Saturday, February 18, 2023

Magnum P.I.: The Passenger & The Breaking Point

NBC just saved Hawaii’s state economy. Since Hawaii Five-0 ended, CBS’s surprise cancelation of the Magnum P.I. reboot came as a particularly hard blow to the local film industry. However, the ratings were good and the show definitely fits with NBC’s new strategy of mining 80’s gold, fitting in nicely with their new Night Court and Quantum Leap shows. Magnum works two new cases with some reluctant help from his friends in “The Passenger” and “The Breaking Point,” the first two episodes of NBC’s first new season of Magnum P.I., premiering tomorrow night.

As the opening narration makes clear, the “new” Rick and TC are basically the same as the old ones. The “new” Higgins is Juliet Higgins, a former MI6 agent, who was first Magnum’s Tracy-and-Hepburn-style foil on the Robin Masters estate, then his
Moonlighting-style partner in detective work, and as of the prior series finale, his Thin Man-esque romantic partner. They are trying to keep their new relationship on the downlow, but a good deal of “The Passenger” focuses on how they adjust professionally, or not, to their new personal arrangement.

The story itself, investigating a doctor’s suspicious accident is mostly routine, but instead of going in a cynical direction, the truth turns out to be rather edifying. It also teases a brief appearance from the great James Remar, as Magnum’s disgraced mentor, Captain Buck Greene, whose troubles appear likely to dominate the coming season.

One of the best aspects of the
Magnum reboot comes out clearly in “The Breaking Point.” Jay Fernandez might not have Tom Selleck’s megawatt screen presence, but the new show is still one of the more veteran-friendly series on television (along with Blue Bloods, as it happens). While Magnum and Higgins go undercover as lifeguards (which is always a solid option for a Hawaiian based TV-show), TC and his annoying small-time operator friend Jin Jeong win an auction for an abandoned storage locker holding a prolific but freshly incarcerated burglar’s stash. Among the loot is a Purple Heart that TC, the former Marine insists they return to its rightful owner.

Bobby Lee is like fingernails on a blackboard as Jeong, but this subplot pays off in a big way, connecting with some very important Hawaiian history. The camaraderie of Magnum and his friends is also rooted in their service, and it definitely elevates the show.

Fernandez and Perdita Weeks have some appealing romantic chemistry going on as the two detectives. The new by-the-book Honolulu PD Detective Chris Childs, is definitely a trade-down from their pal, Katsumoto, who is currently facing disciplinary charges, but up-managing him will presumably be one of this season’s challenges. Again, the episode resolves with some satisfying closure.

The new
Magnum P.I. still definitely feels like an old-fashioned network series, but its familiarity is comforting. Of course, it is not as good as the original, but how many other shows features three veterans of the U.S. military and one intelligence service veteran, often wearing swimwear? Recommended as a pleasant way to fill time, the first two episodes of Magnum P.I., season five, premiere tomorrow night (2/19) on NBC. (By the way, here’s an idea for NBC: a new Miami Vice, with Sonny Crockett now leading the Vice squad, but periodically returning to undercover work when needed.)