This update of the beloved ‘80s series is dark, gory, and totally unnecessary.
Thomas Magnum is a former Navy SEAL and intelligence officer, now working as a private investigator in Hawaii. Living on the palatial estate of journalist-turned-best-selling-novelist Robin Masters (whose action-filled stories are inspired by Magnum’s military career), Magnum has free use of Masters’ home, wealth, and collection of Ferraris. Magnum must contend with the opposition of Masters’ property manager Higgins and her two vicious guard dogs; but with the help of his fellow SEAL team vets, well-connected con-man Rick and helicopter pilot T.C., Magnum plies his trade, with danger around every corner.
Reboots are all the rage on TV today, with CBS alone giving viewers new versions of Murphy Brown, The Odd Couple, SWAT, MacGyver, and Hawaii Five-0 (given their common setting, can a Magnum/Five-0 crossover be far away?); but probably the least necessary and most insulting is the new Magnum, P.I.
The original Magnum was a breezy, upbeat action-adventure series, characterized by Magnum’s humorous interaction with his friends and rivals, a gorgeous Hawaiian landscape, the escapist fantasy of living for free and driving expensive cars on someone else’s dime, and Magnum’s tongue-in-cheek first-person voice-over narration of his (not very violent) cases. True, in later seasons there were some more dramatic storylines; but mostly, Magnum P.I. was an hour of fun TV which could be viewed by any family member. Not so this remake. While all the same pieces (the Hawaiian setting, the characters, the cars, et cetera) are in place, they’ve inevitably been tweaked — much to the new show’s detriment.
The suave, stuffy British John Hillerman’s butler character Jonathan Higgins has now been replaced with former MI6 agent Juliette Higgins who, despite her waifish build, is still able to cripple gunmen twice her size with her bare hands. But even with the female Higgins’ butt-kicking abilities, the new Magnum still fails the Bechdel Test: while comforting a grieving wife whose husband was murdered, all Higgins and the widow can find to talk about is the fact that Magnum almost got married once.
While the original series was a straight private eye show, with Magnum’s past military service only briefly referred to, the new series (like the new Hawaii Five-0) puts a mind-numbing focus on his past (and present) experiences with his SEAL Team buddies. This attempt to transform easy-going private eye Magnum into an action hero equivalent to the big screen’s Jason Bourne or Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt – complete with those film series’ improbable action sequences and special effects — reeks of desperation and phoniness.
Worst of all, the new Magnum also features frequent and extremely explicit violence more appropriate to CBS’ SEAL Team: Magnum finds his friend tortured to death, the camera lingering on the beaten, bloodied corpse in close-up; Magnum is subjected to a graphic beating, collapsing unconscious in pain; both Magnum and Higgins are shot, sustaining bloody wounds (which they nevertheless shrug off like a duck shedding water); and a flashback to an Afghani prison shows a friend cauterizing Magnum’s wound by filling it with gunpowder, then lighting Magnum on fire!
In everything from the little details to the big picture — like providing a moderately intelligent, light-hearted adventure, instead of a moronic, dark, blood-soaked drama – the new Magnum P.I. falls far short of the classic version. And the slight, hipster-ish Jay Hernandez completely lacks the charisma Tom Selleck brought (and still brings) to the screen. Do yourself a favor and watch Blue Bloods instead…or, better still, a rerun of the original Magnum, P.I.