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Magnum P.I. the Complete Third Season DVD Review - -

Feature 8.0
Video 7.0
Audio 7.0
Total 8.0
Distributor: Universal
Running Time:
Brett Bowman


Magnum P.I. the Complete Third Season

In the Parthenon of television detectives one name stands out above the rest, Thomas Magnum. During the tumultuous eighties Magnum, P.I. offered much needed relief from the bad news that seemed all around. While many television series focused on the exploits of the private investigator few did so as enjoyably as this series. Based in the topical paradise of Hawaii each week we got to spend an hour with Thomas (Tom Selleck) and his band of friends as they solved the mysteries, saved the damsel in distress and found justice for the victims. Although Magnum lived on a grand estate he was far from rich. He was allowed to stay in the guest house of famous writer Robin Masters in return for various and often ambiguous security services. In charge of the estate is the proper and prim Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman). Higgins just wants to run the estate and live in peace, something that so often seems impossible as long as Magnum is in residence. Helping Magnum each week are his two best friends, TC Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) and Rick Wright (Larry Manetti). The three were in the same unit in Viet Nam and the experience has created a strong bond between them.

The third season of a television show, especially one of this genre is a critical time. The danger is repeating the same old stories that the viewers have all seen many times before. Magnum, P.I. never got caught up in that. The third season expanded on the interpersonal relationships of the core cast while devising unique plot twist to keep this series on the top of the eighties must watch list. The season opens with a double episode written by series creator Donald P. Bellisario. A former military buddy of the trio Bill Nuzo (James Whitmore Jr.) comes on the scene with a warning. Col. Ivan (Bo Svenson), a Russian agent who once tortured Magnum and his friends in a Viet Nam prisoner of war camp. He is now out and about and is after the Americans. When Magnum’s friend Lt. ‘Mac’ MacReynolds (Jeff MacKay) is killed in a plot intended for Thomas the group go on the offensive to find the elusive Ivan. Mangum finds that the Navy command is hiding something and definitely has a hidden agenda.

One episode provided a cross over with another popular detective series of the time, Simon & Simon. In ‘Ki'is Don't Lie’ Magnum’s professional services are donated to Catherine (Morgan Fairchild), an attractive socialite. Magnum is supposed to protect a valuable art collection that is due to be auctioned off. Meanwhile two detectives from the mainland, brothers A.J. (Jameson Parker) and Rick Simon (Gerald McRaney) have been hired by the previous owner of a particular Hawaiian artifact. The second part of this story was presented in the second season opener for Simon & Simon in an episode named ‘Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend’. If you have the season one Magnum box set this episode was included as an extra. While many such series cross-overs seemed forced this one was incredibly fun to watch. I did have to bring out the season two set to watch both halves of the story but it was worth it.

This season focused a lot more on the back story of Higgins. In many series the ancillary characters are left as under developed, one dimensional scenery but in this series all the characters are fully formed human beings. In one episode Magnum discovers that a killer is out for revenge against everyone in Higgins old army regiment. In order to keep Higgins safe Thomas invents a disease and tells Higgins that he must be quarantined in the guest house with him. In another episode Higgins must face his old school rival, William Troubshaw (Paxton Whitehead). This man was the bane of Higgins existence even going so far as to marry the girl that Higgins loved. When Troubshaw is killed in fencing mishap Higgins becomes the prime suspect for murder. It is naturally up to Magnum to clear his friend.

The writers of this series where given a lot of creative license. In an episode set in one of Thomas’ dreams he finds himself back forty five years in the past. He is still a private eye and has to help a ‘dame in trouble’. This is a near perfect homage to the great film noir flicks of the thirties and forties and a lot more entertaining and imaginative than most of the bland faire on television. This is what has made this series such an enduring classic. Watching this episode again after so many years I was still able to enjoy the pure whimsy.

The actors of this series have had two years to get to know each other and it shows in their performances. There is a natural chemistry between them. The audience has no problem believing that these men are such good friends that they are constantly willing to risk their lives to help one another. Few actors are given a role as natural to them as Thomas Magnum was to Tom Selleck. Selleck not only has the rugged good looks that still causes three generation of women in my family to swoon, he has a sense of humor that is infectious. With is odd, high pitched laugh Selleck is a man’s man with human flaws. He presents Magnum as the kind of guy that you would like to watch a game with a share a few beers. He doesn’t play Magnum as a man willing to encounter danger. He tries hard to avoid trouble but it always seems to find him. Larry Manetti is more than comic relief here. While his character of Rick often provides the laughs between the action sequences he is able to rise to the occasion. The perfect counter point to the laid back Magnum is Higgins. It takes an actor of considerable talent to make the up tight Higgins likeable but John Hillerman does it better than anyone I can think of.

Once again Universal gives the public what they want, the best of classic television on DVD. The only down side is the box set is presented in double sided discs, something that some purist find problematic. The full screen video is better than anything you will see in syndication. The colors are typically bright and well saturated. The contrast is acceptable considering the age of the source material. The audio is mixed to Dolby Stereo with a somewhat flat channel separation.  Forget the constant reruns of the numerous crime dramas that flood television today. Get this series, gather the family around and watch some real quality shows. 

Episode List:

Did You See the Sun Rise?
Ki'i's Don't Lie
The Eighth Part of the Village
Past Tense
Black on White
Foiled Again
Mr. White Death
Mixed Doubles
Almost Home
Heal Thyself
Of Sound Mind
The Arrow That Is Not Aimed
Basket Case
Birdman of Budapest
I Do?
Forty Years from Sand Island
Legacy from a Friend
Two Birds of a Feather
...By Its Cover
The Big Blow
Faith and Begorrah


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