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Magnum, P.I.: The Complete Second Season (1981) – DVD Review

DVD cover art for Magnum, P.I.: The Complete Second Season


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


  • All twenty-two episodes from the second season
  • Bonus episodes from the second seasons of both The A-Team and Knight Rider

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

My Advice: Own it if you’re a fan; rent it if you’ve never seen it.

[ad#longpost]Thomas Sullivan Magnum (Selleck) is a former naval officer turned private investigator. Living in Hawaii, he is on retainer for a wealthy novelist, Robin Masters, staying in the guesthouse on his estate. The caretaker and overall major-domo at the estate, Jonathan Quayle Higgins (Hillerman) is a stiff-upper-lip Brit who resents Magnum’s shoddy appearance (a penchant for Hawaiian shirts and very short shorts) and lack of responsibility. With the help of the two Dobermans that help guard the estate, Zeus and Apollo, Higgins frequently makes life there a challenge for Magnum. The two of them are engaged in an ongoing war over favors and privileges of the estate (the Ferrari, access to the tennis courts, and the wine cellar are routinely either asked for by or taken away from Magnum depending on who has the upper hand in the battle), but they actually get along really well when the going gets tough.

Magnum’s buddies from his service in Vietnam are also frequently at his side to help out with cases (albeit grudgingly sometimes) and to pester him about the money that he continuously owes them. Rick “Orville” Wright (Manetti) is the manager of a private club, and TC (Mosley) owns a helicopter charter service, Island Hoppers. They try to stay out of trouble, but both end up helping Thomas with many of his cases and spending their own money in the process. However, the three of them always seem to work out their differences and remain friends—Thomas helps them out with their problems, and they with his.

Tom Selleck is Magnum P.I. in Magnum P.I.: The Complete Second Season

On first glance, this series is a lighthearted, fun-in-Hawaii sort of show. You get to see Tom Selleck at his peak running around in cutoffs and solving mysteries with his buddies in a very witty and exciting manner. Selleck’s voice narrates parts of the episode, which makes you identify with our protagonist a bit more. Magnum frequently makes mistakes in his investigation, and often says “Now I know what you’re thinking…” in the voiceover, knowing he’s about to do something stupid, but everything usually turns out all right in the end.

Under the frothy exterior of the series, however, is a surprisingly dark side. Magnum and his two friends served multiple tours in Vietnam, and have moved to Hawaii to escape their ghosts. This is one of the first series I know of that dealt with the war in Vietnam and the aftermath for not just the men who fought there but other Americans whose lives were affected by the war. Thomas and his friends deal with flashbacks and occasionally run into people from their tours who bring back bad memories for them.

Tom Selleck is Magnum P.I. with a sweet car in Magnum, P.I.: The Complete Second Season

In this set, for example, there is a two-part episode called “Memories are Forever.” Michelle, a woman who Magnum married in Vietnam, resurfaces after he thought she was killed there. As a result of his search for her, he ends up in the middle of an international game of espionage between a mysterious Vietnamese revolutionary called “The Tiger” and the tight-lipped U.S. Navy intelligence agency with which the Tiger is working. This episode builds the framework for future episodes dealing with Michelle and Thomas’ relationship and also delves into the strained political relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam after the war (mainly the fight to return the bodies of fallen American soldiers to their native soil), which was a close and serious issue when the series aired.

Other than dealing sensitively with serious issues, the series is well-written and very funny a lot of the time. The wardrobe and music are a bit dated, but I find that it adds to the charm and occasional campiness of the show rather than making it less accessible to a modern audience. All of the characters are well-developed and interesting, and the mysteries that Magnum gets involved with are for the most part nice and twisty and there’s plenty of action. And although the only features on the discs are episodes from different series, this set is worth a fan owning it for the episodes alone. Non-fans should give it a shot with a handy rental.

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