Glenn Garvin TV Reviews

Next Week's New Fall Shows Will Fill You with Sense of Déjà Vu

Magnum P.I. gets a reboot, sans the charismatic lead.


  • Magnum PI. CBS. Monday, September 24, 9 p.m.
    'Magnum P.I.'
    'Magnum P.I.,' CBS

  • Manifest. NBC. Monday, September 24, 10 p.m.
  • FBI. CBS. Tuesday, September 25, 9 p.m.
  • New Amsterdam. NBC. Tuesday, September 25, 10 p.m.

The rollout of the fall broadcast TV season was, once upon a time, all glitter and gala. Thirty new shows (on just three networks!), a special issue of TV Guide, three times its usual size and stuffed with glamorous color studio photography of all the stars, and a dazzling array of novel ideas. A newspaper reporter who rooms with a secret Martian! A guy with a docile and very buxom female robot! The genetically groundbreaking concept of identical cousins! A dead mom who comes back as an antique car! (I said the ideas were dazzling, not necessarily good.)

These days, the rollout feels more like the series finale of The Walking Dead, with rotting zombies sharing the screen with a handful of survivors so terrified and beaten down that they've lost their minds. Of the 20 or so new shows (on six networks!), more than half are remakes, reboots or rapacious rip-offs. There hasn't been such a mass uprising of the dead since Mayor Daley stopping overseeing Chicago elections.

Hollywood has always robbed its own graveyards, of course, though rarely with such profligate abandon. The really appalling thing about the 2018 fall season is how stupidly tepid most of it is. Shows about neurotic moms and grumpy dads are not just clichés but clichés old enough to be closing in on Social Security.

Overall, this is the worst lineup of new shows since 2008, when a long strike by the Writers Guild led to a schedule so dismal that when CBS canceled one (The Ex List, in which a woman, on orders of her psychic, systematically re-dates all the guys she's dumped over the years) after four episodes, it went ahead and made six more because there was nothing to replace it with.

Technically speaking, the new season got underway a couple of weeks ago when with the debut of Fox's ruined-life sitcom Rel. But the real action starts on Monday with a couple of dramas—one a remake, one interesting and yet with some elements that will terrify you, and not in a good way—and continue for a month, when The CW debuts the third, yes third, incarnation of its teen fangbanger drama The Vampire Diaries. (Has nobody over there got a wooden stake?) Believe me, you'll have lost interest long before that.

The show that looks intriguing during the first big week of the rollout is NBC's Manifest, which is the epitome of what Hollywood calls high-concept story-telling. A plane takes off from an airport in the Caribbean one afternoon and, despite a little rough weather, arrives seemingly intact in New York … five and a half years later. (Call the Reason switchboard to vote for which airline gets a punchline inserted here.)

If that sounds weird but not particularly threatening, a few minutes of Manifest will change your mind. During the time the passengers were missing and assumed dead, children grew up and, often, away. Parents died, leases expired, landlines disappeared, mortgages lapsed, careers ended, marriages crumbled, romances withered. (The first episode doesn't even try to grapple with the meta-changes: Imagine Barack Obama was president when you got on a plane, and Donald Trump when you got off.)

Among the victims caught in this temporal nutcracker is the Stone family. Michaela (Melissa Roxburgh, not so convincing as a bloodless CIA operative in The CW's Valor last season but excellent as a confused and bitter cop here), gets her job with the NYPD with no problem. But her cop fiance has married her best friend. Her brother Ben (Josh Dallas, Once Upon A Time) get some great news: The leukemia that was almost certainly going to kill his young son is now possibly curable. (In an odd coincidence, the cure is the result of research done by a scientist who was on the plane with them.) But his grief-stricken mother has died.

As the family tries to sort out all this emotional whiplash, there are disturbing undercurrents running through the story. One is the extreme government interest in exactly what happen to the plane, understandable but oddly intense. Another is that the survivors—at least some of them—start literally hearing voices in their heads that seem to suggest they've not got at least vague precognitive abilities. Exactly what happened up there in the air, and who or what caused it, is turning into an obsession for the Stones.

