Magnum PI Season 1 Episode 1 Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii part 1


The first half of the pilot, originally broadcast as one long episode but now broken into 2 parts, starts off with Thomas Magnum narrating as he breaks into the estate of author Robin Masters to steal his Ferrari. Magnum explains that he is doing this at the behest of Masters, who has hired him to test his security. We get an explanation of Magnum's living arrangements and see his skills at getting past obstacles. We see his ring and the Vietnam flashback it triggers. Everyone in his unit had one of these rings. Cut to the title sequence. This is not the one I am familiar with. It had more of a 60's feel with a jazz inspired theme song and the emblem from his ring making a cutout into the credits sequence. 

The rest of the first half of the episode is very 80's but also timeless in a way. It is obviously of it's time, the technology and vibe all scream 80's even though the decade had barely begun. Magnum and his friends were all Vietnam vets, just like in every other action/drama on tv at the time. The story has Magnum trying to clear his old Vietnam buddy from posthumous drug charges and prove that he was murdered and didn't die smuggling drugs. It's a plot that would have seemed at home on an episode of Miami Vice. In fact the whole show could almost seem like a Hawaiian version of Miami Vice. (To be fair I guess Miami Vice would be a Floridian version of this since this came first.)

But somehow this show doesn't feel as heavy as the other. It also doesn't seem as stuck in it's time. If not for the change in technology that has taken place over the last 40 years this could seem contemporary. It has some goofy touches, like Magnum's friend Rick who has an obvious Casablanca fetish and runs a bar on the island where he manages to know the underworld goings on. It has it's cliches like the Captain who was jealous of Magnum and his friend (Lt Dan, years before Forrest Gump would have made that name funny), and Dan's sister who has the hits for Magnum while he sees her as a younger sister. None of these detract from the show, especially since this is the kind of tropey shorthand that's still used in tv today. Somehow in an older show familiarity doesn't breed contempt, it breeds nostalgia.

The brief rundown of the plot is that Magnum's friend Dan is coming back from an NIA mission in Japan and has asked Magnum to pick him up. Magnum is running late and Dan gets picked up by two men in uniform. They stuff packets of cocaine down his throat and beat him up causing the packets to burst. He dies of an overdose and is accused of smuggling drugs. Magnum and Dan's sister Alice vow to find out the truth of what happened. This is interspersed with Vietnam flashbacks showing how the team grew close over there. Not a lot to it, but it's as meaty as it needs to be I guess.

We see the beginning of the relationship between Magnum and Higgins, his coworker. We see his ingenuity when he uses a tape recorder playing a high pitched noise to distract two vicious guard dogs so he can sneak onto Masters' property during his security check. We get to see Magnum's humor when he deals with Higgins and the dogs, and in scenes like the one where he is scrambling to get a pair of magnifying glasses so he can get a better look at the topless swimmers enjoying Robin's pool. I do sort of wish they had left the pilot intact as one long episode. It feels like it cuts off very abruptly. But if the second half is as enjoyable as the first then at least I have something to look forward to.

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