver’s aversion to guns—it turns out that a boyhood friend was killed by one accidentally—the National Rifle Association went nuclear. "Since that time, we have been on their hit list,” co-executive producer Steve Downing told the Los Angeles Times. “They have been encouraging people not to watch us and boycott our sponsors. We try to do a decent job of really saying why a gun is dangerous and they choose to boycott us and put us on their hit list."

10. HIS FLOATING HOME ENDED UP ON CRAIGSLIST.

For most of the show’s run, MacGyver lived on a pretty cool floating home that was docked in a Vancouver boat yard. When Paramount was done using it, it was sold off, remodeled, and resold in 2012. Since then, it has apparently suffered damage due to the whole foundation-of-water thing. In late 2014, it sold for under $40,000 on Craigslist, far below the original $200,000 valuation.

11. YOUNG MACGYVER NEVER MADE IT TO AIR. 

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Cool and hip are not exactly trademarks of the MacGyver franchise, but the WB still gave it a swing: in 2003, they commissioned a pilot that starred Jared Padalecki (Supernatural) as MacGyver’s equally resourceful nephew, Clay. A tepid network reception resulted in the series never getting a full order.

Now, CBS is trying again with its own MacGyver reboot, which premieres tonight.

12. FURIOUS 7'S DIRECTOR WAS SET FOR A MACGYVER FEATURE.

James Wan directed the most recent installment of the Fast and Furious franchise, and it was obviously a wise career decision: that film made over $1 billion globally. But before he committed, Wan was deliberating over tackling a MacGyver feature film adaptation. “My initial concept was I wanted to do a young college MacGyver who went to Boston, one of the great universities, who’s really brilliant, right?” Wan told CraveOnline. “He gets blamed for something that he had designed, something really big that’s something everyone wanted, and now someone has weaponized it and everyone’s coming after him.” 

13. RICHARD DEAN ANDERSON BOTCHED HIS OWN MACGYVER MOMENT.

When Anderson was once locked out of his house, he found a way inside: The actor had gone to a cast and crew holiday party during the first season, but wasn't having much fun. So he and a friend moved over to a gathering for Cheers instead; when Anderson made it home, he couldn’t get in. Relating the story to a TV Guide reporter, Anderson thought the most efficient solution was to pick up a nearby bench and throw it through the front window. A friend later sent him a new bench: it had the Swiss Army symbol on it.

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13 Fascinating Facts About Nina Simone
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Nina Simone, who would’ve celebrated her 85th birthday today, was known for using her musical platform to speak out. “I think women play a major part in opening the doors for better understanding around the world,” the “Strange Fruit” songstress once said. Though she chose to keep her personal life shrouded in secrecy, these facts grant VIP access into a life well-lived and the music that still lives on.

1. NINA SIMONE WAS HER STAGE NAME.

The singer was born as Eunice Waymon on February 21, 1933. But by age 21, the North Carolina native was going by a different name at her nightly Atlantic City gig: Nina Simone. She hoped that adopting a different name would keep her mother from finding out about her performances. “Nina” was her boyfriend’s nickname for her at the time. “Simone” was inspired by Simone Signoret, an actress that the singer admired.

2. SHE HAD HUMBLE BEGINNINGS.


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There's a reason that much of the singer's music had gospel-like sounds. Simone—the daughter of a Methodist minister and a handyman—was raised in the church and started playing the piano by ear at age 3. She got her start in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina, where she played gospel hymns and classical music at Old St. Luke’s CME, the church where her mother ministered. After Simone died on April 21, 2003, she was memorialized at the same sanctuary.

3. SHE WAS BOOK SMART...

Simone, who graduated valedictorian of her high school class, studied at the prestigious Julliard School of Music for a brief period of time before applying to Philadelphia’s Curtis Institute of Music. Unfortunately, Simone was denied admission. For years, she maintained that her race was the reason behind the rejection. But a Curtis faculty member, Vladimir Sokoloff, has gone on record to say that her skin color wasn’t a factor. “It had nothing to do with her…background,” he said in 1992. But Simone ended up getting the last laugh: Two days before her death, the school awarded her an honorary degree.

4. ... WITH DEGREES TO PROVE IT.

Simone—who preferred to be called “doctor Nina Simone”—was also awarded two other honorary degrees, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Malcolm X College.

