Magnum P.I. worked as an escapist TV show in the 1980s. This was never a high-quality series, of course, but the adventures of Thomas Magnum and friends, as a whole, were pleasantly acceptable fare for eight seasons when major broadcast networks dominated, long before streaming and cable pushed the medium into the complex incarnation we know as Peak TV. Yes, there were touches of the problematic if one really looks back at the series, including a Christmas episode titled “Thank Heaven for Little Girls and Big Ones Too.” That’s Tom Selleck’s Thomas Sullivan Magnum, you know, and he couldn’t help but attract invitations from bikini-clad ladies as he perma-crashed on a posh Hawaiian estate while performing security for the never-seen and seldom-heard author Robin Masters.
The appeal of the original was largely due to a terrific cast that crackled with chemistry, along with the show’s unassuming nature. It was uncomplicated, unlike today’s mind-bending puzzles, and one could miss a few episodes and slide back into enjoying the show’s comforting characters without much effort. Quite simply, the hero was burned out after Navy Special Ops in Vietnam, and he wanted to live a carefree existence while sort-of running a P.I. business, borrowing Masters’ Ferraris, and hanging with his buddies. Magnum’s biggest obstacle in these endeavors happened to be the majordomo of Masters’ estate, a very British, stiff-upper-lip type named Higgins (John Hillerman), who loathed Magnum and regularly employed his two dobermans to terrorize him.
As for the reboot, the pilot closely mirrors the setup of the original with a few modern spins. The new Magnum (Jay Hernandez) is a decorated former Navy SEAL recuperating from tours in Afghanistan. Higgins is now a woman, Juliet, a disavowed MI:6 agent played by Perdita Weeks, and those two Dobermans are still casting a shadow on Magnum’s otherwise splendid Oahu existence. He loves spending time with a trio of fellow POW survivors, including Rick (Zachary Knighton) and T.C. (Stephen Hill). And much like the original, the third pal gets kidnapped and killed, and Magnum and company work to solve the mystery of his death and clear his name.
With all of those boxes checked off, the reboot then valiantly sets about trying to recapture the “charming rogue” aspect of Magnum himself, which was almost effortlessly exuded by Selleck and communicated below through a waggle of his eyebrows and the mere existence of that ‘stache.