Nostalgia or Mission Impossible with Magnum P.I.? A Review

19 Oct

Image result for magnum pi 2018By Ed Sum
(The Vintage Tempest)

Even after weeks of watching the reboot of Magnum P.I, I still think Tom Selleck is the definitive version. He has an adorable charm the new star does not have and it’s not about being another macho man.

When Donald P. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson created this crime drama, the first goal was to emphasize the camaraderie between this title character, his irksome landlord (Major Domo), and the soldiers in arms who helped each other out thick and thin. Okay, the series got two out of the three right.

As the original series progressed, parts of Thomas past were shown. He had a wife. During his last tour of duty, they were together, but a raid tore them apart. She was believed to have died. However, other agencies were at work; the later seasons revealed her fate. This story arc was important it came back to taunt him as nightmares. I was sad when the series ended. The tease at the end suggested that should it come back, the story can continue with his daughter following in her father’s footsteps. She might even join the Navy. This continuation would have been perfect since it allows room for Selleck to return.

Instead, a reboot was ordered. Peter M. Lenkov and Eric Guggenheim developed this new series. Just because the former won an award for the re-imagined Hawaii 5-0 and the latter is showrunning, it does not mean they should handle a beloved classic. This take tries hard to capture the flavor of the original, but does it too much where I kept on asking myself, “Didn’t I see this scene before?”

Although the backstory was changed, enough of it is still familiar enough to know that without each other the team would have ended up being a pile of bones lost somewhere in the jungles of Vietnam. In this new take, the Afghanistan war is the focus. The pilot episode, “I Saw the Sun Rise” put enough emphasis about his time as a POW and the escape plan. Magnum (Jay Hernandez), T.C. (Stephen Hill), Rick (Zachary Knighton) and a few other inmates came up with an ingenious method to leave their prison. This episode reveals their exploit became legend. Instead of going home, to their former lives, they decided to forge better futures in Hawaii. Much like how Oliver Queen from TheCW’s Arrow shows how his past shaped him, perhaps there’s more to this character to discover. Past enemies are likely to emerge as the series progresses.

Magnum never regretted his time with the service. Some of those experiences help him as a private investigator. Robin Masters, an award-winning author owes a debt to his team when he was a journalist covering the war. By allowing him to stay at his Hawaii estate sets up what fans already know.

The master groundskeeper, Higgins (now played by Perdita Weeks), make for a familiar type of fun. She is the only reason why I’m still watching. Her smarm is just as good as John Hillerman’s. Plus, this added dynamic can show their relationship developing in a way never thought of when compared to the original. They can be allies or a couple. The two even have a pretend date in episode two.

With Hawaii being a gateway to the rest of Polynesia and home to a major naval base, just how important the latter will factor into the series remains to be seen. Enough is revealed that they can return to duty if called to action. As a lot of Magnum’s buddies have decided to make this island nation their home, they better protect it. It did not take long for Rick to set up underground connections and T.C. is considered the best ‘chopper pilot on the island. If this series is beginning to sound like Talespin, it is not. That’s a completely different world. Adventure dominates the animation whereas this drama takes on international crime.

The humour is no longer part of the series formula. The Selleck charm is certainly missed, and this new version has no rubber chicken to cluck amusedly at. This new version of Rick lacks personality. He’s no Italian Stallion, and without it, this character lacks punch. When this series has a legacy to which viewers like me will fondly recall, I doubt anyone from my generation is interested in following this reboot at all. It needs to stand on its own two feet than borrow from the past, and I doubt Macgyver can fix that.

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