September 25, 2018

SHOWBUZZDAILY Series Premiere Review: “Magnum, P.I.”


MAGNUM, P.I.:  Monday 9PM on CBS

As everyone knows, the 2018-19 CBS TV season has turned out to be the final one overseen by Les Moonves, the longtime network mogul ousted after allegations of sexual misconduct.  It’s fitting that the first new series of his last season is that definitive Moonves-ian object, a rebooted procedural.  MAGNUM, P.I., like MacGyver and Hawaii 5-0, is produced by Peter M. Lenkov (with Eric Guggenheim, also an Executive Producer on Hawaii 5-0), and it barely manages the polish the original 1980-88 Donald P. Bellisario/Glen A. Larson wheel, let alone reinvent it.

Once again, Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez, replacing Tom Selleck’s iconic moustache with some perfectly groomed stubble) is a former military man who occupies the guest house on the Hawaiian estate of his pal, massively successful novelist Robin Masters.  Magnum again solves crimes with the help of his old military buddies, helicopter pilot TC (Stephen Hill), and finagler Rick (Zachary Knighton).  The only significant change from Magnum circa 1980 to the 2018 version is some diversity, with a Latino lead (although the character could hardly be more Anglo in the pilot), and most notably with a Higgins played by Perdita Weeks, who while an ass-kicking former British Intelligence officer is also comely enough to become an instant Will They Or Won’t They? with Magnum.

The pilot script by Lenkov and Guggenheim rewrites an original Bellisario/Larson story, and it tries to bring some emotion to the proceedings with a This Time It’s Personal plotline in which the fourth buddy, Nuzo (Dominick Lombardozzi) is murdered by the second commercial break, a crime that must be solved and avenged.  Unfortunately, there’s barely enough story to stretch for the roughly 40 minutes of the episode without commerials (stolen gold bars, enough said).  Director Justin Lin makes use of the expanded pilot budget for some big action sequences at the beginning and end of the hour, but otherwise the show could be a Swanson TV dinner preserved on ice for the past 38 years.  Hernandez, while a presentable enough lead, doesn’t suggest anything like the charisma that’s carried Selleck through almost four decades of TV stardom (still on CBS), and the flirtatious banter between this Magnum and Higgins is much less fun than the asexual comic hostility between Selleck and John Hillerman.

The plan is already in place for the new Magnum, P.I. to cross over with the rebooted Hawaii 5-0, and maybe MacGyver can find his way in there too before long.  This is broadcast TV at its most tired and disposable, but it suits the audience Moonves long cultivated to great profit.  Perhaps a new regime will consider doing something, anything different.  (Or perhaps not.)

About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."