I’m updating my original review on Amazon Video which was just based on the pilot and first episode of this reboot of the 80’s classic, “Magnum, P.I.”.
To the credit of the showrunners they make an effort to check all the boxes and include plenty of the familiar faces and spaces in their updated version of Magnum. Besides the obvious lead characters (even though Higgins is now a svelte female played by Perdita Weeks) others are present or at least mentioned. HPD’s Lt Tanaka is now chief of detectives, Rick’s shady friend Icepick is now a “father figure” played by Corbin Bernsen, Luther H. Gillis who in the original was a noir-ish St. Louis gumshoe who caused Magnum difficulties on occasion is now played by Asian actor Ken Jeong (Community) as a wisecracking goofball. Of course there’s the King Kamehameha Club managed by Rick, T.C.’s chopper and van in classic Island Hoppers livery, Doberman guard dogs Zeus and Apollo, the guys all wear the Cross of Lorraine team rings, and even the “R.M.” monogrammed shields on the front gate look original. Naturally there’s a red Ferrari for Thomas to drive although they destroyed the “Robin 1” Ferrari 308 GTS in the pilot he gets a new 488 Spider. And yes, it’s just as ridiculous now as it was in the 80’s version for someone trying to covertly tail another car while driving a flaming red Ferrari; you’d be more inconspicuous if you were in the Bat-mobile.
A slightly jazzed up but truncated version of the iconic Mike Post/Pete Carpenter old show theme starts and ends each episode, however they don’t use the music as background during the story which frankly I kind of miss. They even include in the special features a vignette called “Scoring Magnum” showing the great deal of effort and expense the production team went through to re-do the theme; they are quite proud of it so why not use it more? Of course we also get Magnum’s voiceover narration which is true to the former show. Magnum wears a Detroit Tigers ball cap a lot and despite studiously avoiding having him wear a Hawaiian shirt in the beginning he’s later gifted one by Higgins and then Aloha shirts become part of his wardrobe.
So, does hitting all of these nostalgic notes work? Sort of, but not always. The banter between Magnum, Rick, and T.C. feels pretty forced to me and like they’re literally reading off a script (which technically they are). In one show Rick discovers that T.C. majored in art history and there’s a lot of time spent trying to make a mockery of that fact that falls flat. All of this bro affability needs more development.
Not satisfied with bringing back the original Magnum team (albeit with a younger and female Higgins) we’re introduced to two new characters for the reboot. Serving as a foil to Magnum is Honolulu P.D. Detective Katsumoto played by Tim Kang and Kumo (Amy Hill), as ‘cultural curator’ for the Robin Masters estate. Katsumoto is a straight arrow kind of guy who isn’t a fan of P.I.’s in general and Magnum in particular. Kumo is a kindly older woman who’s mostly around for comic relief. Both actors are Hawaiian natives that the showrunners felt lend some authenticity to their newly imagined Magnum world. They’re okay but I’m not sure they’re entirely necessary.
The writers were not content with Magnum to be security consultant for Robin Masters but now they have him serving as the fodder for the outrageous plots of Masters’ novels. Occasionally viewers are treated to some weird scene that seems out of context for the show and more like a bad James Bond rip-off. These books feature a character known as the “White Knight” and we’re supposed to believe he’s inspired by Magnum. Even Higgins finds this premise outlandish and so will you.
Another thing; Rick runs a large club that includes a bar and restaurant which is a very labor intensive business and T.C. is the sole owner and operator of Island Hoppers helicopter tour company. Both of these guys should be extremely busy and have little to no time to spare and they both always tell Magnum that when he seeks their help. And yet they always drop everything and do whatever he needs. Old school Rick & T.C. did this too when helping Tom Selleck’s Magnum but not to the extent the reboot guys do. And don’t try to understand how it is that Rick is always running around with fully automatic weapons and never gets arrested for owning and firing illegal firearms in Katsumoto’s presence?
