Magnum, PI, Another Again

Lots of people Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia Woodhave talked about the repetitive, unimaginative products Hollywood has been offering us lately…and with much more analysis and detail than I could.

I just want to make a brief comment about a recent reboot that high-lights just how desperate and irrational this phobia of original concepts is.

Magnum, PI

Dad introduced us to this show as part of “pop culture” class. I also watched some episodes on my own, and enjoyed the mystery, the adventure, the detective work, and the charm of Tom Selleck.

Here’s the premise, in my own words:

Thomas Magnum, a Vietnam veteran, now works as a private investigator in Hawaii. He ostensibly works for the reclusive author Robin Masters, whose estate he lives at, and has a strained relationship with Masters’ estate caretaker, Higgins.

Higgins is an older man, a veteran of the First World War, and a straight-laced counterpoint to Magnum’s Hawaiian-shirt-wearing energy.

There. Lots of room for plot, as episodes explored Magnum’s war experiences (his two best friends served alongside him), enjoyed the tropical setting, and pitted the mirthless, proper Higgins against Magnum’s fun-loving demeanor and eclectic working schedule.

The Reboot

CBS has brought the show back – well, as an updated, readjusted form of itself.

Thomas Magnum is now a Hispanic veteran of Afghanistan. This is great. Hispanics can be good-looking, there’s no reason a Hispanic veteran wouldn’t live in Hawaii (and decide to be a PI), and the casting openly acknowledges that you can’t re-create Tom Selleck, so why try?

Just do your own thing, and do it well.

The bigger problem is that “Jonathan” Higgins has been turned into “Juliet” Higgins. As Laura Finch in WORLD Magazine put it, “I think we all know how that story ends.”

And that’s the problem.

This is “supposed” to be Magnum, PI. Part of the whole dynamic there is the conflict between Higgins and Magnum…the old man and the young man…the Brit and the American…the class act and the bend-the-rules…the suit and the Hawaiian shirt…the straight-faced professional and the emotionally-invested professional.

The bickering of two men who didn’t see eye-to-eye, and the grudging respect they gain for each other through long seasons of working together (and saving each other’s lives) was a profound and unique dynamic.

Now…there’s Magnum and Juliet.

As soon as it’s a man and a woman, you have sexual tension. That’s just how it works. A male and female can’t have the same platonic working relationship that two people of the same gender can.

The writer in WORLD already spelled it out. We can all smell where this story is heading. Even if the writers decide to toy with our expectations, and these two don’t get together, the fact that there’s this possibility turns all their interactions on their heads.

Now, a “grudging respect” might be “flirty bickering”. Juliet complaining about Magnum’s methods might be a romantic rebuttal, or an emotionally confused statement (she’s attracted, but doesn’t want to be, so it taints her professional decision-making…or vice versa) – rather than a plain statement about their different working mentalities.

(The new writers also want her to be a “strong female”, with MI6 experience and the skills to defend herself, thank you very much. Whatever, people.)

Another, Again…Except Not

Could a story about a man and a woman in antagonistic professional circumstances be compelling? Could the tale of how they bond over shared adventures and intrigue (both pulling their weight – in a masculine sense – ala Mr. Incredible and the kick-butt ElastaGirl) be entertaining and meaningful?

Sure. But it’s not the story of the original Magnum, PI.

I enjoyed the original. I enjoyed how Higgins and Magnum didn’t really like each other, thought the other one was much too ____, but still had each other’s backs in every sticky situation. It was a uniquely male dynamic, and refreshingly so.

In private, Magnum would troll Higgins, and Higgins would scold Magnum. But when bad stuff hit the fan, they put their personal relationship in the back seat, and worked together to win.

Turning one of these characters into a woman automatically makes the personal relationship a key issue. Women are much more “personal relationship” oriented than men are…and men forming relationships with women have a much harder time not making those relationships “personal” (think of the deep, innate urge to save the princess – even if she’s a jerk).

