Magnum P.I, Sky One

Do we really need a re-boot of Magnum P.I., the distinctly un-serious 1980s private eye show set in Hawaii and starring (in descending order of star wattage) Tom Selleck’s moustache, Tom Selleck himself, a red Ferrari and a stuffy Englishman dressed like one of the cast of It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and answering to the name of Higgins? Don’t answer that because we’ve got one and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.

Of course nobody ever watched Magnum for the intricate plotlines or subtle characterisation, so it didn’t really matter that episode one of this new 21st century version slid by in the same haze of arch voiceovers and preposterous cartoon villainy as every other episode ever made (in this case something about two ex-servicemen and some looted Iraqi gold). But even a pale imitation of the original can’t help but retain some of its appeal and that’s certainly the case here.

You can’t out-Selleck Selleck so new boy Jay Hernandez doesn’t attempt it. But he does try to exude the same twinkly bonhomie and to walk the same line between being an inveterate rule-breaker and a morally upright dude. The kind of dad every man wants to be, in other words, except that being a dad is not something on the exuberantly boyish Magnum’s to-do list.

The series screened originally on America’s CBS network, one of the most risk-averse broadcasters on the planet, so while there were opportunities here for a radical re-working of some of the themes of the original, they haven’t been acted upon. More’s the pity. So Magnum still pals around with ex-army buddies Rick and TC (only these days we can call what they have a “bromance”) and he still lives in the grounds of the house occupied by absent author Robin Masters. There may be a running joke about the Ferraris – Magnum totalled two in the first episode – but if there is it’s not particularly funny. The theme tune’s the same though, which is a relief.

The one big difference is Higgins, who looks after the estate for Masters and is endlessly disapproving of Magnum’s presence on it. Played by John Hillerman in the original series as a stuffy Englishman of the colonial school, he is now a she – svelte, sassy, yoga-practicing ex-MI6 officer Juliet Higgins (Perdita Weeks), who could teach Jason Bourne a thing or two about close combat. Magnum calls her “Higgy”. She occasionally deigns to call him Thomas, so you can tell she sort of likes him. Maybe there’s more than just bromance ahead in this curious revival of a 1980s favourite, which has none of the original’s ramshackle charm but makes up for it with slickness, energy and the odd high-octane car chase.