Magnum, P.I. was a television show about Vietnam War veterans, friendship and how awesome moustaches are.
In 1980 television writers Donald P. Belisario and Glen A. Larson learned that "Hawaii Five-O" was coming to an end, but CBS didn't want to shut down their Hawaiian production office. This gave Belisario and Larson an idea. They took their TV pilot script about a former Navy Lieutenant, now private investigator, who lived in California and by replacing the word "California" with "Hawaii" thereby almost forced CBS to pick it up. Magnum, P.I. is often considered to be one of the finest sleuth shows ever, and one of the few shows never to jump the notorious shark.
Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV:
Thomas Magnum is the main character of the show and, as aforementioned; he is a private investigator on Hawaii or more closely at Oahu. Despite being quite laid back Magnum takes his job very seriously and hates expressions like; P.I. and private eye. Magnum is also a veteran of the Vietnam War where he served three periods, but unlike fellow veteran John Rambo he never snaps a kills every Asian looking person within a 3 mile radius.
It was during the war that he met his two best friends and frequent partners Rick and T.C. who often help Magnum with his cases. Several times other characters note that Magnum bears a resemblance to Burt Reynolds, most notably when he visits L.A. and Magnum is mistaken for Burt Reynolds by a security guard. Magnum lives in, and runs his business from, the guest house on Robin Masters estate where he also is in charge of security. His trademark cherry red Ferrari 308 GTS also belongs to Robin Masters, but Magnum has full time access to it as part of his job.
Magnum lives an exciting yet dangerous life, but the show also features some of the not-so-exciting sides of being a private investigator (see: The 5 Most Overrated Jobs Of All-Time) like when Magnum has to work a missing cat case to make ends meet. He used to have a half-brother named Joey Peterson who was the son his mother Katherine and her new husband Frank Peterson. Joey got killed in the Vietnam War and was about 8 or 9 years younger than Thomas. Magnum narrates almost every episode, and is the only character to appear in every episode of the series. In the series finale he rejoins the Navy inorder to become a full-time father for his daughter Lily.
Magnum is played by hunk Tom Selleck who with his hairy chest and one of the greatest moustaches in television history is a prime example of what a real man is supposed to be (See: Nostalgic T-Shirts of Tomorrow). Tom Selleck had just landed the role as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark when Magnum, P.I. got picked up by CBS and he had turn the role of everyone's favorite archaeologist. Selleck got 5 Emmy nominations and 7 Golden Globe nominations for his role as Magnum, and picked up one of each. For more about Tom Selleck at Cracked read Tom Berenger's memories from 1982 in Musings & Reflections with Tom Berenger.
Jonathan Quayle Higgins III:
Higgins is the Majordomo at Robin Masters' estate, Robin's Nest, a job he started doing in 1972. Prior to working as Majordomo Higgins had a military career that stretched over nearly 30 years and is so impressive that it would make even Audie Murphy cry himself to sleep (see: 5 Real Life Soldiers Who Make Rambo Look Like a Pussy). He loves to tell stories from his army days and is constantly writing on his memoirs. Although he respects Magnum as a professional, he loathes all of Magnum's shenanigans and usually outbreaks "Oh, my, God!" when he discovers the results of them.
Higgins is a British Lord and holds the title the Baron of Perth, his father is the Duke of Perth. Refusing to give up his Lordship once cost Higgins a marriage. There are 11 "Higgins-centric" episodes in the series, most notable of these are "Holmes Is Where the Heart Is" which takes place prior to Higgins meeting Magnum. Higgins appear in all, but one episode of the series. After the series finale Higgins continued to work at Robins Nest while working on his memoirs.
Despite being one of the best know and most beloved British characters to appear on an American TV show Higgins is played Texan John Hillerman. Hillerman perfected his British accent by listening to Laurence Olivier. Hillerman got 4 Emmy nominations and 5 Golden Globe nominations for his role as Higgins. He too received one of each.
Theodor "T.C" Calvin:
T.C. is a helicopter pilot who runs his own tourist sightseeing business called Island Hoppers. T.C. met Magnum during the Vietnam War where they served three periods together. It was during the Vietnam War that T.C. learned how to fly and his combat-trained flight skills often comes to use during Magnum's cases. T.C. has two children with his ex-wife Tina, a daughter named Melody and a son named Bryant, his son comes to live with him during season 8.
