The final episode of Magnum, P.I. left two unanswered questions for Appellate Judge James A. Stewart: Did Higgins ever find anyone to take up residence at the posh Robin Masters estate, drive a red Ferrari, and handle security? Is the job still open?
Our reviews of Magnum P.I.: The Complete First Season (published October 6th, 2004), Magnum P.I.: The Complete Second Season (published June 22nd, 2005), and Magnum P.I.: The Complete Third Season (published March 8th, 2006) are also available.
"You're a detective—in Hawaii. Do you realize you have one of the most exotic jobs in the whole world?"
Remember Magnum, P.I., the 1980s hit series about a private eye who lived at a posh estate, drove a shiny red Ferrari, and spent his spare time at the King Kamehameha Club?
By its eighth season, the show had lost some of its popularity, thanks in large part to The Cosby Show. The season only ran 13 episodes, but it's amazing that it got made at all. In his commentary, writer Jay Huguely recalls that the show's renewal didn't come in until the last minute—and they didn't tamper with a seventh-season ending that left Thomas Magnum apparently dead.
In Magnum, P.I.: The Complete Eighth Season, Magnum, like his series, returns from the dead and tries to piece together his life.
Facts of the Case
Magnum, P.I.: The Complete Eighth Season features 13 episodes on three discs:
• "Pleasure Principle"—"What's wrong with Higgie Baby?" T.C. asks as he sees the stuffy Brit driving off in the Ferrari. Magnum, still seeing visions of Mac, decides to investigate when Rick tells him that Higgins broke a date with Agatha to go to a nightclub with a hot dame.
• "Innocence…A Broad"—"I'm not wimping out! I'm behaving like a professional private investigator," Magnum tells Rita, the woman whose fiancé bribed the P.I. into letting her tag along on a case. When the simple tail ends in a hit-and-run, Rita wants to crack the case, even if Magnum thinks it should be left to the police.
• "Tigers Fan"—"Sometimes the book doesn't cover the situation," Lt. Tanaka tells Magnum. Tanaka's not talking about the youth baseball game they're watching; he's talking about a case that could—and does—get him killed. The opening scene finds cops talking about Lance White, Tom Selleck's Rockford Files character. Rockford references continue as the actor who played Jim Rockford's cop buddy, Joe Santos, plays the cop who helps Magnum solve the murder of his cop buddy; Magnum also tries his hand at some Rockford-style tricks.
• "The Love That Lies"—"I am well aware my office is prosecuting a man who is enormously popular. However, popularity is not guaranteed by the Bill of Rights," Magnum's friend, Carol, says as the cameras are rolling. Carol's rough case isn't her only problem; her birth mother has turned up.
• "A Girl Named Sue"—"To think that I have always looked up to you as a model investigator," Susan Johnson (Carol Burnett) says, bickering with Magnum as she works with him to find a missing will. Their clients, two siblings with a potentially deadly rivalry, aren't getting along much better.
• "Unfinished Business"—"So, Magnum, you probably weren't expecting to hear from me," the villainous Quang Ki says in a video message to Magnum, followed by footage of a car bombing involving Magnum's ex-wife and her daughter. Will Magnum wreck efforts to free American POWs in Vietnam in his quest for revenge?
• "The Great Hawaiian Adventure Company"—"Gentlemen, this could be the turning point in our lives," Magnum says as he pitches a venture to his friends. T.C.'s more worried about his son's involvement in a motorcycle gang.
• "Transitions"—"Don't be afraid of transitions. They make you strong," Magnum says in his voiceover. Transitions is also the name of Robin Masters' latest manuscript, which has been stolen. Could Magnum's theory that Higgins is the reclusive author have put the imperious estate boss in jeopardy? Luther Gillis (Eugene Roche) lends a hand.
• "Resolutions (Part 1)"—"I have been thinking of making some changes," Magnum tells his mother during a stateside visit. He has to hold that thought, though, since he's called back to Hawaii to investigate attempts on the life of an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, Rick's about to tie the knot.