5. HER CAREER WAS ROOTED IN ACTIVISM.

A photo of Nina Simone circa 1969

Gerrit de Bruin

At the age of 12, Simone refused to play at a church revival because her parents had to sit at the back of the hall. From then on, Simone used her art to take a stand. Many of her songs in the '60s, including “Mississippi Goddamn,” “Why (The King of Love Is Dead),” and “Young, Gifted and Black,” addressed the rampant racial injustices of that era.

Unfortunately, her activism wasn't always welcome. Her popularity diminished; venues didn’t invite her to perform, and radio stations didn’t play her songs. But she pressed on—even after the Civil Rights Movement. In 1997, Simone told Interview Magazine that she addressed her songs to the third world. In her own words: “I’m a real rebel with a cause.”

6. ONE OF HER MOST FAMOUS SONGS WAS BANNED.

Mississippi Goddam,” her 1964 anthem, only took her 20 minutes to an hour to write, according to legend—but it made an impact that still stands the test of time. When she wrote it, Simone had been fed up with the country’s racial unrest. Medger Evers, a Mississippi-born civil rights activist, was assassinated in his home state in 1963. That same year, the Ku Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham Baptist church and as a result, four young black girls were killed. Simone took to her notebook and piano to express her sentiments.

“Alabama's gotten me so upset/Tennessee made me lose my rest/And everybody knows about Mississippi Goddam,” she sang.

Some say that the song was banned in Southern radio stations because “goddam” was in the title. But others argue that the subject matter is what caused the stations to return the records cracked in half.

7. SHE NEVER HAD A NUMBER ONE HIT.

Nina Simone released over 40 albums during her decades-spanning career including studio albums, live versions, and compilations, and scored 15 Grammy nominations. But her highest-charting (and her first) hit, “I Loves You, Porgy,” peaked at #2 on the U.S. R&B charts in 1959. Still, her music would go on to influence legendary singers like Roberta Flack and Aretha Franklin.

8. SHE USED HER STYLE TO MAKE A STATEMENT.

Head wraps, bold jewelry, and floor-skimming sheaths were all part of Simone’s stylish rotation. In 1967, she wore the same black crochet fishnet jumpsuit with flesh-colored lining for the entire year. Not only did it give off the illusion of her being naked, but “I wanted people to remember me looking a certain way,” she said. “It made it easier for me.”

9. SHE HAD MANY HOMES.

New York City, Liberia, Barbados, England, Belgium, France, Switzerland, and the Netherlands were all places that Simone called home. She died at her home in Southern France, and her ashes were scattered in several African countries.

10. SHE HAD A FAMOUS INNER CIRCLE.

During the late '60s, Simone and her second husband Andrew Stroud lived next to Malcolm X and his family in Mount Vernon, New York. He wasn't her only famous pal. Simone was very close with playwright Lorraine Hansberry. After Hansberry’s death, Simone penned “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” in her honor, a tribute to Hansberry's play of the same title. Simone even struck up a brief friendship with David Bowie in the mid-1970s, who called her every night for a month to offer his advice and support.

11. YOU CAN STILL VISIT SIMONE IN HER HOMETOWN.

Photo of Nina Simone
Amazing Nina Documentary Film, LLC, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

In 2010, an 8-foot sculpture of Eunice Waymon was erected in her hometown of Tryon, North Carolina. Her likeness stands tall in Nina Simone Plaza, where she’s seated and playing an eternal song on a keyboard that floats in midair. Her daughter, Lisa Simone Kelly, gave sculptor Zenos Frudakis some of Simone’s ashes to weld into the sculpture’s bronze heart. "It's not something very often done, but I thought it was part of the idea of bringing her home," Frudakis said.

12. YOU'VE PROBABLY HEARD HER MUSIC IN RECENT HITS.

Rihanna sang a few verses of Simone’s “Do What You Gotta Do” on Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo. He’s clearly a superfan: “Blood on the Leaves” and his duet with Jay Z, “New Day,” feature Simone samples as well, along with Lil’ Wayne’s “Dontgetit,” Common’s “Misunderstood” and a host of other tracks.

13. HER MUSIC IS STILL BEING PERFORMED.

Nina Revisited… A Tribute to Nina Simone was released along with the Netflix documentary in 2015. On the album, Lauryn Hill, Jazmine Sullivan, Usher, Alice Smith, and more paid tribute to the legend by performing covers of 16 of her most famous tracks.

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13 Secrets From the Guinness Archives
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Leon Neal/AFP/Getty Images

Guinness has been a staple in Irish pubs for nearly 260 years. With so much history, it's no surprise that the Guinness Storehouse Archives—which are open to the public—are stuffed with intriguing artifacts that tell some pretty wild stories. Here are a few.

