The Who in 2019

One of my Facebook friends (a former high school classmate) recently posted a photo of herself and her husband at a Who concert.

When you think about it, there is a certain irony there. The Who formed in London in 1964. That was when Lyndon Baines Johnson was President of the United States, and the U.S. had not yet fully committed to the Vietnam War. 

The irony of all this was not lost on my friend, who noted:

“Attending a concert where the band has been around longer than I’ve been alive.”

My classmate, I should note (just like yours truly) is now fifty-one years old. We were born in 1968. So The Who had already been a going concern for about four years when we were born.

And the band is still doing live concerts. Wow.

The Who was never one of my favorite bands, but they were always on my radar. Another irony here: By the time I started high school—way back in the early 1980s—the band’s real heyday was already behind it. The Who’s tenth studio album, It’s Hard, appeared in September 1982, in the fall of my freshman year. Whenever I hear the song “Athena”, I’m instantly transported back to that time. 

I like a lot of individual Who songs. But my hands-down favorite is from the album Face Dances: “You Better You Bet”.

Enjoy the video below, and consider picking up the whole album, if you’re so inclined.

The best rock albums of the 1980s (Ed’s list)

Oh, like this one won’t cause any controversy…I would be better off writing another political post if I wanted to avoid hate mail.

I was very much into rock music during the 1980s (especially the first half of the decade). I turned twelve in 1980, so you might as well say that the 1980s were my “coming-of-age years”. And it is during this time that we are most into youth culture—especially music.

The list that follows is unabashedly and unapologetically a personal list.

I don’t think you’ll find any albums here that are too far off the beaten path. Even if they’re forgotten today (though some of them aren’t) they all had significant followings at the time.

That said, I’ve left off some albums that were popular, but not for me.

For example, you won’t find any Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, or Michael Jackson on the list below. I had nothing against these artists (and I liked a few of their songs) but I was never one of their fans.

Oh, one other thing: I did not include any “greatest hits” or live albums on this list. I wanted to focus on music that was being heard for the first time between January 1, 1980 and December 31, 1989.

Escape (Journey): Yes, I know: There is nothing especially original about this choice. Released in 1981, this album continues to have a footprint in the 21st century. “Don’t Stop Believing” was featured in the final scene of The Sopranos. I heard the song in a recent episode of MacGyver, too.

Foreigner 4: This is the only truly memorable album Foreigner ever put out, in terms of every song being a good one. But they hit a home run with Foreigner 4.


Back in Black (AC/DC): This album came out in December 1980. I still hear the title track in my mind sometimes at the most unexpected moments.

This is a great album to play when you’re working out!

For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) (AC/DC): A year after Back in Black, another great album from those Australian guys.

Third Stage (Boston): Boston spent most of the 1980s on hiatus. Third Stage came out in the summer of 1986, and the songs were on the radio constantly throughout the rest of that year.

There were many good ones—especially “Amanda”.

1984 (Van Halen): The year 1984 was significant because of the association with George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel set in that year.

Van Halen released 1984 early in 1984.

I especially liked “Jump” and “Hot for Teacher”. (I am guessing that the latter song would be considered politically incorrect, or triggering—or something—in these more sensitive times.)

5150 (Van Halen): This was the first Van Halen album with Sammy Hagar in the lead vocal role (instead of David Lee Roth).

Perhaps because of that, 5150 had a different vibe from previous Van Halen albums. More polished…and kind of mystic.

Does anyone know what the lyrics of “Love Walks In” mean? I’ve been wondering about that one for more than 30 years.

Reckless (Bryan Adams): There were a lot of great songs on this one. But it would make the list for “Summer of ’69” alone.

Scarecrow (John Mellencamp): From back in the days when John Mellencamp focused on making great music, and kept his political views to himself.

Permanent Vacation (Aerosmith): At the beginning of the 1980s, everyone thought that this band had left their best days behind them. They proved everyone wrong with this album in 1987. Aerosmith is still going strong today.

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Moving Pictures (Rush): “Tom Sawyer”, “Limelight” and “Red Barchetta” are among the great songs on Moving Pictures.

Signals (Rush): “Subdivisions”, “New World Man” and “Losing It” were among the songs that showcased Neil Peart’s lyrical skills—which were then at their peak (1982). Also, this is probably the only rock album in history that features a song about the space shuttle launch!

Piece of Mind (Iron Maiden): Dark and deep, but still very accessible, this is my favorite Iron Maiden album…and I like most of them.

