With the cancellation of the long-running Hawaii Five-O, CBS was stuck with two valuable commodities: the series' choice Thursday-night time slot, and the series' filming facilities on the island of Oahu. The solution? Commission another Hawaii-based detective show and schedule it in the old Thursday-evening berth. And that, boys and girls, was how Magnum, P.I. came to be. Tom Selleck starred as Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran formerly with the Naval Intelligence service. Now a private eye with very rarefied tastes, Magnum was hired to handle security for a reclusive mystery writer named Robin Masters, who maintained a lavish estate on the "gold coast" of Oahu. Magnum was not only given full run of the estate, but was also allowed to drive around in an extremely expensive Ferrari -- and to take whatever "outside" jobs that happened to come his way. Since Masters was never actually on the estate (in fact he and the detective had never met), Magnum took his marching orders from the author's prim, stuffy, and very frugal manservant Jonathan Quayle Higgins II (John Hillerman), a former military man who preferred doing things "by the book," and who backed up his authority with a pair of fearsome Doberman pinschers, Zeus and Apollo. Though Magnum and Higgins were always bickering, it was clear that the two men liked and respected one another. Determined that his Vietnam buddies share in his good fortune, Magnum frequently called upon the services of his two best friends from his Navy days, charter helicopter pilot T.C. (Roger E. Mosley) and nightclub owner-turned-beach club manager Orville "Rick" Wright (Larry Manetti). Another of Magnum's old service chums was Mac Reynolds (Jeff MacKay), who was killed early in the series' run, only to be "reincarnated" in the form of a con artist lookalike, also named Mac (also Jeff MacKay).
The series' episodes ran the gamut from lighthearted caper to deadly serious vendetta; indeed, on one occasion, Magnum made TV history by being the first detective-show protagonist to kill a man in cold blood (the victim, of course, had it coming!). There were also a couple of well-publicized "surrealistic" episodes; in one, Magnum's entire life flashes before him as he sloshes around in the middle of the ocean; and in the climactic episode of season seven, Magnum is actually killed, whereupon he ascends to heaven. This episode was meant to be the series finale, but when Magnum, P.I. was renewed for its eighth and final season, some hasty rewriting was in order! Debuting December 11, 1980, Magnum, P.I. ran until September 12, 1988. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi