Thomas Magnum (Tom Selleck) was one of the best of the flock of memorable TV detectives of the 1980's, and this is the first volume of his adventures. When we first meet him in the two-hour pilot, "Please Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii" (yes, the title makes sense, but only after you've watched it), he's a 34-year-old private investigator (he hates to be called a "private eye") who served as a Navy SEAL in Vietnam (and is still occasionally troubled by dreams and flashbacks), then in the Naval Intelligence Agency at Pearl Harbor--two experiences that have made him cynical about most things official--before he "beached himself" a year ago. Somehow he met Robin Masters, a famous and fantastically successful novelist with an estate on the island, and was offered free occupancy of its guesthouse in exchange for acting as backstop security for Sgt.-Maj. (Retired) Jonathan Quayle Higgins III (John Hillerman), the self-proclaimed "major-domo"--actually a glorified caretaker--of the place. Once there he contrived to also obtain use of Robin's red Ferrari, though he often has to wheel and deal with Higgins to keep it. Though most of his off-camera cases seem to be low-paying divorce jobs--at one point we find out that he hasn't "had $200 in his checking account since he left the service," though what he spends his money on isn't clear--he has his share of intriguing and dangerous ones, and these are the focus of the series. In solving them he often calls on two former teammates from the war, T.C. (Roger E. Mosely), who has translated his experience as a chopper pilot to ownership of Island Hoppers, a tourist flying service, and Orville "Rick" Wright (Larry Manetti), a cocky, wiry, street-wise native of Flatbush, formerly T.C.'s door gunner, notable for his shady contacts and ability to find out almost anything; in the pilot he owned a disco, Rick's Club Americaine, but after the series was picked up he was made manager of the King Kamehaha Club, a private outfit on the beach where Magnum--as the permanent guest of Robin Masters, who's among the most prominent members--spends a lot of his time.
Like all the detective series of its era, MPI (as it was called by its fans) had to find something to make itself unique among a crowd of other such shows, and what it chose was the relationship between Magnum and Higgins. Higgins, despite having been only a noncom, was clearly reared an aristocrat (in future seasons we learn that he attended Sandhurst, the British equivalent of West Point), and has a tendency to look down his nose at Magnum, whom he regards as a lazy, uncultured freeloader--which is unjust, because while Magnum does prefer to live in faded jeans and aloha shirts, he runs the eight-mile beach route from the estate to the Club every morning, swims, paddles a surf-ski, plays sand volleyball and (when he can con Higgins into letting him use the estate courts) tennis, looks quite dashing in a suit, is cool-headed in moments of peril and capable of fast, graceful action--it's a treat to watch him move. Higgins also has what Magnum considers an annoying habit of launching into long tales of his army service during and after World War II at the drop of a hat ("This reminds me of...," he'll begin, and you never know whether the story will end up perilous or humorous), and flatly states that he doesn't "like the way you live...[or] the way you drive [the Ferrari]...[or] your friends..." He and Magnum are perpetually locked in conflict over the car, Magnum's use of the estate wine cellar/tennis courts/hot tub/big-screen TV, and Higgins's two Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo, who share their master's dislike of him. Yet as the series proceeds, Higgins apparently finds Magnum growing on him: he once says that he's "glad you're all right," and another time, after Magnum has agreed to move out in order to get Higgins's help in clearing T.C. of a smuggling rap, Higgins not only provides the help but ultimately maneuvers him into staying on.
Magnum is a slightly quirky, very attractive, soft-spoken but definitely masculine character who often provides voice-over narration that brings us up to speed on his thoughts on a situation or what's been going on when the camera wasn't looking. The series exteriors were filmed on location in Hawaii, and some of the scenery--especially the sheer cliffs past which T.C.'s chopper sometimes flies--is incredible. The set includes three double-sided discs and a single, containing all 18 first-season segments (including the pilot, aired as a two-parter), plus "Kiis Don't Lie/Emeralds Are Not a Girl's Best Friend," the crossover with [[ASIN:B001JTRKHW Simon & Simon: Season Two]] (which isn't on the latter) and "Echoes of the Mind," a two-part fifth-season episode featuring Sharon Stone, which is also available on the Fifth-Season set.