Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Magnum P.I., Season 5 (1984)

The fifth season of Magnum, P.I. is generally considered to be one of the show's weaker years.  It slipped in the ratings while being broadcast (though it was still a top twenty program) and if you check out fan rankings of the seasons you'll generally find it in the bottom three.

'Weaker' is not necessarily the same as 'bad', of course, and there's still stuff to like here.  The opening two-parter, for instance - which guest stars a very young Sharon Stone - is a fun piece of melodrama with a delightfully shocking conclusion.  And the episode where Magnum woos a freelance security consultant is also fun,  Overall, though, the show doesn't work quite so well here as it has in the past.

The program's basic formula remains the same: a preponderance of light, mystery-themed standalone episodes, usually with a strong emphasis on the camaraderie of the main cast, which are then leavened with an eclectic mix of absurdist comedy and some surprisingly dark moments - like the conclusion of that two-parter I mentioned above.  However the mixture of those elements is not quite as deft here as it has been in the past.

In particular, I think that season five goes to the comedy well a bit too often, and keeps going to it even when the humour of a particular situation has run dry.  For instance, they introduce a new 'shyster' character and then use him in exactly the same basic comedic plot arc in three of the four episodes he's in.  It wasn't that funny the first time around.  Or there's the episode where the 'gag' is that a novelist is re-writing Magnum's pedestrian insurance investigation as an over the top espionage pot-boiler.  Again, it's amusing to see the actors playing their alternate selves in this version of events for a while, but the gag gets well overdone by the end of the episode.

Still, there are bright spots here, and even the less good stuff is merely mediocre rather than actively bad (well, except The Love for Sale Boat.  Its pretty awful).  This season is not of a standard with those before it, but it is watchable enough.

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