Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Five-O 2.0: What's Not to Like?

I remember watching episodes of the original Hawaii Five-o with my parents when I was a kid; police dramas weren't really my taste when I was under 10, but I remember enjoying the exotic locale, hearing McGarrett say "book 'em, Danno" at the end of most episodes, the cool car and of course, Jack Lord's hair.

The important thing to remember about the new Hawaii Five-O is that most of its weaknesses are also its strengths, i.e.

CON: Another police procedural?
PRO: Another police procedural!
CON: Big distinction is being filmed in Hawaii.
PRO: Hawaii is much cooler looking than Detroit, Chicago, or anywhere else on the mainland, brah.
CON: Key characters have the same names (McGarrett, Danno, Chin Ho, Kono)
PRO: "Book 'em Danno" has a nice ring to it.
CON: Scott "Danno" Caan doesn't so much act as impersonate his dad, James Caan.
PRO: Sonny Corleone's kid as a tough cop?  I'm in.
CON: They didn't even bother to update the theme music...
PRO: If it ain't broke...
CON: A lot has changed since the '70s.
PRO: Whoa, the '74 Mercury Brougham that McGarrett drove gets a cameo? Sweet!

And so on.

In this updated version, Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) is a Navy SEAL chasing gun-runners around Korea when his ex-cop father (Willam Sadler) is killed in Hawaii.  Upon returning, the governor offers him the opportunity to start a federalized task force with far-reaching authority that will give the ACLU fits in order to take on the bad guys too big for Honolulu PD or whomever.  All the notes are here, right?  The initial refusal, the comic-book mix up at the crime scene ("No, you put down your gun first!"), the 'I don't like you but I respect you' ballet, the wronged veteran, the rookie, and it all comes together in one hour in a package so tight, it might as well have been gift wrapped. 

If this was all Five-O had to offer, you could do a lot worse, but there wouldn't be a lot to recommend it.  But there a few bits to set it apart in a fall schedule abundant with cop shows.

CASTING: No complaints here, I have enjoyed half of the main cast in other roles; Daniel Dae Kim from Angel and Lost, and Grace Park from Battlestar Galactica.  Scott Caan is a chip off the old block, and he seems to enjoy some buddy-movie chemistry with Alex O'Loughlin, an Australian with an Irish name playing someone born in Hawaii.  Wait, what?

LOCATION: I don't care what anyone says; Hawaii is cool, and they do point out how different things are from the mainland in elements like 'where do we get an undercover cop from? The bad guys already know everyone...' and "That's the trouble with you haoles (honkies), no team spirit."

DETAILS: It's not just a bootprint McGarrett sees on the floor, he later tells Danno that the suspect wears the same size as himself but in a double E, with a custom sole.  When he calls the governor to take her up on the task force offer, he ends up swearing his oath over the phone.  When the human trafficker can't find a wire on Kono, Chin Ho explains it's because they used a laser microphone aimed at the window.  Nothing terribly new here, but it's just enough to keep you from feeling too guilty about watching yet another cop show.

DIALOGUE: Good stuff throughout here, including an early bit where McGarrett tries to leave Danno's crime scene with evidence and is told he can either leave it or get arrested.  "You gonna call for backup?" McGarrett asks.  "An ambulance," Danno replies.  I hope they give material this good to Chin Ho and Kono later on; the other two get all the good eatin' in this episode.

ACTION: The original Five-O had a reputation for decent action and great car chases, and we do get to see some of the former in the premiere.  Gunplay, tactical entries, and a couple of vehicle collisions in close proximity to humans are all handled well, as is a combat scene with a helicopter and explosions prior to the opening credits.

Strangely, none of the promo photos show Grace Park in a bulletproof vest...why do you think that is?

All in all, a very pleasant way to spend an hour in front of the tube, and unlike most shows I like, this one did all right in the ratings, so I can put off worrying about cancellation for at least a little while.


  1. Lots of foreigners playing Americans on TV right now:
    House: Hugh Laurie
    The Mentalist: Simon ??? is Aussie (was in L.A. Confidential with the other Kiwis and Aussies as Americans)
    True Blood: Twofer - 1) Sookie Stackhouse's brother is Australian, and 2) Bill Compton is British

    There's probably more, but that's off the top of my head.

  2. As a fan of the original show, I watched the first episode of the remake with some trepidation. My verdict: I don't hate it. That's actually pretty high praise, considering the new Hawaii Five-O falls victim to a lot of things I hate about current TV: overuse of smash cuts, over-the-top action, cookie-cutter characterization, the overused revenge plot. And yet, the cinematography is truly breathtaking especially in HD, and Park and Kim are excellent better than the leads - here's hoping they get more lines. And there were some small touches I enjoyed, such as the ringtone Danno set up for calls from his ex-wife (the shower murder music from Psycho).

    This show wasn't really made for me, as I still prefer the steadier (some would say slower) pace of sixties and seventies television. But I'll keep watching - there's enough potential to give this a chance.

  3. For some reason my comment is missing a couple of commas. I blame it on fast-paced modern television whichgivesnobodyachancetopause.