Eliminator (ZZ Top): Some great MTV videos came out of this album..back when MTV still played music videos, that is.

Pyromania (Def Leppard): One of my all-time favorites, still sounds good after more than 35 years. The album that put Def Leppard on the map.

Brothers in Arms (Dire Straits): I like the politically incorrect, uncensored version of “Money for Nothing”…though it’s hard to find nowadays. Oh, how the finger-wagging do-gooders have ruined popular culture.

Invisible Touch (Genesis): The only Genesis album I ever really liked. But I liked this one.


This is my list. Which albums do you remember fondly from the 1980s (or wish you remembered fondly, if you weren’t around then)? Let me know on Facebook.

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Stairway to Heaven: the ‘Heart’ version

I was poking around on YouTube and I found this cover version of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven’ by Heart–a band I remember fondly from the 1980s.

I’ll admit when I clicked on this, I had my doubts: I mean, Heart…’Stairway to Heaven’?…Really?

To my surprise, however, Heart might actually have improved on the original. (Yes, I know this will seem like pure blasphemy to some of you. But give it a listen before you judge.)

The meaning…if there is one…of the lyrics of ‘Stairway to Heaven’ have been debated for years. I won’t delve into the occult controversy for now. Suffice it to say that the lyrics of this song sounded a lot more profound to me thirty-five years ago, when I heard them at the age of fifteen.  But a lot of things aren’t as good or as deep as we remember them, thirty or forty years later.

‘Stairway to Heaven’ is still a great song, part of the soundtrack of my (and many other people’s) youth. I’ll always like it.

Are beauty standards universal across time?

The answer to this one is complicated.

Some biases regarding attractiveness certainly are universal, in that they applied equally in Elizabethan England as they do today (and probably will five hundred years hence.)

Men who are tall and broad-shouldered have a natural advantage with women. Always have…probably always will.

Men have always preferred younger women, and women who have a certain hip-waist-bust ratio.

Speaking of age: In no society that I am aware of, have the elderly ever been regarded as the sexual ideal.

(Hey, I just turned fifty; so I’m not any more enthusiastic about it than you are. But it is what it is.)

The age thing probably makes sense, from an evolutionary perspective. Sexual attraction is ultimately about procreation. Older women can’t get pregnant; and a man’s ability to produce healthy offspring declines with age. If young people were naturally drawn to sexual relations with old folks, the human race would have died out eons ago.

(Twentysomething female readers who don’t wish to remain pawns of their evolutionary impulses are of course welcome to email me.)



 

Once you get beyond these basics, though, there is some real variation.

I watch a lot of old movies, and I’m often surprised by my reaction—or lack thereof—to female sirens of the early twentieth century.

Almost all of them, no matter how young they were when they appeared in a particular film—make me think of my grandmothers. And that’s a real libido-killer.

Consider that famous pinup of Betty Grable. You’ve seen it: the one that features Grable standing in a swimsuit with her back to the camera. She is looking mischievously over her shoulder.

Betty Grable, 1943

It has been said that no World War II GI was without one of these. (I know that my grandfather, a World War II veteran, had a copy.)

Betty Grable was twenty-seven when she posed for that iconic shot. Put me in a time machine and take me back to 1943, and Betty Grable would consider me an old man at my present age of fifty.

And yet, the pinup photo of Grable (which so inspired men of my grandfather’s generation) does absolutely nothing for me. Even at twenty-seven, Grable strikes me as matronly.

I don’t really see much in the way of wow! feminine attractiveness until you get to the Baby Boomer generation.

This makes sense. In the early 1980s, when I was an adolescent boy discovering the existence of the opposite sex, many Baby Boomer women were still youngish, and therefore objects of fascination from afar.

(There is one group of males who are consistently attracted to older women, by the way: twelve- to fourteen year-old boys!)  

 

 

I have never been prone to celebrity obsessions. By this, I don’t mean to claim that I have never been interested in women who are out of my league—but they have tended to be women in my immediate surroundings, versus women on television. When I tilt at windmills, I like the windmills to be nearby.

 

I do, however, recall a brief adolescent infatuation with Olivia Newton-John, one of the costars of Grease (1978). Since Olivia was a Hollywood celebrity and twenty years my senior, I recognized, even at that age, that these were foolish thoughts. But since celebrities can provide a frame of reference for discussions like this, I’ll note that I can also see some real make-my-heart-flutter beauty in Nancy Sinatra, circa 1968, and Michelle Philips, from anywhere around that time.

