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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 26, 2010

Is an updated 'Magnum, P.I.' in the cards?

By Wayne Harada

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

"Magnum, P.I." starred Tom Selleck as detective Thomas Magnum and John Hillerman as Higgins. Talk about a big-screen version of the show hasn't produced anything definite.

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"Magnum, P.I." occasionally borrowed the formula of Angela Lansbury's "Murder, She Wrote" series, and booked guest stars from the stable of Hollywood celebrities (as well as sister shows on the network) to provide do-you-remember-'em fun for viewers.

Among the players: Kam Fong (post-"Hawaii Five-0"), Pat Morita, Vic Morrow, Angela Lansbury (as Jessica Fletcher, from "Murder, She Wrote"), Gerald McRaney and Jameson Parker (as Rick and A.J. Simon, from "Simon and Simon"), Frank Sinatra, Ted Danson, Carol Channing, Carol Burnett and Tyne Daly.

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With "Hawaii Five-0" set for a relaunch on TV this year, can "Magnum, P.I." be far behind with an overdue makeover?

Think about it: Tom Selleck was a hottie when he played private eye Thomas Magnum, just as Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett cop lorded over viewers.

"Five-0" was a hit from 1968 to 1980, followed by "Magnum" from 1980 to 1988.

Both were CBS shows, filmed entirely on location here. Indeed, "Magnum" wouldn't have existed if not preceded by "Five-0" and the attention it brought to the Islands.

While NBC ("Hawaii," "Baywatch Hawaii," "Big Hawaii") and ABC ("Byrds of Paradise," "Lost") previously have set anchor here, CBS has been the network most interested in Hawaii as a viable production hub, thanks to the success of "Five-0" and "Magnum."

You probably don't recall some earlier CBS shows filmed here: Stephen Caffrey in the Vietnam-war "Tour of Duty" (1987-88), for instance, but you certainly remember William Conrad's "Jake and the Fatman" (1988-90) and Richard Chamberlain's "Island Son" (1989-90). Jeffrey Meek and Lee Majors in "Raven" (1992) was one of the last CBS trysts in the Islands, though not a ratings triumph.

Both "Five-0" and "Magnum" have had buzz about transiting to the big screen, but so far such plans have been like the tide: they've come and they've gone, bubbling and then fizzling over the years.

But the "Five-0" redux becomes a reality when a new CBS pilot is shot here in March, with Alex O'Loughlin of "Moonlight" and "Three Rivers" stepping into McGarrett's world. Daniel Dae Kim of "Lost" also will play Chin Ho Kelly; other classic roles for the next-generation show likely will be announced over the next few weeks and the only other mentionable, as of this week, is Taryn Manning as McGarrett's sister Mary Ann, a character who originally appeared in two early "Five-0" episodes, so her emergence is historically legit. Or not.

Getting back to "Magnum": Who should or could inherit the Selleck part?

Interestingly, George Clooney has been a "maybe" for the movie version, though at last report, Matthew McConaughey was a possibility. Dunno about McConaughey, but I'd say that Clooney's large screen star power would not likely include an option in episodic television, but who knows, he might ultimately consider the film "Magnum." For now, let's just say it's "up in the air" for Clooney.

McConaughey is a surfer, so Hawai'i would appear to be an irresistible destination.

Still, I could imagine someone from the popular "Lost" ensemble to donning a Magnum mustache and getting behind a Ferrari steering wheel to portray an ex-Navy SEAL guy-turned-private investigator, fighting crime in paradise, wooing visitors to the Islands. Like, Josh Holloway, aka Sawyer? He's got the charisma; he puts up a good fight; he already lives here; his star is still rising.

Or Matthew Fox, the Jack of "Lost?"He's got it down pat, rescuing people; he remains primarily a TV staple despite some film work, and conceivably could turn his neurosurgeon nuances to an investigative itinerary, his father issues into Vietnam matters.

Or, think about this one for a sec: Michael Emerson, who is the award-winning Ben of "Lost," as a left-field Magnum? A good guy/bad guy actor, certainly intriguing, with potential layers yet to surface. Did he say he couldn't imagine returning to the ways of New York, trading in his life in paradise, once "Lost" is pau? Well, here's an op; he would be a different kind of Magnum, both likable but extremely tough cop; maybe a little creepy, even? He'd spook the usual underground element, an ingredient for the cop show.

Naturally, Magnum should don aloha shirts, the casual gear a necessity for the fashion industry here, since that Aloha Friday look would be marketable, like it was in the first go-round. In comparison, McGarrett always donned suits and looked like a tourist visiting Hawai'i; this is one element to soften and change in a reboot.

And why wouldn't Magnum continue to wheel around O'ahu in a Ferrari?

Other casting could be equally tricky.

Who would play Higgins, with a Brit clip, who runs the Robin's Nest estate where Magnum lives in a guest house? Would the same Waimänalo house be cast as the hideaway again?

And what about Magnum's sidekick pair, T.C., the helicopter tour guide, and Rick, the club manager? Could be star-making opportunities, if unknowns were tapped.

Or maybe they should just leave the "Magnum" franchise untouched — at least for now.

Unlike "Five-0," where most of the the principal actors have died — with the exception of James MacArthur, who played Danny Williams (you know, "Book 'em, Danno") — the ol' "Magnum" gang is waiting for a call for a possible cameo. Or not.

Perhaps "Magnum" should wait and see first if "Five-0" flourishes or fizzles?

What do you think?

Reach Wayne Harada at 266-0926 or wayneharada@gmail.com. Read his Show Biz column Sundays in Island Life and at http://showandtellhawaii.honadvblogs.com.