Fraught with hints of conspiracy both secular and spiritual (Who messed with the plane? God or the CIA? And whatever the answer, what was the motive?), Manifest bounces around like a pinball machine with bumpers marked "sinister," "heartbreak," and "redemption," and scores high whichever one it touches.

But when watching, it's impossible to forget some other high-concept shows that began with mysterious misdoings aboard an airliner, like the crash of Oceanic 815 that launched Lost and the plane from Germany that landed with everyone aboard melted into a messy glop in the first episode of Fringe. (The synchronicity in Manifest's character back stories, and its occasional numerological cross-references, give it a particularly distinct echo of Lost.)

Both those shows eventually turned into criminally incomprehensible mashups of time travel and alternate universes as their creators tried to slip out of the nooses they fashioned themselves by launching a show long on concept and short on plot planning. If Manifest's producers (led by Jeff Rake of The Mysteries of Laura) don't have a detailed outline of where the show is headed, the destination could well be infuriating disaster.

A couple of other shows debuting on Monday and Tuesday nights don't just have echoes of past programming, they're remakes, all of which miss the point of the originals.

Magnum P.I. is an updated but fairly faithful recreation of Tom Selleck's popular 1980-88 detective series. Alas, the 1980s version had a couple of things going for it that this newbie doesn't. One is Selleck, who in his first major role somehow managed to be wry and macho at the same time. The newbie, Jay Hernandez (Scandal) comes across more like Tom Berenger in The Big Chill, playing a wimpy actor in a Magnum-like show.

The other was timing. The first Magnum came along in 1980, just as America was making an abrupt right turn electing Ronald Reagan. It was created by Don Bellisario, one of Hollywood's few conservatives and perhaps even more relevantly, one of its few military veterans. (While serving in the Marine Corps during the 1950s, Bellisario even had a memorable encounter with Lee Harvey Oswald.)

Bellisario wrote his Magnum character and friends as unapologetic Vietnam vets. (In one episode, Magnum encountered a Soviet torturer from a POW camp and cold-bloodedly executed him.) It was a sharp break with Hollywood, which for years had been portraying Vietnam vets as either broken and suicidal, or psychotic and murderous.

And it turned Magnum into a cultural touchstone.

The new Magnum, by contrast, has plenty of bare knuckles and bullets, but no real heft or even direction. As far as I can tell, its main point is that Hawaii, where it's shot, would be a great place to live if you had more money and better karma—a lesson that even the thickest viewer will have learned backward and forward in the first 20 minutes.

Unlike Magnum P.I., FBI, is not a remake—at least not of the show with which it shares a name, sort of. It doesn't resemble the tedious Hoover era show The FBI (with which it has no affiliation) so much as the oppressive police procedural Law & Order and its various clones. No wonder; they all share the DNA of producer-creator Dick Wolf.

FBI is set in Wolf's favorite location, in the bureau's biggest and supposedly most elite field office. There a bunch of agents—they include Missy Peregrym of Heroes, Zeeko Zaki of Valor and Ebonée Noel of Wrecked—run around threatening suspects, not needing no stinkin' warrants, and most importantly, not undertaking any case that will last more than one episode, which is very good Wolf's syndication revenue and very bad for the neurons of his viewers.

In the unlikely event that FBI has anything going for it, that would be the still-sexy-in-her-60s Sela Ward as the barking special agent in charge Maggie Bell, and the special effects budget. Three major explosions in the first three and a half minutes! Unfortunately, everybody survives.

That brings us to New Amsterdam, which is not based on one show but every medical drama in TV history going right back to 1954's Medic. Based (or more likely suggested by) New York's Bellevue, the oldest public hospital in the United States, it has all the old gang:

  • A quirky new medical director (Ryan Eggold, The Blacklist) from a clinic in Chinatown who jogs to work and fires the entire cardiac surgery department at his first staff meeting because they bring in too much money and that's not what medicine is all about.
  • A smirky surgeon (Jocko Sims, The Last Ship) who sneeringly warns the medical director that he'll lose: "They're not gonna let you come in here and …. help … people."
  • A gaggle of Hispanic nurses who talk trash in Spanish ("ten to one he doesn't last a year") about the medical director as he stands nearby, not aware he speaks Spanish, Russian, Urdu, Esperanto and Klingon.
  • A hiply truncated name (The 'dam) for the hospital.

