‘Magnum P.I.’: Why NBC Took a Chance on the Former CBS Series

by Suzanne Halliburton
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Magnum P.I. fans rejoiced at the news after learning Friday that NBC rescued their favorite show, thanks, in part, to a grassroots campaign to save it.

But it was more than just vocal fan support that allowed Magnum P.I. to live on. It also came down to money, as always. NBC was in a better position to make a show shot on location in Hawaii work for their budget.

The Indie Wire reported that CBS canceled the show, in part, because the high cost of its licensing fee. Although Magnum P.I. ranked as one of the 25 scripted shows on any network, CBS wasn’t making enough money off of it to offset the cost. CBS Studios will continue to produce the show. But it was co-owned by Universal Television, which is under the NBCUniversal umbrella. Indie Wire said Universal owns the IP.

The season four cast of Magnum P.I. (Christopher Patey/CBS)

Season Four of Magnum P.I. Ended with Romantic Cliffhanger

CBS announced that it canceled Magnum P.I., May 12. That was a few days after the season four finale that definitely didn’t serve as a proper series ender. Instead, the last episode of season four teased a relationship between Thomas Magnum (Jay Hernandez) and Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks). After a wild day, the two finally figured out they were interested in romance with each other. So as the rest of Magnum P.I. crew celebrated the birth of Rick and Suzy’s baby, Thomas and Higgins confessed their mutual feelings and kissed.

In the 42-year-old Hernandez, Magnum P.I. is one of the few shows on network TV with a Latino lead actor. The show is basically about friendship told through Magnum’s job as a private investigator. Thomas is a former Navy SEAL. His best friends, T.C. and Rick, also are retired Marines. The show was a reboot of the original 1980s-era hit that starred Tom Selleck. Coincidentally, CBS gave Magnum P.I. the Friday lead-in spot to Blue Bloods, which stars Selleck as the New York police commissioner.

Thomas Magnum and his friends, Rick and T.C., are retired military. (Zack Dougan/CBS)

Show Isn’t On NBC Fall Schedule. Expect 2023 Restart

The reboot enjoyed decent ratings. This past season, it averaged 7.4 million viewers an episode. That made it the most-watched network show on the canceled list. Among CBS shows, Magnum ranked ninth in total audience and 10th in the 18 to 49 demo out of the network’s 14 dramas.

When CBS announced the cancellation, negotiations started almost immediately with NBC. It’s not uncommon for networks to pick up another’s cast-offs. Netflix rescued Manifest after NBC axed the sci-fi show. And NBC picked up Brooklyn Nine-Nine when Fox axed the cop comedy. Fox revived Tim Allen’s Last Man Standing when ABC ended it.

NBC ordered 20 Magnum P.I. episodes over two seasons with the option to add more. A full network season usually has at least 20 episodes. Production should start this fall, with a 2023 premiere date. NBC announced its fall schedule earlier this week. Dateline is its premiere show on Friday nights. The network then will add two comedies on Fridays starting Nov. 4. Those are Lopez vs Lopez, a new show starring George Lopez and his daughter. Then Young Rock, which is based on the life of Dwayne Johnson, follows. So it’s unclear whether Magnum will stick with its normal Friday time slot.

Outsider.com