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CBS’ newly remade Magnum P.I., which premiered Monday, sticks roughly to the premise of the original 1980s hit show starring Tom Selleck: a light, funny, mystery storyline about a former Navy SEAL “repurposing his military skills to become a private investigator.”
But now, we’ve updated to 2018. The original Magnum was a Vietnam war vet. Now he’s a POW from Afghanistan. “Jonathan” Higgins, the annoying property manager at the lavish estate where Magnum works security, is now “Juliet” Higgins (Perdita Weeks), a poised Brit and former MI6 agent. (I think we all know how that story ends.)
The writing is mediocre, but most standard network fluff doesn’t showcase a fabulous Hawaiian island the way this show does. Happily, the new Magnum replaces most of the blatant sexism of the original series (in which female characters frequently showed up in bath towels, swimsuits, or less) with the strong, smart Juliet—who can hold her own just fine in a fight.
The newer Magnum P.I. boasts more racial diversity, too. The casting director’s boldest move was in choosing a nonmustachioed Hispanic, Jay Hernandez (World Trade Center, Scandal), to play lead character Thomas Magnum.
“No one is going to replace Tom Selleck,” Hernandez told TV Guide in May. “You can’t do that. You gotta sorta reinvent it, take what works from the original show and sort of make it new, so that’s what we did.”
So far, they’ve succeeded: Hernandez is as charming now as Selleck was in 1980. Anyone tired of seeing Hispanic men playing drug dealers will find Hernandez’s Magnum refreshing and worthy of applause, such as when he comforts his best friend’s grieving child.
One thing won’t be the same—the Hawaii estate used for filming. The chair of the library search committee for former President Barack Obama purchased the original “Robin’s Nest” property in 2015 for $8.7 million, but let it fall into disrepair. It was demolished in April.