Review: Hawaii Five-0 1×1

Remake it, Danno

Hawaii Five-0

In the US: Mondays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Bravo in October (assuming it’s still around by then)

I don’t know about you, but I have hazy memories of the original Hawaii Five-O. Steve McGarrett with a quiff, a bloke called Danno, it was all set on Hawaii, it had a cool theme tune and a cool title sequence, and it was about the police. I suspect I’m not uncommon in this regard, so before anyone starts complaining about sacrilege, just ask yourself exactly how well you remember the original.

There are other reasons to complain, so why let yourself be an open target like that?

This time, as well as a very slight renaming – Five-O is now Five-0 – we have an entirely new plot that still homages the original. Navy intelligence officer (and terrorist hunter) Steve McGarrett – Alex O’Loughlin, whom you might remember from Moonlight and probably won’t remember from Three Rivers – decides to return home to Hawaii when terrorists strike close to home. When offered the chance by Hawaii’s governor to run a special police unit that’s above law, he hesitates a bit, before assembling a motley team of crime fighters, including an old quarterback friend of his (Daniel Dae Kim from Lost), his cousin (Grace Park from BSG and The Border) and a New Jersey cop (Scott Caan from Ocean’s 11) who’s transferred over so he can be closer to his daughter.

His name’s Danno. Hmm. That rings a bell.


“Pilot” – Upon returning to Hawaii to investigate his father’s murder, decorated Naval officer Steve McGarrett is recruited by the Governor to head up an elite new police task force – his rules, her backing, no red tape. Their first case involves tracking a weapons dealer connected to McGarrett’s father’s murder, on the series premiere of HAWAII FIVE-0, Monday, Sept. 20 (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

HAWAII FIVE-0 is a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated Naval officer-turned-cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s Governor persuades him to head up the new team with full blanket authority to hunt down the biggest “game” in town. Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny “Danno” Williams, a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop – a working man in paradise who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline – but who’s committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly, an ex-Honolulu Police Detective, and former protégé of McGarrett’s father, wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol. Chin’s cousin, Kono, is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department’s elite. McGarrett, repairing his relationship with his estranged sister Mary Ann, vows to bring closure to their father’s case. The state’s brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate seedy elements from the 50th state. Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are executive producers for CBS Television Studios.

Is it any good?
You know what? It’s not awful. It’s actually fun. The action is all very well executed courtesy of director Len Wiseman (Underworld), with some real movie-grade stuntwork going on. The dialogue’s quite nifty, bearing all the usual hallmarks of Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s writing skills. Hawaii proves as nice a backdrop as you would expect. There are attempts to use the locals, and much is made of the fact this is Hawaii and it has unique law enforcements issues – it’s not just Los Angeles near the beach. The main cast are all fine, particularly O’Loughlin as the steely counter terrorist and Caan as the humorous New Jersey cop who grates against O’Loughlin. Even the guest cast is good, with Will Yun Lee (Witchblade) and James Marsters (Buffy, Smallville) – who’ll probably be recurring – doing a fine job with what they have.

Where it all kind of falls apart is the set-up. It’s stupid. It’s the kind of stupid that has terrorists ringing the good guys on their mobiles and the good guys, despite being on a top secret mission in South Korea, actually having it turned on so they can be tracked. It’s the kind of stupid that results in every gun jamming for the bad guys, that has a totally unaccountable police unit shooting anything that moves, that lets good guys embarrass international criminals into confessing their crimes and helping the good guys. It’s the kind of stupid that has Irish international terrorists, highly trained in martial arts and in cahoots with the Chinese. It’s the kind of stupid that reckons that three blokes and an 80-pound woman straight out of police academy are going to be able to destroy all crime on Hawaii.

Basically, it’s “fun stupid” – as it’s known in the trade. We’re not talking CSI: Miami level stupid, but nothing could be that insane. Instead, this is likely to be guilty pleasure TV, in which you get to enjoy the characters – who are enjoyable enough – and their interactions, while you escape to a pretty island and watch the evil bad guys get their just desserts at the hands of the good guys, whose dodgy methods are fine because they’re the good guys and they’re obviously up against evil.

