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REVIEW: The Magnum P.I. Reboot Is Silly, Escapist Fun

Obviously there’s no need to remake the iconic 1980s crime drama Magnum, P.I., but because it’s impossible to avoid franchise revivals in 2018, CBS was smart to hand the reins to the new series to producer Peter M. Lenkov, who’s also responsible for the network’s updates of Hawaii Five-0 and MacGyver. He knows how to deliver a slick, easy-to-watch take on an action-adventure classic, with just enough modern updates for a traditional audience.

Directed by filmmaker Justin Lin (The Fast and the Furious, Star Trek Beyond), the pilot for Magnum P.I. (this version drops the comma from the title) has plenty of bombastic, over-the-top action, some entertaining banter and a lively pace that makes it easy not to stop and think about how ridiculous it all is. The episode opens to the strains of AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck,” as Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) prepares to make a parachute jump from the stratosphere into North Korea. Once he lands, he has to shoot his way past North Korean soldiers to smuggle a defector out of the country, aided by his trusty support team.

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Cut to: Magnum and his ex-military buddies making fun of the absurdity of the action, which actually comes from a bestselling novel by author Robin Masters, a former journalist embedded with Magnum and his unit in Iraq. As much as Magnum and his right-hand men Theodore “T.C.” Calvin (Stephen Hill) and Orville “Rick” Wright (Zachary Knighton) mock their supposedly exaggerated portrayal in Masters’ novels, their actual adventures as depicted on the show aren’t much more grounded.

Of course, realism isn’t exactly what anyone’s looking for in a show about a private investigator who lives on a sprawling estate in Hawaii and spends as much time on the beach as he does solving crimes. As in the original series, Magnum is the head of security for the unseen Masters, living in a guest house at the author's compound in exchange for unspecified services. Hernandez's Magnum also retains a love-hate relationship with the other person living on the estate, Masters’ majordomo, a somewhat-uptight Brit. Lenkov has flipped that character’s gender, so that she’s now Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks), a former MI-6 agent who has clear sexual tension with Magnum from their first scene together.

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