Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Happy Birthday Tom Selleck!!! Celebrate with Magnum P.I.

If there is one thing I’ve learned about this world, it is that happiness is found in the little things. Little things can be anything, an extra tasty cup of coffee, a soft kitty at your feet, Magnum P.I. streaming on Netflix. In fact, I can not think of three other things that make me happier. Life is good, right?

Since it’s Tom Selleck’s birthday and since Magnum P.I. is the best show that ever aired on TV, and since it's streaming on Netflix, I thought I’d celebrate the day by making a list of episodes that I think all fans should rewatch and all maybe-fans should give a shot. Narrowing down each season to two episodes was extremely difficult, and also a lot of fun. For a fan like myself, even just scrolling through the titles brought a smile to my face. I went with a lot of personal choices, although I tried to pepper in a few fan favorites as well. If you venture over to Netflix to watch these, I do hope you enjoy them. Also, feel free to let me know what your favorite Magnum episodes are in the comments section.

Is there a better way to warm up on a cold winter’s day than taking a short tour of Hawaii?

Happy Birthday Tom! It kind of goes without saying, but just in case you wanted to hear it again, I love you!

Season One: Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii, Part One and Two

While any long lasting series will go through changes, Magnum was a surprisingly consistent show for most of its eight-season run. Don’t Eat the Snow was the pilot and although it’s not my absolute favorite, it does set up Magnum very nicely. It also features the gorgeous Pamela Susan Shoop as a women seeking answers in her brother’s death. There’s lot of action and intrigue, and beginnings of a nice romance, which seems to happen a lot to our dear Magnum.

Of note: The team ring that Mangum, Rick (Larry Manetti) and T.C. (Roger Mosley) wear throughout the series is first seen in the pilot. The ring symbolizes the profound relationship between the buddies who met while fighting in the Vietnam War. The conflict and the effects it had on the soldiers who came home is dealt with in many episodes, sometimes overtly and sometimes in a more subtle fashion. The ring really captures a bond made during the darkest of circumstances.

Runner up: Adelaide

This is more of a personal favorite. I love a lot of episodes from season one but I think Christine Belford’s portrayal of the shy and naïve Adelaide and the relationship she forms with Magnum makes this one of the sweetest episodes in the series. Adelaide hires Magnum to take care of Norman, who turns out to be a horse! This one always makes me smile.

Season Two: Mad Buck Gibson

Picking a favorite from season two was difficult, but Darren McGavin’s portrayal of the maddening Gibson, and the bittersweet ending, make this episode must see TV. Buck Gibson owes his ex some hefty alimony, and she hires Magnum to track him down. However, it turns out Buck has a secret that has kept him at arm's length. McGavin shines in this episode. I love Mad Buck Gibson mostly for the performances and the final scene. Check it out.

Of note: Before Gillian Dobb became Agatha Chumley, Higgins’ (Jonathan Hillerman) sometimes confidante, she appeared in this episode as Nola Barnes.

 Runner up: The Elmo Ziller Story

If you are going to get into the mythos of Magnum, this is a good place to start. For one, it introduces one of Higgins’ half-brothers (spoiler: he has a lot of half-brothers!). In this story, Ziller hires Magnum to prove that his wife is trying to kill him. Higgins plays both brothers, so it becomes increasingly difficult for Magnum to believe Ziller is a real person. As a fan of Hillerman, this episode is a real treat!

Season Three: Did You See the Sun Rise, Part One and Two

Not only is this episode a huge fan favorite, but I have a personal attachment to it as well. My father was also a Magnum fan and when it went into syndication, we watched it together every afternoon. As the years passed, my father forgot a lot of the storylines, but if I brought up the show he’d always say, “Do you remember the one where Magnum… (SPOILER)…?” And this would always be the episode we’d talk about. I think many others fans have a deep attachment to this magnificent two part episode because of the emotional roller coaster ride it puts the audience through. There are a couple of twists, but it is the unforgettable last scene that continues to haunt us.

Runner up: Of Sound Mind

After the intensity of Did You See the Sun Rise, you’ll want to relax a little with the humorous Of Sound Mind. This episode is definitely in my top five Mangum episodes. After an eccentric millionaire played by Donnelly Rhodes dies in a plane crash, he leaves his fortune to Magnum, much to the chagrin of the millionaire’s family! Now someone is after Magnum… or are they? Donnelly Rhodes is fantastic as the nasty rich guy and he’s aided by great performances from Roscoe Lee Browne, Elaine Joyce and Magnum’s suit of armor. Don’t ask, just watch!

Season Four: Home From the Sea

Season four opened with one of the most memorable episodes of the series. After his surf ski capsizes Magnum has an Open Water moment while he reflects on losing his father in the Korean War. This episode sets up the depth of Magnum’s loss, as he spends every 4th of July on his own to commemorate the day his dad died, a recurring theme. Most of the episode relies on Selleck’s ability to draw us into a crazy but static scene, as he bobs up and down in the ocean. This premise will be replayed in season seven’s Solo Flight, and while I like that episode, it doesn’t have the same emotional depth as Home From the Sea.

Runner up: Distant Relative

This is another personal pick. Rick’s sister comes to visit and winds up dead a short time later. Distant Relative is one of those episodes that starts out light and fun and then gets very dark, very fast. I make no bones that I adore Larry Manetti and his portrayal of Rick, and this is my favorite of the Rick-centric episodes. He runs around with big guns and looks cute doing it. There, I said it. Plus, this episode has a totally awesome cameo by Carol Channing.

