Thursday, April 28, 2005

Magnum, P.D.Q.

With the change to Daylight Saving Time (except here in Arizona, of course) and the cable TV world's never-ending need to shift programs to different time slots, my wife's "Chicago Hope" habit (and thus, her Discovery Health network) habit has fallen by the wayside a bit.

So "Magnum, P.I." is currently gracing our television. It's on an honest-to-God, good old fashioned UHF station that also carries "Hogan's Heroes" and "Perry Mason". The 19 Minutes Leadership Team half expects to encounter the supporting characters from the UHF stations it watched in childhood -- "Captain 20" and "Captain Chesapeake" spring to mind. So does a healthy eating PSA, featuring "Spudnik the Space Potato" singing about why it's good to eat salad. But I digress.

Anyway, watching "Magnum" in 2005 provides another one of those cringe-inducing windows into one's past, along the same lines as the dialogue on "MacGyver", or the Phil Collins-intensive musical scores on "Miami Vice". And you ask yourself: Was this stuff actually cool? Or was it uncool stuff pretending to be cool? Or was it always uncool, only I was too uncool to realize it wasn't cool?

(This brings to mind a classic character description from Ben Elton's classic environmental catastrophe novel, Stark:

"However hot it was Colin always thought he was cool - small and cool. He was one of those rare people who try to be cool and somehow manage in the process to be a bit cool -- not much, but a bit. He was so unashamed of his pretensions that they kind of worked."

In the context of 2005, Magnum is either not cool at all or totally retro-cool. Today's episode features our hero driving his Ferrari while wearing one of those mesh-backed trucker-style ballcaps that disappeared entirely for about 20 years (except in a baseball school commercial featuring Fred McGriff), and then reappeared on the heads of edgy rock musicians. In yesterday's episode, he purported to want to relax in his hammock, reading Dostoevsky and listening to a Walkman playing Tchaikovsky, which was supposed to make him seem like a Renaissance man, but just came off as stultifyingly weird.

There's really no good way to wrap this up, except to note that in today's episode of Magnum, John Ratzenberger plays the bad guy (Yeah, we just ruined the ending. Sorry.). They catch him while he's off playing gin with his buddy, Norm. Not that we'd accuse the "Cheers" people of stealing from an obscure episode of Magnum, P.I., but it is interesting.

And my wife's just asked me if we can set the VCR. For "Chicago Hope". It seems they're showing it at 1:00 am these days.

No comments: