The Watchman: Rebooting Selleck’s ’Stache, Recalling ‘Rockford,’ and Mile-High ‘Night Manager’

Peter Lenkov is tasked with bringing MacGyver into the modern age for CBS. It’s not unfamiliar territory for the showrunner, who did the same thing with Hawaii Five-0.

So what other series from the days of yore might work in the present?

Magnum, P.I., Lenkov said unequivocally: “The P.I. genre doesn’t really exist anymore. He’s such an underdog, with a lot of humor and romance, the things that make those shows work.”

And Hawaii is always attractive to viewers, he adds. “You get to go on a trip every week,” says Lenkov.

Lenkov has been keen to remake Magnum for years, but no one seems to share his enthusiasm. Of course, casting the lead would be a challenge after Tom Selleck and his famed ‘stache owned the role. But Lenkov doesn’t necessarily see it that way. “I think Josh Holloway would be good,” he says.

Those old-time gumshoe shows came up in a chat with Billy Bob Thornton, the lead in new Amazon drama Goliath . Thornton said shooting Goliath, in which he plays a down-and-out attorney, brought to mind the classic series Columbo and The Rockford Files, with their antihero leads. “I loved those shows growing up,” Thornton said.

“I still watch them. It’s nice to have a modern-day show that has some aspects of those shows we love.”

Thornton, who made his name in Hollywood as a film director, says he was drawn to Amazon because “there’s no independent film anymore.”

“If you’re gonna do that, you have to do it on Amazon or Netflix,” added Thornton. “Big studio movies are mainly the videogame kind of movies, or cartoons. And I’m not really the first guy they call for that.”

Another movie director making her way on television is Susanne Bier, director of AMC’s The Night Manager and a major figure in the European film world. After AMC ran a Night Manager marathon this past weekend, corporate cousin SundanceTV does the same this week, with three episodes apiece Aug. 15 and 16.

Bier says she was eager to try her hand in TV. “There’s so much great television at the moment, and so much great writing in television,” she said. “And I was attracted by the possibility of doing six hours, where you can tell a story with a lot of richness, as opposed to a two-hour feature.”

The series is based on a John le Carré novel. Bier directed all six episodes. She spoke from Zermatt, Switzerland, where The Night Manager’s ski resort scenes were shot.

It’s hardly Hawaii, but Zermatt, in the shadow of the Matterhorn, has its charms.

“I’ve been coming here since I was a kid,” Bier says. “It’s like being inside The Sound of Music.”

Michael Malone

Michael Malone is content director at B+C and Multichannel News. He joined B+C in 2005 and has covered network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television, including writing the "Local News Close-Up" market profiles. He also hosted the podcasts "Busted Pilot" and "Series Business." His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The L.A. Times, The Boston Globe and New York magazine.