Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Magnum, P.I.

Well, this one needs little introduction. Unless you are under the age of 25 or never watch TV (in which case, what are you doing here?!?), you can’t fail but be familiar with ’80s US detective drama Magnum, P.I..

The show ran for eight seasons (162 episodes) between 1980 and 1988 and is easily one of the best shows of its type from any era.

The show’s charm is down to a combination of many factors. There’s the charisma, and the often overlooked acting ability, of Tom Sellick in the title role of course.

There’s his hilariously fractious, yet deep-down mutually-respectful,on-screen partnership with John Hillerman‘s strait-laced Higgins, a former British Army soldier and the caretaker of millionaire author Robin Masters’ Hawaiian beachfront estate, where Magnum lives and provides security. Magnum and Higgins are one of the all-time great odd couples.

And there’s the fact that the show never took itself too seriously and managed the tricky task of striking a fantastic balance between intense drama, thrilling action and high comedy. The show even toyed with the idea of breaking the fourth wall and communicating directly with the viewers (something Moonlighting would later do to much greater effect), though this never went beyond a character (usually Magnum or Higgins) giving a knowing look directly into the camera.

For more reasons why Magnum P.I. is regarded with such affection, check out this interesting little essay.

And so to the reason we are here – the theme tune, which is one of the most recognisable in TV history. Or is it?

If you’ve been paying attention to this classic theme tunes feature of mine over the weeks, you may have noticed that I am a bit geeky about theme tunes and the different versions that graced the opening titles of popular shows.

Well, the classic Magnum P.I.theme we know and love wasn’t the first choice for the show, which started out with something very different (written, I believe, by Ian Freebairn-Smith):

That instantly forgettable tune only lasted for about nine episodes, thankfully, before it was replaced by the classic Mike Post tune, though the visuals for the remainder of season one weren’t quite in their final form and so this version is still not the iconic version of the show’s opening:

But by the start of season two, all the elements were in place. The visuals changed slightly from season to season from then on, with newer footage replacing some of the older character clips, but the classic images – such as the diving helicopter at the start and Magnum speeding off in the Ferrari, staring at the bikini babe’s arse and slamming the clip into his gun – remained all through the show’s run. Here it is:



Filed under Classic TV, Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day, TV Themes

3 responses to “Tuesday Is Theme Tunes Day – Magnum, P.I.

  1. masseo

    I never thought I’d be saying this, but I really prefer the older magnum theme by Ian Freebairn-Smith. I was looking for the song today. I kept on looking for the song based on a search for “Mancini”. It really sounds like a Henry Mancini type theme.
    In the end I found the song, and found your page.

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