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Reliving my teenage years on O'ahu, Hawaii, by watching Magnum P.I.

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OK, I will not be doing very many two- or three-missives in-a-row. First, I must explain that I am an only latchkey child (un fils unique) who finds comfort in the television playing in the background. So, I either end up popping on WAMU 88.5FM on my sundry radios (an NPR affiliate) or I play something that is familiar but neither engaging nor complicated (no M Night Shyamalan films, foreign films, documentaries, or food and travel shows). So, what am I burning through over the last couple of months? 80s Magnum P.I.:

Reliving my teenage years on O'ahu, Hawaii, by watching Magnum P.I.

Magnum P.I.

Magnum P.I.

According to Wikipedia, "Magnum, P.I. is an American crime drama television series starring Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a private investigator (P.I.) living on Oahu, Hawaii. The series ran from 1980 to 1988 during its first-run broadcast on the American television network CBS. According to the Nielsen ratings, Magnum, P.I. consistently ranked in the top twenty U.S. television programs during the first five years of its original run in the United States." During its 8 seasons, I was 10-18-years old and living in Honolulu, Hawaii, on the island of O`ahu, where a lot of the series took place. Check Magnum P.I. out via Amazon Prime Video (wait, I think Amazon only offers season 1-5; also, there are some missing/inaccessible episodes and I needed to pay for I Witness as it wasn't included in Prime).

Magnum ran for 8 seasons during my prime teenage years when I wrestled and dated and went SCUBA diving and freediving and bodyboarding so I didn't remotely see them all at the time; also, my memories of Magnum are very vague and confused because I was living in Hawaii, on O`ahu, for the 8 years Magnum PI was on TV so my memories are all mixed up with Hawaii, with my mom's crush on Tom Selleck, with pretty routine sightings of the cast during filmings, especially in Chinatown and around Hotel Street. Additionally, my first real girlfriend, Georgina Marr, is the daughter of a recurring actor, the Brittish actress Olga Marr

I was clueless enough during our years together that I wasn't aware how often she was on the show—she was on there a lot and actually smooched Tom Selleck on the mouth in one episode when she played a slightly fading Hollywood star of stage and screen, still in her sexual prime and hot for Thomas! "Georgina's mom!"

My memory of Magnum P.I. was a caricature. Thomas was a studly goof, Higgins was an adversarial prig, TC was basically Hawaii B.A. Baracus, and Rick was their poodle. In truth, Magnum and Higgins are as close as anyone and their respect for and trust of each other is profound and beautiful. Higgins just keeps a tight leash on Magnum because he's is the definition of an entitled pretty boy: his entire life is predicated on his looks, his charm, his smile, his height, his prowess, and his physical strength. 

His pedigree, too, adds to his entitlement: U.S. Naval Academy, Navy SEALs, and Robin Masters bolster his status and lend him credit and credibility. This isn't a secret as everyone is always blaming Magnum for welshing on his debts (drinks, helicopter fuel, etc, etc) which Rick, Higgins, and TC are always trying to recoup. But, they're all brothers and this never cuts to anyone's quick. 

If you watch long enough—especially after Kathleen Lloyd, playing Carol Baldwin, joined the cast and became Magnum's sassy conscience—you realize that every time Magnum—or anyone—stops hustling his friends for fun and profit, everyone knows something's wrong. As long as everyone's pulling each others' pigtails, all is well.

Actually, there are so many tender moments between the four men, brothers in arms, that I am constantly surprised. What's more, Magnum P.I. is never afraid of dealing with the Vietnam War. It made me think. When Magnum PI started in 1980, we were only 5-years out of Saigon. All the wounds were pretty fresh and series creators and writers Glen A. Larson and Donald P. Bellisario didn't shy from any of it. I always love it when playful, prime-time, even silly Network Broadcast series go deep. M.A.S.H., which took place during the Korean War but held up a mirror to Vietnam, was famous for it but I am constantly delighted by the level of nuance in certain episodes of Magnum P.I.  

The series is a little more like Buffy The Vampire Slayer in that the silliest of episodes contrast with extremely deep explorations into the psyche and the human condition. And, like Buffy, none of it is low-brow, it's all smart programming, some just farce instead of either comedy, drama, or tragedy.  It's all good stuff. Remember that Donald P. Bellisario was responsible for the wonderful Quantum Leap.

While each episode is surely an island of its own, there are some very long arcs and it's really fun to watch; also, I haven't been back to Hawaii-Nei since 1998 so I have no clue how my Hawaii looks, smells, sounds, or feels anymore (they've been infested with 
coqui frogs from Puerto Rico, don't you know). That said, I do completely recognize Honolulu circa 1976-1988, that's for sure. I can even feel, smell, and see it in my mind's eye. The Hawaii of 1968-era Hawaii Five-0 is alien to me as is the Hawaii of 2010 Hawaii Five-0 and the Hawaii of the 2018 Magnum P.I. reboot. 80s Hawaii is just right, says this Goldilocks.

It's hard to explain Hawaii in the 80s but it really felt a lot more like the 70s. While Ala Moana and Kahala shopping centers looked and felt quite modern in their day, once you left areas of deep and plentiful tourism and wealth (such as the Kahala, Diamondhead, and Hawaii Kai neighborhoods) Hawaii was stuck in the post-war 50s, 60s, and 70s, and Magnum P.I. does a pretty good job of reflecting that in the show's backgrounds and ambiance. Nostalgia-city, for me.

What was Hawaii like? Jalousie louvered windows everywhere. Houses made of wood and optimized for the tradewinds. Many houses lived up on pilings (we called them stilts) and nobody really had AC—and when we did they were window units (but maybe it was different for richer people). It was so exciting for my mom when we moved into a brand new apartment building at the base of Punchbowl Cemetery right up the street from the Hawaiʻi State Library. We did have central air there. My mom was in heaven.

But, when my dad almost lost his leg to a motorcycle accident, all the surgeons at Straub were all meatball surgeons from the Vietnam war. I mean, there were still Quonset hut churches and other buildings made of corrugated steel that has a semicircular cross-section. Anyway, when I am watching 80s Magnum P.I. it's my Hawaii. Hell, I don't even know if I have even driven across the beautiful and spectacular H3 Hawaii that I see whenever I wastch 2018s Magnum P.I.

And all this without really paying attention to the series as it plays along in the background while I am running, promoting, selling, pitching, and doing big parts of the work for three endeavors:, and UpWork.  For whatever reasonblame the latchkey—passively listening to podcasts, NPR, and passively watching long-arc series like Magnum P.I. help me get her done!  I hope you enjoyed this walk down memory lane. I recommend that you surely add Magnum P.I. to your rotation. 

While it's included for free if you're an Amazon Prime member, I had to pay for one and there are a number of episodes that aren't even available via Amazon at all, which is so frustrating and must be a licensing and copyright hitch (I hate those).

My next latchkey review will be of Chuck, another series that's both dumb and smart and pretty enough for me to use as my visual sound machine. I hope you are enjoying these. I promise they won't come popping in and popping up every day. Only as I am moved by the Muse and the cost of opportunity.  Mahalo.

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Oct 12, 2019 03:30 PM