“Home From the War: An Appreciation of Magnum, PI”

Barrelhouse — Fall 2005

It’s no secret to my friends that Magnum, PI was my favorite television show. After hearing news about the prospect Magnum, PI reboot, I wrote this confession:

I was the kid who started calculating how many suburban half-acres I would have to mow in order to buy a red Ferrari 308. Like Thomas Sullivan Magnum, I pursued an appointment to the United States Naval Academy. I did these things for two reasons—because I loved the show Magnum, PI, and because I knew what they would mean to my father.

It’s why I can’t listen to the bitching and moaning about this television season’s flurry of reboots and adaptations. I’m excited about a new Magnum PI reboot, and honestly, about a new Greatest American Hero, and I’d be interested in a savvy, darker take on Hogan’s Heroes too, if there was one. I’d love to be the showrunner on a more true to life version of Gilligan’s Island, where, after one of his dozens of seemingly harmless screwups, the other castaways turn against him and it becomes much more like Lost than the lighthearted romp we remember.

Today, I see all the possibilities of Magnum as he navigates the aftermath of America’s longest war, and the ways in which the most interesting narratives about prosecution of that war and its consequences are not necessarily the kinds of tales that grab headlines. Magnum and his closest friends represent the presence of decency in a world that is often not. Magnum, T.C., Rick, and Higgins represent an almost Victorian concept of chivalry and duty. As so many of the original series episodes point out, theirs is a soldier’s code. It was my dad’s code, too.

But if you want to know what Magnum really meant to me, I suggest you check out this essay I wrote, Home from the War: An Appreciation of Magnum, PI. It first appeared in the literary magazine Barrelhouse, and was later reprinted in their essay collection Bring the Noise, which sold out and is now out of print. But because you, you intrepid traveler, are here, you can read it.