Magnum PI Reaction

Donald P. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson’s American crime/drama series Magnum, P.I. lasted for about eight years being broadcasted on CBS in the 1980’s. It featured Thomas Magnum, played by Tom Selleck, is a private investigator residing in the guest room of Robin Masters’ luxurious beachfront estate in Hawaii, on the island of Oahu, thanks to his expertise in security and specialty in solving cases. His wit and intelligence always seems to get both himself and Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, played by John Hillerman, out of trouble, resulting in Higgins always owing him. These I.O.U.’s often allow Magnum to do more of the things he wants to do, which tends to upset Higgins. Unfortunately, the two have polar opposite personalities; Magnum is more easy going while Higgins, being an ex-British Army Sergeant Major, is very stern. This can often lead to issues because Higgins is the patrol officer of the estate, meaning they are forced to put up with each other.

A common theme throughout the show is the association with the military. Magnum being a former Navy Seal, depends on his former marine companions, T.C. and Rick, to help him solve various cases. T.C. is his connection to helicopter rides while Rick allows him to use the facilities and keep an unpaid tab going at the club he owns. Having formerly held those positions allows them access to information that, to the average Joe, would be considered confidential, and their new jobs are sort of a gateway, allowing them to continue doing the activities they did during the war.

There are also constant references to the Vietnam War which Magnum fought in. Every so often, when he is in a situation similar to one he was in during the war, he has a flashback to that memory. These flashbacks both help and hurt him because he remembers friends he lost but sometimes he also remembers things, such as ideas or just knowledge, that he gained, which ultimately helps him figure out a missing link in a case.

I thought it was funny how Magnum was narrating a majority of the show and on several occasions he would say “don’t ask me how, I just knew it,” as he broke the fourth wall. When I realized he was breaking the fourth wall I was very surprised because that is a rare thing to do, especially back in the 1980’s when the show aired. It is a known rule to filmmakers that you do not usually break the fourth wall if you want your audience to be engaged in the actual story and when shows do it, it can be either a hit or miss. In this show it was a unique quality that made it work because it made the show more comical.

As funny and factual as this show was, I would not say that it was entirely realistic. For example the locations and driving scenes did not seem to match up too well, but I feel that that is a common trend for television shows that are based in Hawaii, such as Hawaii 5-0, which they did make a reference to. I also like how there are references to Hawaiian history, like when they flew over the island of Kaho’olawe and Magnum briefly mentioned that the ship sitting along the coast was the one that guards the island to ensure that there are no trespassers trying to sneak on. They were small things to be mentioned but they were appreciated because having knowledge about Hawaiian history adds credibility and makes it seem more convincing that the main character is living in Hawaii.


2 thoughts on “Magnum PI Reaction

  1. Hey Jenna,

    I loved your post. I agree with you and think that the the factuality of this show was pretty off. However, I sort of want to defend the pilot because it was originally suppose to be filmed in Los Angeles. So I can understand why this show would not grasp Hawaii and it’s culture much in the pilot. However, over the years of it’s production I would expect the show to incorporation more Hawaiian themes. Although, I still do very much agree with you on the fact that Hawaii in Magnum P.I. and Hawaii 5-0 do not portray the island and true life of Hawaii accurately, and that has to do a lot with the targeted demographic of the series. The shows are purely for entertainment, wanting the images to look cool, not solely educate. Great post!



  2. My favorite part of the whole pilot was how much he used the “don’t look, you looked” thing. It was like a mini pep-talk mixed with a scolding.
    When he broke the fourth wall I was also pretty surprised, because before Deadpool, I’ve only known Charlie Chaplin to do that. Even though it was only in narration, it was still epic.


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