Even if Magnum and Juliet are both mature, rational adults, you can’t put a man and a woman in a room and not have tension. Further, they’re going to approach whatever problems they face from a male or a female perspective – regardless of whatever cultural, demographic, religious, philosophical, and experiential differences they might have with each other.

To pretend this new show is Magnum, PI, but to change this foundational element, is both disappointing and confusing.

I probably wouldn’t watch the new show either way, because we don’t have a television. (And my brother got more exercised about the gender-swap than I did.) But I really wanted to connect this new show to the issue I started with…the regurgitation of media.

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

What if, once upon a time, a writer had a new premise idea for a great TV show:

Tomas Colt is a Hispanic former SEAL turned private investigator, using his combat skills in the private sector. He lives on the estate of a reclusive author, and has a tense relationship with the estate’s caretaker Juliet, who doesn’t approve of his professional methods and standards.

Little does he suspect she is former MI6, and critiques his detecting and problem-solving techniques because of her own experience in the field…

Well? Why didn’t they do that?

Why did they say, “This is that exact same show you used to love, except with younger actors and good graphics…and also diversity”?

Instead of, “If you loved Magnum, PI, you’ll also love this new show that has some similar elements, but is exploring its own themes for a modern audience! Please tune in to Colt, PI!”

Why? Right when writing coaches and analysts around the internet are bemoaning the lack of originality and risk-taking in modern media…why would they take an old show, change one of its foundational tenants, and try to feed us the same old thing only more diverse?

Just do your own thing, and do it well!

I just watched a YouTube video about how the live-action Beauty and the Beast did the same thing…”fixed” non-existent problems of sexism and bigotry, and created new problems of character motivation, plot inconsistency, irrational bigotry, and emotional impact. (language cautions)

And in case you think I’m a cynic who just hates all female characters, try this YouTube video that explains we just want good female characters…and to not have the writers’ virtue-signaling meta-agenda shoved down our throats.

Sure, let’s make new stories. But let’s make new stories. And let’s be intentional about the dynamics, character motivations and interactions, and thematic assumptions that go into our stories.

Do your own thing…just do it well.


Header picture is from WORLD Magazine.

Magnum, PI, Another Again — Kimia WoodKimia Wood currently lives somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, hobby-farming, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Subscribe to the mailing list for a FREE e-copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier! You’ll also receive periodic updates of her latest reading and writing adventures.

“Red vs. Blue” (Seasons 6 thru 13)

"Red vs. Blue" (Seasons 6 thru 13) — Kimia Wood The internet is a dark, mysterious place…full of dangerous things like web series. If you aren’t careful, you might find yourself…watching Red vs. Blue.

And if you have a little brother, you might find yourself compelled by those big brown eyes to watch it, despite your better judgement. #askhowIknow

In all honesty, though, is RvB really that bad? Well…it has some content “not for mothers-in-law“, but it also has a lot of powerful, heart-moving themes.

You gotta decide if you’re up to getting there.

Premise

This might sound weird, but RvB is a Halo-based Machinima where two teams of soldiers camp on opposite sides of a valley in color-coordinated teams (yes…Red and Blue). It streams free on YouTube (in five-minute episodes organized into seasons), but is also available in DVD format.

I gather that early on, it was basically an excuse for cheap skits and foul-mouthed jokes while these pathetic losers tried unsuccessfully to kill each other.

But I wasn’t brought in until Season 6…when they actually start telling a cohesive story. Continue reading

“The Saint” by Leslie Charteris, Starring Roger Moore

"The Saint" Starring Roger Moore — Kimia Wood Intrepid adventurer. Con-man and detective. Infamous man of mystery. The dashing, dangerous, and irrepressible Simon Templar is played by Roger Moore in this black-and-white television series of suspense and excitement. (Seasons 5 and 6 were shot in color.)

