Tom Selleck: How Many Series Did His ‘Magnum P.I.’ Character Appear In?

by Suzanne Halliburton

Tom Selleck was the toast of the 1980s TV, back when he was driving around Hawaii in a red Ferrari, solving crimes and living in a beachfront estate that faced the Pacific Ocean.

Never mind that the Ferrari was borrowed and his home was the guest house belonging to his mysterious boss, Robin Masters. Magnum P.I., with Tom Selleck as its star, was all sorts of breezy fun. The show turned Selleck into a serious TV star and the perfect sex symbol for the decade of excess everything.

On this late spring Saturday, we’re hitting you up with some Tom Selleck, Magnum P.I. kind of facts. Like, did you know that Selleck was the only cast member to appear in all of the show’s episodes during its nine-year television stint? That was 162 episodes taking in those warm Pacific breezes.

Tom Selleck also appeared as the Thomas Magnum character in two other series, as crossover episodes. The other two were Simon & Simon and Murder, She Wrote.

Did You Know Tom Selleck Was in His Mid-30s When He Got Career-Defining Part?

Tom Selleck was 35 years old when he landed the role and his career break.

“The luckiest thing that happened was that I didn’t get a real job until I was 35,” Selleck told AARP magazine. “When I was 25, I looked 35 but sounded 15. There are a lot of very good actors who make it as younger leading men but don’t graduate — because the audience won’t accept them as grown up.”

As unbelievable as it sounds, Tom Selleck wasn’t the first choice to play Magnum. Universal Studio executives wanted Kevin Dobson, who worked as Telly Savalas’ partner on Kojak. Dobson is best known for playing Mack MacKenzie on the primetime 1980s soap, Knots Landing.

Selleck’s Magnum Was Navy QB and Former SEAL

On the show, Tom Selleck played a guy in his 40s who came from a family of service to the country. His father and grandfather were in the Navy. Magnum’s dad was an aviator who died during the Korean War. Thomas Magnum was a quarterback for the U.S. Naval Academy, hence the references to the Army-Navy game. He was a Navy SEAL and in military intelligence, but left the service before becoming a private investigator. At the end of the series, Magnum returned to the Navy.

As first written, Magnum was supposed to be as suave as James Bond, but Selleck asked that the character be more normal, kind of like James Garner in the Rockford Files. Selleck considered Garner his mentor.

The show ran from 1980-88 and it ranked among the country’s top 20 series for five straight years.

If not for Magnum P.I., Tom Selleck likely would have been known to Americans as another character. Because of his commitment to the TV show, Selleck had to turn down the leading role of Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Arc. That part went to Harrison Ford, who also was Han Solo in the Star Wars franchise. Selleck also missed out on Terminator because of Magnum P.I.

But we think Tom Selleck was the perfect choice to play ultra cool beach bum/turned P.I. Thomas Magnum.