Magnum, p.i.: “Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii: Parts 1 & 2”
Rich: The greatest mustache in television history and one of the best TV cars of all-time. I need to write 300 words about the series intro alone. Sorry.
The Opening Credits
Rich: No lead up, no warning. Just horns and a colorful helicopter diving towards the ocean. Title card: Magnum, p.i. The more you say it out loud, the crazier it is that this was the name of a popular TV show. MagnumPI. Magnumpi. A Ferrari. A wet shirtless man with a great mustache ramming a clip into a pistol and looking pissed. That same man walking through the jungle with a pistol raised (that same pistol?). Mustache guy wearing a U.S. Navy Lieutenant’s uniform. Dunking in a tank top. Kayaking in a tank top.
Katie: Magnum with some woman’s buns.
Rich: That’s Magnum — peeling away in the red Ferrari in a five-second, way-too-long shot. An older man conducting a living room orchestra. Doing karate. Firing a cannon. Holding a rubber chicken. Building a small wooden bridge.
The helicopter! So colorful! A mustachioed black guy with a tiny scarf tied around his neck as a photographer. He also plays softball and gets super sweaty doing so. And examines bullet casings. The FERRARI! A guy with insane feathered hair. Dive roll through a window, popping up wielding a machine gun. Underwater scuba fight. [Katie: Underwater. Scuba. Fight.] The helicopter comes roaring out of the jungle, almost hits the road, and swoops into the sky at the last time to chase a car. WAS THIS THE GREATEST HELICOPTER STUNT OF ALL TIME? WHY HAS NO ONE EVER REFERENCED THIS? It could have ended so poorly. Magnum surprising those two guys digging. Magnum slowly turning to look over his shoulder. Hawaiian shirt. Curly hair. Mustache. Double eyebrow raise. Cut to black.
Katie: Magnum is the coolest guy on the planet.
Katie: We open in Hawaii. Someone is swimming to shore and immediately we know we’re in for a treat, for that someone is Tom Selleck, and he’s in swim trunks. He emerges from the water, slightly breathless, chest heaving, and leans against a volcanic rock. He rubs his shoulder, winces. Selleck is so fit and strong and taut; there must be a story here. Sure enough, the camera zooms in tight —oh my god — to his muscular, hairy chest, and reveals an old wound. A bullet. Yes, there is a story here.
And we will get it, at least the important parts, over the course of the two-hour pilot premiere of Magnum, p.i.
Rich: Okay, but can we talk about chest hair for a second? I have chest hair. A handful of our 28 [Katie: That’s 22, Rich.] readers have chest hair. But none of us have Tom Selleck CHEST HAIR. That chest hair that seems to all grow the exact same way. It lies flat on the pectoralis major and the sternum and never crosses the well-proportioned nipple. It’s all one color. It isn’t too long or too short. There’s a zero percent chance it snags on undershirts or coral reefs. It’s more like lanugo than chest hair. It’s magnificent. How? How? How? Carry on.
Katie: In a voiceover, Magnum (his first name is Thomas, but only the ladies from his past seem to call him that) explains that he’s been hired as a security expert by the reclusive, incredibly wealthy author of crap romance novels, Robin Masters. In exchange for his skills, Magnum lives in Masters’ home — Robin’s Nest — where a disapproving Higgins, a British former military man and butler of sorts (or is he?), also resides with two dobermans, Zeus and Apollo, and a revolving cast of blonde stewardesses. Hijinks will ensue.
Rich: The interplay with Higgins are some of my favorite scenes, and it’s this relationship I recall most from watching the show as a kid. Their negotiation scene is great:
“Don’t ruin my whiskey with ice, I’m not a bloody American.”
“The first drink is always to the Regiment.”
Oh Higgie baby.
Katie: The episode’s plot revolves around an old military buddy of Magnum’s (did I mention that Magnum was a Navy SEAL?), who turns up dead under suspicious circumstances.
Rich: He died smuggling cocaine into the country in his stomach or was somehow set up and died with a bunch of cocaine in his stomach. Weirdest death plot ever.
