Tuesday, 22 January 2019

I've had it with you and your successful methods

The makers of Manifest try very hard to make a memorably terrible television series, but sadly it's just quite banal.  The concept is a hodge-podge of lazy tropes (the show is essentially a remake of The 4400), but it's with the use of the still-recent tragedy of  Flight 370 as a story engine that they betray the real lack of ideas or faith in their own creation, gambling as they are on free publicity from social media outrage - but for that to have materialised, the show would need to be significant, well-made or popular enough to justify confronting its opportunistic intrusion into the grief of those affected by the real-life tragedy it stripmines, but the show is none of those things.  Often-appalling dialogue aside, there's nothing worth noting, not even to single out for criticism, it's just a big dollop of tv landfill wherein nobody does their best.
Magnum PI may be familiar to anyone of a certain vintage, but to me it came far too early and it was only relatively recently I got to play catch-up.  While patchy in places, it's easy to see why it made a household name of lead actor Tom Selleck: the series follows the (mostly) neo-noir adventures of an ex-marine-turned private investigator employed as a live-in security consultant by a constantly-absent globetrotting pulp novelist, Magnum being a freeloading mooch of the kind beloved of 1980s popular culture, enjoying the trappings of a billionaire's private Hawaii estate without having to do very much in return, thus constantly enraging the estate's majordomo, Johnathan Higgins, an upright Englishman*.  The relationship between the pair was antagonistic on the surface, but they shared cross-generational experiences of national service to their respective countries, a commonality nuanced in how Magnum was a frontline veteran of Vietnam while Higgins was an advisor to the French during the Indochina War, their experiences overlapping but not identical.  This created an interesting dynamic that added to the eventually paternal relationship that formed between the two, but the new Magnum PI is... not as interesting.
Virtually identical to the producers' other contemporary action tv series such as MacGyver and Hawaii 5-0, there's little doubt that these series were made based on nothing but their branding, retaining the theme tunes**, character names and basic setups from the originals, but otherwise being the same anodyne mix of drama, comedy, and - for some reason - homophobia in every episode, so that creating the occasional off-the-reservation genre-straddling episode becomes all but impossible because every episode is the comedy episode, every episode is the pathos episode, every episode has some toxically-masculine over-muscled goon uncritically saluting the flag.  The new Magnum PI is offensively unchallenging, its scripts generated by some kind of algorithm wherein all elements for each episode are present and correct but Skynet is simply incapable of replicating human emotion or ever springing an actual surprise upon you.
Actually, tell a lie: I was genuinely surprised in one episode when Magnum and Rick inflicted homophobic taunting on TC for attending dance classes as a child that made me quite uncomfortable, but... well, I don't really want that kind of surprise, thanks.  Plus, aren't these war buddies or something?  Even the thick-as-pigshit Hawaii Five-0 has the male leads uncritically hugging each other in bromance moments.
Anyway, Magnum PI is not very good, so that must mean I'm sexist or racist because Magnum is played by an Eskimo and Higgins is Welsh now and there can be no other reason for me to be critical of something with a diverse cast.

* fun fact: John Hillerman, who played Higgins, also played Higgins' many siblings on the show, one of whom was a Texan whom Hillerman played with a broad cowboy twang, an Irishman played with a twee brogue - another brother was mentioned yet never portrayed in the show and was named Soo Ling.  I don't suppose we shall ever know why Hillerman declined to portray that one onscreen...
** albeit in drastically truncated form - such is the belief in the audience's attention span that Magnum's them tune is a mere 19 seconds long

No comments:

Post a Comment