Hawaii Five-0: Cops, Crime and Bikinis

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When I was a kid, watching the original Hawaii Five-0 was like taking a weekly trip to paradise.  Yeah, there were crooks, drug kingpins, kidnappings and murders, but it all happened in such a pretty place, who cared? 

Then you had the cop of cops, Steve McGarrett leading the fight against evil.

Image:  CBS

Jack Lord Image: mptvimages.com

The original Steve McGarrett was played by the ever popular Jack Lord.  He had a pompadour that wouldn't quit and a jawline just made for the big or small screen.  Steve's faithful second in command, Danny Williams was played by James MacArthur who died just last month.

Danny's nickname was Danno, hence the classic line, "Book 'em Danno" that McGarrett would spout every other week when they caught a bad guy.  Steve and Danny were the haoles, but there was also Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong Chun) and Kono (Zulu).

Image:  CBS

And though it may seem like no big deal now, in those days, Hawaii Five-0 was one of the only places on television you could see Asian characters every week.   For a little black girl from Brooklyn, that was a big deal.

Flash forward to 2010 and the new Hawaii Five-0, just like the old one, is a hit.  It'll have to go about another ten years to match the original but it's definitely made a start.  And considering my other two fall TV picks have gone belly-up, Hawaii Five-O is the only one keeping my meager TV reputation alive.

How good is the new show?  I'll get to that, but first things first.  Not the casting, not the plots.  The opening theme song and credits.

Brian Tyler who scores the new show recognized the brilliance of the original theme by Morton Stevens and except to shorten it, mercifully left it alone.  He understood you don't play around with a classic.  When re-recording the track, Tyler even got together some of the original musicians.

When it comes to the visuals in the opening credits, all the iconic ones are there:  McGarrett swinging around toward the camera on that penthouse balcony, the statue of King Kamehameha, the girl in the bikini coming out of the water, the closeups of the hula dancer's hips and the final shot of the rotating cop car light. 

It's been jazzed up with some cool looking graphics, but for original Five-0 fans, it satisfies.

When it came to casting, they didn't do badly except for their star.  Alex O'Loughlin leaves a lot to be desired as Steve McGarrett.  This McGarrett is an ex-Navy Seal, just back from fighting terrorists overseas.  He comes back to solve his Dad's murder and ends up staying in Hawaii to fight bad guys at the request of the governor (Jean Smart).

O'Loughlin started out dry as cardboard and hasn't progressed much since.  The role requires a strength and personality O'Loughlin just doesn't bring to the table.

Image:  CBS

However, Scott Caan, the new Danny Williams, is a firecracker in comparison.  He's glib and funny, yet still a tough guy.  Caan's Danny is more of a sidekick than the original, and this go 'round, Danny has moved to Hawaii from Jersey to be with his newly transplanted daughter.  It's the daughter who calls Danny, Danno and that's how "Book 'em Danno" is cheekily revived. 

Daniel Dae Kim, recently of Lost, plays Chin Ho Kelly, this time a disgraced ex-cop who hopes to one day clear his name.  And in a Battlestar Galactica, Starbuck-like switch, Kono is now a female rookie cop, played by Grace Park -- formerly of BSG.

Even though I've watched the show faithfully and enjoyed it, I've got two main problems. First, the plots are oh-so-predictable.  They're mildly interesting, but the minute you see a guest star you recognize, you know they're the killer.

Second, Grace Park.  So far the writers haven't given her much to do.  She proved in BSG she can act, so it would be nice if the writers gave her something to act with.

On the plus side, the action sequences are exciting and well done, and when all else fails, Hawaii will seduce you and Danno will make you smile.

Aside from O'Loughlin, the cast clicks very nicely, and since we're stuck with good old Alex, we'll just have to hope he grows in the role.  Either way, this Hawaii Five-0 will be around for a while.

If you'd like to compare and contrast the new and old shows, you can watch episodes of the original on CBS' website.

Hawaii Five-0 airs Mondays at 10/9c.


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Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video.. Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Reviews.


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