Nancy Sinatra, 1968

Michelle Phillips, 1974

 

My ability to see attractiveness in the young versions of Baby Boomer women (versus women of the World War II generation) makes a certain amount of sense from a cultural perspective, too. My world very much overlapped with the world of the Baby Boomers. When I was an adolescent, Baby Boomers defined youth culture.

Virtually all of the celebrities of my youth were Baby Boomers. So were the female sex symbols: Farrah Fawcett, Jacklyn Smith, Bo Derek.

(I recall seeing my first copy of Playboy at the tender age of eleven, in 1979. The centerfold model of that issue would have been born in the 1950s—making her a Baby Boomer.)

This 1976 poster of Farrah Fawcett was literally everywhere during my adolescent years.

 

 

Now I’m going through beauty-standard culture shock from the opposite perspective. To me, there is no aesthetic tragedy to equal the young woman who turns her body into a canvas of gaudy tattoos and ridiculous piercings.

Yes, I said “gaudy” and I said “ridiculous”. Almost all men in my age group feel the same way. For that matter, I strongly suspect that many Millennial men share this opinion, but are hesitant to openly express it.

Slightly below tattoos and piercings on the “what was she thinking?” scale are breast implants. Whenever I see a young woman with breast implants, I think of the strippers in one of the scenes from Bada Bing in The Sopranos.

Where the female body is concerned, I have an unapologetic preference for the “natural” look.

Kat Von D, via Pinterest: Why?????

 

I’ve also noticed that young Millennial women tend to vary more widely in weight and physical fitness than their predecessors. When I was a young man, it was somewhat rare to see a young woman who was either super-fit or noticeably overweight. (It was the same with males, I should note.)

Generation Y, however, has both more couch potatoes and more gym rats. The result is that most Millennial women tend to strike me as either jaw-dropping, centerfold-attractive…or not very appealing at all.

 

 

I will acknowledge a certain chauvinism here in addressing only the female side of the coin. But this is a personal essay—not a broad-ranging academic paper. And so the perspective is personal.

I’m sure that what women find attractive has changed, too, since the early twentieth century. Think about this: In the mid-1980s, most male sex symbols wore mullets (though nobody called them that back then).

I’ll leave that piece for a heterosexual woman to write. As a heterosexual man, I’ve always paid a lot more attention to the distaff side of things. Please keep that in mind as you compose your hate mail.

Beauty standards will continue to change, I’m sure—even as some factors remain constant.

Looking back at my own high school yearbook, I’m struck by how much standards of feminine beauty have changed in a mere thirty-five years…

But I’m going to keep those particular observations to myself. At least a few of my former high school classmates have been known to frequent this blog.

I can handle hate mail from anonymous folks on the Internet…but not from people I’ve known for thirty-five years.

Christianity growing in the U.S., as mainline churches decline

According to recent research from Harvard University, the state of American Christianity is a complex one:

Mainline churches are tanking as if they have super-sized millstones around their necks. Yes, these churches are hemorrhaging members in startling numbers, but many of those folks are not leaving Christianity. They are simply going elsewhere. Because of this shifting, other very different kinds of churches are holding strong in crowds and have been for as long as such data has been collected. In some ways, they are even growing. This is what this new research has found.
The percentage of Americans who attend church more than once a week, pray daily, and accept the Bible as wholly reliable and deeply instructive to their lives has remained absolutely, steel-bar constant for the last 50 years or more, right up to today. These authors describe this continuity as “patently persistent.”

As a Roman Catholic, I’ve seen evidence of this firsthand.

The Catholic Church, with its handling of everything from child abuse scandals to doctrine, has disappointed many lifelong believers in recent years.

(Read one of Ross Douthat’s two books on this matter for a detailed look at the problem.)

Many Catholics are now “lapsed”. (I would put myself into this category.) Others are leaving the Catholic Church for evangelical churches.

I probably won’t be attending an evangelical church anytime soon, by the way. While I acknowledge the problems with the Roman hierarchy, I am equally skeptical of small, “entrepreneurial” modes of religion. (I’m old enough to remember the Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker scandals of the 1980s!)


Rereading ‘Salem’s Lot’ after 35 years

The original hardcover, published in 1975

I recently decided to reread Stephen King’s vampire novel, ‘Salem’s Lot. This seemed reasonable enough, as I had first read the book in 1984. (After thirty-five years, just about any novel or film will seem fresh again.)

I have a lot of nostalgia associated with this novel, as I tend to have a lot of nostalgia associated with a lot of things. This was the book that birthed my adult interest in reading and writing.

