In some ways, the '80s was the golden era of the hourlong TV action adventure. You had classic stuff like "The A-Team" and "Knight Rider" - wisecracking characters, cool explosions, and bloodless violence that was suitable for kids. The thinking man's '80s action hero, though, was and still is MacGyver:
The series starred Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver, a brainy scientist/engineer who refuses to carry or use firearms. Instead, MacGyver defeats the villains and gets out of sticky situations by employing science to create jury-rigged devices and solutions. Also notable was the MacGyver mullet, a now-iconic hairstyle.
Most of the "MacGyverisms" depicted on the show work in real life, although some have exagerrated effects due to dramatic license. Sometimes the writers take shortcuts, such as when MacGyver used two fictional rocket-propelled grenades called "Vipers" as jet-assisted takeoff units for a stranded airplane. Still, there was nothing as lazy as this (cartoon from xkcd):
The show had an '80s liberal slant, with MacGyver being a strong advocate of gun control. I suppose it'd be pretty convenient if life-threatening adversaries could always be defeated by improvised gadgets. Me? I'll stick with my purpose-built portable projectile launcher.