A Red Ferrari Is All You Need
December 11, 2018
Women of the 1980’s loved his impish smile, his seemingly carefree attitude, and the fact that he lived in Hawaii and got to drive a red Ferrari. His name: Thomas Magnum. It was on December 11, 1980, when the world got their first glimpse of Magnum PI and the show was an instant hit.
TV viewers tuned in each week to watch Magnum solve a new crime, spar with Higgins, the caretaker of the estate where he lives in the guest house gratis, and drive the red Ferrari all around Oahu at high speeds.
From the Infallible Wikipedia:
“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 in five episodes, was provided by Orson Welles (one last ‘appearance’ was provided by a different actor, Red 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 Quattrovalvole, 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.”
No doubt the show was a hit due, in part, to the casting of the additional regular characters: bartender Rick and helicopter pilot T.C. who are Magnum’s pals, and the never ending appearances of celebrities of the era. But the real magic was between Magnum and Higgins.
The show was so popular that both Tom Selleck as Magnum and Tony Hillerman as Higgins, were nominated for Emmy and Golden Globe awards multiple times. Selleck won an Emmy in 1984 and a Golden Globe in 1985. In 1982, Hiller won a Golden Globe; his Emmy was awarded in 1987.
Although the producers purportedly killed Magnum in the final episode of 1987 to end the series, the outcry from distraught fans created enough backlash that the show returned for an eighth and final season in 1988 by bringing Magnum back to life…
Also from the Infallible Wikipedia:
“In what was originally meant to be the final episode of the series, Magnum is critically wounded in a dockside warehouse firefight and ends up in a coma. He ‘wakes up’ in Limbo with Mac but refuses to believe that he is dead, insisting that he is only dreaming, even though no one but Mac can hear or see him. Magnum finally accepts that he is dead, and says his goodbyes. Throughout the episode, John Denver’s song ‘Looking for Space’ plays in its entirety and ends as Magnum walks off into the clouds (the song is replaced by another song in subsequent syndicated broadcasts and video releases, a’la other CBS productions Wiseguy and Birds of Prey).”
I guess they figured if they could sell the concept on the TV show Dallas the previous year then it would work for Magnum PI also.
Both my hubby and I were huge fans of Magnum PI and rarely missed an episode. Of course what wasn’t to like about Tom Selleck? Tall, curly dark hair, good looking, great personality… he had it all.
And then, one day in the summer of 1981, we had a close encounter of the Magnum PI kind.
Since my hubby worked in the Belltown neighborhood in Seattle, we decided to park our car at his office and attend the 1981 Seafair Parade. To get to the parade route we walked up Blanchard Street and had to pass a construction zone as well as several trailers which, I assumed, were being used for offices by the companies at work there.
We came upon a trailer and noticed the door was opening. I looked up just as a gorgeous blonde woman descended the stairs, her male companion right behind her. Hubby and I moved closer to the building on the right and the other couple passed to our left in the opposite direction.
We were not more than a half dozen steps past when the hubby leaned over and whispered to me “that was Magnum P.I.” What!? No way. I craned my neck so hard that I nearly gave myself whiplash. But all I saw was the backside of the couple – the beautiful blonde and the tall guy with dark curly hair – retreating down the sidewalk.
“Why didn’t you say something?!” I accused.
“I nodded at him. He knew I recognized him,” hubby replied. “I think he appreciated that I didn’t make a scene.”
So there we were, close enough to TOUCH Tom Selleck, and I’m noticing his date. Sheesh. How lame can one get?
The next night one of the local news stations interviewed Selleck who WAS in Seattle filming the made for TV movie “Divorce Wars” with Jane Curtin. In the interview the topic of fame and recognition came up and Selleck said he liked when people obviously knew who he was but appreciated not being accosted by fans.
Thanks, honey, for saving me from making an idiot of myself with one of the biggest stars of 1981. I owe you. Something. Not sure what. But something.
A link about the show: