Television

Magnum P.I. Was Destined for Success on NBC, so Why Did the Network Fail the Show?

When CBS canceled Magnum P.I. in 2022 after four seasons, it was one of the most shocking cancellations of a TV series. Ever.

With ratings across the board dipping more and more each year, Magnum P.I. Season 4 had remarkable resilience.

It was one of the network’s most-watched shows and delivered solid viewership on the lesser-viewed Friday nights in the U.S.

Had Fire Country not been a part of the network’s agenda for the 2022-23 season, there’s a good chance Magnum P.I. would have remained on the network for another couple of seasons.

At the time of its cancellation, CBS had many shows on deck for the following season and didn’t think moving Magnum P.I. to another night would benefit the show.

Thus, the network axed the successful series after four seasons, leaving the passionate fans who tuned into the show for years wondering what would become of their favorite show.

In July 2022, months after CBS put the series out to pasture, NBC stepped in to save the day, giving the show — and fans — a lifeline in the form of a 20-episode order.

It was a dream come true because it meant we got to return to the Magnum P.I. universe for another season and would get a resolution to that #Miggy cliffhanger.

To NBC’s credit, the network did promote the move to a new network, and the promotion helped fans understand the show had found a new home.

Unfortunately, despite NBC execs touting the show’s move to a new network, the numbers for Magnum P.I. Season 5 Episode 1 were low.

The episode managed 3.8 million viewers and a 0.3 rating in the demo to hit and match series lows (at the time!).

Magnum P.I. Season 4 averaged 5.2 million viewers and a 0.4 rating on NBC, but the numbers soared when they factored in post-airdate viewing.

The series was a bonafide hit, but it was harmed in its move to Sunday nights.

NBC clearly wanted to revamp the night with Magnum P.I. and Found, but the plan later changed with The Blacklist serving as the series’ lead-out.

The numbers for Magnum P.I. on Sundays went as low as 2.7 million viewers and a 0.2 rating — way down from its heyday on CBS.

The series had big competition in the form of American Idol on ABC, East New York, and NCIS: Los Angeles.

On cable, the show went up against behemoths like The Last of Us and 90 Day Fiance — all shows that are competing for the same 18-49 demo.

It makes you wonder whether NBC keeping the show on Fridays at 9 p.m. would have been the better option.

Fans were familiar with that time period, and it would have probably given NBC something to boast about facing Fire Country, the show CBS replaced the Jay Hernandez drama.

Moving shows to a new network is tough, but moving them to a new night and time is a different scenario entirely.

Magnum P.I.’s one-time lead-in S.W.A.T. can attest to a time period being crucial to a show’s success.

CBS previously pulled S.W.A.T. from Fridays to shore up its Sunday slot in early 2022, and the numbers were way down, so the network righted the wrong and moved it back to Fridays, where the numbers increased.

Even though NBC allowed the first half of Magnum P.I. Season 5 to air on Sundays, the network could have at least given the show a chance to see if it got an increase back on Fridays at 9 p.m. before making the call to cancel the series.

Now, it’s easy to say, “You should be happy with 20 extra episodes after NBC picked it up,” but if these were supposed to bring the series to a close, why not announce as much when the show got picked up?

Also, NBC’s decision to air the 20-episode season across two TV seasons set up the show for failure.

As Deadline reported at the time of the show’s demise, the cast options were set to expire on June 30, so a decision to renew, cancel, or extend options on the actors had to be made.

Had the cast options not been the hurdle, NBC could have delayed the decision until the final episodes of Magnum P.I. aired in midseason 2024.

The other kicker is that Magnum P.I. Season 5 has already wrapped filming, meaning that the series finale won’t have the closure we should expect for a show on the air this long.

Heck, there may be no closure and a plethora of cliffhangers.

That being said, we’re inclined to believe the finale will be edited to remove any cliffhangers to make it seem like this was the plan all along.

NBC is expected to do an extensive promotional campaign to tout the final episodes, but it’s hard not to feel like the network picked the show up, promised big things, and dropped it like a hot potato when it got the chance.

Knowing that TV is a numbers game, it’s easy to understand that it has to make economic sense to keep a show on the air.

As a result, it’s disconcerting NBC never tried the show on Fridays again to see if the numbers went in the right direction.

When you think about it, there’s little TV on the air right now due to the WGA strike, and NBC has ten episodes in the can.

Go figure.

The network wants to have some scripted programming in the 2023-24 season, but its decision to hold Magnum P.I. to shore up its schedule could be one of the biggest reasons for the series’ demise.

The cast, creatives, and fans deserve more, but this is the same network that canceled Manifest on the biggest cliffhanger.

What more should we have expected?

It would be far easier to digest the news of Magnum P.I.’s cancellation had NBC tried to make the show successful.

But now, we’re saying goodbye to Magnum P.I. for the second time, and it hurts knowing this wasn’t meant to be the end and that we probably won’t get much of a conclusion.

Alright, Magnum P.I. Fanatics!

I could go on and on about how I think the show has been poorly treated.

What are your thoughts on the cancellation and the final episodes being held until 2024?

Hit the comments, but before you do, vote in our poll below!

Do you think NBC failed Magnum P.I.?

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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