Magnum, P.I. Forums

CBS (ended 1988)

what makes Magnum Different?

  • Avatar of Diogo22

    Diogo22

    [1]Jul 25, 2006
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    I mean from the A-team, knight rider, MacGyver and all the other hero detective shows that populated 80's tv? I have seen the first season of this show, and it still appeals me most than any other of the other shows I mentioned, and since the premise is basically the same, I was just wondering what you guys think.
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  • Avatar of 123home123

    123home123

    [2]Jul 25, 2006
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    One thing that stands out is the beautiful natural setting of the Hawaiian Islands. This was also a key element for "Hawaii Five-O". Many of the Five-O sets were used for Magnum, P.I. and there were a few references to the fictional Five-O in the Magnum series.

    Another element that stands out is the treatment of the Vietnam War in Magnum, P.I. It was one of the 1st mainstream series to deal with that war and to focus on Vietnam veterans who weren't crazy and unstable.

    Many of the other 80s shows had a combination of action and humor so Magnum isn't unique there. Tom Selleck had charisma and the characters had a great relationship among them (even if those relationships weren't always cordial--"Higgins!").

    There's no doubting the appeal of the red Ferrari either. Thomas Magnum had what many men would consider to be a dream life: living on a luxurious estate in the exotic setting of Hawaii, driving a kickass Ferrari, meeting beautiful women almost every week, hanging out with his buddies, not working regular hours, not wearing a suit to work or any formal attire at all. What's not to like? Oh, right, there's Higgins and "The Lads" too. Well, so it wasn't paradise. It was close though.

    Like Five-O, Magnum, P.I. also had a memorable theme song, one of the most notable in TV history. As you've probably noticed, the famous theme song was not used early on in Season One. I found it very strange to hear that jazzy, low-key music used in the 1st episode of the series. I wouldn't mind if they dubbed in the main theme into those early episodes. I doubt anyone will miss that sleepy music. (Jazz has its place, but not on Magnum, P.I.!)

    I think those are the key elements. The action scenes were great too, but Magnum, P.I. wasn't the only show to have good action scenes. The use of the helicopter added something different to the action though. All in all, an excellent show and a true action/comedy classic.
    Edited on 07/25/2006 4:46pm
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  • Avatar of joshjr

    joshjr

    [3]Oct 6, 2006
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    For me it was just so different and there was nothing else on like it.  I kow that I prefered this show over Spencer for hire, Murder She Wrote, & Columbo.  I Magnum Simon & Simon.  Magnum was easy to follow.  You could do the dective work with him.  Some shows seemed like they wanted yo to be so shocked and that only that one character could be the one to ever figure things out.  I never felt that way about Magnum.
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  • Avatar of Neptune56

    Neptune56

    [4]Dec 29, 2006
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    I totally agree with 123home’s comments he made on 26 July.  Specifically, his point regarding this show and the Vietnam War is spot-on.  Magnum P.I. was the first show whose characters not only discussed Vietnam as an issue, but were veterans of the Vietnam War themselves.  As such, Magnum P.I. was different in that it portrayed the Vietnam veteran in a totally new light - not as the burned-out, fatigue-clad drifter that the media often used as its stereotype, but as characters who served in Vietnam, dealt with Vietnam’s nightmares and still emerged successful.  

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  • Avatar of Diogo22

    Diogo22

    [5]Jan 19, 2007
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    while I agree, Mash did it first, although not by name, but it was criticizing vietnam, specially in its later years, most of the silly comedy was fased out, and it was basically a stand for social comments about war and the loss of lives.
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  • Avatar of supperkat

    supperkat

    [6]Apr 12, 2007
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    Yes I loved the show just because it was set in Hawaii,I always love that state.And that car too.And Rick who name was Orville that made me laugh sometime,and TC great pilot in that show and did't make him loser black guy or the pimp or the brainless Negro on that show that why this show was so great. Higgins,and his ongoing war stories it's amazing how many stories this guy had,I said WOW how many wars this guy been in.And then there Mack.Magnum naval buddy.Mack is always taking risk for Magnum all the time and it's all good adventure.The stories on Magnum PI were funny and serious too and that's what I liked about this great show and great sexy women that came on this show.Thank God for the DVD I'm ready to buy another.  
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  • Avatar of Bjelkier