• "Resolutions (Part 2)"—"Goodnight," Tom Selleck says at the end—but he doesn't go into that good night without a few surprises for Magnum.
As the episode descriptions should tell you, Magnum, P.I. wasn't your typical detective show by its eighth and last season. Alternating between drama and character-based comedy (with some detours into slapstick with Carol Burnett in "A Girl Named Sue"), the series usually had a mystery in the background; however, the crimes were generally less important than Magnum's relationships with his friends, Rick, T.C., and Higgins.
While I hadn't stopped watching Magnum entirely by this point in its run, the show was no longer must viewing for me. While I can still remember a few episodes vividly ("Did You See The Sun Rise?," the third-season opener in which Mac was killed, has got to be one of the most memorable series episodes ever), I'd forgotten how much fun Magnum could be.
Even the rather grim opener is marked by loopy dialogue that sets characters to a tee. "Magnum, I demand you come back immediately!" Higgins barks during his vigil. Even if you hadn't seen the series before, you'd immediately recognize the man who runs Robin Masters' estate as commanding and somewhat pompous, yet realize that he's concerned about a friend. The writers balance the thoughtful and the silly perfectly most of the way through this last run.
Rather than phoning it in, as you might expect from those involved with a long-running series, Magnum's scribes and actors seemed to be working harder to find new angles on the familiar characters. Tom Selleck gets the obvious drama as Magnum rethinks his life following a near-death experience, but his co-stars also get to shine. Roger E. Mosley's T.C. gets to show his fatherly side, first with the troubled Magnum and then with his son. His jail scene with son Bryant in "The Great Hawaiian Adventure Company" packs a punch. John Hillerman balances tenderness and toughness in the opener, revealing the adversarial Higgins as a great friend. Kathleen Lloyd's Carol gets to ponder the meaning of a family secret in "The Love That Lies." Rick (Larry Manetti) is still largely comic relief, but even he's considering settling down in the final episodes.
The final two-parter, "Resolutions," isn't bad, but it tries to cram way too much in. I know it's a crime drama, but the writers would have been forgiven for throwing out the ex-girlfriend's mystery, and focusing on the revelation about the car bombing and Magnum's ultimate decision. Still, it was a popular finale, with somewhere around 30 million viewers, co-executive producer Chas. Floyd Johnson says in his commentary.
Speaking of commentaries, Universal came up with three of them for this final season. Tom Selleck wasn't available, apparently, but writer Jay Huguely talks about the writing of Magnum on "Pleasure Principle" and "Legend of the Lost Art," and Johnson talks about the finale and the Hawaii production on the second part of "Resolutions." While the cast is missed, the crew members tapped do a good job.
That episode of The Rockford Files mentioned in "Tigers Fan"—"White on White and Nearly Perfect"—is included as a bonus feature. Tom Selleck's comic timing is sharp as Jim Rockford's annoying, by-the-book rival; if by some chance you've never seen Rockford, it's also a peek at a sharp predecessor with a similar style.
I found no problems with the sound quality, but several of the episodes have faded prints, halo effect, and scratches, the sort of stuff you'd expect with a 1980s vintage crime drama.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
If you actually watched Magnum, P.I. for the mysteries, this last season could be something of a disappointment. With the exception of "Forever In Time," perhaps the season's weakest episode, Magnum's cases are secondary to turning points in the lives of the characters and humorous side trips.
You also might want to go back and pick up the seventh season first, since the story surrounding Magnum's coma begins there. It's easy enough to follow, though.
If you've seen most of Magnum and wanted to collect just one season, this one would be a good choice, since it wraps up the series and almost all the episodes were strong ones. A little less cramming—or a few deleted scenes to show how they did the cramming—with the last episode could have made this set perfect.
One more thing, as Lt. Columbo used to say: Magnum's theory that Higgins was Robin Masters gave the bickersome pair something to torment each other about, but there was a Robin Masters early on, in the voice of the late Orson Welles. So Magnum's theory that Higgins was Masters really doesn't make a whole lot of sense.
Not guilty. Not bad for a guy—and a show—written off as dead.
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