Film, TV, and Popular Culture

I know what you’re thinking…

…and you’re right – Magnum P.I. is a classic. I started watching the reboot which made me nostalgic for the original so I ended up re-watching it and forgot all about the reboot! What’s not to love? Tom Selleck is Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV, the lovable P.I. who sponges off his friends, Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright and Theodore “T.C.” Calvin. He also regularly clashes with “Higgy Baby” Jonathan Quayle Higgins III and his two dogs, Zeus and Apollo, and their on-off friendship is an enjoyable theme throughout the show.

Set in Hawaii, Magnum is a security consultant for Robin Masters, a successful author, and lives in the guest house of Robin’s “nest”, his Hawaiin estate which Higgins is in charge of in his absence, though much later in the show, Magnum theorises that Higgins is actually Robin Masters. Magnum, a former Navy S.E.A.L., works as a freelance Private Investigator and even Higgins grudgingly admits that Magnum is fairly competent at what he does. In most episodes, we are treated to a voiceover by Magnum, which quite often starts with ‘I know what you’re thinking…’, and follows with some of his inner thoughts. Magnum will also occasionally look at the camera and give some kind of reaction in a breaking of the fourth wall moment. There are not a lot of shows that do this and it works well here.

What makes Magnum such a great character is that he has many dimensions. He’s not just a hero-type character though he does have his heroic moments. He’s sometimes a big kid who likes to have fun and play around but he also battles demons, a lot of which are from his Navy days. He does fairly well on a superficial level with the ladies, but he also has a caring, deeper side to him. He’ll go to any length to help his friends when they’re in trouble, including Higgins, but he also won’t think twice about tricking them into helping him or wriggling out of paying his friends back the money he owes them. He gets grumpy when he’s just climbed into bed after an all-nighter and Higgins chooses that moment to make a lot of noise. He gets sad when something terrible happens or he is reminded of terrible events from his past but he also has many a laugh at Higgins’ expense. He has his flaws, he has his strengths, and his character develops as the show progresses. He is very relatable.

Higgins is quite often exasperated by Magnum’s childish behaviour but we also see their friendship grow and we sometimes see some touching moments between them before they’re back to loggerheads. Higgins is an English gentleman who served in World War II, is very reserved, and takes life far more seriously than Magnum. He is, however, part of a larger family with several illegitimate siblings, and John Hillerman gets to demonstrate his acting prowess by playing several of them. Probably the funniest thing about Higgins is his catchphrase, ‘Oh my God!’, something he regularly says, usually because Magnum has done something wrong.

We do also get to learn more about Rick and T.C. who get their own storylines and aren’t just there to help Magnum who they both bonded with from their days fighting in Vietnam. There are also other recurring characters, and the episodes across the show can range from a light-hearted one to something serious and dark, to something of a more spiritual nature. Most of the episodes are standalone but it is worth watching everything in order from series 1, episode 1. Given that there are around 20 episodes in each series (barring series 8 with just 13 episodes), it is well worth the effort as it will keep you entertained for a long time.

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