    Bjelkier

    [7]May 12, 2007
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    Why I loved Magnum, P.I., well besides Tom Selleck, was that the characters did not take themselves too seriously.   Higgens did for a while but he even settled down.  T.C. was the hardworking helicopter pilot suceptible to Magnum's schemes.  Rick was the bad boy - and what was really his relationship to Icepick?  And Magnum was not a rich guy deciding to be a private eye.  He was a poor slump that took care of the security and allowed to drive Robin's cars.  The friendship between the three guys - two Marines and a Naval officer, brought some of the best stories. The episodes were fun to watch.

     I did not start watching it until 1982, when we moved to Texas.  My husband's elderly aunt, Julia (she was 75 then), had me watch a show with her.  She absolutely loved this show.  She thought Tom was hot!  When it went into syndication, I caught up on the first couple years.  I am now collecting "Magnum" along with a few other shows that I really care about watching uncut - "Midsomer Murders", "Poirot" and "Moonlighting".  My mystery collection!

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  • Avatar of tycho32

    tycho32

    [8]May 15, 2007
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    I think this as with other great shows came down to a great cast.  Macgyver was about well Macgyver. A-team was good though some of the realism was lacking with bullets bouncing off chain link fence and cars flipping 15 times falling off a cliff into the water and the occupants swimming away.  Higgins, Rick, TC, and Magnum made a great group.  Throw in the Ferrari, Agatha, and various other recurring stars and this show was great.  I will admit as another poster stated that when I heard the theme song on the first disc it threw me off.
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  • Avatar of Marlon1116

    Marlon1116

    [9]May 26, 2007
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    I don't think that its the location,the cast that made the show. For instance Tomas Magnum was a PI in Hawaii and needed the help of war buddies to solve cases. Higgins ran the mansion (his base of operations), T.C. provided Air Transport and Rick was like the comic relief, and Mack was his information specialist. Together the solved real life crimes and had a kinship among them. The A Team, knight Rider and Macgyver were all to make believe. Also got the love the car.
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  • Avatar of jhroth7

    jhroth7

    [10]Jun 28, 2007
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    Magnum P.I. is one of life's guilty pleasures that we don't necessarily talk about, because we struggle to understand the fascination ourself. Of all the great TV shows to become enthralled with, why Magnum P.I.? By any objective measure, it's not one of the top shows of all time. You won't see it in the Top 50 of any credible "All Time TV Show" list (unless it's an '80s Only' list). The show has been dismissed as frivolous eye candy. A mere vehicle to unleash Tom Selleck's body on female viewers around the globe. The writing could be a bit sappy and pallid at times. Some of the stories were a bit gimmicky and over-the-top and the list of cheesy, hammy moments is quite long. Consistency was sometimes lacking. Some of the acting was less than stellar. And at times the suspension of disbelief was pushed a little too far. Some say it was nothng more than a watered-down version of the Rockford Files utilizing Hawaii 5-O's discarded props.

    All true, to a degree. A lot of the flaws can be attributed to the time period of the show. TV in the 1980s was vastly different from the TV of today. The quality of the writing, editing and acting was, generally, of a slightly lower standard. West Wing-type scripts just didn't exist then. Fast-paced CSI-type editing was non-existant. And lets not forget about the clothes and hair ****. Yes, Magnum P.I. was a product of the times, for better and for worse.