In February of 1984, I was a sophomore in high school. During my free period, I worked behind the counter of the school library. That’s right: I was a librarian.

But I wasn’t a big reader. Not at that time, at least. I had been a very avid reader during my childhood years, devouring series like John Dennis Fitzgerald’s The Great Brain, and Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators.

Once I hit puberty, though, I developed other interests: football and rock music, specifically.

I did play high school football for a while—if you can dignify what I did with that description. (I was a third-string right tackle, or something like that.) And I messed around with a few garage bands. I can still play the basic chords on a guitar. (But I was always much more interested in lyrics than in music.)

One day, when things were slow in the school library, I picked up a dogeared paperback copy of ‘Salem’s Lot on a whim, and started reading it.

I was immediately hooked. I checked the book out, and read the entire thing in less than a week.

After that, I read the rest of Stephen King’s oeuvre, as it existed in 1984. Stephen King fans tend to divide themselves between those who prefer his newer style—long, rambling books like Duma Key and 11/22/63, and those who prefer the tightly plotted, shorter novels of his earlier years. Put me solidly in the latter camp. The Stephen King books I most love: The Stand, Pet Sematary, Christine, Carrie, The Dead Zone, Cujo, and ’Salem’s Lot were already available in 1984. (’Salem’s Lot, in fact, had already been out for a decade in 1984, and had already been adapted into a made-for-TV movie, starring David Soul as Ben Mears.)

 

There is much about ‘Salem’s Lot to love. Let’s start with the way Stephen King pulls you into the small-town New England setting. I have spent most of my life in Ohio, and I’ve never been within a hundred miles of Maine. But when I read ‘Salem’s Lot, I had a deep, palpable feeling of small-town Maine life in the mid-1970s, when the story takes place.

The horror element of the story builds slowly, and is an organic part of the setting. The horror is embedded in the history of the town, and Ben Mears’s terrifying childhood experience in the Marsten House. When the supernatural phenomena begin to occur, they are believable precisely because Stephen King has already made you believe in this world of ‘Salem’s Lot, a small town in rural Maine.

It starts with the very prosaic, quite mundane details, as seen through the eyes of Ben Mears. It begins as Mears, still haunted by the death of his wife, is driving into the town where he had spent a few happy summers of his childhood:

…and he could see Schoolyard Hill through the slash in the trees where the Central Maine Power pylons ran on a northwest to southeast line. The Griffen farm was still there, although the barn had been enlarged. He wondered if they still bottled and sold their own milk. The logo had been a smiling cow under the name brand: “Sunshine Milk from Griffen Farms!” He smiled. He had splashed a lot of that milk on his cornflakes at Aunt Cindy’s house.

That, you see, is how a master horror writer like Stephen King suspends your disbelief. He begins by investing you in the characters and the settings. Then he introduces the paranormal—the scary stuff.

 

The vampires in ‘Salem’s Lot are old-school vampires. They are spiritually foul, evil creatures who pose a threat to your immortal soul. The best horror fiction involves the threat of death—either spiritual death or physical death. ‘Salem’s Lot involves both.

I will confess a love of the old-school vampires, done in the Bram Stoker mode. I moderately enjoyed Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend, but it was a lightweight vampire novel compared to ’Salem’s Lot. A virus-created vampire is not a proper vampire. A proper vampire must be a supernatural, reanimated being. It must recoil from crucifixes, and be burned by holy water. A vampire is not a scientific accident, or a misunderstood antihero (more on that abomination shortly).

 

Stephen King maintains a pretty tight pace throughout ‘Salem’s Lot. Like I said, I read it the first time in less than a week; and I read it the second time at a similarly brisk pace.

Nevertheless, the book was originally published in 1975. Since then, much as changed. The reading public has become accustomed to 200+ channels on cable television, Jame Patterson-style minimalist thrillers, and…of course, the Internet, cell phones, and all the distractions of digital life. Attention spans are much short than they were in 1975, or even 1984.

I would like to declare that I haven’t been personally influenced by any of this, but I know better. As much as I admire Stephen King’s “world-building” in ‘Salem’s Lot, there were a few passages in which he spends a bit too many words going in-depth about the foibles and petty hypocrisies of small-town life.

Also, I was fifteen when I read the book for the first time. I was fifty when I reread it. In the intervening years, I have read many novels, and consumed countless television dramas, movies, etc. Perhaps my standards are more exacting than they were in 1984.