T.C. is the regular with the fewest appearances and is missing in three episodes. There are 8 "T.C.-centric" of the series, most notable of these are "Under World" because T.C. actually has very little screen time, yet the entire episode is about him. In the series final it looks like T.C. is hooking up with his ex-wife again, but we will never know if he stays at Hawaii or moves to L.A. with her.
T.C. is played by Roger E. Mosley a character actor that mostly do television, but who also has appeared in movies like the cult classic "The Mack". Mosley directed one episode of "Magnum, P.I." and wrote another episode.
Orville Wilbur "Rick" Wright:
"Rick" is the daily manager of the King Kamehameha Club, a beachfront club for members only where Higgins is board member, and where Magnum often meets clients or just hangs out. "Rick" hates his real name and in early episodes Magnum uses it as leverage to get "Rick" to do favours for him. Later in the series T.C. almost exclusively calls him Orville, but the Wilbur part is only mentioned twice, when he gets arrested and when he gets married. His nickname is borrowed from "Casablanca" and in the pilot episode "Rick" runs a night club called Rick's Cafe American where he even has a DJ named Sam. This version of "Rick", which only appears in the pilot and various flashbacks set prior to the show, is commonly referred to as "Bogie-Rick".
"Rick" met Magnum and T.C. when he replaced "Cookie", who died in Doc Wei, as their door gunner during the Vietnam War. "Rick" is also the weapons expert of the bunch and has a collection of illegal weapons that he has picked up over the years. He was raised by former mobster "Icepick" after his parents died. He also had a sister named Wendy, but she subsequently murdered. "Rick" appears inn all but one episode, and he is the first character to receive his own "centric" episode and there are a total of 7 "Rick-centric" episodes. In the series finale "Rick" is getting married to retired prostitute Cleo, but when the preacher asks the question he goes "Eh..eh..." before the screen freeze frames and the show ends.
Orville is played by Larry Manetti who prior to "Magnum, P.I" had recurring roles on both "Baa Baa Black Sheep" and "Battlestar Galactica", in later days he has played in movies like Body Chemistry 4 and Subliminal Seduction. For more on Manetti check out his homepage which can be found in the "Magnum, P.I. On The Web" section below.
Zeus & Apollo:
These two are the last line of defense at Robin's Nest. Higgins' trusty guard dogs are more commonly referred to as "the lads". They have been thought to loath Magnum and attack him at any given chance, but they are usually out smarted.
Agatha is Higgins English spinster friend. Although it is in the cards that she wants to be more than just friends, and in an episode she actually misinterprets Higgins and believes he proposes to her, she says yes. Agatha makes her first appearance during the season 3 episode "Black on White" although actress Gillian Dobb, who plays Agatha, had already appeared three times on the show as three different characters. Gillian Dobb was a local resident who had no training when it came to acting, and she never acted outside of "Magnum, P.I". Agatha appears in a total of 29 episodes and has her last appearance in the series final "Resolutions". Despite being the recurring character with the most appearances there is no such thing as an "Agatha-centric" episode, but she did receive an unusual large amount of screen time in "Let the Punishment Fit the Crime" from season 4.
Fan favourite Luther H. Gillis is a mock film-noir private investigator from St. Louis whose cases sometimes brings him to Hawaii. Luther always refers to Magnum as "the big guy" and Higgins as "the butler", the butler remarks is often followed by much laughter, from Luther, and Luther only. Luther makes his first appearance in the season 4 episode "Luther Gillis: File #521" and his last in the season 8 episode "Transitions". His first three appearances is what you would call "Luther-centric" episodes where Luther gets as much, if not more screen time than Magnum and where Luther himself narrates episode instead of Magnum. Luther also once wrote a book entitled "So You Want To Be A Private Eye". Luther Gillis is played to perfection by character actor Eugene Roche.
Lt. Yoshi Tanaka:
Lt. Tanaka works homicide at the Honolulu police department, and with his informal style of dress and ironic sense of humor he is easily one of the most lovable recurring characters on the show. Tanaka and Magnum easily become friends true their common interest: The Detroit Tigers. Lt. Tanaka makes his first appearance in the season 2 episode "Try to Remember" and has 27 appearances in all, making him the second most frequent recurring character, until his death in the season 8 episode "Tigers Fan". Kwan Hi Lim who played Tanaka is in real life an attorney and never had any training during his acting career. Before he started playing Tanaka he played various bad guys on "Hawaii Five-O".
Carol is the Honolulu Assistant District Attorney and she is one of the few characters that manage to take advantage of Magnum and not the other way around, as it often is with Magnum. Carol has a total of 21 appearances, starting with the season 3 episode "Foiled Again" which is the only time she is played by Patty McCormack (to the right), in all other episodes she will be played by Kathleen Lloyd (to the left). Before starting her role as Carol, Kathleen Lloyd appeared in the season 3 episode "Almost Home". 7 of Carols 21 appearances are in what you would call "Carol-centric" episodes where the main plot revolves around Carol.
Doc Ibold is a minor character that appears every time a doctor is needed. Doc Ibold is played by UH Theater professor Glenn Cannon who also had a recurring role on "Hawaii Five-O" and he first appeared in the excellent season 2 episode "Try to Remember" which also served as the debut of another recurring character, non other than Lt. Tanaka. Before he started his role as Doc Ibold Glenn Cannon starred in the season 1 episode "Never Again ... Never Again".
Francis "Icepick" Hofstetler:
Icepick was a big shot in organized crime in his younger days, most likely in Chicago. He took care of Rick and his sister, Wendy, after their parents died, and Rick sees him as sort of a surrogate father. Although he in his later years he has gone straight he still has some connections to the underworld which Magnum uses to get information sometimes. Icepick first make an appearance in the season episode "Past Tense" and is then portrayed by Walter Chotzen (to the right). In his other 11 appearances Icepick will be played by screen legend Elisha Cook Jr. (to the left) who played in classics like The Maltese Falcon. Cook Jr. also appeared in season 1 in an unrelated role in the episode "Ghost Writer". Icepick, as many other recurring characters, make his final appearance during the series final "Resolutions".
Col. "Buck" Greene:
"Buck" is a Naval Intelligence officer who served with Magnum in 'Nam and despite being one of the good guys he often comes of looking like the villain because of his conflicts of interest with Magnum. He is in other words Magnum's nemesis. Greene first appeared in the classic season 2 episode "Memories are Forever and is amongst those recurring characters that have their final appearance in the series final "Resolutions". Greene often has his name misspelled as Green in the opening credits. "Buck" is played by Lance LeGault who is best remembered for his similar yet more villainous role as Col. Roderick Decker on "The A-Team". LeGault played a different character in the season 1 episode "Missing in Action".
Lt. "Mac" MacReynolds:
"Mac" is a Naval Intelligence lieutenant. He is the complete reverse of "Buck" Greene and Magnum often gets information out of him by taking advantage of his Achilles' heel: doughnuts. "Mac" first appears in the season 1 episode "Missing in Action" making him the first recurring character to be introduced into the series. Despite his death in season 3's "Did You See the Sunrise?" he makes his last appearance in season 8's "Pleasure Principle". "Mac" is played by Robert Redford's cousin Jeff MacKay who also appeared in the pilot episode "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii".
To the untrained eye Jim Bonnick might seem like "Mac" with a moustache. To a trained eye however, it will still just be "Mac" with a moustache. We like to think that producers had fever and that the only cure was more moustache! Other than the looks "Mac" and Bonnick has very little in common. Bonnick is a slick conman who always gets Magnum into trouble. Bonnick first appear in the season 5 episode "Mac's Back" and also he rounds of with season 8's "Resolutions". Bonnick is of course also played by Jeff MacKay.
Lt. Cmdr. Maggie Poole:
Maggie is MacReynolds successor as a Naval Intelligence lieutenant (later lieutenant commander). Magnum also uses her to get information from time to time, but with Maggie no "bribes" are needed as she clearly has a thing for Magnum. Magnum on the other side knows separate business and pleasure. Maggie first appears in "Did You See the Sunrise?" part 2 and also she had her last appearances in the series final episode "Resolutions". Maggie is played by Jean Bruce Scott who was a regular on "Airwolf". "Airwolf" regular Ernest Borgnine guest starred on an episode of Magnum, P.I.
