I am not a huge fan of the fact that Hollywood apparently cannot come up with an original idea and has to “re-imagine” all of my television favorites from the past, either through new series or theatrical releases. Some of the projects have earned my approval (Battlestar Gallactica, for example) but for the most part it is like losing a good friend and not wanting to attend the funeral. You prefer to remember them the way they were. Monday night’s premiere of Hawaii Five-O on CBS is no exception.
Week before last, Spike ran a weeklong marathon of the original series, interspersed with numerous ads for the new one. While the intent I am sure was to generate interest for the remake, it only served to point out just how little the series resembled each other. I was a teenager when the original aired and had a huge crush on James MacArthur who played Danno, so I rarely missed an episode. Hawaii was still a rather new state at this point and it was interesting to watch the action in this exotic locale each week. Steve McGarrett, as played by Jack Lord, was a no-nonsense get-the-job-done leader of an elite police force. No matter what the crime or criminals involved, you were certain justice would be served within the hour with the exception of any crimes committed by Wo Fat, who was McGarrett’s nemesis throughout the series’ 12 year run. Rounding out the team were Kono, played by Hawaiian comedian Zulu and often the “muscle” of the team, and Chin Ho, who was portrayed by real life retired Hawaiian cop Kam Fong. McGarrett was appointed by and reported to the Govenor (respectfully calling him “Excellency”) and the team occupied offices in the Lolani Palace. Suits and ties were the uniform of the day and many of the criminals were polished and refined figures themselves. Ricardo Montalban is one who comes to mind. CSI: Miami is the closest I can think of in modern television to the show. Tropical location, international intrigue, solving crimes with science and intelligence, and yet still enough action to keep the thrill seekers interested. And just like Horatio Caine, Steve McGarrett had his team members’ backs at all times but there was little doubt who was in charge. “I don’t like it”, replied Danno to Steve at one point when he was instructed to send a police woman undercover. “I didn’t ask you,” was the reply from McGarrett. “Just do it”.
So fast forward to 2010. Steve McGarrett in the form of Alex O’Laughlin is in a military convoy escorting a terrorist. His cell phone rings with a call from his dad’s phone. The terrorist’s brother is holding his father hostage. The convoy comes under an extremely violent attack in a botched attempt to free the terrorist. “My brother’s dead isn’t he?” is the question. “Then so is your father.” McGarrett returns to the island for his father’s funeral. He is met at Pearl Habor by the Governor, this time played by Jean Smart. Instead of respect when she offers him a job, he accuses her of being a media attention grabbing politician that only offered him the job to help get herself re-elected. He next runs into Chin Ho Kelly, played this time around by Daniel Dae Kim, recently of Lost. He is a disgraced cop who worked with McGarrett’s dad on the police force. McGarrett goes to his father’s home where he finds a recording mentioning corruption at the local police department. He is interrupted by Danno Williams (played by Sean Caan) a detective investigating the murder. They instantly clash, and fyi Danno is the only one who wears a shirt and tie and I think it is just for props as most of the time the tie is loose and the shirt wrinkled and the sleeves rolled up. He is a transplant from the mainland because his ex-wife married someone and moved their daughter to Hawaii and he relocated there to be closer to her. Rounding out the team is the new Kono, played this time by Grace Park, who has taken to the idea of playing rolls in remakes that were originally men (Boomer in Battlestar). And yes, she is also a lot of the muscle although I am sure she can chase down suspects easier that Zulu could in the original series as she weighs probably half of what he did. McGarrett and Danno go to see a small time arms dealer who sold a weapon to Hess, the man who killed McGarrett’s father. This guy is not trailer park trash, he is actually quansot hut trash. Another violent shoot out ensues. The suspect is killed and they discover a child who had been smuggled into Hawaii from China. It is hard to focus in on the crime and the ciminals involved as there is way too much yap going on between the two cops, even to the point of McGarrett pinning Danno and then Danno sucker punching McGarrett. It is to establish I suppose how little they like each other. They go to see Chin Ho for some information and he gets to display his angst about how he was unjustly accused of taking money and being removed from the force. He gets a lead and they go to the beach to meet Kono to get her to help them set a trap. We get Grace Park in a bikini surfing and when a tourist collides with her she promptly swims to shore and punches him out.
She poses as someone trying to smuggle relatives into the state. The suspect makes her undress to her undies to be sure she is not wired, snaps a picture of her and sends it to the HPD and someone there tells him she is a cop. She then starts taking out heavily armed men with her bare hands and the rest of the team come crashing through the building in a semi truck. There is another shootout, car crash, etc. and they find a storage trailer full of refugees. They take the suspect, slap him aound some, threaten his wife and kid, and he gives them the info they want. Hess is on a freighter bound for China. McGarrett and Danno storm the ship in a police car, and yet another high powered gun fight ensues. McGarrett confronts Hess, Hess shoots him, he drops his gun, hand to hand combat for a few minutes, then Hess knocks him off onto the same cargo container where his gun fell, and they shoot at each other with Hess being shot twice and falling into the ocean. As the show closes, workmen are furnishing their offices, McGarrett has given Danno a three day stay at a nice hotel that he can bring his daughter to and every one is sitting around laughing and talking about what their team should be called.
As buddy (or not) cop shows go, this one is no different from most of the others on tv, past and present. There is the give and take between the leads. You know deep down they like each other but just don’t want to admit it. There is too much of it and it actually gets annoying. In the original the conversation was all about the case. There are comic moments and plenty of attitude. The music is annoying also, and the violence excessive. There was probably more gunfire in this episode than there was in an entire season of the original show. Jack Lord’s McGarrett was by the book. This team has complete immunity to do what they deem necessary. This is a clear indication that things will rarely be done by the book. There was the snarky, laughing way this McGarrett said “Book em, Danno” at the end. In the original, the team was there to serve and protect, not have a good time chasing suspects while arguring with an ex-wife on a cell phone.
If the lead cops were named something else and the show was Hawaii Undercover or something I would have no problem with it. However, this is not Hawaii Five-O and if the producers were trying to attract viewers of the original, I think they missed the mark. There is nothing here to resemble the original series except for the location and the character names. Producing it as Hawaii Five-O is clearly an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of the original series. It is too bad Hollywood cannot get the message that some things do not need “re-imagined” because they got it right the first time.
On TV: CBS Modays 10pm est/9pm cen
On the Net: www.CBS.com