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hawaii five, viewer zero
aloha means goodbye
by russ carr (@DocOrlando70)

Ho, brah - da pupuli okole from CBS, Julie McNamara? She da kine lolo haole wahine, eh?

Loosely translated from Hawaiian pidgin: "You know the Vice President for Drama Development for CBS television, Julie McNamara? I find her to be of questionable acumen and poor sensitivity to the local culture regarding the development of her network's new show, "Hawaii Five-O."

(I may have unwittingly omitted a colorful adjective or two. Nuances, y'know.)

So I just watched the pilot revamped, recycled, reimagined "Five-O," and I'm feeling crushed like pineapple.

Considering all the incredible points in this show's favor -- at least in the pilot -- there's no way it should fail. It's got Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci as writers; these guys are part of J.J. Abrams' band of brains, and bring their chops from "Alias" and "Fringe," as well as that incredible Star Trek reboot. The regular cast includes Daniel Dae Kim (most recently "Jin" on "Lost") and Grace Park ("Boomer" on "Battlestar Galactica"), and the pilot brought in Jean Smart ("24"), James Marsters ("Buffy") and William Sadler (all kinds of good stuff). Take all that, and add the incredibly scenic backdrop of the Hawaiian islands, the best TV theme music ever, and the legacy of one of the longest running cop shows on TV. A dream project, eagerly anticipated.

I should've known it was headed for a wipe-out as soon as the heavily-truncated theme cut to commercial. No can do Hawaiian time, eh? Get t'ru da show wiki wiki. A couple of explosions, a couple of bad Irish accents and a short walk on a long pier with Mrs. Governor of Hawaii and we're rolling into the same predictable procedural that's kept CBS off the ventilators for the past eight years.

Hey, Ms. McNamara? Dressing "CSI" in a lei and flip-flops doesn't give you the right to call it "Hawaii Five-O."

What coulda been, shoulda been a hot, tight show was like reheated poi the morning after the luau - a bowl of glop you wouldn't give a dog. Sadler was dead before the opening credits and Marsters maybe had four lines (and fewer minutes) in the whole episode. And while we're supposed to believe Park's character is a tough surfer girl about to graduate from the police academy, nearly the entirety of her scenes were spent in a wet bikini or bra and panties. Way to pander, folks. Maybe next episode you could have her make out with a hula dancer under a waterfall.

As for being set in Hawaii, with the exception of the token surfing scene (which, again, was only there to legitimize the wet bikini) and a played strictly for comic relief bit set at a shave ice stand, the island (and its culture, and its people) was a non-entity. You could have moved it to Seattle, set the shave ice scene in a Starbucks and had Grace Park play a bikini-clad kayaker, and nothing would've changed.

But as irritating as all those little things were, the real problem lies in the series' leads, Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan. And I probably shouldn't pin the blame on the actors themselves, either. The blame lands squarely on the writers.

Loughlin's McGarrett is a moody brooder, a ticking time bomb. We know this because he barks at the governor like she's a waitress who just poured hot coffee on his crotch. But that only lasts until he needs to be the rash action hero, wading into danger without thought for the circumstances, the law, or your personal feelings. Yes, yours.

Caan's Williams is even sadder. A scruffy Jersey transplant with no Jersey accent. He's got no sufficient personality, so he's saddled with an ex-wife, and the daughter he's moved to Hawaii to be near. We know his wife is the ex-from-hell, because her personal ringtone on his phone is the shrieking strings from Psycho. He doesn't want to be in Hawaii but Danno wubs his widdle girl and so he's ad-glibbing through the clicheed sloppy bachelor's life (in a beachside apartment, mind you) just so he can see her on weekends. I can almost hear him crying over the rain of anvils that is his character development.

Put these two together, and they're more like a pair of whiny teenagers than seasoned officers of the law. They're Bill and Ted with Guns in Hawaii. If you excised the portions of the episode where they were bickering with each other, snarking at each other, punching each other or making up over Rolling Rocks on the beach, you could fit what's left of the episode into half an hour.

Unfortunately what's left of that half hour is just processed procedural script Spam, grilled with a pineapple ring on top. Is it so tough to imagine a cop show without the hokey retorts, the chest-pounding angst, the posing with sunglasses?

Or, dare I say it, without needing to channel Jack Bauer for the sake of being "intense"?

In one scene from the new "Five-O," Dae Kim's character, Chin Ho Kelly, is interrogating a guy who's been caught smuggling Chinese refugees. How does he do it? He smacks the guy in the face with a large glass ashtray, then yells at him.

(That scene has more significance considering something Kelly tells McGarrett earlier in the episode: "Your dad taught me everything I know about wearing a badge." Nice dad.)

When the scum getting his face beat in finally realizes these guys are playing for keeps (McGarrett threatens to have the guy's wife and kid deported back to Rwanda, and all but promises the kid will end up in a Hutu death squad) he moans, "What kind of cops ARE you?" To which McGarrett snarks, "The new kind."

So these are our new cops: the cranky, emotionally-wounded leader; the Chandlereque*, emotionally-wounded mainlander; the volatile native with a grudge; and the cadet with the breasts.

It's a sure bet Jack Lord would've kicked 'em all off the island.

*Chandler Bing, not Raymond Chandler.


If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.

more about russ carr


will i see you in september?
if the networks crash, it's pilot error
by russ carr
topic: television
published: 5.24.04

another flaccid fall
neither tuned in nor turned on
by russ carr
topic: television
published: 11.21.03


matt kelley
9.22.10 @ 10:15a

As much as I’ve slammed Hollywood for its string of remakes and a lack of new ideas, I’ve gotta’ admit I liked the new Hawaii Five-O. Pilots are always over the top, disjointed and trying to cram 10 pounds of coconuts into a 5-pound bag. I’ll DVR it next week & bet it’ll be better. This reminded me of the original Miami Vice, but in a good way. Yes, too little of James “Spike” Marsters, but clearly, he’ll be back. As for too much of the Boomerbot, well, remember the last Star Trek spinoff “Enterprise”? Its pilot, too, started out with some waaaay too gratuitous shots of the Vulcan, but shifted gears into warp when the series got going.

russ carr
9.22.10 @ 10:20a

He'll be back? He got shot twice in the chest and fell into Pearl Harbor! No one takes that kind of hit and comes back unless his name's Adama (or you're watching Smallville).

matt kelley
9.22.10 @ 10:33a

In this age of lightweight body armor, you can never write anybody off. We saw no floating body and Marsters' name was in the credits. He'll be back. At least I hope so.

adam kraemer
9.22.10 @ 11:52a

In my experience, the pilot episode has never been representative of any show in the history of television.

lucy lediaev
9.22.10 @ 1:08p

Russ, I'm with you. I found the show disappointing. It did not "feel" like the original Hawaii 50. The continuity was chopping. I had the advantage of knowing nothing about any of the leads so I was not influenced by their popularity. I won't watch this again. I enjoyed the original, and I'm not going to replace my memories of the original with this tepid knock-off.

tracey kelley
9.29.10 @ 12:04a

Russ, there were a lot more Hawaii shots in the 2nd ep! They must have heard you! :D

(I still think it's frolicking good fun. Plus Scott Caan got to say, "I know a guy."

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