1. THE LEASE TO THE DUBLIN BREWERY WAS INTENDED TO LAST 9000 YEARS.

In 1759, founder Arthur Guinness signed a lease for a four-acre property at St. James’s Gate in Dublin. The lease required a down payment of £100, an annual rent of £45, and a term of 9000 years (not a typo). Such lengthy leases were relatively common back then: “At the time in Ireland, there was a lot of instability to do with land tenure,” explains Fergus Brady, Archives Manager at Guinness. Centuries earlier, the British had begun confiscating land from native Irish in an effort to build plantations, and extra-long leases were a means of avoiding this fate. As Brady explains, “You see these really long leases: 99-year or 999-year leases. It seemed to be a legal custom at the time that they used the number nine.”

2. ARTHUR GUINNESS WAS NOT AFRAID TO DEFEND HIS PROPERTY WITH A PICKAXE.

In 1775, the Dublin Corporation—that is, the city government—demanded that Arthur Guinness pay for the spring water flowing to his brewery. When Guinness argued that he was already paying for water rights through his 9000-year rental agreement, the Dublin Corporation sent a sheriff and a committee to his brewery to cut off the water supply. Guinness was livid. He seized a pickaxe and unleashed a torrent of obscenities so colorful that the Dublin Corporation’s goons eventually retreated.

3. GUINNESS ONCE DEPLOYED FIELD AGENTS TO CATCH COUNTERFEITERS.

Guinness Apology
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as brand consistency. Guinness did not bottle its own beer; instead, it shipped the suds in wooden casks to publicans who supplied their own bottles and applied their own personalized labels. Occasionally, these publicans sold fake or adulterated Guinness. To prevent such sales, the company sent special agents called “travellers” into the field to collect beer samples, which it tested in a laboratory. “If a publican was found to be serving adulterated or counterfeit Guinness, they had to give a public apology in their local newspaper—and even the national newspapers,” archivist Jessica Handy says.

4. FOR 21 YEARS, THE COMPANY HIRED A GUY TO TRAVEL THE WORLD AND DRINK BEER.

In 1899, Guinness hired an American ex-brewer named Arthur T. Shand to be a “Guinness World Traveller.” It was arguably the coolest job in the world. For 21 years, Shand traveled the world taste-testing beer. According to Brady, “His job was to travel the world and taste Guinness, say whether it was good or bad, who our bottlers in the market were, who our major competition was, what kind of people were drinking our product.” Shand traveled to Australia and New Zealand, to Southeast Asia and Egypt. “He was sort of a Guinness sommelier,” Brady says.

5. THE COMPANY'S HARP LOGO CAUSED TROUBLE WITH THE IRISH GOVERNMENT.

The Celtic harp—based on the 14th century “Brian Boru Harp” preserved at Trinity College—became a trademarked Guinness logo in 1876. Forty-five years later, when Ireland gained independence from England, the Irish Free State decided to use the same Celtic harp as its official state emblem. This became awkward. Guinness owned the trademark, and the Irish government was forced to search for a workaround. You can find their solution on an Irish Euro coin. Look at the coin, and you’ll notice that the harp’s straight edge faces the right; meanwhile, the harp on a glass of Guinness shows the straight edge facing left [PDF].

6. GUINNESS REPORTEDLY SAVED LIVES ON THE BATTLEFIELD.

The old slogan “Guinness is good for you” sounds like a marketing gimmick, but it was born out of a genuine belief that the beer was, in fact, a restorative tonic. The health claim dates back to 1815, when an ailing cavalry officer wounded at the Battle of Waterloo reportedly credited Guinness for his recovery. For decades, the medical community widely claimed that the dark beer possessed real health benefits—and they weren’t necessarily wrong. “There was little safe drinking water at the time,” Handy says. “But with brewing, consumers knew they were getting a safe beverage.”

7. THE COMPANY CREATED A SPECIAL RECIPE FOR CONVALESCENTS.

A label for Guinness invalid stout
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

From the 1880s to the 1920s, Guinness produced a special “Nourishing Export Stout”—a.k.a. “Invalid Stout”—that contained extra sugars, alcohol, and solids and came in cute one-third pint bottles. “It was very common practice for people to buy a couple bottles and keep them as a tonic, even if it was just a glass or half a glass,” Handy says. In fact, Guinness went as far as asking general practitioners for testimonials attesting to the beer’s medical benefits. According to Brady, “Many of them wrote back and said yes, we prescribe this for various ailments.” One doctor even claimed a pint was “as nourishing as a glass of milk.”

