December 1980: "Magnum, P.I." Debuts on CBS

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 1: Actor Tom Selleck stars as Thomas Sullivan Magnum on the CBS television series "Magnum, P.I." He is in a red Ferrari 308 and wearing a Hawaiian floral print shirt. Image dated January 1, 1984. (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)
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(CBS via Getty Images)

It was on December 11, 1980, when a new show about a "wisecracking, fun-loving, freeloading, freelance private eye" debuted on CBS TV: Magnum P.I. The hour-long drama set on the Hawaiian island of Ohau about an ex-Navy officer turned island detective kicked off with a special two-hour episode entitled "Don't Eat the Snow in Hawaii":


"Magnum accidentally uncovers a drug operation in the islands when picking up an old Navy friend of his at the airport and helps his friend's sister uncover the truth about a conspiracy involving the NIA and Southeast-Asian drug dealers. Magnum makes a casual reference to predecessor series Hawaii Five-O after his pursuers drive over a cliffside. When his friend winds up dead, Magnum must find his killers and uncover a smuggling ring that leads him to people from his past during the Vietnam War."


The Hawaii 5-0 reference was no accident; Magnum’s location was picked because the network didn't want to let its Hawaiian production facilities go to waste, so the Tom Selleck-led show filmed many of its indoor scenes on the old Hawaii Five-0 soundstage.

The was a such a smash that the dramatic and catchy theme song made a run on the charts; "Theme from Magnum, P.I." peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The show ran for eight seasons, finally calling it when the last new episode aired on May 8, 1988. It still stands as one of the highest-rated season finales of all-time.

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