Of note: Distant Relative introduces Kathleen Lloyd as Carol. The role was originated by Patty McCormack, but Lloyd plays her through the rest of the series.

Season Five: Mac’s Back

If you’ve seen Did You See The Sun Rise, than you have a good hold on Mac, and what became of him. This episode reintroduces the character, but with a twist. For me, Mac’s Back is a turning point in the series. This episode dives into an otherworldly and emotional tone that I feel is carried throughout the rest of Magnum’s run. Also, Jeff MacKay was just the best. We miss you Jeff.


Runner up: Ms. Jones and A Pretty Good Dancing Chicken

OK, I could not choose just one other episode because I adore season five to no end. That said, I went with two personal favorites. Ms. Jones is a recurring character on the series, and her maddeningly by-the-book (and hilarious) personality gets the spotlight when she hires Magnum to find her missing boyfriend. Margie Impert is simply adorable as Ms. Jones, and this is a fun episode.

My second pick, A Pretty Good Dancing Chicken, is an episode that never fails to move me. Carol asks Magnum to locate her missing 17 year old cousin, only to find how dangerously mixed up she’s become with a seriously bad guy who is serving time in a work farm. Magnum goes undercover at the farm and gets the ugly truth about Carol’s cousin. This is not a fan favorite and I think I may be this episode’s biggest champion. There is just something about it that gets to me every time. It’s worth a look.

Season Six: Way of the Stalking Horse

By the time Magnum got to season six the landscape of television had been changed by Miami Vice, and the series made a few hyper-stylized episodes that felt MV inspired. Stalking Horse is dark, man. It starts simply enough, with Magnum looking for a young man’s long lost father, but it turns deadly when the meek man turns out to be a hitman who kills the man Magnum located. Bent on revenge, Magnum hits Oahu’s skid row, teaming up with a runaway during his search. I love this episode. It’s thick with atmosphere and as serious as a heart attack.

Of note: Marta Kober plays the runaway, and I know her best from Friday the 13th Part 2 and the women in prison exploitation flick Vendetta. She’s adorable. Also Clu Gulager makes an appearance, and that alone makes Stalking Horse worth seeing.

Runner up: Going Home

Magnum returns to his childhood home after his grandfather dies. Faced with a stepfather he doesn’t like and a mystery, Magnum learns the act of letting go. This is just a fabulous episode. It’s a small story with a huge emotional impact.

Season Seven: Death and Taxes and Laura

OK, so I’ve got a few recommendations for this season. I simply could not narrow it down to only two. We’ll start with Laura, which is most noted for featuring Frank Sinatra in an incredible role as a hard boiled cop avenging the death of his granddaughter. Sinatra prowls around Hawaii, pushing people’s heads through glass and generally kicking ass, but at the heart of the episode is the loss of the little girl’s life. It never fully leaves the viewers mind, and the final scene featuring a tearful Frank crying over his granddaughter’s grave is probably one of the most moving moments in the show's history. A favorite.

Death and Taxes is incredible. I’m not sure I have another word for it. Someone is killing prostitutes and sending Magnum cryptic clues. This sends him on a wild goose chase as he stalks the gritty streets of Honolulu! Like Stalking Horse, this episode is uncompromising in its dark depiction of city street life. And, it is balanced delicately with the recurring theme of Magnum’s father’s death. It also puts a little focus on the lovelorn Maggie Poole (Jean Bruce Scott), who has an obvious crush on Magnum, and one that is never returned. I feel your pain Maggie!

Runner up: I’ll just list these out:
L.A. Part One and Two
The Little Girl Who

Of note: Limbo was intended to be the final Magnum P.I. and it ends with his death. Incredibly well done, it brings me to tears every time. I’m so glad they continued the show for another half season, because I’m not sure I could go on in a world without Magnum!

Season Eight: Unfinished Business

If you see Limbo, you should probably watched Infinity and Jelly Donuts next (link below) because it brings our dear Magnum back to life. However, of all the episodes from this season, Unfinished Business is the one to sit down with (I recommend watching The Little Girl Who before this one). Again, we are dealing with the theme of letting go, and Magnum has some hard decisions to make after he receives a shocking videotape from one of his enemies. This is gut-wrenching episode and, along with Did You See the Sun Rise, defines Magnum as not just a character, but as a very real and relatable man. Just thinking about this episode makes me sniffle, so I’ll stop here.

Runner up: Again, I could not narrow it down to two episodes. Check out:
Infinity and Jelly Donuts
A Tigers Fan
Resolutions, Part One and Two (this is the series finale episode. I recommend watching Forty first)

Since I’m the most indecisive person on the planet, I’m sure in a day or so, I’ll wish I had picked some episodes over others. But as it stands now, these are my must see episodes of the series. And as a bonus, check out Novel Connection and Magnum on Ice (in that order) to get the Magnum/Murder, She Wrote crossover! Remember what I said earlier? Little things make life good!

And if you haven't gotten your fill of Magnum, please stop by the incredible fansite Magnum Mania for lots of great trivia, stills and whatnot. Enjoy! 

Have a great birthday Tom! 

Check out my other Tom Selleck birthday posts here, here and here


Craig Edwards said...

I have this on my Netflix queue - I certainly caught a few episodes when the show was first run - but I'm really wanting to delve in and watch it start to finish. Love Tom Selleck, love the supporting cast, love Hawaii, love the great guest stars - ergo I will love this show!

Amanda By Night said...

haha! I know, there is so much to love. I just started picking random episodes and re-watching them. This show has a wonderful shelf-life. It never ceases to entertain or move me. TV at its best!

Enjoy your re-watching journey!