2015/12/19

Operation: Silent Night

Star Wars 7

The wait is over! Star Wars: The Force Awakens has finally been released to enraptured audiences.

Unfortunately, I was not among them. The only showing that wasn't sold out was in 3D, which to me doesn't make movies look three-dimensional so much as it turns them blurry and induces migraines.

Instead of reviewing Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I'm pleased to announce that I'll be doing the next best thing--reviewing Operation: Silent Night, the 1983 Christmas episode of hit 1980s TV series Magnum, P.I.!

Before we dive right into the episode, it's worth noting that there's a fascinating connection between Magnum and Star Wars by way of one series' creator and both series' stars.

The Indiana Jones We Deserved
Everyone knows that superstar Harrison Ford played the title role in the George Lucas-produced Indiana Jones series. But did you know that we almost got a different Indy?

It's true! Had fate's fickle hand not intervened, the iconic role of Indiana Jones would have gone to none other than Tom Selleck.

Behold the irrecoverable loss to the art of film--and all of Western civilization!

Both Lucas and Spielberg loved Selleck's performance and were ready to sign him on the spot. Unfortunately, Selleck was already contracted to play the title character of another landmark series--that's right, Magnum, P.I.. CBS refused to let him out of the contract, so we got stuck with Ford.

Yet all was not lost. Instead of playing Dr. Henry Jones, Jr. in a paltry three films (yes, I said and meant three), Selleck got the chance to shine for eight seasons on one of the 1980s' most consistently highest-rated TV shows.

With a pedigree like that, you'd expect Magnum, P.I. to bring something special to the table when it came to Christmas episodes, and you'd be right! The episode I've chosen in honor of the event which Higgins rightly calls, "one of the most sacred in human history" is the 1983 Christmas special, Operation: Silent Night.

The Main Event
Note: I won't bother with spoiler warnings for a 32 year-old TV show. Besides, you all should have watched every episode of Magnum by now, if not committed the whole series to memory.

Magnum 1
Less seedy than most mall Santas
Written by the dynamic duo of Chris Abbott and Reuben Leder and directed by Fantasy IslandIncredible Hulk, and A-Team veteran Michael Vejar, this episode couldn't have asked for a more capable creative team.

The adventure begins with Magnum, TC, Rick, and Higgins en route to various Christmas festivities in TC's helicopter, which in no way resembles an off-the-shelf model.

Magnum 2
Pictured: a real helicopter next to a freakishly large tree
A mechanical failure forces TC to put the chopper down on a deserted island. The four men immediately fall to squabbling at the prospect of missing their respective Christmas celebrations.

Meanwhile, unknown to our heroes, the captain of a nearby US Navy destroyer--played to hawkish perfection by Ed Lauter--decides to target the island they've landed on for artillery practice.

Magnum 3
Christmas leave is cancelled until morale improves!
Unaware of their plight, the four castaways nonetheless get to work on various escape plans. These include attempting to repair the helicopter, building a signal fire on the beach, and cannibalizing the lost wreck of a WWII Japanese scout plane to build a canoe.

Magnum 4
This guy is partially responsible for the attack on Pearl Harbor, but Magnum is honorable enough to give him a proper burial and notify his next of kin. Classy!
The Navy ignores the signal fire, and the makeshift canoe sinks--along with Higgins' Christmas spirit. But Magnum cheers everyone up by playing Santa before their dinner of tropical root and berry gruel.

Magnum 5
Eat your heart out, Charlie Brown!
The destroyer starts shelling the island. Luckily, TC gets the helicopter working just in time, and our heroes get away by the skin of their teeth.

Magnum 6
A Christmas episode with big ass explosions. Thanks, Magnum, P.I.!
In the end, everyone learns not to take friendship for granted and not to lose hope, even in the face of seemingly impossible odds. The stodgy captain even wishes the ensign a merry Christmas.

Plus, explosions. HUGE explosions.

Is Magnum, P.I. episode S04E10 Operation: Silent Night the best Christmas episode of any TV series ever? In a nutshell, yes. Yes it is.

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