Michelle is Magnum's ex-wife and his one true love. They got married during the Vietnam War, but when Michelle learned that her first husband, a Vietnamese general, was still alive she arranged for it to look as if she died during the bombings of Saigon. Both Michelle and her husband are Anti-Communist spies mothered by Colonel "Buck" Greene. She first appears in season 2's "Memories are Forever" and has a total of four appearances, all of which can be found on the notable episodes list below. Michelle and Magnum has a daughter named Lily-Catherine together. Every episode featuring Michelle, except "Unfinished Business, is "Michelle-centric" since Magnum would do anything to help Michelle. Despite being portrayed as Eurasian Michelle is played by Panamanian actress Marta DuBois.
Robin Masters is a world famous playboy and pulp novelist, or is he? Magnum has theory of his own, he thinks Robin Masters and Higgins are one and the same. He thinks Higgins just created Robin Masters so no one would know that he wrote pulp novels. Robin Masters was originally going to be revealed in an episode and Orson Welles was to play him, but when Welles ate himself to death the "Higgins is Robin" theory was introduced. Welles actually voiced Robin Masters in two episodes. Magnum even mentions in his theory that Higgins hired a man with the body of Truman Capote and the voice of Orson Welles in his theory. Robin first appears in "J. Digger Doyle", or "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii" (both season 1) depending on which theory you use. Robin has published many novels like: Echoes of Ecstasy, Die, and Die Again, Serpent's Whisper, Transitions, Pfeiffer Paradoxes, Tales of Voyeur, Blood of the August Kitten.
#11 Infinity and Jelly Doughnuts (Season 8, Episode 1)
After being shot in the season 7 final "Limbo" Magnum has been in a coma, floating between life and death. He finally comes out of it only to discover that one of the men that tried to have him killed is still alive and wants to see the job done. Gwen Verdon got an Emmy Award nomination for her portrayal of Katherine Peterson, Magnum's mom, in this episode.
#10 Little Girl Who (Season 7, Episode 7)
A five year old story line (see: Memories are Forever (below) is picked up again when Magnum's ex-wife Michelle and her husband becomes the targets of Vietnamese assassins she leaves her daughter with Magnum. Eventually Magnum starts considering the possibility that he might be the little girl's father. When Magnum receives news that Michelle's husband has been killed he must locate Michelle before the assassins do. This episode marks the return of Magnum's ex-wife and life long love Michelle after five seasons.
#9 Limbo (Season 7, Episode 22)
Magnum is shot and goes into a coma. While in mentioned coma he has an out-of-body experience which he uses to help his ex-wife Michelle who is targeted by the same men that tried to kill Magnum. This was originally planed to be final episode of Magnum, P.I. and it was to end with the death of Magnum. Instead another season was made and we got a happier, but not nearly as great ending.
#8 The Way of The Stalking Horse (Season 6, Episode 17)
At first this episode appears to be a rare tearjerker episode when Magnum is hired to help a man find his father that he hasn't seen since he was three, but everything is turned upside-down when it's revealed that the son is actually an assassin out to make a name for himself. During the hit Magnum receives a near fatal gunshot wound, but despite his injuries becomes hell-bent on getting revenge for the dead man's widowed wife and son, and for himself. One of the darkest and most suspenseful episodes of Magnum, P.I.
#7 Laura (Season 7, Episode 18)
If there ever was a Magnum, P.I. episode to make you cry, manly tears with moustaches, it's this one. Frank Sinatra turns in a great performance in what might be the darkest, grittiest and most depressing episode of the series. Sinatra plays a retired New York cop looking to find the men that murdered his granddaughter. The Genesis song Tonight, Tonight, Tonight is featured as part of the soundtrack. This marks the second appearance of a Genesis song in the soundtrack. See: Death and Taxes, and Unfinished Business (both below).
