×

TV Review: ‘Magnum P.I.’

An exposition-heavy hour fails to soar despite plenty of action

“Magnum P.I.,” CBS’s reboot of the Tom Selleck drama, has a panache problem.

The show is certainly showy-looking, with an opening sequence depicting Magnum (Jay Hernandez) parachuting into North Korea and rescuing a dissident’s wife and child by driving through the side of the family home. And yet the reveal—that Magnum is telling an embellished old war story to his friends, to whom he introduces us in labored voice-over—is done clunkily and with a painful maximum of exposition. Little in the pilot of this “Magnum” evinces much trust in the audience, or much willingness to defer over-explanation for a moment.

The show’s writers, at least, attempt to introduce a touch of wit into Magnum’s endless voiceover. “Yeah, I know what you’re thinking,” he notes, describing his lifestyle as a private-security agent and part-time private investigator on lush Oahu. “This guy’s life doesn’t suck.” Maybe so, but the chill attitude of a Hawaii-based bro who spends much of his time chilling with friends hardly jibes with the relentless, nearly breathless tone with which this unusually pilot-y pilot tries to catch us up on the state of play. (His best friends, to wit, are his fellow POWs from the war in Afghanistan, during which time a writer had also been embedded with them; that unseen writer, a holdover plot element from the original series, is now a wealthy celebrity and Magnum’s boss. Phew!) A little patience might have been merited; we deserve a little more time to get to know these characters.

As Thomas Magnum, Hernandez is charming enough, and does yeoman’s work selling the show’s endless voice-over. It’s a fair question, perhaps, how much the show will let us get to know him. An incident at the Television Critics Association press tour, when the show’s executive producer erroneously said that the show has no Latinx writers on staff, marked a moment in which the show’s priorities became clear when it came to fleshing out Magnum as a real person played by a Latino actor. Worse still, he’s a cipher in every sense. Plenty of work has been done here to build out a scenario—where Magnum works, who his friends are, and so on—but we come to know too little about who Magnum is.

Which is a problem for a show that’s sold in part on its lead’s charisma; there needs to be something behind the smile. And though it’s early yet, there was time spent wheel-spinning in the first episode that could have gone towards an extra scene of humanity. His best friends (Stephen Hill and a way-over-the-top Zachary Knighton, working so hard to provide comic relief that he feels ported in from another, more absurdist show) work to shorthand a character history the show has yet to make us believe. Hernandez deserves the chance to loosen up a bit; hopefully once the show finds its groove, the voice-overs will bear a little bit less exposition, and this new Magnum will come into relief as a character, not just a famous name.

TV Review: 'Magnum P.I.'

More TV

  • Harley Quinn DC Universe

    4 Things We Learned at TCA 2019: Day 1

    The 2019 Television Critics Association summer press tour kicked off on Tuesday with presentations from DC Universe, A+E Networks, and Nat Geo. DC Universe, the DC-branded streaming service, brought their adult animated series based on “Harley Quinn,” while A+E brought along a range of projects from across their portfolio. It was also announced that A+E [...]

  • The Boys Amazon Prime

    TV News Roundup: Amazon Drops 'The Boys' Final Trailer (Watch)

    In today’s roundup, USA releases the trailer for the second season of “The Purge” and Amazon drops the final trailer before “The Boys” launches.  RENEWALS Viceland has renewed the pro wrestling docu-series “Dark Side of the Ring” for a second season. The upcoming season will feature 10 hour-long episodes chronicling the lives of wrestlers inside [...]

  • WGA West Logo

    WGA West Unveils Candidates for Election That Reflects Discord Over Agency Campaign

    The WGA West has unveiled the slate of candidates for officer posts and board seats in the election that reflects the divisions among members over the guild’s handling of the campaign to reform its rules governing talent agents. Scribes Phyllis Nagy (“Carol”) and William Schmidt (“Yellowstone”) are set to challenge David Goodman for the president’s [...]

  • The Code CBS

    'The Code' Canceled After One Season on CBS

    Freshman military drama “The Code” is officially done at CBS. The news comes just one day after the show’s season finale, which will now serve as the show’s series finale. “Thank you to all you wonderful people who watched [‘The Code’],” series star Dana Delany wrote on Twitter. “Last night was our finale and sadly, [...]

  • Matt Tolmach'Venom' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Amazon to Develop Human IPO Series With Matt Tolmach Producing

    Amazon is developing a series inspired by the true story of a man who sold shares of himself to investors, Variety has learned. In a competitive situation, Amazon has landed the project, titled “JNNA.” It is described as a half-hour comedy about the next big investment craze — humans. It is inspired by Mike Merrill, [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Projects More Than $1.2 Billion in Ad Sales for 2020 Olympics

    NBCUniversal projected it would sell more than $1.2 billion in advertising for its 17 days of broadcasts of the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo, citing the event as a rare opportunity for Madison Avenue to reach big audiences without the worry of politics getting in the way of a commercial message. The Olympics is “one of [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    'Surviving R. Kelly' Follow Up, Jeffrey Epstein Docuseries in the Works at Lifetime

    Lifetime is working on a follow up to the hit docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” and a new docuseries about Jeffrey Epstein. Rob Sharenow, president of programming for A+E Networks, made the announcements at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday. “The Aftermath” will be a four-part series featuring interviews with new survivors, psychologists, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content