At least, among my circle of friends.
I was reminded of this recently, as conversation with some of these same friends-- recently reconnected due to the Seven Degrees of Separation Known As Facebook Stalking-- drifted back to the Swiss-Army superman we'd loved so well.
It was really only a matter of time.
MacGyver had absolutely topped our list of 80s heroes. Michael Knight of Knight Rider wasn't bad, but somehow deep-down we knew any guy who'd wear a black leather Member's Only jacket every single day, and whose best friend was his car, was just not relationship material.
I'd had a mysterious crush on Mike Nesmith of the Monkees-- the sarcasm, southern accent, sideburns and green wool hat was an acquired taste, I'll admit.
Harrison Ford was a particular favorite, too-- at least once I overcame the Kid-Brain Observational Barrier that prevented me from realizing Han Solo and Indiana Jones were actually played by the same person. (I don't exactly recall why it took me so long to figure this out. I can only say it was the same inconsistent value-assessment issue that caused me to think that Roddy McDowall was the Greatest Actor Ever because he played Cornelius in the Planet of the Apes films. I couldn't understand why he wasn't earning Oscars for this.)
And Johnny Depp as Tom Hanson of 21 Jump Street was a perennial on that list, prized not just because of his innate Depp-ness, but because that show was actually preachy enough it got my mom's Stamp of Approval.
But MacGyver.... Among my friends and I, MacGyver was a unifier. Someone we could all agree on.
Discussions around the lunch table covered all the normal drool-drenched fluff that hormonally-charged teenaged girls would dwell on. But inevitably, we would linger on MacGyver's impressive problem solving skills.
Yes, while boys would debate who would win in a fight, Superman or Batman, we would evaluate how our favorite TV hunks would get out of various jams.
"Who would be able to break out of prison first, Michael Knight or MacGyver?"
"Michael Knight would just call K.I.T.T. who would roll through the brick wall and bust him out."
"Yeah, but then the cops would know he broke out and be looking for him right away. MacGyver would weave his paper napkin from his meals into a super-tight string, and use it to either get the keys to his cell, or fashion it into an elaborate pulley-winch system, which used physics to bend the bars enough for him to get through."
(Science class was always disappointing to us, and I blame MacGyver. We never did cover making a bomb out of chewing gum, a can of baked beans, an aerosol hairspray can and a lighter. He set an example our teachers couldn't hope to live up to.)
In fact, no one quite compared. The A-Team members needed the whole team, a blowtorch and large plates of metal that happened to be lying around once a week, 15 minutes from the end of every program.
Magnum P.I. had personal connections.
Remington Steele had luck and Laura.
The Six-Million-Dollar Man had superpowers and a price tag.
Yes, when compared side-by-side to our other heroes, it seemed MacGyver was the only one who could get by entirely on his own innate wit and mechanical skill.
If we were stuck on a deserted island with only one TV leading man, we all agreed, you couldn't do much better than being stranded with MacGyver.
Plus, he's the only character from my youth that's had the distinction of becoming a verb.
Note: this post is dedicated to my high school lunch table friends, and was MacGyvered together from Grape Fruit Roll-Ups, duct tape, Superglue and a lot of coffee.