#6 Death and Taxes (Season 7, Episode 6)
While "Laura" easily is the most depressing episode this would be its closest competitor for grittiest episode. The show tries on a more Miami Vice-ish plot when Magnum starts getting phone calls with cryptic nursery rhymes from a crazed serial killer that knows some unnerving things about Magnum. The Genesis song Mama is featured as part of the soundtrack. This marks the first apperance of a Genesis song in the soundtrack. See: Laura (above) and Unfinished Business (below).
#5 Home From the Sea (Season 4, Episode 1)
Magnum is as usual celebrating the 4th of July in solitary at sea, but when his surf ski is capsized in the wake of a recklessly driven speedboat it sets adrift. Magnum must rely on his childhood memories of his father teaching him to trade water while his friends look for him. This is a rare Magnum, P.I. episode as it does not contain any bad guys or villains. It is reported to be star Tom Selleck's favourite episode.
#4 Paper War (Season 7, Episode 8)
Magnum and Higgins start a practical joke war against each other including "jokes" like Magnum blowing up Higgins' River Kwai Bridge model and Higgins decapitating Magnum's beloved rubber chicken. However it takes a turn for the more serious when the two are captured in an elevator in a building that is set to be demolished. This is the episode where Magnum introduces his theory that Higgins and Robin Masters is one and the same.
#3 Memories Are Forever (Season 2, Episode 5 & 6)
While working a routine case Magnum believes he spotted Michelle, the woman he married in Vietnam during the war. The only problem is that Michelle was killed during a bombing raid, or at least he think she was. Magnum becomes obsessed with finding out who this woman is, but in doing so he must step on uncomfortable political territory. This episode does not only mark the obvious first appearance of Magnum's ex-wife Michelle, but also of Col. "Buck" Greene.
#2 Unfinished Business (Season 8, Episode 8)
When Quang Ki who tried to kill Magnum and Michelle in "Limbo" suddenly and unexpectedly is acquitted he is looking to finish his business before being exchanged to Vietnam. Magnum soon receives a video-tape containing terrible information about the fate of his former wife and young daughter. He decides to kill Quang Ki, but upon learning about the stakes he must decide if it really is worth it or if it's better left unfinished. The Genesis song The Brazilian is featured as part of the soundtrack. This marks the final appearance of a Genesis song in the soundtrack. See: Laura, and Death and Taxes (both above).
#1 Did You See the Sunrise? (Season 3, Episode 1 & 2)
An old navy buddy of Magnum and especially T.C comes to warn them that the brutal Colonel Ivan who held them captive during the Vietnam War is out to get them once again. At first they don't take the warning seriously, but soon they find them selves in a race against the clock to find there would-be-killer before he finds them in this episode where nothing and nobody is what it seems. Notable not only for being great, but also for Ivan's repeated use of the "N-Word" aimed at T.C. It also has the most shocking and unexpected ending in the series.
Simon & Simon crossover:
Those of you that had trouble with insomnia during the 80s may remember Simon & Simon as that show about two brothers that aired after Magnum, P.I. Well CBS executives decided that they should try to force people to watch it by making a crossover episode between Simon & Simon and Magnum, P.I. At the end of the season 3 Magnum episode "Ki'i's Don't Lie" a woman who is suspected of murder runs of to South America where Simon & Simon continues the chase. Only Magnum and Higgins make appearances.
Murder She Wrote crossover:
If you have never heard of Murder She Wrote just ask your mom or grandma, depending on your age, or just continue to read, depending on your ability to read. Murder She Wrote was a show about a retired English teacher who wrote novels and stumbled upon murders. In fact she just happened to stumbled across more than 260 murders, at this point maybe the police should considered the idea that she is the killer herself. Why Magnum chose to team up with this potential serial killer is a mystery neither of them could figure out. In the season 7 episode "Novel Connection" Magnum gets arrested for murder and Jessica Fletcher has to clear him. This time it's not only Higgins and Magnum that appear, Lt. Tanaka also makes an appearance.
The Higgins siblings:
Higgins' dad appeared twice on the show, once played by John Hillerman and once played by a very young Anthony LaPaglia. Well anyways he was sort of sluty and slept around a lot during WWI. Since rubber-johnnies weren't to popular back then his slutyness resulted in unknown amount half-siblings for Higgybaby.
Just for the record; Higgins also has a twin brother that was lost at birth, and a sister living in Sussex who has four children, which Higgins describes as monstrous.