Speaking of automatic weapons, time and again during shootouts our heroes hide behind car doors which are riddled with bullets. The difference between cover and concealment is that cover will stop a bullet and unless it’s an armored cars most calibers will penetrate the door easily and yet nobody is hit. Bad guys repeatedly shoot at the Ferrari and it somehow escapes without a scratch. Most action shows are guilty of this nonsense to a degree but its taken way too far in this series; yes it’s T.V. but it’s not a cartoon.
In one episode Rick and T.C. befriend a disabled vet they meet outside a convenience store while he’s drinking a ‘breakfast beer’. The boys are going surfing and invite this down and out vet to join them which he does with some reluctance. They put this guy they don’t even know on a surfboard and take him out in the ocean then get distracted shredding some gnarly waves and next thing you know their new pal tries to drown himself…they didn’t see that coming? They save him and after some patronizing dialog T.C. claiming to be a bit swamped with work at his deserted business offers the wheelchair bound amputee a job working in the office and doing maintenance on his chopper! Uh, you need an A&P license to do work on aircraft and this guy was a truck driver when in the service. Nice gesture but illegal and potentially deadly and I’m not sure how Rick and T.C. could afford to blow the whole day and not do any actual work.
Lending an 80’s feel to the series are some of the guest stars from that generation including Carl Weathers (Apollo Creed in the “Rocky” films), Ben Vereen, Cyndi Lauper, and previously mentioned Corbin Bernsen. Even old series regular Roger E. Mosely (T.C.) shows up as a different character which was a nice touch.
The Robin Masters estate on Oahu from the original series was demolished in 2018. The new Magnum has an even more spectacular location that looks awesome on screen when seen in sweeping aerial footage. The new guesthouse where Magnum stays is much bigger and more plush than the old one and doesn’t have any rubber chickens or gorilla masks lying around. Disappointingly it’s all fake and actually an amalgam of several locations with many interiors sets built on a soundstage. As far as the location shooting goes I wonder why isn’t there any traffic? We see many stunning aerial shots of the Ferrari tooling around scenic spots but there’s hardly another car on the road. I’ve been to Hawaii and everywhere I went there was plenty of traffic.
John Hillerman as the ex-Sergeant Major and pompous majordomo of the estate was far different than today’s Higgins 2.0. Ms. Weeks is about 98 pounds soaking wet and although quite fit there’s no way that she could engage in the close quarters combat that we see in some episodes and emerge unscathed. In one sequence she fights a male Asian assassin who literally throws her through a wall and smashes her into furniture in an extended fight which she wins (of course) and afterwards there’s not a mark on her. She’s supposed to be EX- MI-6 but she still can reposition surveillance satellites and hack into any computer system or cell phone at the drop of a hat. TOS Magnum never called Higgins “Higgy” (although T.C. occasionally did call him “Higgy baby”) but Magnum does it all the time and remarkably she puts up with it.
Other unrealistic stuff includes Kumu locking ‘the lads’ into the back of the Range Rover for who knows how long which allows Magnum to let them out just in time to foils some bad guys who infiltrated the estate. Doesn’t she know it’s potentially fatal to leave pets or babies in locked cars? Thomas gets shot in the left shoulder area in another episode by his ex which looks like it should have perforated his aorta or at the very least caused a tension pneumothorax but he’s barely bleeding and only slightly in distress. I know, ex-Navy SEAL and all that but come on.
Ultimately I see this reboot of “Magnum P.I.” as a work in progress that starts to grow on you if given the opportunity. Jay Hernandez seems like a nice guy but for me he just doesn’t possess the same charisma as Tom Selleck and even if he grew “the mustache” it wouldn’t help. The writers seem determined to make Magnum’s relationship with Higgins into a romance which would be a huge mistake. In just one season Higgins and Magnum are already getting too cozy and lessening that antagonistic component messes up the dynamic we’ve come to expect from those two. Despite all of my complaints I think there’s potential here and would watch a second season just to see if it gets better.