A Disquisition on Magnum P.I., Season 3

1982-1983. Starring: Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley, and Larry Manetti. English. TV.
A Disquisition on Magnum P.I., Season 3

Magnum. Magnum, Magnum, Magnum, Magnum. Saying that name, (and for you, gentle reader, seeing it) just makes me feel better.

If I ever got pregnant, I would name my son Magnum. Or Powers, after Orson Welles’ illegitimate son, Powers Boothe. A boy like Magnum, or Powers, would make a suitably apposite playmate to my future daughter, Margot Kidder. Why, you inquire, gentle reader, why would you wager the future mental stability of your son for whatever ironic pleasure you’d derive from naming your offspring after America’s favorite primetime P.I.?

Because I owe Magnum something. Magnum, P.I. has given me pleasure I never thought possible from a dramatic television series. Starting with the thrilling opening credits accompanied by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter’s heart-pumping theme music and ending with the whimsical freeze frames synopsizing the highlights of this week's episode, I am guaranteed roughly 46 minutes of genuine entertainment.

My three criteria for a good episode of Magnum, P.I.:

1) He wears shorts. 2) He gets wet. 3) He wears tight jeans.

Gentle reader, a combination of the aforementioned elements occurs in every episode, often in brazen totality. Does this obsession with an iconic mustachioed 80s sex bomb, he of the arched eyebrow, pelt-like chest hair, and meretricious blossoming Hawaiian shirts, make me feel sleazy or abnormal? No.

Magnum, P.I., has a lot going for it, even outside of the eponymous sex God that I might one day do it with. The show has multiple reoccurring semi-vaudevillian gags that only become more amusing with repetition. Magnum is always trying to raid the wine cellar of Robin Masters, the ever-absent mystery novel writing owner of the estate where Magnum is employed as resident security expert. While Masters is away Jonathan Higgins, a stereotypically uptight-queen-loving-tea-drinking-East-Asian-antique-collecting Brit, keeps an eye on Masters’ affairs, with the aid of his two pet Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo, also referred to as “the Lads.” Zeus and Apollo didn’t seem too care much for Magnum in the first season, but I think he’s winning them over. Higgins also has his own catchphrase, usually apostrophized when Magnum or the Lads have gotten themselves into some kind of mischief. I believe that a lot of what’s wrong with television today has to do with the lack of catchphrases. This bizarre retrograde trend could eventually lead to the demise of the medium as a whole. Magnum also has two buddies from his days in ‘Nam, Rick and T.C. One of the wittiest conceits of the show is that Rick is played by a spunky 10-year-old girl.

Because Magnum, P.I. is set in Honolulu, not too far from Pearl Harbor, the show frequently treats issues pertaining to Asian-American relations. I’ve learned many things about East Asians and their naturalized American counterparts thanks to Magnum. For instance, their women are beautiful and enigmatic, but some of them are not so trustworthy. Also, all of the men have knowledge of martial arts. And in addition, you can count on most of their elderly people to be full of aphoristic wisdom, some of which seems to have no relevance to what’s going on, but later turns out to be super prescient. Or sometimes it is just completely random.

My favorite episodes this season were “Ki’is Don’t Lie” guest-starring Morgan Fairchild as an imposter who steals a cursed indigenous Hawaiian sacred object that until it is restored to its rightful owner confers fatal mishaps to all who come in contact with it, and “Birdman of Budapest” guest-starring Sylvia Sidney as a geriatric Eastern Bloc spy with a killer parrot.

If by this point you aren’t grabbing your keys to head over to Amoeba to pick up your own copy of season three of Magnum, P.I., you need to see a doctor.

Posted by:
Gillian Horvat
Aug 27, 2008 3:59pm
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