I confess, when I watched the show as a kid, I just loved the sheer visual noise of it. Mike Post and Pete Carpenter's theme song still plays in my head as the ultimate car chase accompaniment.
I thought I remembered Magnum. Those dimples! That Ferarri! The mustache! But lately, WunderGuy and I have been bingeing on Magnum, P.I. I discovered I'd forgotten many aspects...
Magnum's a Tigger. His friends are his real family. When he blunders into trouble -- which is often -- his first instinct is to get physical. Whatever he does, even if he does it badly, he does with gusto.
|"My dear Pooh," said Owl in his superior way,
"don't you know what an Ambush is?"
However, Higgins isn't all blowhard. When the chips are down, he is quick to help -- though that help often comes with a rather wordy soundtrack.
T.C.? Well, T.C. is Pooh, of course. He's all heart. He'll do anything for his friends, but he has his own interests, too.
He's more grounded and less volatile than Magnum. While Magnum spends his free time training himself for competition, T.C. spends his coaching kids. His sense of loyalty will never let him turn down a request from a friend -- even if he knows from past experience that the request will probably lead to trouble.
|Pooh was just beginning to say that it was
all right now, when he found that it wasn't.
At least once an episode, what I call the "Oh, bother" scene occurs, where Magnum wrangles T.C. into doing something both of them know T.C. would be better off not doing... Still, like Pooh, T.C. can never say "no" and make it stick.
And what about Rick? He's Rabbit. Knows everyone. Extremely hard working. Knows the rules and expects people to follow them -- though he's often guilty of ignoring them himself.
|"Hallo, Rabbit," he said, "is that you?"
"Let's pretend it isn't," said Rabbit, "and see what happens."
Once, at a dinner party, a friend of a friend waxed eloquent on his theory of how the whole world is peopled with characters from Winnie the Pooh. I've often had reason to think about his theory and wonder if he's right. A.A. Milne understood the importance of archetype. In the denizens of the 100 Acre Woods, Milne created a few that endure.
There is a reason archetypes work. They help writers keep characters consistent. They allow the audience to get an immediate feel for a character. As the relationship grows, the characters eventually amass their own history, their own quirks, and take on a life of their own. But the underlying archetype -- Good Guy, Pontificator, Life of the Party, Hard Ass, Bigot, Softie -- remains, providing the foundation for the rest.
My friend, the lovely Yi Shun Lai (@Gooddirt), blogged about lessons learned from bingewatching Magnum this summer.
Me? My big takeaway is the fact that the wonderful thing about archetypes is Magnums are wonderful things...