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Five-0 Redux

Following in footsteps of ‘Hawaii Five-0,’ new ‘Magnum’ reboot is a sure bet


    The “Magnum P.I.” cast with Executive Producer Peter M. Lenkov. (L-R) Lenkov, Perdita Weeks, Jay Hernandez, Zachary Knighton, and Stephen Hill.

On July 24, the cast and crew of “Magnum P.I.”, the newest television series being filmed in Hawaii, celebrated the launch of their first season. Like “Hawaii Five-0”, which started their ninth season two weeks ago, “Magnum P.I.” marked the occasion with a traditional Hawaiian blessing, led once again by Kahu Kordell Kekoa. The cast of “Magnum P.I.” wore maile lei during the blessing, and after taking photos and answering questions for the press, immediately began shooting the first episode of the contemporary version of the hit series, which originally aired from 1980 to 1988.

Fans of “Hawaii Five-0” were quick to note the many overlaps between their favorite show and  “Magnum P.I.”. Both shows were rebooted by executive producer, writer, and showrunner Peter Lenkov, along with fellow “Hawaii Five-0” executive producer, writer, and season seven and eight co-showrunner, Eric Guggenheim. Lenkov has promised that both shows will exist in the same “universe,” which makes perfect sense, as they are each set in Hawaiʻi, each show sets to solve a mystery or a crime, and both leading characters are former Navy SEALs.

For the most part, each show has a cast that is pretty diverse for network television. While this has always been a major controversy with some viewers– if you look at other television shows both “Hawaii Five-0” and “Magnum P.I.” work hard to add more diversity to their casts. “Magnum P.I.” has a Latino leading man with star Jay Hernandez who plays the titular character of Thomas Magnum, originally played by Tom Selleck.

Perdita Weeks plays Juliet Higgins, a part that was originally played by a male actor, John Hillerman, who most famously brought Magnum’s very British adversary, Jonathan Quayle Higgins III, to life. This is similar to what Lenkov did in “Hawaii Five-0” when he cast Grace Park in the role of Kono Kalākaua, which was originally played by the Hawaiian actor Gilbert Lani Kauhi, better known as Zulu.  

Zachary Knighton and Stephen Hill play Magnum’s best friends and fellow POW survivors, Orville “Rick” Wright and Theodore “TC” Calvin. Larry Manetti, who also plays a recurring character on “Hawaii Five-0”, originally played Rick, and Roger E. Mosley originated the character of T.C. Hill said at the blessing, that playing T.C. “means a lot,” because when he “was a kid, there weren’t a lot of black action heroes.”

Recently it was announced that Tim Kang joined the main cast and will play Detective Gordon Katsumoto and Amy Hill will play the recurring role of Kumu, the cultural curator of Robin’s Nest. Both roles seem to be another added change from the original series and another nod a modernizing the reboot. Hill’s character seems to set up Magnum to be able to tap into more of the Hawaiian ways of the island, which is often imperative if you want to get things done– and cases solved– in Hawaiʻi.

While “Hawaii Five-0” has several Hawaiians on their team to help navigate local customs and Hawaiian traditions and protocols– Magnum may not have that kind of connection. Kumu, which means “teacher” in Hawaiian, sounds like a character they need to keep the show grounded in Hawaiʻi.  

It also stands to reason that Magnum, as a working private investigator, would probably run into McGarrett and his Five-0 task force on occasion, or at least reach out to one another as fellow SEAL team brothers. In the classic version of “Magnum P.I.”, the characters would often refer to “Five-0” and “Detective Steve McGarrett,” so it makes sense that the same connection would continue in the modern version. Especially since there is an even stronger connection between the two series.

Besides Lenkov and Guggenheim’s involvement, as of now– Kimee Balmilero will guest star in the Pilot episode of “Magnum P.I.” as her “Hawaii Five-0” character Dr. Noelani Cunha, and Taylor Wily will guest star as Kamekona in their second episode. Lenkov said in an article posted by “Entertainment Weekly”, once a connection is established for the viewers then a crossover can happen between the two shows.

As a kid, I grew up watching “Magnum P.I.” with my parents. Once my mother and I saw Tom Selleck in Liberty House going up the escalator and followed him just to maybe say hello and ask for an autograph. We lost him– or he probably lost us– but I never forgot the thrill I felt seeing his big smile under that amazing mustache. My father met Selleck once and got his autograph for me. It now hangs in my office along with a “Magnum P.I.” cast picture signed by Larry Manetti and Roger E. Mosley. Ironically, the autographed photo was given to me by a “Hawaii Five-0” fan who knew how much I loved “Magnum P.I.” When I went on my first date with my husband, he showed up dressed in his Navy summer whites, his hair a little too long, but his mustache was neatly trimmed– and I remember thinking: “I’m going to marry Magnum.”

So if anyone should be worried about what this new “Magnum P.I.” is going to be like– it’s a fan like me. But I know this is not going to be my teenage dream version of Magnum. Television has come a long way since the 80s. “Hawaii Five-0” is not like the classic Jack Lord version, so we shouldn’t expect “Magnum P.I.” to be like the Selleck version either. It’s going to be full of action and drama like the original– and it will pay its respects to the classic, but it will also be a show made for a viewing audience of 2018. It’s been 30 years– we need to see a new hero, a new team, a new “Magnum P.I.”

Wendie Burbridge is a published author, playwright, and teacher. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

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