Magnum, P.I. is an American television show starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a fictional private investigator living in Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 in first-run broadcast on the American CBS television network.
According to the Nielsen Ratings, Magnum, P.I. consistently ranked in the top twenty U.S. television programs during the first five years that the series was originally telecast in the United States. Originally appearing in a prime time American network timeslot of 8 p.m. Eastern, Magnum, P.I. was one of the highest-rated shows on U.S. television. The Cosby Show on rival network NBC beat Magnum, P.I. in the ratings on a regular basis starting in 1984.
Thomas Sullivan Magnum lives and resides in the 'guest house' of a posh, 200-acre 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 claimed expertise in security; the pilot suggests Magnum also did Masters a favor of some kind.
In addition, Robin’s Nest is guarded by two highly-trained Doberman Pinschers, Zeus and Apollo, and all other aspects of the estate are managed by Englishman Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (played by John Hillerman), an ex-British Army Sergeant Major with whom, often as a humorous aside during various episodes of the series, Magnum must barter for use of estate amenities other than the guest house and the Ferrari (i.e., tennis courts, wine cellar, expensive cameras, etc.). During early seasons of Magnum, P.I., the voice of Robin Masters, heard only a few times per season, was voiced by Orson Welles.
A recurrent theme throughout the series involves Magnum's suspicion that Higgins is actually Robin Masters. This possibility is never fully substantiated or refuted--Higgins' dual identity remains an open question until the final episode. That he may, in fact, be the elusive pulp-fiction writer Robin Masters is a pet theory of Magnum's, and one that the other characters (and many fans) do not embrace.
Magnum seemingly 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 as well as many other of Robin Masters’ luxuries. He keeps a mini-fridge with a seemingly endless supply of fictional Coops beer, is seemingly surrounded by countless beautiful women (who are often his clients or victims in the cases he solves), and enjoys adventures with his buddies Rick and T.C., both former U.S. Marines he served with in the Vietnam War.
Interestingly, Magnum and Higgins often break the fourth wall by "locking eyes" with the audience; other characters do this, though less frequently.
- Tom Selleck as Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV: Magnum character's back-story includes a previous career as a former U.S. Navy SEAL. He's a 1967 graduate of the United States Naval Academy and Vietnam veteran. Magnum's specialized training includes acquiring appropriate expertise as a counter-insurgency expert, and also demonstrating additional expertise in lock picking and safe-cracking. Magnum played the field position of quarterback for the United States Naval Academy football team. The Magnum character is depicted to have resigned his commission in the U.S. Navy in disillusionment after approximately eleven years of service, including three tours of service during the U.S. military involvement in the Vietnam War. Magnum takes his Private Investigator job quite seriously and does not appreciate abbreviations for his profession such as P.I. and private eye — whenever referred to in such a manner he corrects the person and remarks that he is a "private investigator." It is also not clear what his age or place of birth is. In the season-two episode "Try To Remember," Magnum reports his date of birth (to an examining doctor) as August 8, 1944, his place of birth as Virginia, and his mother's name as Martha. These answers seem to satisfy the doctor (who, of course, has access to Magnum's medical records), though Magnum had sustained an injury to the head following a car accident. In the scene, his head is bandaged, and he has difficulty remembering the accident. The date of birth conflicts with inferences from at least two other episodes. Tom Selleck's mother's name is, in fact, Martha.
- Roger E. Mosley as Theodore "T.C." Calvin: a helicopter pilot who operates a tourist charter business called Island Hoppers, wherein he pilots a Hughes 500D helicopter, decked out with distinctive livery. A former Marine Corps helicopter pilot in Vietnam, T.C.'s combat-trained flight skills are often solicited and put to good use by Magnum during the course of an investigation. T.C. is also powerfully built, a trait which Magnum often benefits from when he expects to, and often does, run into physical trouble. With the exception of some early season 1 episodes, T.C. avoids alcohol, instead preferring milk, soda, or juice, but mostly coffee.
- Larry Manetti as Orville Wilbur Richard “Rick” Wright: a suave playboy who is manager of the King Kamehameha Club, an exclusive beachfront members-only club. In the pilot, Rick owned Rick’s Cafe Americaine (a.k.a. "The Snow Palace"). Rick also maintains a number of underworld contacts (one of whom is Francis “Icepick” Hofstetler, played by Elisha Cook Jr., a loan shark, gang boss, and Rick’s stepfather), and is an expert in weaponry—he was T.C.’s door gunner during the war in Vietnam.
