Tom Selleck’s Best Movie And TV Roles

Tom Selleck was a basketball-playing business administration major at the University of Southern California in the mid-’60s, when a drama coach spotted him and suggested he try acting; soon after, he dropped out and began studying acting under Actors Studio-trained stage and film director/producer/instructor Milton Katselas.

Around the time he began serving in the National Guard to satisfy his Vietnam draft notice, Selleck began appearing on game shows (“The Dating Game”) and commercials (for Pepsi, among others), landing small parts on numerous television shows in the ’70s before earning his breakout role in 1980 as Thomas Magnum on “Magnum P.I.”

This series won 10 Emmys, making Selleck (and his mustache) a huge TV star and s*x symbol in the 1980s. During the series’ eight-year run, Selleck did guest appearances as Magnum on other shows as well, including “Murder She Wrote” and “Simon and Simon.” The red-hot star may have missed out on being Indiana Jones, but he did help inspire “Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers,” and Magnum opened many doors, leading to a substantial film career and roles as everything from a jewel thief to a private detective, a police officer to a cowboy, an ophthalmologist, and even a journalist. Still going strong all these decades later with the ratings juggernaut “Blue Bloods,” let’s take a look back on the remarkable career of Tom Selleck.

Magnum P.I. (1980—1988)

In 1980, Tom Selleck was cast as Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran who went to work as a private detective in Hawaii after leaving the Navy. Over 158 episodes, the CBS series “Magnum P.I” cast Selleck as a normal, Detroit Tigers cap-wearing guy living through extraordinary circumstances.

“Magnum P.I.” was a huge, sanitized, made-for-TV male fantasy, ’80s style. Magnum lived a glamorous life in paradise, with his friends (and fellow Vietnam veterans) T.C. and Rick helping him with investigations. It made Selleck a huge star, setting the tone for other popular series of this era including “The A-Team” and “Knight Rider.”

The series was also a progenitor in playing with narrative devices. “Magnum P.I.” had Selleck sometimes breaking the fourth wall, looking directly at the camera before smiling, letting the audience in on an inside joke. Decades later, the device would be frequently employed in everything from “Deadpool” and “House of Cards” to “Saved By the Bell” and “Fleabag.”

The Shadow Riders (1982)

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