Magnum PI Reaction Paper

On September 2016, ABC announced they wanted to bring back the Iconic TV show Magnum P.I. It’s not surprising; originally produced by CBS between 1980 and 1988 it was a huge success and a major source of revenue for the chain.  According to the network, the plot would be centred on Magnum’s daughter. It is pretty common to bring back an old TV show which was famous at the time and create sequel series. We can take for example Beverly Hills 90210 or all the different generations of Degrassi. It’s a nice way to create a new show that will already have some viewers at the beginning. The major challenge is to maintain them and gain audience.

Almost forty years ago the first episode of Magnum PI was broadcasted; it was the beginning of 8 years of producing. We owe the show to Glan A. Larson and Donald P. Bellisario. When looking at the first episode “Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii” we can see directly that the plot is centred on characters which are Vietnam Veterans. It’s not surprising regarding the fact that Bellisario always liked to include veterans in his works.

The reasons of the success are probably linked to the cast and particularly Tom Selleck who attracted many female viewers due to its Sex Symbol status at the time. The lifestyle he has made people dream; he has a nice job of private investigator living in Hawaii. Even though he doesn’t own plenty of money, he has access to a villa in front of the ocean, the possibility to use his boss’ Ferrari at almost any time as if it was his. All of these privileges are the expression of the Trickle-down economics in force at that time. By cutting taxes, easing loans the top of the economic pyramid would became more prosperous and so it would trickle-down to the bottom and benefit all leading to an improvement of wealth. Aside from the goods and wealth, Magnum also has a group of friends on which he can rely; one has a helicopter, the other has access to classified information and both are eager to help him at any time.

From the very beginning of the episode, the subject of the Vietnam War is tackled. There are often flashbacks showing the war but especially the link between the soldiers. It appears that they learnt some values such as honour, loyalty and consider each other as family. This bond is symbolized by the ring they all have which is often shot in a close-up when a reference to their common history is made. On the ring we can distinguish the Cross of Lorraine that was used at different times of history but especially in France. When Germans were occupying the French territory of Lorraine the cross was used as a sign of rallying to France and then during WWII it was on the flag as a symbol of free France. Both significations are relevant in the Pilot of Magnum PI; the veterans are now free of their former duties, they all have different occupations but still the ring reminds them that they are all linked.

As previously said, in the show the Vietnam War appeared to have created values, and bonds between the veterans. At the time of the broadcasting the public opinion was negatively influenced by most of the Medias who depicted the war as useless. But here the producers managed to change slightly the image. Beside the historical references to the Vietnam War, there is also a wink to the explorer James Cook. Indeed he was a British explorer who discovered the island of Hawaii. During his second trip to Hawaii he was killed by a Hawaiian. In the pilot, the lieutenant Dan Cook is also killed by a Hawaiian man who is actually the only Hawaiian man in the cast. It depicts Hawaiian as savage people who need to be handled. It’s a typical American version regarding the fact that they colonized Hawaii and that by doing so they took away the territory from the locals bringing diseases to the population and their vision of how things should be.

Cécile Joly


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