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'Magnum P.I.' review: Reboot lacks the original's spark - and its aloha shirts

Jay Hernandez is nothing like Tom Selleck in

Jay Hernandez is nothing like Tom Selleck in CBS' reboot of "Magnum P.I." premiering Monday at 9 p.m. Photo Credit: CBS/Karen Neal

THE SERIES "Magnum, P.I."

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Monday at 9 p.m. on CBS/2

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) is a decorated former Navy SEAL, back from the war in Afghanistan, now living on the opulent Hawaiian estate — the so-called "Robin's Nest" — of millionaire bestselling author Robin Masters (as in the original series, Masters is never seen). Along with vet friends Theodore "TC" Calvin (Stephen Hill) and Orville "Rick" Wright (Zachary Knighton), these three provide Masters with material for his swashbuckling books — material that Masters embellishes. Now the rich guy gives Magnum the run of the house, and occasionally the cars, too. Magnum is kept under close watch by the estate's "major domo" and former MI5 operative Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks), while he pursues a side career as a private eye.

This is a remake of the Donald Bellisario-Glen Larson show that aired on CBS from 1980 to 1988 and starred Tom Selleck as a Vietnam vet and would-be private eye.

MY SAY No 'stache, no aloha shirts, no Rolex, no male Higgins, this is definitely not your parents' "Magnum." Nevertheless, it's still familiar enough, or antiquated enough, to pass for a reasonable facsimile.

But as CBS' third exhumation of classic last-century action/adventure series (the other two, of course, being "Hawaii 5-0" and "MacGyver"), this "Magnum" manages to be thoroughly updated yet at the same time feel thoroughly out of date. There are plenty of callbacks, but those probably won't mean anything to new viewers. Besides Selleck, what's missing is what inadvertently made the original "Magnum" so special back in the '80s, when Vietnam vets had largely been reduced to the walking wounded on prime time — psychic wrecks who still couldn't get the war out of their systems.

Then along comes Selleck with his world-famous shirts, who inverts — or subverts — that whole tragic persona. He was fun, occasionally funny, and fully engaged with life, or engaged with the fussbudget Higgins. That certainly didn't make the tragic memory of Vietnam go away, or help the genuine burden of vets get any lighter. But at least both show and namesake offered another perspective, a brighter and occasionally life-affirming one.

This new version? It couldn't even begin to assume that role and certainly doesn't try. Thomas and pals are vets of the war in Afghanistan, which has been reduced here to a prime-time sideshow in flashback. Their exploits have been turned into swill that fills Masters' schlocky best-sellers. That war, which is still ongoing, is just another prop in them, too.

Hernandez — as a Latino Magnum in what may be the only groundbreaking move this reboot attempts — is perfectly good as TV's most famous freeloader. He destroys cars as effortlessly as Selleck ever did, flirts with Higgins, who flirts back, still has that old aversion to dogs, drinks his beer in long-neck bottles and nurses an old heartbreak, same as Magnum 1.0. But he's no Selleck, not that anyone else is either.

BOTTOM LINE Hernandez is good in what's otherwise a pallid, uninspired facsimile of the original.

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