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Magnum Reloaded: Friendship, teamwork are behind success of ‘Magnum P.I.’

  • COURTESY CBS

    Stephen Hill as Theodore “TC” Calvin, left, Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins, Zachary Knighton as Orville “Rick” Wright, Christopher Thornton as Kenny “Shammy” Shamberg and Jay Hernandez as Thomas Magnum make up the main cast of “Magnum P.I.”

When the rebooted version of “Magnum P.I.” debuted in September, the reaction to the newest television show set in Hawaii was mixed. Folks either loved the fact that the beloved show was returning to television, or they hated the idea. And if the original series star, Tom Selleck, was not going to play the titular character of Thomas Magnum — all bets were off.

Even after a rocky start, the show seems to have survived, and as we near the end of the first season, the show has already been renewed for a second. In 18 episodes many viewers — even fans of the original — have come to love the new “Magnum P.I.” cast. Sure, the show still has its naysayers, but the promise of another season shows the network’s obvious belief in the show and its future.

Probably the biggest reason for this first season’s success has to be the likeability of Thomas Magnum, played by Jay Hernandez of “Bad Moms” and “Suicide Squad” fame. Hernandez’s Magnum is much different than the charming mustachioed private investigator originally created by Selleck. While still quite affable and charming, he is also keenly observant and relies upon his friends and fellow vets, Rick (Zachary Knighton) and TC (Stephen Hill), to help him with his cases.

Add in Perdita Weeks as Juliet Higgins, a female in a historically male role, who not only has become a part of Magnum’s team — but has grown into much more than just a pain in Magnum’s side.

MAGNUM AND THE MAJORDOMO

It’s really darling when Magnum calls Higgins, “Higgy,” and that his ring tone for the majordomo is two Dobermans, much like her “lads” Zeus and Apollo, barking. But besides her quick jabs about Magnum leeching off Mr. Masters, they actually work well together. In several episodes, it has been Higgins who has backed up Magnum on a case. Higgins is certainly capable of helping Magnum investigate — especially using her former MI6 contacts to help him run background and financial checks.

But what really gets fans, is the unspoken and obvious attraction the two have for each other. Perhaps it’s admiration, perhaps it’s two former special operators who miss their past lives, but whatever it is — it is palpable. In the episode, “A Kiss Before Dying,” Higgins interrupts Magnum as he works out on the beach. He is listening to the song “Maui and Maui Girl” by the Surfers. The song plays on as Magnum watches her cross the beach: “I love a pretty, Maui girl. She lives at Waikapu. With rosy cheeks and pearly teeth, and lovely nut brown hair.”

Maybe we’re speculating, perhaps we are projecting, but he was looking at her as if he had never really seen her before. And after working together on several cases, and helping each other out of a few life or death jams, it does look like there is something brewing between them. And won’t that definitely be a departure from the original version? Higgins in the classic “Magnum P.I.” was played by John Hillerman, and he certainly was never anything more than Magnum’s nemesis turned friend.

TWO IS ONE, ONE IS NONE

What has been a definite surprise for most fans is how much the characters of Rick and TC are deeper and far more emotional than some remember. Larry Manetti and Roger E. Mosley played Magnum’s best friends, who were often irritated at having to pick up Magnum’s tab, slack and clients. Hill and Knighton seem much more understanding and take Magnum’s lack of cash and his constant assumption that they are there to help all in stride.

The pair have often helped Magnum’s with his cases and have had their own moments to show the depth and range of their characters. One of the hardest episodes to watch was when Rick bared his heart to a woman he loved, in “Bad Day to Be a Hero,” only to have her say aloha and leave for the mainland after he saved her life. TC has also tried to save the father of one of his football players from a murder charge. He often helps those he feels a kinship for, especially children who are abandoned by their parents, or who have fathers who are often on the wrong side of the law.

One of the best episodes for Rick and TC has to be “Death Is Only Temporary” when they befriended Kenny “Shammy” Shamberg (Christopher Thornton), who was paralyzed after fighting in Iraq. TC hires Shammy as a mechanic at Island Hoppers, TC’s helicopter tour business. Shammy has become part of the team, as he is a lot like the men, damaged from war, but still seeking that same kind of brotherhood they shared on the battlefield.

Overall, the first season of “Magnum P.I.” has come a long way since the first few episodes. Probably because the cast and crew have found a rhythm and consistency with their characters and storylines.

The last two episodes of the season start March 25, with “Blood in the Water,” and the season finale, “The Day It All Came Together,” airs April 1 on CBS.


Wendie Burbridge writes the “Five-0 Redux” and “Magnum Reloaded” blogs for staradvertiser.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.


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