Why do we like Tom Selleck so much?

Tonight, Tom Selleck will star in another of his Jesse Stone TV-movies, this one titled Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost. In it, Selleck’s Jesse has lost his job with the Paradise, Mass., police department, he’s drinking heavily, and he’s haunted by the death of a girl he once tried to help. In other words, it’s Jesse just the way we like him: broody and depressed, but never missing a clue or a chance to get back at someone who’s done him wrong.

When you lay out his characteristics like that, Jesse Stone seems like the sort of man you’d want to move down a few bar-stool seats to avoid. Yet Tom Selleck has taken the character created by the late Robert B. Parker and made him a very appealing loner — separate out the alcoholism (all heroes need a tragic flaw), and Selleck’s Jesse actually lives a life many of us might envy. He lives in a nice house on a pretty slip of land, has a faithful dog, few responsibilities, women much younger than him can’t wait to hop into bed with him, and he’s got the most shrewd, available therapist anyone could want (a nod of gratitude, as always, to William Devane).

I’d say that Innocents Lost isn’t the best of the Jesse Stone movies — its plot is more reminiscent of a Ross Macdonald missing-daughter plot than a Robert B. Parker bestseller, and would suggest that next time around, Selleck hire someone else to write the script, now that there aren’t more Stone books to adapt. But really, this is a minor complaint, because when we sit down to watch the latest installment of this character’s life, it’s Selleck and Stone we want to spend time with; the details are just there to keep the narrative moving along.

Even if you don’t pay attention to the credits to note that Selleck is a producer of the Stone adventures as well as an occasional co-writer of them, you instinctively know the actor is in full control. It’s not because Selleck is in nearly every frame (though that’s true), because the Jesse Stone TV-movies are the most modest of vanity projects. It’s not that Selleck needs to dominate the proceedings; it’s that we want him to — we revel in the idea that he’s offering himself up to us a middle-aged man who’s both tired but still sharp, weighed down with melancholy yet buoyant with hope that he can right a few wrongs before he has to hang up his baseball cap.

It’s the same kind of gravity that Selleck brings to his role as Commissioner Frank Regan in Blue Bloods, which recently wrapped up its first season. As he’s gotten older, Selleck uses his chipped-from-granite bulkiness and dour poker-face as measures of authority. At the same time, he hasn’t lost those flashes of sarcasm and more straightforward humor that make him the kind of guy both women and men think would make him kinda fun to hang out with. And “being fun to hang out with” in TV language translate as a high Q rating: Selleck is always rated one of the medium’s most-liked actors.

It was Magnum P.I. that made Selleck a star, of course. That 1980s series was a more Hawaiian-shirt-bright, light-hearted affair, in general. But it also carried a dark undertone: Magnum, you’ll recall, was a former Navy SEAL commando who’d done three tours of duty in Vietnam. This was the character Selleck used to establish himself as a TV star, and one definition of a TV star is that he’s someone you want to spend time with him every week. (It’s why so many movie stars have flopped trying to transition into weekly TV.)

When Blue Bloods was first announced as a series, my first thought was, “Oh, no — no more Jesse Stone movies?” So I was relieved to have read that Selleck agreed to do Bloods with the stipulation that he also continue with an occasional Stone. (This could be a dictionary definition of “getting blood from a stone,” I think.) At a time when the broadcast networks aren’t investing in made-for-TV movies anymore, the star has made the Jesse Stone franchise viable.

It’s clear that Selleck connects to this character on both an intellectual and gut level. He’s made Jesse more complex at every opportunity, even at the risk as alienating some viewers who might find the pace slow or the themes depressing. Me, I find the deliberate pacing a luxurious pleasure, a respite from the frantic cross-cutting and end-every-scene-with-a-climax style of network storytelling. And Selleck had made sure to dole out the details of Jesse’s increasing, sad, but logically-motivated alcoholism with great care and discretion.

The link between Magnum and Frank Reagan and Stone is that they’re hard men who do their jobs well and resist excessive displays of emotion. But roiling just beneath the surface is a swirl of fear and anger and regret that suggest the full life of each man. One reason we like Tom Selleck so much is that he makes us feel as though we’re not alone in having such feelings ourselves, and that it’s okay to lose control sometimes, or to reach out to others for help… while always, of course, being ready to punch a bad guy who deserves it, or to set aside our self-absorption to help someone more in need of help than ourselves.

Twitter: @kentucker

Comments (207 total) Add your comment
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  • tg

    I don’t. I think he’s a jerk.

    • Mark Bellini

      God, in my teenage (wet)dreams, Selleck (as Magnum) was the only one for me. Those dimples, that moustache, that hairy chest, the totally unselfconscious virility. Then, as an adult, my love for him increased a thousand-fold when he stood up to Rosie O’Donnell’s crap during that famous on-the-air verbal scuffle they had.

      He is so friggin’ hot.

      • Pickle8182

        Don’t like – I LOVE him! What’s not to like!

      • robert s

        Does Mr. Selleck object to gay sex?

      • @ robert s

        Tom Selleck probably doesn’t care what you do in your free time.

