A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this hit 1980s crime drama -- which has a healthy dose of humor, too -- is full of tropical beaches, beautiful women, and lots of sexual innuendo (not to mention Tom Selleck in short shorts). But most of the racier stuff will probably go over kids' head. There's some violence, including the use of guns, but it's mild by today's standards, and blood is rarely seen. Some episodes are heavier than others, but overall it's a lighthearted throwback that still entertains.
A good "starter" detective series for kids of an appropriate age, particularly if they're already interested in detective series.
What's the story?
MAGNUM P.I. stars Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum -- a Vietnam veteran/former naval intelligence who's hired as a security consultant for unseen British writer Robin Masters (voiced by Orson Welles) in exchange for room and board. Magnum builds his private investigation practice from the guesthouse on Masters' beachfront Hawaiian estate. Living in "Robin's Nest" has its benefits, including a stocked wine cellar, high-end electronics, and the unlimited use of a bright red 308 GTS Ferrari. Unfortunately, Magnum's luxurious lifestyle is cramped by the nagging presence of the estate's custodian, rather priggish ex-British Army Sergeant Major Jonathan Higgins (John Hillerman), and his two well-trained Dobermans. But with the help of his Vietnam buddies, particularly helicopter pilot T.C. Calvin (Roger E. Mosley) and slightly shady beach club manager Rick Wright (Larry Mannetti), Magnum solves just about every case, no matter how odd. (And, naturally, success often comes hand in hand with securing the affections of a former female client or victim.... )
Is it any good?
With its combination of drama, humor, action, and sex appeal, is it any wonder that MAGNUM P.I. was a mega hit in the '80s? The Hawaiian setting -- combined with Magnum's tight jeans, short shorts, and unbuttoned Hawaiian shirts -- makes for an ideal tropical fantasy that plays up the private eye's sex appeal. The splashy series also reflects the longing for economic excess that characterized the '80s.
But Magnum's biggest cultural contribution may very well have been its willingness to openly examine some of the troubling long-term issues that Vietnam veterans faced as they transitioned back into civilian life after the war.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the staying power of TV icons like Magnum. Which other characters have stood the test of time? Who are some of today's popular media icons? What do they represent? What will people say about them 20 years from now? Families can also talk about how Magnum's Vietnam veteran status affected both his character and the show.