Meanwhile, I'm organizing a pool on who will be the last actor named to the cast, the autistic kid who's dreaming this whole thing. Anybody want in?

NEXT: A Father Defends His Daughter with a Shotgun When Cops Break Into the Wrong House

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  1. The Magnum PI one looks like a total and utter train wreck.

    These shows had charm and were self-deprecating. I don’t see any here.

    1. These people never understand that the most popular shows are almost exclusively a product of their place and time – got the right people in the right place at the right time – and even a two year break and destroy that magic (Arrested Development?).

      Its why the Ghostbuster’s reboot failed. Why the GitS live-action couldn’t hold a candle to the *already existing* anime movie, MacGuyver, 90210, Heroes Reborn. All sucking.

      1. Ghostbusters failed for other reasons (the cast and direction was awful) but also the timing.

        The Magnum theme song is so good and yet the show is going to be so bad.

        The only reboot with a damn may have been Battlestar Galactica, and even that was a tough sell at first, but had the novelty of taking a campy concept into seriousness (perhaps like the Batman franchise).

        1. “Ghostbusters failed for other reasons (the cast and direction was awful) but also the timing.”

          So, it failed because the original film was a stroke of lightning that got the right people together at the right time and the reboot failed to achieve that.

          1. The original Ghostbusters succeeded because it was original. “Wow. Hunting ghosts in NYC with lightning-throwing dustbusters and getting slimed!”

            Advanced CGI, bigger ghosts, and more dials on the dustbusters doesn’t make the same plot “original.” Neither does plugging in feminist theory to “improve the narrative.”

      2. Ghostbusters wasn’t that bad. Kristen Wiig saved it.

        1. It still failed. If the reboot had been the first movie, there wouldn’t have been a sequel and no one would still be talking about it enough to make anyone thing resurrecting it would be a good idea.

  2. Bellisario may have been conservative but his politics didn’t betray the show.

    “Magnum P.I. is an updated but fairly faithful recreation of Tom Selleck’s popular 1980-88 detective series.”

    Fairly faithful? HIGGINS IS A GIRL.

    1. second Starbuck better?

      1. Well I think the second Starbuck was an angel so she is by definition a superior being to all mere mortals.

    2. When I saw the ad for the show I immediately thought “they obviously don’t understand the original show”.

      1. Seriously. Not impressed.

    3. Fairly faithful? HIGGINS IS A GIRL.

      The first Higgins (the character) was British. So, close enough.

      1. The Brits like to *dress* like girls – but they’re still pretty manly. Higgins *fucked*!

  3. Until they reboot The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, I’m not interested.

  4. >>>They all seem to be reboots

    been on Mars since 1999 maybe?

  5. The newbie, Jay Hernandez (Scandal) comes across more like Tom Berenger in The Big Chill, playing a wimpy actor in a Magnum-like show.

    That’s too bad. Hernandez is just a serviceable actor, but he’s likeable and at least has some legitimate screen charisma. Unfortunately, the trailers make it look like the writers and producers completely missed the reason why the original was so much fun.

    1. Right? No mustache rides.

  6. “Imagine Barack Obama was president when you got on a plane, and Donald Trump when you got off.”

    That actually happened to a lot of people. Anyone who was in the are around noon EST Jan 20th 2016.

    1. Are->air

    2. But. Uh. Wait a minute. That doesn’t sound traumatic. Unless your plane flight was a *few months long*, you’d have known that Trump was elected and so your flight would have simply spanned the inauguration. You would have gotten on the plane knowing that when you got off Trump would be President.

    3. A plane flight the night of the election would have been a lot more traumatic, but you got the same reaction watching the talking heads explode. That was fun time.