    Despite all of this, the show holds up incredibly well, even today. This is no small feat as most shows from the 80s are simply unwatchable today, if you ask me. The show obviously has something which sets it apart from other similiar shows. It's still in syndication, in dozens of countries. It has a large fan base. It's won numerous awards. The DVDs are selling well. So what is it? What makes Magnum P.I. so great (in my mind)? Let me count the ways:

    Action, Drama, Comedy, Mystery - The show was a near perfect blend of action, drama, comedy and mystery. The action was usually very well done, often near movie caliber with some fantastic stunts. The drama ranged from the absurd, to light fluff, to serious themes, to melodrama, to groundbreaking, relatively unexplored themes and everything in between, including fantasy elements. The comedy, at first unexpected, was often subtle, farcical and side-splittingly funny. And the mystery, while a relatively minor element of the show and would never be confused with coup de théâtre, could often be quite good. Most shows are lucky to get one of these elements right, to do all three consistantly well was almost unheard of. Often the show would incorporate all four elements in the same show! And for added good measure, the show also had a fun campiness side to it, which it would unleash in unexpected small doses.

    Legendary Ensemble Cast - Few shows have achieved a near perfect cast. Magnum P.I. did just that. Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Larry Manetti and Roger E. Mosley were the perfect choices for these roles. In the defining moments of their careers, Selleck and Hillerman in particular really shined in the show and they will forever be associated with the characters of Thomas Sullivan Magnum and Jonathan Quayle Higgins. Like few have done before, they truly owned these characters. Selleck effortlessly carried action, drama, comedy and mystery on his strong shoulders and carried it to heights rarely seen. He managed to create a flawed hero who was both adored by women and admired by men. He did it all and was loved by everybody. Hillerman took a seemingly one-dimensional character and created a complex, multi-layered, lovable yang to Magnum's ying. When these guys were on the screen it was pure cinematic gold. You simply couldn't take your eyes off them. In the end, they both won an Emmy and a Golden Globe which they richly deserved. Additionally, the show was also blessed with an outstanding recurring cast - Elisha Cook Jr., Gwen Verdon, Eugene Roche, Jeff MacKay, Gillian Dobb, Lance LeGault, Kathleen Lloyd, and others make for a great team. The show even had the legendary Orson Welles providing voice-overs!

    Magnum & Higgins - Simply put, these are two of the most interesting, fun to watch, characters ever seen on television! Both characters are richly complex with multiple layers of depth. Their dynamic, evolving relationship forms the heart and soul of the show. What fun it is to watch these two men from opposite worlds, with vastly different personalities and interests, interact with each other. The playful fighting, the subtle humor, the witty dialog, it's all so much fun! An endless source of comedy, many of the most memorable scenes from the show involve these two together. It's interesting to see their relationship grow from cautious skepticism to respectful admiration to full blown friends for life. Higgins is the father figure Magnum never really had and Magnum is the son Higgins never had.

    Positive Portrayal of Vietnam Vets - Magnum P.I. was more than a great TV show, it's a vindication of America's unsung Vietnam vets. Thomas Magnum and his close friends Rick and T.C. were the first Vietnam veterans to be featured in a prime-time drama on American television. The characters went against the stereotype of Vietnam vets as psychologically devastated, bitter, homeless, drug-addicted people who had a hard time readjusting to society. Instead, they were refreshingly presented in a positive light as laudable role models. At the same time, the show also accurately dealt with the state-of-mind and psychological scars that Vietnam vets bear with daily. The disillusionment. The indignation. Friends who never made it back. And yet, Magnum, T.C. and Rick all share the same key characteristic, one that would become a main theme of the show - An idealistic American spirit!

    ****c Episodes - Magnum managed to create some truly ****c episodes, the kind most shows never achieve once. Memories Are Forever (1) (2.5), Did You See the Sunrise? (1) (3.1), Home From the Sea (4.1), Paper War (7., Unfinished Business (8., to name a few. These are near perfect episodes that rank as some of the best in television, for any show, all-time! Sure, there are some real stinkers in the mix too, Murder 101 (5., Mixed Doubles (3.10) anyone(?), but thankfully the good ones far outweighted the bad ones.

