I wholly admit I am part of the problem when it comes to networks constantly rebooting old franchises. When screeners come out, the reboots are often times the first I’d watch. The original Magnum P.I. was a childhood favorite — and now a new one premieres tonight (September 24) at 9PM ET/PT on CBS.
How does it stand up?
The best thing I can say is it is “not bad,” and it’s at the very least an enjoyable first hour. I do have my reservations, however.
For those who don’t remember the original Tom Selleck series or are just unfamiliar with the Magnum P.I. concept, Thomas Sullivan Magnum is a veteran turned “security consultant” and private investigator living in the guest house of novelist Robin Masters. Magnum is usually seen with a red Ferrari, dodging Masters’ big dogs on the grounds of the Masters estate, and is constantly seen being a thorn in the side of Higgins, this time around reinvented as a younger woman. His friends T.C. and Rick as well as their helicopter often come in handy when Magnum is doing his thing.
Those things are not changing, and there are several nods to other parts of Magnum lore that pop up in tonight’s first episode.
Jay Hernandez steps into the Magnum role for this series, and that’s the first thing that makes me a little unsure about this project. While Hernandez is likable, he seems to miss the swagger that Tom Selleck had when he made the part famous. Selleck’s Magnum could pull off loud Hawaiian shirts because he was Thomas freaking Magnum; Hernandez doesn’t have the shirts, nor does he have the mustache commonly associated with the character. Selleck’s Magnum was an extremely masculine force but not toxic; this Magnum is a lot more soft-spoken. Still, as I mentioned, Hernandez is likable enough; it’s just that, sadly, he will constantly be compared to Tom Selleck who is the only “Magnum” people have ever known.
Where the show does shine, though, is the casting of Perdita Weeks as the younger, female, now “Juliet” Higgins. She’s got a quick wit and delivery, but you can also see a heart to her character where she cares about the people in her life. There’s also a bit of a mystery about her. Of anyone, this is the character I’d like to see more of, and I applaud them for not trying to replicate John Hillerman because nobody can. But is she also Robin Masters? I’m thinking not, since the guys mention meeting Masters in the past, but we will see.
(This is where I also mention that there was another Magnum reboot in development a few years ago, with a concept I loved, focusing on Magnum’s daughter who we learned of in the final episodes of the original series. I much preferred that, because you could get the diversity, have more female leads, not fight with the Magnum legacy, AND leave the doors open for guest appearances by Selleck or anyone else surviving from the original show that might want to show up, as their original characters.)
Vehicles resemble what’s seen in the original show, with the classic Ferrari and T.C. and Rick’s helicopter making appearances. We even see the Detroit Tigers hat, though I worry it won’t be long for this series. Those nods are great, and I’m hoping that episodes beyond the pilot have an adaptation of the original series opening credits. These same producers did Hawaii Five-0 and the opening credits are my favorite part of that show; I can also hope that since, for once in history there are Magnum P.I. and Hawaii Five-0 shows at the same time, we’ll get a crossover.
As far as reboots go, however, this is one of the better ones, despite the possibly unfair comparisons I make to the original, and the action-packed pilot left me curious for what’s coming next. I will happily watch more episodes of this series, which is probably what CBS is hoping any viewer will say. So, for that, Magnum P.I. is a [relative] success, and I hope with some time Hernandez gets some of that swagger…. and the mustache.