A little lacking in the luster, you say? Paltry in comparison to its peers? Nevertheless, these puzzle-packed episodes of action and glamor have plenty to offer the thrill-seeker.

I Say, A Tad “On the Nose”, What?

Perhaps Simon Templar’s adventures are a little of the pulp-fiction variety. As my mom said, the plots he unravels aren’t so bafflingly complex as Mission: Impossible.

And it’s true he breaks the forth wall every episode as he introduces the audience to his locale, perhaps philosophizing on his surroundings. In the intro segment, someone always says his name, and a little halo appears above his head…to indicate his moniker “The Saint”. By the third and fourth seasons, Simon is tired of this repeated performance, and glances wryly above his head as it appears. Why, if you looked hard enough, you might be able to see the characters roll their eyes as they work each episode’s title into the dialogue at the conclusion.

"The Saint" by Leslie Charteris Starring Roger Moore — Kimia Wood

Image credit: uk.movies.yahoo.com

Is it campy that the villains always recognize this man, and darkly threaten his life to one another as the episode progresses? Is it tiresome that gorgeous, wealthy girls are always throwing themselves at him? And that his name and face are only as well-known as the episode needs them to be?

But this is not about deep, meaningful plots and intricate mysteries. This is about cool fight sequences and smashed crockery…kissing beautiful women and chasing around in 1950s cars…and, of course, Roger Moore’s hair.

If you didn’t want James Bond Lite, go listen to NPR or something. We’re busy here.

Dashing Good Show, Old Boy

Prepare yourself.

If every police chief in the world warns you to behave yourself…if you can afford the ritziest restaurant on the Riviera and are personal friends with half the elite hotel-owners around the world…if beautiful and troubled girls seem to cross your path at every turn…

Well, then, why not pursue your curiosity about whatever strange events happen to unfold around you?

Revel in intricate heists. Suffer succulent double-crosses. Defeat cold-blooded black-mailers. Catch murderers and terrorists.

Watch, transfixed, as Simon counters knives, garrots, and grapples with his bare hands, using only his +13 Dodge ability. Then, watch him counter axes, spears, bottles, and other improvised weapons with chairs, tables, books, and other smash-able fixtures and furniture! (Interspersed, of course, with gun-battles.)

Watch as his perfect hair gets tousled in the heat of combat. Then see him emerge victorious. (Usually.)

The show would probably earn a PG-13 from the smoking alone, never mind all the consumption of alcoholic beverages. This is a show to shock your 1950s sensibilities!

But the twists are predictably thrilling. The Girl is usually innocent…but sometimes (gasp) she isn’t!

For those of us who like our soda Caffeine-free Diet – who want an adventure show that’s sweet and also calorie-free – check out this blast-from-the-past, this relic for the ages!

Try out The Saint!


Title card is from Wikipedia.

Check it out on Amazon (Seasons 1&2 here).

Kimia Wood lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by baking, knitting, hobby-farming, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a free copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier, plus periodic updates on her latest writing and reading adventures!

Top Ten Mysteries

I’m a huge fan of mysteries. “Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the theme for this week is a FREEBIE. Since I’ve noticed a troubling lack of mystery-related lists for Top Ten Tuesday, I offer up my list of the top ten…specifically, the mysteries which most took me by surprise or had the most satisfying twists!Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

1– Have His Carcase, Dorothy Sayers

Mystery author Harriet Vane is on a walking tour along the coast of England when she discovers a body with its throat cut. Along with her suitor and friend, noble sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, she sets out tracking down suspects, busting alibis, and cracking conspiracies.

The twist is truly original, beautifully foreshadowed, and is surprising yet inevitable – and thus very satisfying.

All in all, an excellent mystery story, with a smattering of romance mixed in.

2– Gemini Rue (2011)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodThe hook for this sci-fi puzzle game is a former assassin hunting for his long-lost brother. But there’s way more in this story about organized crime, friendship, and whether we can really trust our memories.

