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    The Best of Magnum P.I. – Volume 1

    Universal/Universal . R4 . COLOR . 300 mins . M15+ . PAL


    I remember Saturday evenings with nothing to do, I’d sit in front of the telly and watch the end of this show. Sometimes I’d be there for the whole episode, but just as often I’d only see the end. And that was alright.

    I knew the show was sort of tongue in cheek, but never had any idea it could be as occasionally dark as it appears here on the Best Of collection (Volume One). There are folks getting killed and blood and Vietnam memoirs and spooky African curses. I had no idea the show was anything even remotely like this on those Saturday evenings so long ago. I actually found myself enjoying this show more than I ever had. I mean, sure, it’s still Magnum and no one ever really talked about watching it (probably because by Monday everyone had forgotten), but there’s enough here to keep even the most jaded viewer (and reviewer) occupied for a while.

    Generously, considering the other releases in this collection of The A-Team, Knight Rider and Miami Vice, this two-discer features seven episodes over the others with their six. The stories all differ and are from various points in the show’s history, but that’s okay. Variety is the spice of Chicken Tonight after all (and herbs).

    Our premise here is in Thomas Magnum, an ex-Navy officer who resigns his commission to set up as a private investigator. He takes a job as security advisor to the Robin Masters Estate under the majordomo of Higgins, a stuffy British ex-military leader with two Dobermans he calls ‘the lads’. All Magnum has to do is stay on his side of the room, as it were, and allow Higgins the major estate and he gets to drive Mr. Masters’ Ferrari everywhere. Which is good because Magnum is usually broke. And so, the stage is set…

    Before I give you a run down on the episodes I may take a minute to regale you with a witty tale of intrigue from my own teeming banks of crappy stories I’ve somehow survived to tell.

    Several years ago I was living in Far North Queensland and had to travel to Sydney to attend an awards ceremony. I stayed in Windsor, as my sister and brother had a place there, so I crashed with them for a week or two. One evening they took me to a party in which a lot of Air Force personnel were attending. At the time Bill Clinton, that rogue of the White House, was visiting the country and an exchange program of Australian Air Force people had been organised with the Yanks. So at this party I met this guy from Hawaii. I’m not sure of his rank or even his name but he was nice enough.

    Anyhow, I was a little drunk and thought I’d make a joke to break the ice. I had recently seen Grumpy Old Men and Burgess Meredith’s multiple Hawaii gags ran through my head and I said to the guy,

    ‘Oh, I’ve visited Hawaii.”

    To which he replied, “Oh really, which island?”

    And I said, ‘Come-on-I-wanna-lay-ya.’ (say it fast)

    He immediately glared at me, obviously having heard the joke before. So I said, “No wait, my mistake, I visited the island of I-like-a-likki-dikki.”

    He glared at me even harder and turned away, before walking off to get a drink and he didn’t speak to me again, though we bumped into him once or twice more before I left.

    And that’s why I don’t work in PR.

    Magnum, however, has the people’s touch and we get to explore all of that here over the course of seven episodes that do occasionally refer to each other, but aren’t connected.

    • Don’t Eat the Snow in Hawaii (1:29:44) is the pilot episode and sets up Magnum’s character and why he’s a private investigator. An old friend is visiting but gets set up as a drug courier before being murdered. Magnum knows his friend wouldn’t so such a thing and investigates (naturally).
    • Memories are Forever (1:33:21) sees Magnum spotting his dead Vietnamese/French wife in a crowd and details his pursuit of finding out if she’s real or not. During the investigation, Magnum and his friends get caught up in a crooked dealing going on with the Vietnamese government.
    • Black On White (46:28) takes us into Higgins’ shady past during a Kenyan uprising and slaughter that saw him resign his position in the Army. It seems a curse is following him with the intent of killing him dead.
    • The People Versus Orville Wright (44:40) features Rick confessing to a murder and going to jail while Magnum and chums try to figure out how and why and even if he did it.
    • Mac’s Back (46:19) brings the character of Mac (killed in an episode not included here, although he appears in Memories Are Forever) back to life in a bizarre mystery that sees Magnum seemingly losing his mind to the horror of his Army buddies.


    Sure, these all look pretty similar to the shows on those other discs in being given a cursory inspection and clean before committal to DVD. So there are various film artefacts floating about and some very heavily decayed stock footage of Vietnam used. The colour palette is okay but does fade a bit occasionally, particularly in Memories in which a lot of the show fades into sepia tones. Flesh tones are even and blacks are mostly true to life, while shadow detail fluctuates between relatively good and rather crap. Naturally we have the show brought to us in the 4:3 ratio that was so popular back then before widescreens existed.


    The first episode features Magnum’s usual voiceover, but this one seems to be his internal thoughts rather than a truly direct narration. The irritating thing is the echo attached to it that resounds throughout in that old ‘thinking cliché’. Thankfully this is removed for the rest of the episodes. Other dialogue is fine and clear and sound effects - while being a bit stock footage at times - are also fine.

    Ian Freebairn-Smith scores the show and hits us with that chirpy and rousing theme whenever the opportunity arises, but for the most part the score is fine and backgroundish in the usual manner of support. It’s certainly nothing to put on a Hawaiian shirt over or anything though. And of course, TV shows usually get us a Dolby Digital stereo mix, which we have here.


    As with the others, there are no extras included here. Oh well. Now I’ll never know what Higgins and ‘the lads’ get up to after dark.


    If you liked the show once, you’ll probably like it a second time. I found it much more entertaining as an adult than I did as a kid, which is conversely proportionate to my feelings about The A-Team. (I did like The A-Team, just not as much as I did when younger and thicker).

    The hi-jinks of Thomas Magnum and his pals are as much a part of television history as… well, anything else is and it’s worth having a look if you ever had feelings for the show at all.

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