Saturday, January 24, 2015

Growing Pats

Julian "Incredelman" is not only a talented athlete, he's got a sense of humor, a gift for video editing, and definite nostalgia for the '90s sitcom Growing Pains. Let's go Pats!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Mainlining Selleck

Like many women of the 1980's, my mom's main TV crush was Tom Selleck. This weekend, she discovered that every episode of his hit series Magnum, P.I. is on Netflix. She figured I'd enjoy it, given my fondness for Miami Vice and I said, "Sure, let's watch the first episode." That quickly turned into 5 hours of Hawaiian shirts, car chases, and Tom's famous mustache. I'll give you my thoughts on the episodes themselves once I introduce the cast of characters:

  • Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck). The man himself. He graduated the United States Naval Academy, became a lieutenant, and served in Vietnam with a special forces outfit. Once stateside, he worked Naval Intelligence. He abruptly resigned from his commission while stationed in Hawaii and got a private investigator's license. 
  • Higgins (John Hillerman). Stuffy British man who dresses like he's about to go on safari and carries around a riding crop. He's also ex-military, but retired from the British army. Knows a lot about art, practices tai chi, and generally wants to be left alone.
  • TC (Roger E. Mosley). Served in Vietnam as a helicopter pilot. He still earns a living with this skill set as the owner/operator of Island Hopper Tours, flying mainlanders around the islands of Hawaii. He also flies Magnum around when he needs to for a case.
  • Rick (Larry Manetti). Another of Magnum's buddies from Vietnam. He contributes to the tourism trade by running a bar. When he's not mixing fruity drinks, he helps out Magnum with his cases.
1-2. "Don't Eat the Snow In Hawaii (Part I & Part II)". Like its contemporaries Miami Vice and 21 Jump Street, Magnum's pilot is a two-parter. Magnum and Higgins live on a beautiful estate owned by novelist Robin Masters, acting as caretakers/security while the writer travels around the world. Magnum has been largely relegated to the guesthouse by Higgins, who seems to be annoyed by the PI's mere presence. Magnum also isn't popular with the house's other tenants, Higgins' pet Dobermans named Zeus and Apollo. However, Magnum is popular with the local women; there's a steady parade of them in and out of the guesthouse. He commandeers his employer's red Ferrari and treats it like his own
A Navy buddy of Magnum's, Dan Cook, has died unexpectedly after returning from Japan. The autopsy reveals ruptured packets of cocaine in Dan's stomach. A captain at Pearl Harbor says Dan must've been smuggling it into the country and starts the process of stripping Dan's family of his Navy benefits. Magnum believes that somebody forced Dan to eat the cocaine. Dan's younger sister arrives to claim her brother's body. She wants to work with Magnum, TC, and Rick on clearing Dan's name. The investigation uncovers a complicated plot involving not only cocaine traffickers, but a gold dealer and a gangster. (Spoiler alert: the villain behind the frameup is the captain, who openly despises Magnum).

3. "China Doll". Magnum has to protect a priceless Chinese vase. The beautiful Chinese woman selling it is concerned that the vase will be stolen before its buyer can fly in from the mainland. Honestly, that's about all I got out of the episode. I was more interested in the Hawaiian scenery.

4. "Thank Heaven for Little Girls and Big Ones Too". This originally aired on Christmas Day 1980 and I found it to be the most entertaining installment of the series so far. Magnum gets a phone call on Christmas Eve from a woman asking him to find someone, but she won't give details over the phone; she wants to meet him at the state capitol building to discuss the case. When he gets there, Magnum gets a big surprise. The client is not a woman at all, but 5 little girls who go to a private school in Vermont and are in Hawaii for a holiday field trip. The teacher in charge of them took off the night before with "some beach bum" and promised to be back by Christmas night. The girls' headmaster is flying in to spend Christmas morning with them and they want Magnum to find Miss Booton so she won't get in trouble.
Not wanting these kids running around Hawaii by themselves any more, Magnum lets the girls spend the night at the Masters mansion. Higgins is not happy about the intrusion and worries about the security of Masters' valuable new painting that just arrived. The missing teacher case turns out to be a clever ruse; the girls case the house and call Miss Booton to report on the security measures. The theft of the painting goes wrong, resulting in the girls being kidnapped (not by Higgins).
The young actresses playing the schoolgirls were cute and precocious while still being believable. Magnum's scene where he learns who exactly has hired him is very funny. He's incredulous that the girls don't want Miss Booton to get in trouble after she supposedly ditched them. Equally good are the scenes where Magnum drags TC around the seedier parts of Hawaii in search of the teacher.

5. "No Need to Know". Magnum is assigned to protect a British brigadier general. Threats against the man's life have been made by the IRA. He grows increasingly frustrated with the brigadier's handlers, who refuse to tell him important details about what's going on. Higgins served with the brigadier, but is no help.

Magnum has a lot of elements in common with Miami Vice: tropical setting, Hawaiian shirts, a Ferrari, ladies' man main character, and yet it seems to be missing something. Tom Selleck tries just a little too hard to prove he's cool instead of letting his character's actions do the talking. He doesn't have the same charisma (or looks) as Don Johnson. I kind of wish that Rick was the main focus of the show and I'm so glad that Tom Selleck chose to keep starring in the show instead of taking the chance to play Indiana Jones. It wouldn't have worked.

Magnum's banter with Higgins and struggles to keep from being eaten by Zeus and Apollo are amusing. The episode plots are fairly predictable; the only twist I didn't see coming was that the innocent schoolgirls weren't so innocent and neither was their teacher. Will I watch the next episode, in which Magnum looks into the possible suicide of a beautiful movie star? Probably. It's the kind of mindless entertainment I'll probably need after long days and nights of paramedic school.