Throwback Thursday: Tom Selleck First Got Wet With 'Magnum, P.I.'

Tom Sellack Magnum PI - P 2015
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Tom Sellack Magnum PI - P 2015

Before his recent trouble with Ventura County over alleged water theft, the actor became a national superstar 35 years ago when the Hawaii-based procedural topped the Nielsens for CBS.

This story first appeared in the July 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Before getting in hot water over water in Ventura County (the local water utility investigated possible theft), perhaps the worst thing that ever happened to Tom Selleck was losing twice on The Dating Game. ("I was so nervous and my mouth was so dry, my top lip was stuck to my gum," he once recalled.) The quick and quiet settlement reached July 10 regarding claims that he had a truck siphon water from a public fire hydrant for use on his 60-acre Hidden Valley property is just another sign of what a remarkably unbruised life — at least for an actor — Selleck, 70, has led.

Selleck got a basketball scholarship in 1962 to USC, where the business school put him in a United Airlines management training program. While still in college, he began a prosperous career doing commercials (a classic is an early '70s Safeguard deodorant soap spot in which a dreamy-eyed Teri Garr says to Penny Marshall, "He smells just the way a man should smell — clean"). Landing the lead in 1980's Magnum, P.I. did Selleck, along with CBS, a world of good: The show immediately won the week for the network, which averaged a 20.9 rating, and earned Selleck a lead actor Emmy in 1984. Says CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves of Selleck, now starring on the network's Blue Bloods: "Two different shows, two very different roles, but he's just as important to our CBS family today as he was back in the '80s." Blood is thicker than water, after all.