Magnum, P.I. is an American crime dramatelevision series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator living on Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 during its first-run broadcast on the American television network CBS. According to the Nielsen ratings, Magnum, P.I. consistently ranked in the top twenty U.S. television programs during the first five years of its original run in the United States.
The Cast of Magnum, P.I.: (left-to-right) Larry Manetti as Orville "Rick" Wright, Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, Roger E. Mosley as T.C. and John Hillerman as Jonathan Quayle Higgins III.
Thomas Sullivan Magnum IV is a private investigator played by Tom Selleck. He resides in the guest house of a 200-acre (81 ha) beachfront estate called Robin's Nest, in Hawaii, at the invitation of its owner, Robin Masters, the celebrated (but never seen) author of several dozen lurid novels. Ostensibly this is quid pro quo for Magnum's services based upon his expertise in security; the pilot and several early episodes suggest Magnum had done Masters a favor of some kind, possibly when Masters hired him for a case. The voice of Robin Masters, heard only a few times per season, was provided by Orson Welles (one last "appearance" was provided by a different actor, Reid Crandell).
Magnum lives a luxurious life on the estate and operates as a P.I. on cases that suit him. The only thorn in the side of his near-perfect lifestyle is Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, played by John Hillerman. An ex-British Army Sergeant Major, he is on the surface a stern, "by-the-book" caretaker of Robin's Nest, whose strict ways often conflict with Magnum's more easy-going methods. He patrols Robin's Nest with his two highly trained "lads", Doberman Pinschers named Zeus and Apollo. Magnum has free use of the guest house and the car, a Ferrari 308 GTS, but, as a humorous aside in various episodes, often has to bargain with Higgins for use of estate amenities such as the tennis courts, wine cellar and expensive cameras.
The relationship between Magnum and Higgins is initially cool, but as the series progressed, an unspoken respect and fondness of sorts grew between the pair. Many episodes dedicated more screen time to this "odd couple" pairing after the relationship proved popular with fans. A recurrent theme throughout the last two seasons, starting in the episode "Paper War", involves Magnum's sneaking suspicion that Higgins is actually Robin Masters since he opens Robin's mail, calls Robin's Ferrari "his car" etc. This suspicion is neither proved or disproved, although in at least one episode - "Déjà-Vu" S06E02 - Higgins is shown alone in a room, picking up a ringing phone and talking to Robin Masters, indicating they are two different persons.[
Aside from Higgins, Magnum's two main companions on the islands are Theodore "T.C." Calvin (Roger E. Mosley), who runs a local helicopter charter service called "Island Hoppers", and often finds himself persuaded by Magnum to fly him during various cases, and Orville Wilbur Richard "Rick" Wright (Larry Manetti), who refuses to use his birth name Orville and who owns a local bar. In the pilot episode, this was "Rick's Place" in town, inspired by Casablanca, with Rick appearing in suitable 1930s attire. After completing the pilot, though, executives felt that audiences would be unable to fully connect with this element. Instead, Rick moved to running the plush, beachside King Kamehameha Club, which has exclusive membership and Higgins on the board of directors. Magnum often strolls around the club, using its facilities and running up an ever unpaid tab, further fueling the Magnum-Higgins feud.
T.C. and Rick are both former Marines from VMO-2 with whom Magnum, a former Navy SEAL, served in the Vietnam War. The series was one of the first to deal with Vietnam veterans as "human beings" and not as shell-shocked killers, and was praised by many ex-servicemen groups for doing so. Magnum often dupes or bribes T.C. and Rick into aiding him on his cases, much to their frustration, though the deep friendship between the group, including Higgins, proved to be one of the key elements of the program over its eight-season run.
Magnum comes and goes as he pleases, works only when he wants, and has the almost unlimited use of a Ferrari 308 GTS Quattrovalvole and many other luxuries of the estate. He keeps a mini-fridge with a seemingly endless supply of beer ("Old Dusseldorf in a long neck"), wears his father's treasured Rolex GMT Master wristwatch and is surrounded by countless beautiful women (who are often victims of crime, his clients or are connected in various other ways to the cases he solves).
Other characteristics specific to Magnum are his thick mustache, a Detroit Tigers baseball cap, a rubber chicken, and a variety of colorful Aloha shirts. Nearly every episode is narrated, in voice-over, by Magnum at various points. At the end of the seventh season, Magnum was to be killed off, to end the series. Following an outcry from fans who demanded a more satisfactory conclusion, an eighth season was produced to bring Magnum "back to life" and to round off the series.