Magnum PI: Have Stache And Hawaiian Shirt, Will Investigate

Entertainment | June 23, 2021

The unforgettable Ferrari that was almost a porsche. (cnet)

Magnum P.I. became one of the highest-ranking and most beloved television shows, thanks to Tom Selleck, Hawaii, and a great car. For eight years starting in 1980, Selleck and his iconic red Ferrari 308 GTS delivered the picturesque views of Hawaii to the delight of millions. Besides the tropical paradise, the strapping 6’4’’ Selleck with his majestic mustache also enraptured viewers of all genders. As with many classic television shows, the production owed much of its success not only to the Selleck eye-candy factor but also his input on the character. Without him, Magnum would have more closely resembled James Bond. Here are all things Magnum P.I.

James Magnum?

The iconic Magnum P.I. uniform was all Selleck. (Getty)

Prior to Selleck coming onto Magnum P.I., executive producer Donald P. Bellisario recalled, “it was not the best script I’d ever read. It was a rip on 007. It was about a guy, a private eye named Magnum who was ex-CIA who lived in a house on a cliff, and he had this ferocious killer dog… and he would fly hang-gliders with machine guns on the wings.” Selleck candidly told Bellisario, “I’ll pound roofing nails before I shoot this.”

His threat held weight since the towering actor infamously turned down Indiana Jones due to scheduling conflicts with Magnum P.I. Selleck reflected on the portentous decision, "I did the right thing. I kept my word. I lived up to the contract. I think I have a hyperactive sense of responsibility. Some actors, that kind of thing might’ve killed them."

Thomas Magnum From The Mind of Tom Selleck

CBS used Magnum to crossover many of their shows into Hawaii. (distractify)

Selleck’s refusal to shoot Magnum as a James Bond rip-off helped turn the show into an all timer but it was also a gutsy move by the actor. As he remembers, “I was 35 when I got Magnum, which was a real blessing, because I think when I was 25, I looked 35 and sounded 15.” Producers allowed him to put his own imprint on the character and Magnum went from a Bond brainchild to a Rockford-style show.

“I got offered Magnum. I hated it. He was James Bond–like. He was perfect. He had girls on each arm. He owned a Ferrari. I said, "I want to do something more like Rockford." So now you have this big six-foot-four guy who didn’t own a Ferrari, didn’t own a business card; he was more of a private investigator, owed money to his friends, was the least responsible guy, and he was the kid who would never grow up. That was a big risk, because I think if Magnum hadn’t worked out, I’d never have worked again in this business.”

Porsche Drops The Ball

Selleck + Ferrari + Hawaii equals great success. (distractify)

Originally, Magnum’s sexy Ferrari 308 GTS was actually slated to be a Porsche. However, when all 6’4’’ of Selleck came aboard, the German company refused to customize a car so he could actually, you know, fit. Producers audibled at the last second and Ferrari swooped in with the 308. In order for the rangy actor to fit, Ferrari permanently removed the original seats, padding, and cut into the $140,000 car (adjusted for inflation). Magnum’s quintessential Detriot Tiger hat was yet another inspiration from Selleck, who was actually a big Tigers fan. How different it all would have been with him and his grandiose stache.

Work To Live, Not The Other Way Around

The stache with no equal. (looper)

After eight seasons the celebrated show came to an end, drawing the fifth highest rating ever for finale only behind, Cheers, M*A*S*H, Friends, and Seinfeld. The final number of viewers? 50.7 million, that’s more than the Superbowl today! Selleck ultimately walked away to avoid the pitfalls of fame and spend more time with his family. “I quit ‘Magnum,’ not because I didn’t like it or I was tired of it. I was tired from it. And I wanted a three-dimensional life because I didn’t have one … I knew intellectually what it would mean in terms of being a public person, but until you’ve lived it, there’s no way to understand it. I had a feeling of, ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for this.'”

Nevertheless, his seminal stache remains firmly in the culture as he learned working with a “That 70’s show.” “Ashton Kutcher told me — I did a movie with him, I played his father-in-law — and he was joking; he said, ‘I can’t grow one.’ Part of that’s genetic. You either got it or you don’t.”

Tags: 1980s TV | Celebrities In The 1980s | Magnum PI | Tom Selleck

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Kellar Ellsworth


Kellar Ellsworth was born and raised in Hawaii. He is an avid traveler, surfer and lover of NBA basketball. He wishes he could have grown up in the free love era!