8. DOCTORS REGULARLY PRESCRIBED THE BEER TO NURSING MOTHERS.

From the 1880s to the 1930s, many physicians believed Guinness was an effective galactagogue—that is, a lactation aid. The company sent bottles to hospitals as well as wax cartons of yeast (which supposedly helped skin problems and migraines). Hundreds, possibly thousands, of doctors prescribed the beer for ailments such as influenza, insomnia, and anxiety, David Hughes writes in A Bottle of Guinness Please: The Colourful History of Guinness. According to Brady, the company was sending beer to hospitals as late as the 1970s.

9. THE COMPANY ONCE DROPPED 200,000 MESSAGES-IN-A-BOTTLE INTO THE OCEAN.

A Guinness message in a bottle
The message within every bottle dropped in the Atlantic Ocean in 1959.
Guinness Archive, Diageo Ireland

In 1954, Guinness dumped 50,000 messages-in-a-bottle in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. In 1959, they repeated the stunt again, with 38 ships dropping 150,000 bottles in the Atlantic. The first bottle was discovered in the Azores off Portugal just three months after the initial drop [PDF]. Since then, the bottles have turned up in California, New Zealand, and South Africa. Just last year, a bottle was discovered in Nova Scotia. (If you find one, you just might be offered a trip to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.)

10. THE PERSONNEL FILES IN THE GUINNESS ARCHIVES CONTAIN SOME DOOZIES.

The Guinness corporate archives are open to the public. According to Handy, “Some of the stories you get in there are amazing, because you get accident reports and you get crazy stories of people bouncing on bags of hops outside the brewery." This may sound less surprising considering that, back in the day, Guinness employees were given an allowance of two pints of beer every day [PDF].

11. A GUINNESS SCIENTIST MADE A STATISTICALLY SIGNIFICANT MARK IN THE FIELD OF STATISTICS.

If you’ve taken a statistics class, you might be familiar with the Student’s t-test or the t-statistic. (It’s a method of working with a small sample size when the standard deviation is unknown.) The t-test was first described by William S. Gosset, a brewer and statistician at Guinness who was attempting to analyze a small sample of malt extract. Gosset’s discovery not only helped Guinness create a more consistent-tasting beer, it would lay the bedrock for one of the most important concepts in statistics: statistical significance.

12. GUINNESS IS SO BIG IN AFRICA, IT LAUNCHED A SUCCESSFUL FEATURE-LENGTH FILM.

Guinness began exporting beer to Africa in 1827. In the 1960s, it opened a brewery in Nigeria—followed by Cameroon and Ghana. Today, there are reportedly more Guinness drinkers in Nigeria than there are in Ireland. “In Ireland, England, and the United States, everybody thinks that Guinness is synonymous with Ireland,” Brady says. “But in Nigeria, there’s a very very low conception of that.” The beer is such a cultural staple that a fictional character who advertised the product named Michael Power—a James Bond-like, crime-fighting journalist—became the star of a feature film in 2003 called Critical Assignment, which was a box office smash. (Of course, there’s some branding built into the script. As Brady explains, “There are definitely scenes where Michael Power is enjoying a pint of Guinness.”)

13. DISPENSING BEER WITH NITROGEN WAS ORIGINALLY CONSIDERED LAUGHABLE.

In the 1950s, Guinness scientist Michael Ash was tasked with solving the “draft problem.” At the time, dispensing a draft pint of Guinness was ridiculously complicated, and the company was losing market share to draft lagers in Britain that could be easily dispensed with CO2. “The stout was too lively to be dispensed with CO2 only,” Brady says. “Ash worked on the problem for four years, working long hours day or night, and became a bit of a recluse apparently. A lot of doubters at the brewery called the project ‘daft Guinness.’” But then Ash attempted dispensing the beer with plain air. It worked. The secret ingredient, Ash discovered, was nitrogen. The air we breathe is 78 percent nitrogen. Today, a Guinness draft contains 75 percent nitrogen. Not only did the discovery make dispensing the beer easier, it created a creamy mouthfeel that’s been the signature of Irish stouts since.

Full disclosure: Guinness paid for the author to attend an International Stout Day festival in 2017, which provided the opportunity to speak to their archivists.

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