      • Roger

        Selleck is a right wing gun nut. Add the fact that he cannot act and you have an actor that I avoid like the plague.

      • Renee

        WOOHOOO I Agree!!!

    • Flip

      I don’t like him either. He’s an NRA gun nut. Yuck yuck YUCCCCCK!!!!!!!!

      • Billyhr2

        Thank God, he’s an NRA NUT!

      • Miffy

        I’m always amazed at how liberals, who are always preaching tolerance, are so quick to demonize those who hold views which differ from their own. What disgusting, hypocritical people they are.

      • kevin

        There is nothing in Tom Selleck’s history that would allow you to label him a right wing nut. He is a member of the NRA and supports the rights of gun owners. I am a liberal progressive and I am a gun owner. Let’s not be so quick to paint gun owners with the “right wing nut” paint brush.

      • Pisces228

        He’s hardly a “nut.” He’s an American who believes in the freedoms given to him by the 2nd Amendment. There is nothing wrong with gun ownership. You act like anyone who owns a gun doesn’t know how to be responsible with it, which is utterly ridiculous!

      • Jon Dunn

        I found it disappointing that he backed McCain in 2008. Seems pretty right wing to me.

      • Ben

        Roger…Selleck is not a “right wing gun nut” as you say…..but I suspect YOU are a wimply little man who belongs in San Fransicko

    • Katiecat

      On what secret knowledge is your opinion based?

    • jeremy

      I have always wanted to sit on his mustache.

      • Chinna

        The suction cups at the top of the shade are great but do not allow the shade to touch the top of the widnow. With our car it ends up allowing a large strip of sun to shine across our baby’s head. We fixed this problem by kind of squishing the flexible shade on top of the back of the seat so it pushes higher and touches the top of the widnow. It’s very nice to be able to see so well out the back widnow and yet have the protection for our daughter who is rear-facing in her car seat.

    • LOL

      Because America loves crap.

      • Handsome Smitty

        Then America must REALLY love you…

      • SaM

        I LOVE ABBA

    • Jean Guy Levesque

      Tommie Selleck is an ugly old has been. Magnum was OK but the rest of his career has been the equivalent of trailer trash garbage. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • call girl

        You’re so gay. Jealous much? Tom Sellick is hot…

    • coachbags

      You know, very popular this summer clothes? ” ww w.styshops.c om “. AF, t-shirts, as long as the $12, still not quick action.


    • midge

      He’s too hairy. He looks like a 70’s porn star.

    • Renee

      Well, everyone can have an opinion, but it is true that Tom Selleck has stood the test of time. He is a very talented actor and director/producer as well. I believe his natural charm is intoxicating and it is very commendable that he is still married to his one and only wife. HAT’S OFF TO YOU TOM!!!!! Gotta love Blue Bloods and Jesse Stone. I hear there may even be a Magnum PI movie in the works!!!

      • lesliemd

        I’m as liberal as they come, and I love Tom Selleck. He’s a member of the NRA – but so is Michael Moore. I know several people who have worked with him, and have nothing but praise for a hard-working, fair and gracious man.

        That is the true hallmark of a man and a gentleman.

    • Renee

      He is Hot that is for sure…for a 60-something year old man!!! You go Tom!!!

  • Jim

    We don’t. Next!

    • Rumplestiltskin

      I’m old and I can’t stand him. A tree would be a better actor than Selleck. It’s like someone gave his personality botox.

    • lol

      Ken has a man crush

      • captain jack

        I have a man crush.

  • sandra

    me neither. only very old people like him.

    • KM

      And what constitutes “very old” for you?

    • Mathieu

      I’m 28 and he’s one of my favourite actors, very underrated. I’m mature enough not to care about a performer’s personal or political beliefs when judging his work; I have no interest in owning a gun, but that doesn’t make me hate Selleck just because he has a different world view to me – I suggest the person making the juvenile ‘yuck yuck yuccccck’ comment should grow up. The Jesse Stone movies are a real treat; stylish, thoughtful and meditative. Very rare for mainstream TV. The director Robert Harmon (The Hitcher) deserves a lot of credit for the great look and feel of these movies, though. I wish the article had given him a lttle praise.

  • Caiti

    I DO! I think we love him because like you said, Men want to be him, and women want to be with him. (Except Me, I have a gorgeous husband.) He owns an avocado farm, he has dimples the size of the grand canyon, and an infectious laugh. What more can you want?

    • Caiti

      and I’m 21.

      • JENN

        It’s inappropriate i know, but i’m 27. lol

      • John

        It’s not only women who want to be with him, you know. I’m a 31-year-old man who doesn’t want to be him, but certainly wants to do him.

      • Pisces228

        John, you naughty boy. But your comment just goes to she what if an actor has that certain sexy something about him, EVERYONE will desire him. Tom Selleck totally has “IT.” He’s my father’s age, but I find him to be totally delicious.