It might have been nice to have had a little of the grit (and even reality) of the original series, but this is a completely different beast. I’ll probably keep watching, but I’m not feeling absolute love for the show since my brain hasn’t been engaged by it. I doubt Len Wiseman will be directing or Kurtzman and Orci writing the next episode, either, so let’s wait for a couple of weeks before writing this in with pen in our planners, huh? All the same, fun enough to give a try, I’d say.

  • Marie

    Looks like fun. I am very pro-Grace Park, having just finished BSG, and I was slightly disturbed by this in the official copy: “Chin’s cousin, Kono, is a beautiful and fearless native” – OK I get that they mean she’s Hawaiian but it does suggest grass skirts and coconut bras.

  • MediumRob

    “OK I get that they mean she’s Hawaiian but it does suggest grass skirts and coconut bras.”
    Bikinis, bras and knickers for the most part.

  • The origianl was also very action-oriented, which (along with its exotic setting) set it apart from all the other dull procedural cop shows of its era. I was very happy that, as you point out, the new one is too! That’s all I was really hoping for, and makes it at least close to the original in some key respects. Alex O’Laughlin is certainly no Jack Lord, but who was expecting him to be? The original is better (and really worth a look on DVD if you’ve only got hazy memories of it), but like you, I thought the new one was fun, if stupid. You’re on the money about the dumb beginning (and a bit more forgiving on the script than I expected), but it’s all excusable when it looks so slick!

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • “Where it all kind of falls apart is the set-up. It’s stupid.”
    For me, the Stupid was best exemplified by the coincidence of Chin Ho Kelly just happening to run a curio shop right where he could witness the meeting between McGarrett and the Governor – a guy who just happens to have a personal connection to McGarrett with a back-story that luckily makes him useful to the plot…..
    It’s not that I saw it all as sacrilege; I just didn’t see the point in remaking the original. Why not instead honor the original and build off of it with a continuation? Show us the Five-0 department thirty years later with all new characters. It’s a premise that certainly worked with ‘Star Trek’. (At least the movie “Maverick” was able to have it both ways.)
    Another argument for continuation rather than remake: As with ‘Star Trek’, there was a rich history of old plots, with some of those same guest stars still alive, which could have been resurrected for the new team to revisit.
    I watched the pilot and found it to be mindless fun. I liked the characters a lot (and agreed with the early reports that Scott Caan was stealing every scene he had with O’Loughlin.) But I saw nothing that said O’Loughlin HAD to be McGarrett, or Caan the new Danno. Why couldn’t Daniel Dae Kim have been Chin Ho Kelly Jr., which would have been an excellent way to keep the original series’ memory alive in the cast rather than erasing the originals and starting over. (To me, using the characters’ names again is just lazy.)
    I liked the recasting of gender for Kono, but then Grace in a bikini would have sold me on just about anything to do with the character.
    It’s been reported that James MacArthur is coming on board in a guest spot. So I think it would have been more interesting to see him return as the original Dann-O rather than as this Danno’s father, or whatever he’s slated to play.
    But like I said, I did enjoy it. I just don’t see why it had to be this way. It’s not even like today’s audiences are invested in the original characters that these actors couldn’t be anybody else but.
    There’s only reason I can see why they felt the need to re-use the original character names – just for the chance to say “Book ’em, Danno.” And even that was played out badly, almost as a spoof. If anything, that only brought back memories of the original than feel like a fresh take.
    But since this is the way they’re going, why not take it a step further? Bring back Wo Fat. Get the guy who played Dogen in the last season of ‘Lost’ to play the role.
    Yeah, I am looking at it all from a Toobworld point of view, but I think it’s still a valid argument…..

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()

  • Pingback: The Medium is Not Enough TV blog()