Read my full review to see how the twist totally floored me and made me a fan for life!

3– The Bourne Identity, Robert Ludlum

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodA man washes up in the Mediterranean Sea, riddled with bullets and more dead than alive. Several months of care on a tiny fishing island restore him to health, but not to himself – he can’t remember who he is.

Once he steps off the island, a world of danger and secrets rears up, threatening to swallow him unless his “gut-instincts” from who he was can keep him alive long enough to figure it out.

This amnesia mystery is not for everyone, but if you’ve got a strong stomach and conscience, it’s a fascinating onion of conspiracies and secrets!

4– The Maltese Falcon (1941)

This classic noir detective film stars the iconic Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade – smooth-talking, quick-thinking, razor-sharp intelligent, and sly as a fox. When his partner is murdered, Sam sets out untangling a conspiracy of greed and murder, accompanied by a beautiful and mysterious woman wound in a cocoon of lies.

It’s not just a cultural icon — it’s also a terrific mystery story.

5– Clouds of Witness, Dorothy Sayers

Lord Peter Wimsey’s brother-in-law to be is murdered in the dead of night. Lord Peter’s brother is arrested for the crime, and to clear him Wimsey must delve deep into his sibling’s darkest secrets.

Full of intelligence and British wit, this is a fantastically tangled tale that resolves with a dramatic twist that stuns the entire House of Lords!

6– The Westing Game, Ellen Raskin

A bizarre chain of events begins when sixteen unlikely people gather for the reading of Samuel W. Westing’s will. And though no one knows why the eccentric, game-loving millionaire has chosen a virtual stranger—and a possible murderer—to inherit his vast fortune, one thing’s for sure: Sam Westing may be dead…but that won’t stop him from playing one last game!

This is a suspenseful and intriguing mystery, with a satisfying ending. There are a lot of characters, but they’re colorful and individual enough to be easily distinguished from each other.

7– “Now You See Him…” (Columbo Season 5)

Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia Wood

Image credit: marketwatch.com

The main question of Columbo is not who committed the murder, but how our shabby, trenchcoat-wearing, cigar-chomping protagonist assembles the evidence to finally nail the culprit.

In this episode, Lt. Columbo faces down a magician. While the ending might be a little “goofy”, it’s adorable, satisfying, and totally condemning (of the bad guy, that is).

8– Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie

Fourteen passengers on a train. One is brutally murdered in the night. It has to be one of them…but who? The Russian princess? The Swedish maid? The American secretary?

Only Hercule Poirot could solve such a case. And trust me, it’s worth it to read the original classic!

9– “Candidate for Crime” (Columbo Season 3)

This episode is one of my all time favorites. As the ending stretches on, Columbo seems to be doing nothing, while the murderer trundles along doing exactly what he wants. Then, in the last five minutes of the show – BLAM! Columbo unleashes his smarts, and the perp can do nothing but hang his head in defeat.

10– Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective (2010)

Another video game – but one well worth your time! Sissel awakes in a junkyard to discover that he’s dead…but not just dead, dead with powers. He remembers nothing about his life, and must use his abilities to unravel the mystery of his own murder before dawn!

Full of easy physics puzzles, bright humor, and unforgettable characters, if you venture into Ghost Trick you will make friends for life (and also explore a neat amnesia mystery)!

Honorable Mention– The Tuesday Club Murders, Agatha Christie

This book is good the way pizza and popcorn are good. Perhaps they don’t have many vitamins, but they’re great to chow down on once in a while.

The short stories in this volume each feature a little mystery, and can be finished in about one sitting each. If you like brain puzzles, clever clue-laying, and brilliant old ladies, you’ll suck this down like a peanut-butter chocolate shake – just as I did!

What are some of your favorite mysteries? What story twists have made you go, “Uhg! I should have seen that coming. This is awesome!”

(Did you see what I did? I went through a whole TTT post without mentioning the Master Chief!)