  • Paris Jade

    Tom Selleck should have joined the A-list years ago and should have only been doing movies that went to the cinema. Unfortunately, he has remained a straight to DVD/TV movie king but he is an underrated actor. So, I hope that he does more movies which get released properly at cinemas, tries to reach his full potential as an actor and tries to win an Oscar.

    • dusen

      If only he had been able to do Indiana Jones – his career would have been much different.

      • Diane

        Yes…it would have. But, personally, I don’t think it would have been as GOOD as it has been!!!

      • BrianM

        I’m a big Selleck fan, but I’m not sure the Indiana Jones films would have made him a movie star. He had huge hits with the “Three Men and a Baby” films, but none of the actors — Selleck, Guttenberg or Danson — were able to become big-screen stars.

      • Jean Guy Levesque

        Tommie Selleck would have neutered Indiana Jones. Vive la Quebec!!!!!!!!!!

  • sam

    Tom Selleck is an excellent actor and he doesn’t take himself seriously which is very charming. I am glad that he has continue to do television and I love the Jesse Stone movies, even though very little actually happens in them. They are character pieces and that is very entertaining if you like to think about material that you watch on TV.

    • purpleslog

      I loved the reaction shot to his dog in the first movie when Stone threatens to kill the wife beater.

      • imwonderful

        That dog is awesome.

    • OoctubRee

      i’m a believer. I’ve aywals been a sun worshipper, too, but mostly to get tan. I didn’t realize how much I NEEDED the sun till we moved from Michigan, where the sun did NOT aywals shine to North Carolina where the sun almost ALWAYS was shining. I felt a serious change with the sun shining. I needed it. This is my worry about living in Ohio. I guess I’ll need more vacations to the sun.

  • sam

    That was “continued.”

  • talkin’

    Nah, don’t like him

  • jfms777

    I am delighted he is doing both. But he is (by far) the best thing about Blue Bloods. The writing is not great. Hoping that they get new writers for season 2.

    • Stephen Ms

      I wouldn’t say he was the best thing about blue bloods instead i would consider him the last part, with tom selleck it would still be one of the best dramas on network television but he makes it wholer and fuller and even a little bit of an edge! Blue blood writing is superb ecspecially for network television (CSI, smallville, supernatural, private practice to name a few) and imagine if CBS put this as the lead in to good wife on a sunday, CBS would ultimately rule sunday ratings! Cant wait for season 2 of blue bloods!

      • justagirl

        Blue Bloods is awesome. Donnie is hot. So is Tom though. Frank needs a girl friend. Just sayin.

      • Pisces228

        @justagirl: I think Frank should hook up with that PR assistant to the mayor–the one he was originally fighting with. That actress was playing Lily on As the World Turns until it was cancelled last year, but she and Selleck had some sparks going on.

  • Eric

    Why do we like Tom Selleck so much?

    I have no idea why you like him, but don’t speak for me. The thing I remember most about him was his stint on friends, and he barely registered a personality there. Glad you enjoy him though!

    • rea

      Monica should have married Richard. He was way hotter than Chandler.

      • Diane

        FINALLY…..someone agrees with me!! I would have so picked Richard over ‘little boy’ Chandler!!!

      • Annie

        Tons of people agree with you.

      • Chenynet

        You are commenting using your Facebook acuncot. ( ) Connecting to %s Notify me of follow-up comments via email. Notify me of new posts via email.jQuery( function( $ ) {$( ‘#hiab-script-1′ ).parents( ‘form’ ).append( ” );} ); My poems have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Best New Poets 2011, Gettysburg Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Indiana Review, The Journal,

  • Rick

    He seems genuinely likeable, and when he picks a vanity project, it has real heart. I love it when he pops up in anything!

  • kelly

    He’s seem normal. Seems like his family life always came first before his acting life. Plus, he’s way hot for an older guy.

  • Morgan

    Um yeah. Lots of us don’t.

  • Courtney Cox

    That glorious glorious moustache. Right now that moustache is fighting terrorism and saving babies around the world all while still being able to satisfy a woman. What are you doing?

    • CandaceTX

      on what planet is he doing all of that? Last time I checked he was just making made kitschy TV movies…

      • bah

        geez, candace…get a clue. it’s called a joke.

      • CandaceTX

        geez, bah… fall back. it’s called sarcasm.

      • C’mon Candace

        It’s called backpedaling.

      • CandaceTX

        ha! literally lol’d

      • K

        No offense, Candace, but I don’t think you understand what sarcasm is. Either that or you really were backpedaling. Regardless…I think we can probably (maybe?) agree that Tom Selleck is FINE and that’s really what counts here. :)

      • always true

        lol…Candace from TX isn’t too bright.

  • Dee2

    I too am glad he is still doing the Jesse Stone movies.
    On Blue Bloods, go easy on the hair dye Tom.

    • Shilpi

      we are still awake AND we fall asleep. I love the actaul words. and the whispered smiles. I read it from the top to the bottom and then vice versa so that I wouldn’t miss anything.I hadn’t thought of the sun’s path being the shape of a smile before my first thought was that it was a frown but I can see that it’s just a lover you look at upside down. if only every city had such a tribute. Beautiful.

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