Albert Stanley was a military escort for a group of nuns on a missionary mission Mongolia during the late 1920s. When the nuns where kidnapped by a group of Mongolian bandits, lead by a beautiful woman, ol' Stan had to do some missionary of his own. This resulted in Higgins half-sister Soo Ling who is never makes an appearance on the show. She thereby joins Elizabeth Whitefeather and Catooba Noomba in the club of Higgins siblings not to be portrayed by John Hillerman. In fact none of them ever appeared on the show.
As mentioned; it was during World War I and ol' Stan got bad case of the flu. He had to be pulled from the trenches to a field hospital where Elmo's mother, a Red Cross nurse from Texas, got spellbound by his charming Britishness. Long story short; flu shots didn't stand for all the penetration that day.
Elmo makes his only appearance in the fittingly titled episode "The Elmo Ziller Story". He only appears for a few minutes before he is shot and left for dead in an exploding car. Although Elmo seemingly appears the whole episode it's later revealed that it was just Higgins with a false moustache as part of a scheme to reveal that it was Elmo's wife that tried to have him murdered. He and Higgins met only once in life, on June 6th, 1944 at Gold Beach!
Father Paddy McGuinness
This time it was just after the very same war and ol' Stan was sent to Ireland to help quell the rebels when he, while leading a group to deliver milk at an orphanage, was ambushed by the IRA. He got wounded, but still managed to fight of the rebels long enough for the rest of his group to escape before he hid in a snowbank. The following morning he was found, near frozen to death, by a young widow who did the only thing she could to get him warm.
Father Paddy is, as you might have guessed, a priest and he is also the illegitimate Higgins siblings to make the most appearances with two. He first appears in the season 3 final "Faith and Begorrah" when he comes to the island to look for a relic that was stolen from his monastery. He reappears in the second part of the season 5 two-parter "Echoes of the Mind" when Higgins is about to get unwillingly married and desperately needs a way out of it. After meeting Paddy the bride-to-be calls of the wedding.
Don Louis Mongueo
Sometime during the 1920s' revolutionaries stormed the royal castle and killed the royal family of Costa De Rosa. Except the King's daughter, who survived and escaped with the help of non other than our man Stanley. She then probably asked him how she could ever thank him and knowing ol' Stan's MO you can probably imagine his answer.
Don Louis appears in the season six episode "Who is Don Luis Higgins, and Why is He Doing These Terrible Things to Me?" which is the episode with the longest title of the entire series. Don Luis is then of course heir to the throne of Costa De Rosa, but since the revolution mentioned revolutionaries participated in Costa De Rosa has had a president. He arrives on the island at the same time as the President of Costa De Rosa, who is an old friend of Higgins. When a plot to assassinate the President of Costa De Rosa is revealed Don Luis quickly sails up as the prime suspect.
Sex, his answer was sex.
Magnum, P.I. movie:
Since Hollywood still has a giant boner for money they nowadays will make movies based on anything (See: The 8 Worst Places to Steal a Movie Idea) and old television shows are no exception. Like Miami Vice before it, it now looks like Magnum, P.I. is getting turned into a movie. Dodgeball director Rawson Marshall Thurber has for some reason been assigned to write and direct. Casting rumours tend to lean towards Matthew McConag-whatever to play the moustached hero. Originally George Clooney was interested in the role, but then some damaging pictures of him poorly sporting a moustache was leaked and his chances where gone.
Somewhere Tom Selleck is laughing so hard that he can't breath.
The same casting rumours also say that Tyrese Gibson will be T.C, Steve Zahn will be Rick and the role of Higgins is to be played by William H. Macy. These casting decisions were most likely made by pulling names out of a hat. Tom Selleck refused to do a cameo appearance in the movie saying "I tell you what worries me -- because I love "Magnum" and we have loyal fans -- is they take these TV show titles, and they buy them and they spend $100 million on special effects, and then they make fun of them and trivialize it. Then they try and get the actor who used to be in it to do some ridiculous cameo to prove to the audience that it's OK. And I will not do that." Selleck has later said that he would be interesting in appearing in the movie, but only if he gets to play the lead role. Let's set our hopes for that last one.