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Tag Archive: Magnum PI 2018


Review by C.J. Bunce

Magnum, p.i. was no doubt one of the best television series to come out of the 1980s, thanks to star Tom Selleck, the late John Hillerman, the beauty of Hawaii and good writing by Donald P. Bellisario.  The series ran for eight seasons and continues to be broadcast in reruns on cable channels any hour of the day, every day.  For years talk of a sequel movie or series sounded pretty exciting, but as the actors got older that became less and less likely, and that was only solidified with the death of John Hillerman last year.  The idea of a reboot may make many flinch, but what really is the harm in taking any past series, film, or franchise forward?  CBS is taking a chance with such a revered show, and Monday night it aired episode one of its new Magnum p.i. (changing only the comma), first previewed here at borg back in May).  So how did they do?

About ten minutes into the pilot for the series and viewers will know the creators of this reboot loved the original series, and that translates to the conscientious, careful effort taken with the update to the characters so many know and love.  In some ways Jay Hernandez (Suicide Squad) is even cockier than Selleck’s Thomas Magnum.  He also plays his Magnum as completely genuine, the guy you can see having friends like Rick (now played by Zachary Knighton) and T.C. (now played by Stephen Hill).  At its worst the new Magnum p.i. plays like a sequel to another reboot series, Hawaii Five-O (thanks in part to both an appearance by new series regular Sung Kang, who had a brief stint on Hawaii Five-O, and the show’s location).  But a sequel to Hawaii Five-O would be no bad thing, and it’s the same way the original Magnum, p.i. began.  (Thank goodness this is not another prequel!)  At its best, it has that blend of expensive cars, high-octane chase scenes, and good old-fashioned fun that the Fast and the Furious film series is known for, and that’s thanks to that film series’ director/actor Justin Lin taking the reins and directing this pilot episode.

Along with a likeable supporting team of new actors playing Magnum’s fiercely loyal war buddies, the smartest move taken by the production is not replacing Higgins with a caricature of John Hillerman.  The new Higgins is Ready Player One’s Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins–yes, she’s British, complete with the Hillerman poise and accent, but unlike the original Higgins her MI6 background is let loose right away, as she holds her own in hand-to-hand combat against two former Marines with weapons attempting to kill her.  And of course the location is again Honolulu, Oahu, and the surrounding Hawaiian islands we’ll no doubt get to visit again over the next season.  And Mike Post and Pete Carpenter’s memorable theme song.  And the two female Dobermans as the lads, Zeus and Apollo.  And seemingly disposable $250,000 Ferraris–we watched two destroyed in just the first episode.

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1988.  That was the last year you could turn on your television and watch three things: Magnum, p.i., Murphy Brown, and a crime drama written by Dick Wolf.  1988 becomes 2018 this Fall as thirty years later CBS launches three new shows, a reboot of Magnum, p.i. (with a title changed a little to Magnum P.I.), a continuation 20 years later of the original Murphy Brown, and FBI, the latest gritty drama from Law & Order creator Dick Wolf.  See trailers for all these new series below.

Director Justin Lin created a TV movie for the pilot of his Magnum P.I.  Lin, famous for his Fast & Furious movies, but also his direction of one of the best Star Trek films, Star Trek Beyond, plus acclaimed television series True Detective and Community, provides a preview about as big and expensive as you’re ever going to see, proving Lin is probably the right guy for the job.  Fast cars and action reflect the feel of the original series, with an obvious update to a modern production concept, but the show also includes the key characters: Suicide Squad and Bright’s Jay Hernandez is Thomas Magnum, ex-Navy SEAL, working for Robin Masters, wearing his Detroit Tigers hat, same ring, same watch, same Old Dusseldorf beer, and driving Robin’s Ferraris.  This time Magnum is the inspiration for Masters’ novels.  Jonathan Higgins is now Juliet (ex-MI6) Higgins (or is she really Robin Masters?), played by Perdita Weeks (Ready Player One, Penny Dreadful) tending to the lads and annoyed by Thomas.  And Thomas’s war buddies are back, with T.C. played by Stephen Hill (Luke Cage), and Rick played by Zachary Knighton (LA to Vegas).  And Oahu doesn’t look like it has changed in 30 years, with the borrowed universe of the Hawaii Five-O series thanks in part to production designer Keith Neely (and that’s Five-O actor Sung Kang in the preview).  Oddly enough the original Magnum, p.i. was relocated from California to Hawaii because CBS did not want to close down its Hawaii offices after the wind-down of the original Hawaii Five-O (1968-1980), and here again is Magnum riding on the coattails of Steve McGarrett.  The fan base is already going to be divided up for this one: reject it because the original is a classic, or put aside the past, embrace the new, and see what Lin can do.

The preview for Season 11 of Murphy Brown feels more like an improv character study performed by each actor from the original show, sharing what the character has been up to for the past 20 years since the series went off the air.  Candice Bergen is back as Brown, Faith Ford is Corky Sherwood, Joe Regalbuto is Frank Fontana, Grant Shaud is Miles, Tyne Daly takes over Phil’s Bar and Grill (original Phil actor Pat Corley died in 2006), and Lady Bird’s Jake McDorman debuts as Murphy’s son Avery.  81-year-old actor Charles Kimbrough, the first actor to say “that sucks!” on television and Murphy Brown’s Jim Dial, might have a guest role in the show’s planned 13 episodes.  Unfortunately one of the series’ best loved characters, Eldin Bernecky, won’t be back, as actor Robert Pastorelli died in 2004.

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