- John Hillerman as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III:
- Lt. Yoshi Tanaka — Homicide-division police lieutenant with the Honolulu police department (played by Kwan Hi Lim), characterized by his casual dress and ironic sense of humor. Seasons 2–8
- Agatha Chumley — Higgins' quintessentially English friend (played by Gillian Dobb). Seasons 3-8
- Colonel “Buck” Greene — Marine Corps intelligence officer (played by Lance LeGault), often Magnum's nemesis. Seasons 2–8
- Carol Baldwin — assistant district attorney (played in all but the first appearance by Kathleen Lloyd). Seasons 3–8
- Lieutenant “Mac” MacReynolds — doughnut-munching Navy Intelligence lieutenant (played by Jeff MacKay), killed off in the series, and later brought back as a look-alike character (see below). Seasons 1–3 and 7–8
- Jim Bonig — con man (played by Jeff MacKay) who was MacReynolds’ look-alike. In at least two episodes ("Mac's Back" and "Infinity and Jelly Doughnuts") MacKay appeared in both roles. Seasons 5–8.
- Francis “Icepick” Hofstetler — see above (played by Elisha Cook, Jr who had a number of other roles in the series as well)
- Doc Ibold — very minor character (played by Glenn Cannon) who nevertheless appeared in many episodes whenever a physician was needed in the script. First referred to as "Script Writer #1", he was known for writing prescriptions for opiates for any and all ailments. Seasons 2–8
- Michelle Hue — Magnum’s (Presumed former wife- to the viewers' acknowledgment, no divorce/annulment papers were ever signed, even though she returned to her presumed-dead first husband when he resurfaced) (played by Marta DuBois), presumed dead but reappearing as the wife of a North Vietnamese general and the mother of Magnum’s child, and often seen in flashbacks. Seasons 2–8
- Lieutenant (later Lieutenant Commander) Maggie Poole — successor of the deceased MacReynolds (played by Jean Bruce Scott). Seasons 3–8
- Luther H. Gillis — mock-film noir private eye from St. Louis (played by Eugene Roche), and narrator of the five episodes in which he appeared. Seasons 4–8
- Moki - bartender of the King Kamehameha Club in Season 1. He was later replaced with Keoki. Seasons 1-?
- Keoki - bartender / server of the King Kamehameha Club starting in Season 2. Seasons 2-4
Former Five-O cast members Kam Fong and Herman Wedemeyer have guest-starred on Magnum P.I.
Selleck's contract commitment to the Magnum, P.I.
series famously cost him the role of Indiana Jones
in the first Indiana Jones
film, Raiders of the Lost Ark
, which went to Harrison Ford
. Selleck was unable to take the part of Indy as Magnum
was due to start filming in March 1980. However, due to a writer's strike, the start of production on Magnum
was delayed until December 1980, which would have allowed Selleck to play Indy. In Magnum, P.I.
's final season, the producers gave a nod to his sacrifice with the episode “Legend of the Lost Art”, which parodied the film.
List of episodes
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
has released all eight seasons of Magnum P.I.
on DVD in Region 1 and Region 2.
* Includes the crossover Season 2 episode from Simon & Simon titled " Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend".
** Includes the crossover Season 3 episode from Murder She Wrote titled "Magnum On Ice".
*** Includes the bonus Season 5 episode from The Rockford Files titled "White on White and Nearly Perfect" featuring Tom Selleck.
Selleck won an Emmy
in 1984 for his portrayal of the title character; three years later costar John Hillerman
also won an Emmy.
In 1981, series creators and writers Glen A. Larson
and Donald P. Bellisario
received an Edgar Award
from the Mystery Writers of America
for Best Episode in a TV Series.
In popular culture
- In the series finale episode of "Will & Grace", the recurring character Beverly Leslie (portrayed by Leslie Jordan) refers to putting on an episode of Magnum PI to "get in the mood!"
