A product of the 80s, Magnum P.I. combines hot cars, exotic locations and beautiful women wrapped in an action-packed hour of drama and mystery. Former Naval Intelligence officer Thomas Magnum is now in charge of security for the estate of author Robin Masters, as well as running his own private investigation firm. This allows him to get into lots of trouble, either through the clients he takes on, or events surrounding the estate. Magnum shares the estate with Jonathan Higgins III (John Hillerman), a former British officer that doesn't often see eye-to-eye with his estate-mate. He's structured and disciplined, and Magnum is neither. When Magnum gets in a pinch he calls on his former military buddies, T.C. (Roger Mosely) - the owner of a helicopter charter company, and Rick (Larry Manetti) - a club owner with his ear to the Hawaiian underworld. Hawaii provides a beautiful backdrop to the series.
I used to love this series when I was a kid. I would grab our little black & white television and take it to my room to watch the show on my bed. I suffered through poor reception, and lack of color, but it was worth it. Having fond memories of a series can be disappointing when you watch it years later and find that it doesn't live up to your memories. I didn't experience disappointment with Magnum though; if anything it was better than I remembered it to be. I have a better appreciation for the stories and character development than I had as a child, and now I can watch the series in color! Sure, the cars are old, the clothes are dated and the hairstyles make me laugh, but the show itself isn't cheesy at all.
Universal has put together a decent set consisting of the pilot movie, the 16 regular episodes from season 1, and 4 bonus episodes. They've also done something funky with the packaging; Magnum P.I. is in raised letters that look very cool. The set consists of three double-sided discs, and one single-sided disc.
There are four bonus episodes in the set, "Ki'I's Don't Lie" (Season 3), "Emeralds are Not a Girl's Best Friend" (Simon & Simon Season 2), and "Echoes of the Mind" Parts 1 & 2 (Season 5). These can be found on disc 4.
Anything they put on DVD would be better than watching the show on a small, B&W television as I did when I was younger. The picture quality of this set is nice, and many of the complaints are due to the age of the material. It's been more than 20 years since these episodes aired, so the dust and minor debris is expected in the source print. Some scenes contain a bit of grain, and the stock footage used in the series is quite poor quality. I'm bothered by the poor chapters Universal placed in the episodes. The show opens with a summary of the episode, quite common in the 80s, and then launches into the opening theme. Those are two things that scream (skip me), but Universal has placed a chapter well-into the show, so you have to fast-forward if you want to skip the junk at the start. At least they included a "play all."
Speaking of the opening of the series, these DVDs contain a few different ones. The TV movie, "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii," includes a special set of titles that involves the design on Magnum's ring. Episodes 3-11 contain the theme song by Ian Freebairn-Smith, while episodes 12-18 contain the familiar theme by Mike Post & Pete Carpenter. The TV movie is also listed on the DVDs as two episodes, though it originally aired as a double-length episode and then split up during reruns. Don't worry, they haven't included the syndicated episodes! The end of "episode 1" finishes with a scene that is picked up at the start of "episode 2." The episodes have one opening (in EP 1) and one closing (in EP 2), and if you use the "play all" feature it will play as one episode.
Magnum P.I. includes an English mono track. It's not as good as something that would be in stereo, or surround, but it sounds quite nice. The track is slightly quiet, but it's consistent, so that's okay. The dialog is easy to understand, and the sound effects are good, though they sound dated at times, and there's a bit of a hiss in certain scenes. It's hard to be impressed by a mono track, but this one sounds very nice. Subtitles are in English, French and Spanish.
Universal hasn't included any bonus features on the set, except for the 4 episodes. Maybe this set will sell well, and they can include some bonus features on future sets.
I loved this show as a kid, and it's even better now. Universal has done a nice job of putting a set together, though they haven't included any bonus features. The transfer is very good, and the audio is decent. The clothes look a bit dated, but I guess we can't fault the DVD set for that. Magnum fans ordered this set when it first popped up online, but those of you on the fence should pick it up.