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Magnum P.I.: The Complete First Season (1980) – DVD Review

Magnum P.I.: The Complete First Season DVD cover art


Created by: Donald P. Bellisario & Glen A. Larson
Starring: Tom Selleck, John Hillerman, Roger E. Mosley, Larry Manetti


  • All eighteen first season episodes
  • Four bonus episodes from later seasons

Released by: Universal
Region: 1
Rating: NR
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format

My Advice: Fans should own.

Thomas Magnum (Selleck) is a former Naval Intelligence officer and Vietnam vet who’s realized that he gave his youth to the military and now is trying to make up for lost time. He becomes a private investigator in Hawaii where he hangs out at a millionaire’s pad, gets ferried out of danger by his chopper pilot buddy T.C. (Mosley), and is backed up in his endeavors by club owner Rick (Manetti). The only thing he has to deal with is occasionally getting shot, and of course, the strict Higgins (Hillerman), the manager of the place where he’s got room and board. So it’s the Hawaii life with sports cars, cases, and the occasional gorgeous woman that needs smooching.

[ad#longpost]This show is an interesting amalgam of topics, some of which you wouldn’t think would work together. It’s one of the first shows to really give serious time to the experience of Vietnam vets: Magnum and his buddies are dealing with flashbacks to experiences during the war, still trying to work things out for themselves. Sure, when it comes to blending comedic and serious war situations, MASH holds the corner on that market. But Magnum looks to be fluff, far from the warfront, on Oahu, filled with sun and surf and the occasional gorgeous woman that needs smooching. Still, when the show takes its serious turns, you believe it and you go with it. And that’s what makes the show worthwhile and more than just another detective show with better scenery. And women.

The main reason is that Tom Selleck is just such a likable guy. He’s believable whether he’s running around in a swimsuit making David Hasselhoff want to grow up to be him or taking on the bad guys. Or back in his memories, trying to stay alive. He’s earnest and credible, whether the cheese factor’s kicking in or whether we’re in dramaville–doesn’t matter. The rest of the cast work well for the material as well, though John Hillerman’s stern Higgins is the obvious standout, providing the perfect foil to Magnum’s carefree ways.

Probably the most amusing thing about this set are the godawful opening credits and even cheesier opening theme for most of the first season. As many times as we’ve seen the episodes around here, we honestly did not remember these; they are a real kick in the head. And apart from the music being dated, sure there’s the usual hairstyles and fashions that really make the eyes bleed, but that’s to be expected.

Starring Tom Selleck as Magnum

As far as bonus bits go, they’re episodes from future seasons–with one exception. There’s the two parter crossover with Simon & Simon, which of course, includes the episode from that series. That Magnum episode is from Season 3. And there’s a two parter from Season 5 that has Sharon Stone as a guest star. While they certainly won’t take the place of a commentary by Selleck and his fellow castmates (or even creators Bellisario and Larson) or even a featurette of some kind, it’s nice to have them on the set.

John Hillerman from Magnum P.I.

Fans of the show will want to pick this up. Those who aren’t familiar with the show should at least give it a watch, as it was worthy television and the story and the acting hold up just fine even though it’s been twenty-plus years since these episodes hit the airwaves.

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