 

There is a feeling of pathos that the reader gets from ‘Salem’s Lot, and I believe that this is one of the book’s under-appreciated aspects. Much of the best horror fiction does leave us slightly sad and reflective. After reading a good horror novel, you should be like the wedding guest in The Rime of the Ancient Mariner: “a sadder and a wiser man” (or woman).

Ben Mears comes to ‘Salem’s Lot in order to recover from an existential tragedy, the death of his wife, Miranda, in an accident. What he encounters there, however, is yet another tragedy—this one even more profound and disturbing.

On a personal level, he briefly finds love again, in his budding relationship with Susan Norton. But that (spoiler alert) is not to last. His loss of Susan, moreover, will be closely tied to the vampire outbreak, culminating in a scene that is reminiscent of a scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 

I love ‘Salem’s Lot, as this post probably makes clear. My own personal attachment to the book aside, I sincerely believe that it is a great novel, and probably the best novel of the vampire genre yet written.

I despise what Stephanie Meyer and her many imitators have done to the vampire genre. The vampire should be dark and terrifying. Twilight—and the many Twilight knock-offs—have transformed the vampire into a teenage girl’s romantic fantasy. (Search for “vampire novel” on Amazon, and most of the results will be YA romance novels. Gag me.)

But we still have ‘Salem’s Lot. If you like the idea of a real vampire novel, then you should definitely read this one, if you haven’t done so already.

Drinking and me: a brief personal history

Happy New Year, everyone! And welcome to 2019!

As I begin typing these words, it is 5:57 a.m. in my part of the world. I’m fifty years old, and I’m feeling great.

Before I started this entry, I rode 40 minutes on my stationary bike, as I do almost every morning

If you spent last night celebrating New Year’s Eve in the traditional way, you almost certainly aren’t awake yet. In fact, you won’t be awake for hours.

And when you do wake up, you might not feel so good.

Been there, done that.

 

 

I was an early adopter of alcohol, age-wise. I started experimenting with alcohol when I was in the eighth grade.

Even in the early 1980s, it wasn’t that easy for a thirteen year-old to acquire alcoholic beverages. This inspired some creative solutions, which led to some embarrassing misadventures. On one occasion, my friend and I used a pilfered key to invade a neighbor’s liquor cabinet. The neighbors surprised us as we were in the act (they were supposed to be gone for the day), and all manner of bad things ensued. (The friend who collaborated with me on this petty crime became an officer in the Cincinnati Police Department, having learned about crime from the bottom up.)

 

 

I was never a heavy, habitual drinker, but I liked the idea of doing something that was forbidden. In the mid-1980s, the legal drinking age changed from 18 to 21. This was technically a state law, but the impetus was the National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984, which withheld federal funding from all states that allowed alcohol sales to anyone under twenty-one years of age.

The law was implemented unevenly, according to when your birthday fell. The result was that among the cohort of kids who came of age during the mid-1980s, some were able to legally buy and consume alcohol at 18, whereas others (often only a few months younger) had to wait until the age of 21.

My birthday, August 9, 1968, fell after the cutoff date, so that I had to wait until I turned 21 in order to drink. Legally, that is.

I recall one outing, in November of 1985. I was a senior in high school. A friend of mine (he was nineteen, and legally able to purchase alcohol) and I went to a family-owned Italian restaurant/bar in an old Cincinnati neighborhood. He bought us two pitchers of beer, which we consumed on the spot with a large pizza.

During the trip home, he began driving erratically. Very erratically. A police officer in the Cincinnati enclave of Norwood stopped us. He made my friend exit the vehicle and attempt to walk a straight line. Suffice it to say that this didn’t go well.

Oh, this is it, I thought. From within the depths of my own inebriated state, I had images of the two of us being hauled to jail. My parents would be summoned to come and pick me up. Not a good scene.

To my surprise, however, my friend managed to talk his way out of it. His mother’s house was only a few blocks away, he assured the officer. And the officer let him off.

Such were the free and easy 1980s, that an underage youth could openly drink in a bar, and a police officer would let two obviously drunken teenagers continue on their way, in a rolling lethal weapon.

(I should note that I never drove while intoxicated myself. But I did ride with someone who was drunk that one time. It was a stupid, jackass, immature thing to do. I don’t excuse myself for that behavior. I am only grateful that no one was hurt.)

 

 

But even by that point, drinking was losing its fun appeal. I was a modestly impressive athlete (I went to the state championships in cross country that year), and I knew that heavy drinking and a high level of fitness were incompatible in the same body.

Moreover, I couldn’t take the hangovers. When I drank to excess, I felt really, really bad the next morning.

