Saturday, September 3, 2016

Magnum, P.I.

Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, a private investigator, played by Tom Selleck, resides in the guest house of a posh, 200-acre (81 ha) beachfront estate, known as Robin's Nest, in Hawaii, at the invitation of its owner, Robin Masters, the celebrated-but-never-seen author of several dozen lurid novels. Ostensibly this is quid pro quo for Magnum's services based upon Magnum's expertise in security; the pilot and several early episodes suggest Magnum also did Masters a favor of some kind, possibly when Masters hired him for a case. The voice of Robin Masters, heard only a few times per season, was provided by Orson Welles (one last "appearance" was provided by a different actor, Reid Crandell).

With Magnum living a luxurious life on the estate and operating as a P.I. on cases that suit him, the only thorn in the side of this near-perfect lifestyle on the estate is Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, played by John Hillerman, an ex-British Army Sergeant Major, a (on the surface) stern, "by-the-book" ex-soldier, whose strict ways usually conflict with Magnum's much more easy-going methods. He patrols Robin's Nest with his two highly trained "lads", Doberman Pinschers, Zeus and Apollo. Often as a humorous aside during various episodes of the series, Magnum must bargain with Higgins for use of estate amenities other than the guest house and the Ferrari 308 GTS (e.g., tennis courts, wine cellar, expensive cameras).

The relationship between Magnum and Higgins was initially cool but as the series progressed, an unspoken respect and fondness of sorts grew between the pair, and as such, many episodes dedicated more screen time to this "odd couple" pairing after the relationship proved popular with fans. A recurrent theme throughout the last two seasons (starting in the episode "Paper War") involves Magnum's sneaking suspicion that Higgins is actually Robin Masters since he opens Robin's mail, calls Robin's Ferrari "his car", etc. This suspicion is never proved or disproved.

Aside from Higgins, Magnum's two other main companions on the islands are Theodore "T.C." Calvin (Roger E. Mosley), who runs a local helicopter charter service called Island Hoppers, and so often finds himself persuaded by Magnum to fly him during various cases, and Orville Wilbur Richard "Rick" Wright (Larry Manetti), who refuses to use his birth name Orville and who owns a local bar. In the pilot episode, this was "Rick's Place" in town, inspired by Casablanca, with Rick appearing in suitable 1930s attire. However, after completion of the pilot, executives on the series felt that audiences would be unable to fully connect with this element, and instead Rick moved to running the plush beachside King Kamehameha Club, which has exclusive membership and Higgins on the board of directors, and yet Magnum often strolls around, using the facilities and running up an ever unpaid tab, further fueling the Magnum/Higgins feud. T.C. and Rick are both former Marines from VMO-2 with whom Magnum, who was a former Navy SEAL, served in the Vietnam War. The series was one of the first to deal with Vietnam veterans as "human beings" and not as shell-shocked killers, and was praised by many ex-servicemen groups for doing so. Magnum often dupes, tricks or bribes T.C. and Rick into aiding him in various ways on the cases on which he works, much to their frustration, though the deep friendship between the group, including Higgins, proved to be one of the key elements of the series over its eight-season run.

Magnum lives a dream lifestyle: He comes and goes as he pleases, works only when he wants to, has the almost unlimited use of a Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole as well as many other of Robin Masters’ luxuries. He keeps a mini-fridge with a seemingly endless supply of beer ("Old Dusseldorf in a long neck"), wears his father's treasured Rolex GMT Master wristwatch, is surrounded by countless beautiful women (who are often victims of crime, his clients, or connected in various other ways to the cases he solves). Other characteristics specific to Magnum are his thick mustache, a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, a rubber chicken, and a variety of colorful Aloha shirts. Nearly every episode is narrated, in voice-over, by Magnum at various points; and Magnum and Higgins often break the fourth wall by locking eyes with or, occasionally, directly addressing the audience; other characters also do this, although far less frequently.

At the end of the seventh season, Magnum was to be killed off, which was intended to end the series. The final episode of the season, "Limbo", after seeing Magnum wander around as a ghost for nearly the entire run-time, closes with him appearing to walk off into heaven. However, following outcry from fans, who demanded a more satisfactory conclusion, an eighth, final season was produced to bring Magnum "back to life" and to round off the series.

The show also recognized the existence of the fictional elite state police unit that appeared in the series Hawaii Five-O. In the pilot episode, Magnum references the unit's chief McGarrett by name. This was a tribute to the long-running show starring Jack Lord, that ran on CBS from the fall of 1968 through to the summer of 1980, to be replaced, in essence, in the fall of 1980 by Magnum, P.I.. The successor series to Hawaii Five-O paid tribute to Magnum, P.I. in the 2013 episode "Hoa Pili," when the cast flew over the island in a helicopter to the sound of the Magnum, P.I. theme.




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