- The Family Guy episode "Stuck Together Torn Apart" mocked Magnum, P.I., with Magnum repeatedly referring to Higgins as "Tattoo". When Higgins tries timidly to correct him repeatedly, he steps out of the Ferrari, slaps him to the ground, and asks his name. Higgins, even more timidly, says "Tattoo". This is a clear reference to the Fantasy Island character portrayed by the late Hervé Villechaize.
- In episode #149 (7.22) "Limbo," the song that plays off and on during the entire episode and as Magnum walks off is "Looking for Space" by John Denver. This episode, where Magnum was to be shot dead by mobsters, was to be the CBS series finale on 15 April 1987. When the show's fans heard this, there was a huge public outcry and the "shot dead" plotline was nixed by the producers. Magnum was indeed shot by mobsters in this episode, though he survived and returned for an unprecedented 8th season on CBS, filming 12 more episodes.
- In an episode of The Simpsons, Carl gives Homer a DVD player and the first season of Magnum, P.I. as a Christmas gift.
- The video Hard to Explain by The Strokes, begins with a scene from Magnum P.I., where the Red Ferrari is accelerating from the dirt.
- In an episode of NCIS (again a product of Donald Bellisario), Magnum P.I. is referred by Tony DiNozzo, after finding some "Magnum's style" Hawaiian shirts. Magnum P.I. is also referred to in Frame-Up, when DiNozzo is being interrogated, he says he wanted to watch Magnum.
- One of the teaser movies for the game World in Conflict is a parody of Magnum P.I.'s opening
- Larry Manetti and Roger E. Mosley both appear in an episode of Las Vegas alongside Tom Selleck, playing characters named "Larry" and "Roger", respectively. Their characters are essentially older, multi-millionaire versions of their Magnum characters ("Larry" is a wealthy nightclub owner and "Roger" owns fleets of helicopters).
In January 2006, it was announced a feature film
is again in the planning stages (after several false starts most recently in 2005) and Rawson Marshall Thurber
(whose filmmaking credits notably include Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
) would write and direct the screenplay.
In January 2007, it was reported Matthew McConaughey would play Magnum, with Steve Zahn as Rick, Tyrese Gibson as T.C., and William H. Macy as Higgins.
IMDBpro.com has said that on January 172007, the script is finished and the film will be released in 2009.
- Australia: 1980-1988 Channel 10 2007- Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday TV1.
- Austria: ORF1
- Bangladesh: BTV (Bangladesh Television) From mid 1985 to 1990
- Brazil: Globo, TNT, Rede 21, Sony, TCM
- Canada: First run was on CTV; currently in syndication on DejaView
- Catalonia: First run was on TV3; currently on Barcelona Televisió (BTV).
- Croatia: RTL
- Colombia: Cadena Uno, (now Canal 1), Sony
- Estonia: TV3
- Finland: MTV3. Magnum, as it was known in Finland, was first heavily edited and then cancelled as "too violent" during its first season. It has never been broadcast after that in any of the main Finnish TV-channels.
- France: Antenne 2 (now France 2)
- Germany: ARD, RTL, Super RTL, DAS VIERTE
- Hungary: [Viasat 3]
- Ireland: RTÉ One
- Israel: Channel 1
- Italy: Canale 5, Italia 1, Rete 4
- Lithuania: TV3 Lithuania
- The Netherlands: Veronica, SBS6, Net 5, 13th Street(UPC Digital TV)
- Mexico: Televisa Canal 5
- New Zealand: (first run, 1980): TV2, (reruns, 1990s and onwards): TV3
- Norway: (first run, 1980s): NRK, (reruns, 1990s and onwards): TVNORGE
- Pakistan: NTM
- Poland: Telewizja Polska Program 2
- Russia: STS (Russian: СТС)
- Slovenia: POP TV
- South Africa: SABC
- Spain: (Galicia:) TVG
- Sweden: (First run, 1980s): SVT (reruns 2005 and onwards): Kanal 5
- Turkey: TRT 2, Star TV
- United Kingdom: ITV Regional (1981 - early 1990s), Five (formerly Channel 5) (2002-2003), Men & Motors (2006- )
- United States (first run): CBS
- United States (Syndication): Retro Television Network Weeknights 10:00 PM ET
- United States (Syndication): Weekdays on Sleuth at 11:00am ET (previous day's episode at 10:00am ET)
- New Zealand: Weekdays TV 2 7pm (early 1980s to early 90's)