      Now there’s an idea for a comedy series, and you could produce the first season with 12 hours of YouTube clips.

      TV sitcoms and adventure series have the same problem as The Onion. I mean, how the heck do you parody the Kavanaugh hearings?

  7. Imagine Barack Obama was president when you got on a plane, and Donald Trump when you got off.

    “Wha…? Hillary isn’t President? But…it was HER turn!”

  8. “That brings us to New Amsterdam,. . . it has all the old gang:”

    It seems to be missing the genius, addict, diagnostician (House) and the child prodigy (Dougie Howser MD).

    1. The commercials for that are particularly abysmal.

      “Anything your patients need, I don’t care if it is covered…..

      I don’t care if the board says no…..

      We are finally going to start being doctors again…..

      they are not going to let you just come in here and … help people….

      Then let’s help as many as we can before they figure us out….

      Because “they” don’t want to help people. They just want money! So if we just “help people” and don’t worry about the cost, everything will be great again!

      An earlier version started with him firing the entire cardio-thoracic surgery department, presumably because they were charging too much and making too much money for the hospital. I guess they redacted that because it played better if it was the sinister “they” who doesn’t want doctors to help people, instead of a bunch of greedy surgeons who save people’s lives with expensive emergency bypass surgery who don’t want to help people.

      1. Is the best thing about that show the meme where New Yorkers take photos of the subway poster with the star appearing to point at various things in the adjacent poster?

  9. Did you see the sunrise this morning?

    1. Tom Selleck should appear in the first episode to ask the entire new cast this question.

  10. It’s not like they’re bringing back Supertrain… Or, worse, Small Wonder.

    1. Apparently they cancelled Small Wonder, after four seasons of pointedly not cancelling it simply for being godawful, because the young girl’s bosoms were growing too massive too rapidly to keep binding anymore so she kept looking like a toddler robot. (Rumor has it this was the same reason Peter Weller landed his gig instead of Steven Seagal.)

      1. Note: Apologies if any Seagal fans found that distasteful. I only threw that in there after subbing out a much less tasteful Brett Kavanaugh joke.

  11. I never seen Scandal, so I keep getting Jay Hernandez mixed up with Jai Courtney for some reason. You want to talk about a young actor who makes you despair that they ever will ever make them as they used to…Courtney looks like he would be interesting in stills but so much more the disappointment that he has the raw magnetism of a lump of coal. You fall asleep just watching him. I could totally see Hollywood trying to push him on us as an “update” of a classic action star.

  12. I finally get it – mad scientists trapped Glenn Garvin on a space satellite and forced him to watch the worst TV programs they could find. These reviews are his progress reports.

    1. But . . how does he eat or sleep and other science facts?

      1. You should really just relax.

  13. And this is why I buy lots of Japaneses anime. Even then I heard the left is trying to change to dialog to fit the PC crowd idea of sensibilities. But it’s not just T.V it is also the movies too. Since The Last Jedi and Han Solo , I’ve had no interest in going to the movies. I now live in fear of them making a new remake of The Last Star Fighter or what they would do to a new Tron movie now. And Sfi and Fantasy books are even worse. One last note on Han Solo, They wanted to make a big thing about Lando being pan sexual by having a fling with his robot as if robo sex is new in the Sfi world. Left seems to not know that robo sex has been written and in movies for decades now. From Heavy metal to Making Mr Right and even the very first west world and even earlier. And I’ll stay away from comic books or I’ll will be typing all night. Hollywood and just about any entertainment industry is more into brain washing than coming out with a good product.

    1. . . . as if robo sex is new in the Sfi world.

      Hell, its not even new in the real world. Funny thing is though – there’s tons of ‘feminists’ who will tell you that seeking sex with a robot is mysoginistic and patriarchal. You’re just using the object to get off and that objectifies women even more by suggesting that women aren’t necessary for sex. These are the same people who tell you the same thing about *gay porn*.

  14. That damn writers strike killed a bunch of good shows. Pushing Daisies, Cavemen and Carpoolers all bit the dust.

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