The New “Magnum PI” Lacks the Charisma Selleck Brought to the Original.

The broadcast networks are facing enormous competition from a variety of online streaming services. They seem to be at a loss to come up with anything new or original. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon are creating groundbreaking programs that are stealing audiences away from the traditional networks. So rather than come up with something new to compete with the streaming services, the trend has been to reboot popular series from the past. Some of them have been a welcome addition such as “Will & Grace” and “Roseanne/The Connors“. We will soon see if “Murphy Brown” adds to that list of successes.

Unfortunately I can’t say that the reboot of “Magnum PI” is a welcome addition to the string of reboots. I’m not sure we really need a show about a private detective. The private eye genre has been around for decades in literature, film and TV with such memorable characters as Philip Marlowe, Mike Hammer, and Sam Spade. On TV in the 70s and 80s we had “The Rockford Files“, “Mannix” and of course the original “Magnum PI” just to name a few. In recent years TV has drifted away from the traditional private eye towards the “police consultant” type of private detective. As I discussed in a previous review these have had varying degrees of success and credibility.

The original “Magnum PI” ran for eight seasons from 1980-1988. I used to watch it occasionally, I don’t really recall a lot about the various characters surrounding him. I always felt like most of the success of the show centered on the charisma of Tom Selleck. I recall he drove around in a fancy Ferreri, he had a sidekick who flew a small helicopter, and there was another sidekick who is a British guy named Higgins.

In the opening scene of the reboot we see our hero Magnum jumping out of a stratosphere balloon in a spacesuit and parachuting into North Korea to rescue a scientist and his family. He escapes Korean forces in a stunt filled chase sequence that pushed credibility beyond its limits. I was very concerned that if the show started off in such a ridiculous fashion we were in for a bad experience. It is suddenly revealed that this is a fictionalized version of events which they admit was highly embellished in a book about his exploits in the Navy. So I thought perhaps the show wasn’t going to be as ridiculous as it originally appeared from its opening sequence.

Unfortunately near the end of the show there is a similar chase scene in which he tries to re-create some of the events from his fictionalized exploits. Although it was not as successful as the fantasy version, it was still pretty ridiculous and unbelievable. It was a stunt sequence that has him jumping out of a car, grabbing onto the landing skid of a helicopter just before a truck smashes into his Ferreri destroying it and the truck and sending them all off a cliff. This scene was totally over-the-top and unbelievable in the worst sense of the word.

In between these ridiculous bookends we got just an ordinary detective show as he tries to track down who kidnapped and killed one of his old Navy buddies. The other action sequences and stunts were not half bad. Overall however there just wasn’t anything memorable about the entire experience. He still drives around in a hot Ferreri (although he ends up destroying two of them in the opening episode). He still has a buddy flying the same iconic small helicopter with a black, yellow, orange paint scheme. The theme song is the same. The fact that sidekick Higgins is now a woman doesn’t really add anything significant to the mixture.

Jay Hernandez plays the new Magnum but for me he lacks the charisma that was an important part of Selleck’s portrayal.

There isn’t anything really wrong with the show but it just isn’t memorable or compelling. If you’re looking for a Hawaii based action-adventure show with more memorable characters and more credible action sequences stick with the 2010 reboot of Hawaii Five-0.

For now I’m giving this a tentative rating of “could be watchable” but I won’t be watching.

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