Top Ten Mysteries — Kimia WoodKimia Wood grew up under an aspiring author, so spinning words and weaving plots is in her blood.

She currently lives with her family somewhere in the American midwest, bracing for the collapse of society by knitting, baking, writing, and reading as much Twitter as possible before the web goes dark.

Join the mailing list for a FREE copy of her post-apocalyptic adventure novella Soldier!

Top Ten Relationships

“Top Ten Tuesday” is a list-making meme currently hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl, and the topic for this week is “Love Freebie (Romances, swoons…) etc.

I’m not actually a fan of romances, and I’ve already shared my top “ten” romantic hits-and-misses and the top ten fictional guys I really admire (and would have crushes on if I did the “crush” thing), so to avoid just talking about the Master Chief again I want to share the Top Ten Relationships (friendships, platonic bonds, etc.) that I find most compelling.

1– Frodo and Sam (Lord of the Rings, Tolkien)

Frodo is the meta heroic protagonist who goes from quiet-living aristocrat in an ivory-tower corner of the world, to laying down his life to save all creation.

Sam is the down-home, unassuming, cleaning-the-toilets type who’s there to take care of his employer…and ends up helping to save the world. Continue reading

Why MacGyver’s Terror of Guns is Silly

Why MacGyver’s Terror of Guns is Silly

Season 4, Episode 2, of MacGyver is a story called “Blood Brothers” where MacGyver protects two teens from drug dealers while experiencing flash-backs of the childhood tragedy that set him against guns and handguns. From Wikipedia:

Back in his childhood home town, MacGyver is haunted by memories of his youth where a friend was killed by a gun while preventing his friend’s son from using a gun to defend himself against hoodlums.

While the episode works very hard to evoke a specific emotional response, and while it explains MacGyver’s phobia of guns, the moral it tries to convey (“When are they going to do something about guns?“) doesn’t apply – not in our modern day of 2017.

(Note in passing: after all the times MacGyver blows up Murdoc, or drops him in acid, or knocks him off cliffs, or drops buildings on him, etc., Mac’s aversion to firearms seems a rather weak stance.)

Back to the specific episode, I shall break down the specific issues point by point.

* * SPOILERS * * Continue reading

Top “Ten” Romances

Ten Eleven Romance Hits and Near-Misses!

The Top Ten Tuesday topic for today is “All About Romance Tropes/Types.” I’m not a huge fan of romance for its own sake, but I do have some favorite fictional couples and almost-couples:

1. “The Big Show” — Dragnet

In this episode of Dragnet, a military officer’s wife doesn’t see him for two years, and in her loneliness has a baby out of wedlock. To avoid hurting her husband, she decides to secretly give up the baby. It might not sound very profound explained like that, but the profound part is when her husband returns to the country, he not only forgives her, but takes the baby as his own. Now, that’s the kind of romance I can get behind! Continue reading

Top 5 Namesakes

Five Reused Names

The Top Ten Tuesday subject for today is “Ten Characters I’d Name A Child/Dog/Cat/Car/Etc. After”. Fictional characters frequently have cool or memorable names, don’t you think? I’ve only been able to think of five examples of fictional namesakes – and yet it’s curious how many names we’ve snitched over the years.

1. On April 27, 2006, I created a ranger character for a D&D campaign my dad was game-mastering. I named this character “Elwin“, after Elwin Ransom in C.S. Lewis’s space trilogy. Continue reading

Class Your Character

What Would Your Character Be?

smaller I came up with a cool way to explore your characters. It’s all about archetypes (which are like stereotypes, but good).

Here it is: what role-playing class would they be? Not just in their fighting styles, but in their essential method of dealing with life.

Maybe you’ve already thought of something similar, but it sounded like fun to me. I’ll use some examples from popular fiction, and from my own works to show the brainstorming in action. Warning: major geek alert! If you’re not up on the World of Warcraft/DnD field, here’s a quick crash course (with pictures!). Continue reading