On New Year’s Eve, 1986, I attended a party at the home of the girl I’d gone to senior homecoming with in high school. I drank, and drank. And drank. Mostly wine, as I recall.

(Keep in mind: I was still unable to drink legally.)

The next morning, my head felt like a horse had just stomped on it. I went for a run on New Year’s Day, 1987, and that helped the headache and logy feeling a little. But my stomach was still in awful shape.

I was still living with my parents at the time. We went for a New Year’s breakfast, but I was having none of it. My mother, bless her, ordered a full platter of scrambled eggs, home fries, sausage, and gravy. The very smell of the food made me want to retch.

I sat there at the breakfast table, eighteen years old, and thought: Why am I putting myself through this?

I couldn’t think of a good reason. So I then made a decision: I am never going to do this again.  

 

 

Thirty-two years later, I still haven’t. Since December 31, 1986, I have rarely consumed alcoholic beverages at all.

I haven’t been a complete teetotaler; but you could easily fit all the alcoholic beverages I’ve consumed between 1/1/87 and the present in a trunk of a compact car. (To the best of my knowledge, the last time I drank an alcoholic beverage of any kind was in 2002. I was in Detroit on business, stuck waiting for my colleagues at a bar, and I decided to try a craft beer on a whim. I drank one bottle.)

I haven’t missed alcoholic beverages. And it wouldn’t surprise me if I’ve consumed my last one, ever.

There is an irony here, of course: I consumed far more alcohol before I could legally do so, than I ever have since I turned legal, on August 9, 1989.

For me it was never really about the alcohol, I guess. It was about not being told what to do.

The rebooted Magnum PI: mini-review

If you’ve been watching CBS in recent years, you’ll have noticed that many of the network’s top programs are reboots of shows from the 1970s and 1980s: MacGyver, S.W.A.T., Hawaii Five-O.

Now you can add a new one to the list: Magnum PI.

I’ll admit: I was a skeptic. The 1980s coincided with my high school and college years. I didn’t watch much television during that decade. But I did make time for Magnum PI. The original Magnum, starring Tom Selleck, is one of my favorite television programs from my youth.

I was sure that CBS would make a mess of the remake.

I was wrong. The new Magnum PI is just as fun and entertaining as the original.

I’m a conservative, and all conservatives are naturally nostalgic. We tend to believe that things were better in the old days, that previous versions of things were better than the new and updated ones. In this vein, there was a part of me that would have loved to have seen Tom Selleck star in the 21st-century reboot of Magnum. (Selleck presently stars in Blue Bloods, another  CBS staple, as the patriarch of an NYPD family.)




 

But another part of me knows that would have been ridiculous. Tom Selleck is very fit for his age, but he’s now in his seventies. The starring role in Magnum PI is one for an actor in early middle age: 35 to 45.

CBS has cast Jay Hernandez as Thomas Sullivan Magnum. And while Hernandez brings his own style and interpretation to the role, he pulls it off with as much flair as Selleck did before him.

The new show more or less ports the characters and the basic premise over from the original: with some necessary changes. In the original show, Magnum and his sidekicks (TC and Rick), were Vietnam War vets. In the 2018 reboot,  they’re veterans of the wars in the Middle East.

There is one fairly major character change: In the 1980s version, Higgins, the majordomo of the Hawaiian estate where Magnum lives (off the largess of the never seen Robin Masters) was played by British actor John Hillerman. In the reboot, Higgins is still British, but Higgins is a woman (Perdita Weeks).

Conservatives like me are supposed to hate it when rebooted shows arbitrarily change the genders of characters. I don’t necessarily hate this practice in a knee-jerk sort of way, but I’m always skeptical of it, often with good reason. (The reimagining of Boomer and Starbuck as female characters in the rebooted Battlestar Galactica produced uneven results.)  But in the case of Magnum PI, the distaff version of Higgins works perfectly. I think–sorry, Mr. Hillerman–that I even like the Perdita Weeks interpretation of Higgins better.

The show includes lots of fun details that were crucial to the 1980s Magnum, like the dogs Zeus and Apollo, and Magnum’s habit of thinking aloud to the audience. TC and Rick (Stephen Hill and Zachary Knighton) don’t get much character development. But then, they were little more than affable sidekicks in the original version.

The Magnum PI reboot is as good as any purist could have asked for, 38 years after the start of the original series (and 30 years after it went off the air).

Sometimes the networks botch things, but sometimes they hit home runs, too. The new Magnum PI is a home run