Magnum PI: Season One
One of the perennial staples of television is the private detective series, a show that pits the lone private eye against criminals. One of the best of this genre is Magnum, P.I. Tom Selleck plays the ex-Navy SEAL, Thomas Sullivan Magnum, now the head of security for the Robin Masters estate. While gig provides Magnum with the ability to work the job he really wants, a private investigator. Along for the ride are two of Magnumís war time buddies, helicopter pilot TC (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick (Larry Manetti), manager for a well know local club. The major domo of the Masterís estate is one Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman) and man that seemingly is devoted to being annoyed at Magnum. The setting for this action series is the beautiful islands of Hawaii, after all if you were producing a television series would you choose a bitter cold state?
There are a lot of factors that lead to the popularity of this series, the rugged good looks of the lead man of course, but there are also the personal interactions of the characters that made them into real, believable people. Higgins sees Magnum as a freeloader, living in the guest house rent free in exchange for almost non-existent job requirements. TC and Rick constantly have to stop their own work to help Magnum or get him out of the weekly jams he finds himself. Still, there is a realistic set of friendships here. While in the first season not too much is overtly stated about the war the three veterans survived together the effect was to form an indestructible bond between the men. There is also the juxtaposition between the straight laced and proper Higgins and the more bohemian Magnum, typically the source of comic relief in each episode.
The style of the series gives more than a healthy nod to the old film noir flicks. The voice over by Magnum serve to provide much of the exposition leaving the actual flow of the plot free to provide the action and drama the audience wants. True, at times the show is somewhat formula but the overall fun buys this show a pass in almost every instance. Usually its Magnum takes what seems like a simple PI job, he is pulled into far more dire circumstances and has to use his wits and his friends to extract himself and save the day. There is nothing heavy here just pure entertainment.
Between the exotic scenery provided by Hawaii and the natural chemistry of the cast this series remains almost as fresh today as it did when first aired. While some younger viewers may not fully understand the many references to Viet Nam or the actual emotional toll veterans of this war endured the series still provides true entertainment value. There is a mixture of drama, action and comedy that sets this show far above most television private eye shows. The series has a way to hook the audience and dram them in. There is an undercurrent of a soap opera that drives the multi-episode story lines that keeps you wanting more after the conclusion of every installment.
The casting of this series is somewhat of a Hollywood legend. Tom Selleck was the original choice for the lead role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark. He turned it down to start on Magnum and Harrison Ford was hired to replace him. Ironically, a union strike postponed the production of Magnum so Selleck could have taken the Indy role. Thankfully everything worked out just right. Selleck was perfect as Thomas Magnum. It seems that women of every age demographic find this actor a Ďhunkí, my wife, mother in law and daughter can attest to this fact. It even seems that these women find something sexy about the almost out of place high pitched laugh this rugged man has. Selleck also has appeal for the men in the audience. He looks and acts like one of the boys, someone you would like to take in a game and have a beer afterwards. John Hillerman wears the role of the anal retentive Higgins like a comfortable suite. His regular look of distain towards Magnum is now classic. He is the man that dressed for dinner in a paradise like Hawaii. As side kicks go you couldnít do better than Roger E. Mosley and Larry Manetti. Not only do they mix it up with their friend but also provide some great comic moments.
There is something easy going about the production of this series. Most viewers find it addictive in its simplicity and natural in its stories. Although set in an island paradise and populated by beautiful people this show permits everyone to emotionally connect with the cast. Itís almost hard to believe that this series is now 24 years old. I find myself enjoying this DVD presentation as much as I did the first time around.
Once again Universal does it right. They are now leading the pack of studios releasing season television sets to DVD. The technical specifications pretty much set the bar of others to match. The video is the original full screen and although a few flecks and specks are there it is far better than most of the cut to pieces rerun we catch now and again. Iíd rather put up with a few age spots on the screen that how some studio over remaster the video inducing more annoying artifacts. The audio is a fairly dynamic two channel Dolby mono. The dialogue is always clear and understandable.
Universal also continues to give extra value when you purchase this first season set. While many studios have the tendency to avoid cross over episodes with other series (Profiler and The Pretender come to mind here), one of the extras is the cross over between season three of Magnum with the season two opener for Simon and Simon. There is also the two episode story featuring a very young and almost unknown Sharon Stone. Like other recent Universal series sets Iíve reviewed lately Magum shows that Universal respects the audience and most importantly the fans of the show. If you are interested in many hours of fun and entertainment, check this set out.