TV URBAN LEGEND: Sam Beckett from “Quantum Leap” almost leaped into Thomas Magnum from “Magnum P.I.”
One of the most prolific TV creators of the past forty years is Donald Bellisario, who has had a popular TV show on the air in nearly every year since “Magnum P.I.” debuted in 1980. “Magnum P.I.” was followed by “Quantum Leap”, which was followed by “JAG”, which was followed by “NCIS”, which is still on the air today (and has spun off two other shows, “NCIS: Los Angeles” and “NCIS: New Orleans”). Bellisario was well known for being very loyal to the cast and crew of his shows, as he would often re-use actors from his various series on his other new series (and, of course, “NCIS” was a direct spin-off of “JAG”). However, that connection almost went one step further with his series, “Quantum Leap”, when it almost actually crossed over with “Magnum P.I.” years after “Magnum P.I.” went off of the air!
The concept behind “Quantum Leap” was that Dr. Samuel Beckett (Scott Bakula) would “leap” through time, landing in the bodies of people throughout his life time (so the past thirty-plus years) and he would be tasked with “putting right what once went wrong.” If/when he succeeded, he would then “leap” to another time and another person’s body.
The idea was that eventually he would leap back to his actual body. He was aided on his journey by Al (Dean Stockwell), a Navy Admiral who worked on the time travel project (Project Quantum Leap, naturally) and who appeared to Beckett in the form of a hologram that only Beckett could see and here. He would tell Beckett what the mission was for that leap and give him other assistance.
“Magnum P.I.” was a popular detective series that starred Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a former Navy Intelligence officer who became a private investigator in Hawaii.
It made Selleck a huge star. It went off the air roughly as “Quantum Leap” began. Over its run, “Magnum P.I.” was a much more popular series than “Quantum Leap,” although both series were critically acclaimed (Bakula and Stockwell were routinely nominated for Emmy Awards, while Selleck and co-star John Hellerman both won Emmys during “Magnum P.I.’s” run. Interestingly enough, a third actor was nominated for Best Actor while on “Quantum Leap” – Can you guess who?).
Anyhow, in an attempt to get a fifth season, Bellisario and NBC had an idea. They would end the fourth season of the show with Beckett leaping into…Thomas Magnum!
NBC even announced it to the world. However, while the final shot of the fourth season finale could be done without much help from Tom Selleck, shooting the whole episode would definitely require his commitment, and Selleck did not appear interested. In fact, his publicist denied even being offered the project back in 1992, when NBC was now saying, ”We’re hoping. It’s on hold. We don’t have an answer.”
Whatever the reason for it dropping (one notable theory is that Bellisario was getting some interest in a “Magnum P.I.” movie at the time and didn’t want to mess anything up with that), the end result was that it was dropped.
As it was, all we ever got was some test shots of Bakula for the end of the Season 4 finale where he dressed in Magnum’s trademark Hawaiian shirt and gave his distinctive rising of the eyebrows. A Quantum Leap convention showed the test shots and a great Quantum Leap site posted a video of the people watching the video, so the footage isn’t the clearest, but it’s pretty awesome…
Sadly, it fell apart and they instead made the Season 5 premiere about Beckett leaping into Lee Harvey Oswald. The fifth season was filled with gimmicks intended to boost the ratings, but ultimately, the show ended after five seasons.
Amusingly enough, earlier in “Quantum Leap”‘s run, an episode of “Magnum P.I.” is airing at the home of a family when Beckett leaped into a single mother. So having Thomas Magnum being real would “break” their own continuity.
Anyhow, the legend is…
Be sure to check out my archive of TV Legends Revealed for more urban legends about the world of television.
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