    The Cumulative Narrative - The show moved beyond the simpler "who-done-it" plot lines of the traditional hardboiled detective series and focused on building complex characterizations through a cumulative text. Most episodes were "stand alone" and could be viewed without understanding previous plots, but previous events would continually pop up in dialog creating a rich, comprehensive layer to the show. Backstories were also an important element of the show, often developed slowly as the series unfolded and with excellent attention to detail. The Vietnam War backstories for Magnum, Rick and T.C. became an integral part of the show. One of the most interesting aspects of the show was watching Higgins' backstory develop through his frequent orations. The man lived quite a life!

    The Voice Over - Considered by some to be an unnecessary gimmick, the Magnum voice over is one of the more endearing traits of the show. Often satirical, sometimes enlightening, the voice over allowed us to peer into Magnum's psyche and understand his thought process and motivations. The device had been used before in a few other shows (very few), but none were quite as effective and endearing as with Magnum's.

    Great Denouements & Endings - A hallmark of the show. You very rarely saw a bad one. Many were often light and comical, usually taking place at Robin's Nest. Some were emotionally powerful and poignant. Some were shocking, even controversial. Some were just plain fun ("I Got Him"). The show made particular good use of the "final frame", where the last frame is paused just before the closing credits run. The show had many memorable "final frames", like Magnum's "Look Back", "Killing Ivan", "Roof Jump", and many others. Sometimes the denouement, ending, or "final frame" was so good, it elevated the overall opinion of the episode!

    The Hawaiian Setting & Robin's Nest - Oahu and Robin's Nest became like secondary characters in the show. Oahu, with its unique natural beauty, the beaches, the lush backdrops, the ever-present, crystal clear ocean, the diverse ethnic groups, even seedy downtown Honolulu, were all part of an intoxicating allure that was hard to resist. For most people, it was all so exotic and exciting! And let's not forget about Robin's Nest (aka The Eve Anderson Estate)! A sprawling, gorgeous, oceanside estate that, because it was used so often in the show, became somewhat iconic in its own right. Even the studio indoor sets were highly memorable. It's not hard to imagine the immense appeal this setting would have to someone watching from surburbia, or an urban city, or in the Heartland.

    The Value of Friendship - Unwavering, altruistic friendship and inspirational camaraderie is a theme sorely lacking in many TV shows, yet was a crucial element in Magnum P.I.. How many guys would kill to have friends like Magnum, Rick, T.C. or Higgins? They are fiercely loyal and always help when called upon. They have great personalities and are fun to be around (yes, even Higgins). They possess laudable morals and values (yes, even Rick). And they will put their own life on the line if one of their friends is in danger. For me, this was always one of the more compelling aspects of the show.

    Music, Sweet Music - Music was an important element to the show's success and was used very effectively in a variety of different formats. It had a great, great , iconic theme song, one of the best ever (and the original theme song was quite good as well!). The in-episode music was also really well done, certainly better than most shows. And then you had the effective use of modern popular music (usually Pop, Rock, Oldies, or R&B), some of which were the original songs by the original artists, most were stock covers versions. Everything from Ethel Waters to Sam Cooke to The Beatles to John Denver to Genesis could be heard on the show. A partial list of the songs used in the show can be found here. Many musical artists, from all genres, were also referenced in dialog on the show. T.C. was always breaking out in song (with a pretty good voice, too). And let's not forget about Magnum on the sax!

    Escapism, or Brawls, Fast Cars & Beautiful Women! - It's a "guy thing", I know. A lost art (in TV) if you ask me. You just don't see these types of things in a TV drama anymore. In a Magnum episode, you could count on at least one or two exciting, raucous, bloodless fist fights. And how about all of those great cars, especially the Ferrari! The red Ferrari 308 GTS has achieved iconic status. Watching that car zip around Oahu chasing bad guys will always be a big thrill for me. And the beautiful women ... Well, what's wrong with a little tastefully done eye candy, huh? In addition, the show gets more points in this category for throwing in fast choppers and good pyrotechnics to the mix!

