Tuesday, 13 September 2016
Magnum P.I., Season 3 (1982)
Thomas Sullivan Magnum certainly has his hands full in season three. He has to tangle with a KGB agent (twice!), a samurai, the guys from Simon & Simon, and even a professional wrestler; the last of whom is played by none other than Ernest Borgnine. Then there's the visit from another of Higgins's half brothers, his encounter with a cursed Hawaiian relic, or the time he dreams his way back to 1936 to solve a case.
I'm still not done. We've also got a $50,000,000 inheritance falling into his lap, his wedding, and being relegated to supporting cast on his own show. None of those three last longer than the episode they're in, of course. The guy who left him the money isn't dead, the wedding's a charade for a case, and the last one's a backdoor pilot for a show that never got made (though apparently the bare bones of the idea got re-worked and became the seed for Airwolf).
So as you can see the creators of this show weren't afraid to go a little gonzo with their scripts. I think that's one of its strengths, because this kind of episodic TV needs something like that to keep it from getting stuck in too much of a rut. And part of what makes the gonzo work is that Magnum P.I. also has its darker moments. The two-part season opener might have a bad guy plot straight out of a 60s spy film, but it also has (not all that graphic) scenes of torture and quite a shock ending. Or later on there's an episode dealing with the PTSD suffered by veterans of the Vietnam War.
A little reading online suggests that seasons three and four were when this show was at its most popular, and based on the deft mixture of adventure, humour, and occasional darker themes, it's easy enough to see why.