Katie: It’s pretty confusing, but no matter. To solve the crime and clear his friend’s name, Magnum enlists the help of the two other dudes from the intro: TC, the wise-cracking helicopter pilot; and Rick, he of the feathered hair, who wears a white coat and tie and owns a bar called Rick’s Place, which is more Studio 54 rip-off than gin joint in Casablanca. We’re treated to numerous flashbacks from Magnum’s final days in Vietnam and immediately know that something is afoot when freaking ROBERT LOGGIA appears as his former commanding officer who is left behind and presumed dead after a firefight.
Rich: Is it just me, or was Loggia affecting some sort of French patois during his scenes? I was thoroughly confused. But we’ll never get to ask him. RIP, Trusseau. Side note: I went down the Robert Loggia IMDB hole and he guest starred in episodes of TWELVE different TV shows from 1979 to 1986, including Little House on the Prairie, Falcon Crest and Quincy ME. [Katie: He’s also in the weirdest-best commercial ever.]
Katie: Suffice it to say, Magnum and his band of brothers save the day and the reputation of his old friend, who gets the military funeral he deserves. He also earns the grudging respect of Higgins, and the heart of at least one lady. Because he’s Magnum Fucking p.i., that’s why.
Rich: Topless ladies. A tidal pool? Beer fridge. Lots of sports cars and muscle cars. It’s updated noir set in paradise and I’m pretty sure it would fall flat if not for Tom Selleck. Take the telephone scene as proof. It’s so silly, but I love it! Flipping between telephone and beer fridge and staring at the women in the tidal pool, then running for the binoculars, slamming his beer down to make it foam over, giggling like a big weirdo. It’s really charismatic and rough and I’m a little surprised they didn’t reshoot the scene. But it works. Did anyone deserve as much ass as Tom Selleck probably got in the 80s?
Katie: I wanted so badly to mock this show, but I can’t because it’s just ridiculously cool. I mean, that theme song. Come. On.
Rich: The music sounded familiar because it was the same group that worked on The A-Team. The show’s creator went on to make Airwolf, Quantum Leap, JAG and NCIS. I’d say he did okay for himself.
Google also told me that Tom Selleck lost the role of Indiana Jones to Harrison Ford because of the Magnum, p.i. shooting schedule. Would Ford have been as big without Indy? Would Selleck have been bigger?
Let’s play this game. Selleck has time to shoot Raiders of the Lost Ark between seasons of Magnum and becomes a huge TV and movie star. Ford still books Blade Runner and the Star Wars movies (for reference, Raiders was 1981 and Jedi was in 1983) but no Temple of Doom (1984) and no Last Crusade (1989). Selleck gets those. With his movie popularity on the rise, Magnum doesn’t last eight seasons (1980–88) but let’s still give Selleck the role in Three Men and a Baby (I secretly love this movie) and assume Ford still shoots his serious streak of films like Mosquito Coast, Frantic, Presumed Innocent and Regarding Henry. But the action phase he takes on in the 90s? Nuh-uh. Selleck time. Selleck shoots Quiggly Down Under and the Three Men sequel in 1990, but gets to upgrade to the Jack Ryan movies instead of doing straight-up garbage until 2010 (Blue Bloods). Sure, he took a few guest star turns on TV (most notably Friends — callback!) but Selleck should have had a much more successful career. Roguish, mustachioed lady killer who you knew had a heart of gold. Maybe he doesn’t do Air Force One, but he couldn’t have been in Saving Private Ryan (1998) or What Women Want (2000) or The Room (2003). [Katie: Really, Rich?] That was a joke. But you get the gist. How was this guy not a bigger deal?
Katie: I have little to add to that. It makes me sad that he isn’t a bigger star. However, I can’t see him as Indy. Harrison Ford was Indiana Jones, because Indiana Jones was Harrison Ford. Not to mention that, at 6–4, Selleck is too tall to be an archaeologist. In your heart you know I’m right. And who would they have found to play his father? Certainly not Connery. This is a parallel universe in which I’m not prepared to live. Then again, there’s no way they would have paired Selleck with that horrible Karen Allen.
Rich: Magnum is the role Selleck was built for. Nothing nearly as cool before and nothing nearly as cool after. Magnum trapped in amber. With a mustache.
* Any and all scenes of Tom Selleck without a mustache never happened