    Unexpected Scenes, Episodes - The show was never really static or predictable. A few "normal" episodes in a row would be followed by an unconventional, comedic one with no villians, or a "fantasy" episode set in the 1930s. Sometimes the drama was pushed to rarely seen heights (for the time) - An intense domestic violence scene, Magnum murders someone, Magnum witnesses his girlfriend's suicide, a racy "shower scene", a denouement were someone is thrown from a lighthouse. Other times you could watch as Magnum disarms a bad guy with a barrage of lemons, or see him attacked by a KGB Macaw, or a whimsical scene involving cast regulars jumping off the top of a high waterfall! You just never knew what to expect in a Magnum P.I. episode. I love that!

    Breaking the Fourth Wall - One of the first TV shows to break the fourth wall and the first to do so without dialog. All it took was a look, or a smile, at the camera, but it was extremely effective. When Magnum looked at you, you felt as if you were one of his buddies, and that's a good feeling.

    Sentimental Connection (to the '80s) - Everyone has one or two TV shows from their youth that holds a special place in their heart. For some people, it's The Andy Griffith Show. For some, it's M*A*S*H. For me, it's Magnum P.I.. I spent my teenage years (10-18, actually) watching Magnum during its original run. Even then, it was far and away my favorite show. Everything about it clicked for me. Like The Brady Bunch in the '70s, Magnum in the '80s came to define the decade for me, both stylistically and emotionally . When I think of the 80s, I think of Magnum and all the fun times I had growing up. It's a warm bridge to all of those special memories, of a wonderful, unique time.

    Zeus & Apollo - The coolest dogs ever seen on TV! "Zeus, Apollo Patrol!"

    And perhaps most importantly, the show was just a lot of fun to watch! The characters were fun. The setting was fun. The plots were fun (usually). It's good, clean, smile-inducing fun that never grows old. You just don't see the "fun factor" maxed out on many shows, old or new, like you do on Magnum.
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  • Avatar of AUWarEagle

    AUWarEagle

    [11]Jun 29, 2007
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    Wow. That is a heckuva first post. Good job. All valid points.
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  • Avatar of jhroth7

    jhroth7

    [12]Jun 29, 2007
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    Thanks.
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  • Avatar of jhroth7

    jhroth7

    [13]Jun 29, 2007
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    How did you know it was my first post???
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  • Avatar of JohnnyPromoshot

    JohnnyPromoshot

    [14]Sep 16, 2007
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    Magnum is different because it was the first out of the three shows to air. Premiering in 1980, those who watch the first few episodes recognize a theme that shouts 70's. It quickly evolves into a show that moves away from slow moving 70's detective/drama theme into a new 80's detective/action genre that is replicated in the other two shows. It is a Larson/Belisarius production, whereas the others are either Cannell or Larson by himself.

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  • Avatar of jd1975

    jd1975

    [15]Sep 16, 2007
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    Some excellent points made by jhroth7, and a highly impressive writing style as well, I only wish I could do reviews like that! I wish to second all the positives that everybody has pointed out.
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  • Avatar of MrShotShot

    MrShotShot

    [16]Apr 1, 2008
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    I remember Magnum being one of the first shows that everyone could watch and enjoy - young kids, women, men, and older folks. Very few show could do that. My family loved Hill Street Blues, but very few of my peers (I was 11-12 at the time) watched it or their parents wouldn't let htem watch it. We, however, all loved the A-Team and shows like that when they came out, but my parents certainly didn't because they felt it was too silly.

    Magnum, however, seemed to please everyone.

    Also, as was said before, it was somewhat of a "lifestyle" show. Everyone saw something they wanted in Magnum.

    It was the perfect show. In fact, I remember tearing up when I watched the last episode.

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  • Avatar of vicbjones

    vicbjones

    [17]Sep 15, 2009
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    What distinguished Magnum for me was that it seemed equally comfortable in both the detective and international intrigue genres. Magnum might be following a missing persons case one week and dealing with a plot to assassinate a foreign dignitary the next. This was especially evident in the first season, where the extent of his interactions with the police almost never went beyond a patrolman; he dealt mostly with Naval Intelligence.
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