Because why not reboot or remake everything that’s ever aired on TV before now, Magnum P.I. is the latest series being eyed for nostalgic spin-off. Airing from 1980-1988, the original series starred Tom Selleck as Thomas Magnum, a former naval officer turned private investigator who heads up security at the sprawling Hawaiian estate of the (never seen) fantastically rich author Robin Masters. Magnum lives in the (still huge) guest house, and has access to the mansion’s (called Robin’s Nest) grounds, private beach, and tidal pool. Oh, and did we mention the Ferrari? Living the dream, y’all, living the dream.
The series worked as a procedural, with Magnum taking cases that were helped along by his friends, club manager Rick (Larry Manetti) and helicopter pilot T.C. (Roger E. Mosley), though it eventually expanded to include more personal storylines. In one of the better ones, Magnum initially has an antagonistic relationship with the “majordomo” of Robin’s Nest, Jonathan Quayle Higgins (John Hillerman), the two eventually become friends and end up relying on each other later in the series (but the exasperated interplay that remains between them is always great).
Now, Deadline is reporting that that ABC is looking to potentially return to the world of Thomas Magnum through his daughter, Lily, who — before you start harping on about why does it have to be a female lead — is established in the original series and would therefore make for a fairly easy transition for the new project, rather than trying to find a new Selleck. The series is being developed by John Rogers, and Eva Longoria’s production company, with Rogers writing the script.
“We knew no one could replace the iconic role of Thomas Magnum, so John decided to make the reboot a sequel and continue the adventure of a Magnum — his daughter, who was established in the original series,” Longoria and Spector told Deadline.
Magnum P.I., created by Donald P. Bellisario and Glen A. Larson, premiered in 1980 and ran on CBS for eight seasons with Selleck in his signature role as a Hawaiian P.I. Lily, who appeared in four episodes, had been raised by her mom, Magnum’s once presumed dead wife Michele, and her second husband. Following their death, the little girl was reunited with her birth father who at the end of the series vowed to provide a stable home for her.
Here’s the thing. You could argue that there are a few things that make Magnum‘s formula successful, but not unique, that could be repeated. There could be Ferraris and Aloha shirts and kayaks and rubber chickens, not to mention a love for the Detroit Tigers, and a lighter tone that would, frankly, be a welcomed reprieve from so many crime series on now. But what really made Magnum work and really made it stand out was Tom Selleck. I don’t just mean the mustache, although, that is definitely an iconic part of it (and the short-shorts but, you know, just generally thankfully for the 80s). Selleck’s performance as Magnum was fun and light-hearted, but stern and dramatic when it needed to be. He made Magnum incredibly charming, but also a little goofy (that high-pitched giggle!), while still managing to be a convincing badass.
So of course, casting is key. And who wouldn’t want to watch another series set in the paradise isles of Hawaii? (It’s worth noting that Hawaii Five-0, which has been a success for CBS, actually exists within the same universe). But instead of staying true to the original’s tone, I fear that — like so many of these remakes and reboots — the desire will be to go darker and edgier, and to just use a recognizable name as a branding crutch instead of developing something that could be just as good as the original show.
Right now things are in early, early stages, with only a script commitment, but we’ll let you know more as we hear it. In the meantime, let’s remember the great original series, and that awesome and super 80s intro!