I remember Magnum, P.I. very fondly. First, there were the elements that anchored the series from year to year: A red Ferrari, Higgins and his guard dogs, Magnum’s aloha shirts and Detroit Tigers cap and distinctive moustache. Second, there were the sidekicks: Higgins again, as Magnum’s opponent and foil; Magnum’s old Navy buddies, T.C. and Rick; and the array of other recurring characters that ebbed and flowed throughout the series, including my favorites, Lt. Yoshi Tanaka and “Mac” MacReynolds.
The series featured an incredible list of guest stars: both June and Anne Lockhart, Manu Tupou, Carol Burnett, Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Pat Morita, Tyne Daly, Scatman Crothers, Cesar Romero, Robert Ito, Frank Sinatra, Carol Channing, Dennis Weaver, and (in voiceover) Orson Welles. It even had crossover episodes with both Simon and Simon and Murder, She Wrote, which were airing at the same time. If you didn’t have enough Magnum in one episode during the week, you might find him carousing on another show you followed.
I loved the mixture of drama and humor on the show, as well as the fantasy elements…well, not fantasy to some people, but certainly to me, who had never been to Hawaii, never ridden in a fancy sports car, and never lived on a beachfront estate, let alone free of charge. It’s worth watching just for the gorgeous scenery. Plus, I must admit I never found Tom Selleck difficult to look at. Ahem.
Although the list of my favorite episodes is far too long to recount in a single blog post, I always loved it when the history and culture of Hawaii was used as a basis for stories. “Lest We Forget”, for example, revolves around a judge whose new wife disappeared after the Pearl Harbor bombings. “Almost Home” also uses events at Pearl Harbor in its plot. “Never Again… Never Again” featured an elderly couple whose past during World War Two leads to trouble in the present; the episode also provided a little more information about Higgins’ own participation in the war and its aftermath. “Flashback” is a little different; it’s a fun episode in which Magnum dreams he (and all his friends) live in 1936.
Recurring gags rewarded the longtime viewer. “The Elmo Ziller Story” features John Hillerman in a dual role as both Higgins and his Texan half-brother (for which he used his own real accent); it’s a silly episode, but a real hoot to watch! Later on, Hillerman also plays an Irish Higgins half-brother in “Faith and Begorrah” and a Spanish one in “Who is Don Luis Higgins, and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things to Me?”
“Did You See the Sunrise,” a two-parter, references events that occurred when Magnum, T.C. (Roger E. Mosely), and Mac served in Vietnam; it features many flashbacks to their time in captivity and explores elements associated with veterans like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It’s acknowledged to be one of the best episodes of the series, and is notable for its ending, which I won’t spoil here. Also notable for addressing the results of war is “Heal Thyself,” about a former nurse whom Magnum knew when she served in Vietnam; now a doctor, she’s been accused of poisoning patients, and her case is complicated by her PTSD.
“Home From the Sea” is another unusual episode, involving Magnum being capsized from his surf ski in the middle of the ocean. He treads water for twenty-four hours, remembering important events in his past, all of which come together clearly for the viewer at the story’s end. It’s a great episode for deepening the audience’s understanding of Magnum himself and his motivations.
Finally, Sherlock Holmes fans would definitely enjoy “Holmes in Where the Heart Is,” an unusual use of the famous detective stories.
Oh, Magnum, where have you gone? Writing about the show is tempting me to rewatch it again from the beginning!
Victoria Janssen is the author of three erotic novels and numerous short stories. Her latest novel is The Duke and The Pirate Queen from Harlequin Spice. Follow her on Twitter: @victoriajanssen or find out more at victoriajanssen.com.