‘Hawaii Five-0’ Recap: “Book ‘Em, Danno!”

Last week, all of the major TV networks began their fall seasons by rolling out new series and bringing back returning favorites. In fact, there’s so much to watch that my DVR is already almost overloaded. I spent most of last week scrambling to watch things before I hit my storage limit and the DVR started purging old recordings. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to get a lot of writing done in the midst of all this. I’m trying to get some recaps of last week’s shows posted before new episodes air. As a result, you may see a lot of TV coverage crammed into the beginning of this week. I can’t guarantee that I’ll continue to watch or recap all of these shows, but I figured that I should at least give some of them a chance. We’ll start by taking a look at CBS’s big-budget revamp of ‘Hawaii Five-0’.

The original ‘Hawaii Five-O’ (spelled with the letter “O” at the end, whereas the new version has switched that to the digit “0”) had a long run from 1968 all the way to 1980. I remember watching reruns as a kid, but was never so invested in it that I have any sort of strong emotional attachment. I don’t mind the idea of a remake or reboot if it’s done well.

From what I can tell, here’s what the new ‘Hawaii Five-0’ has in common with its predecessor:

  • The same title (spelling change aside).
  • Most of the same character names.
  • The same theme song.
  • The new opening credits pay homage to the old ones in a number of shots.
  • They’re both cop shows set in Hawaii.

And, well, that seems to be about it. This new show takes the most stripped-down, Cliff’s Notes version of the premise (a special law enforcement task force fights crime against the exotic backdrop of Hawaii) and runs with it.

You know, I’m fine with that. However, if anything, the show’s insistence on foisting all of the old character names onto the new story is kind of annoying, especially when it comes to the supporting characters. Daniel Dae Kim (Jin from ‘Lost‘) plays the native Hawaiian detective Chin Ho Kelly. Grace Park (Boomer from ‘Battlestar Galactica‘) is his cousin Kona Kalakaua. Both actors are Korean-American and look absolutely nothing like native Hawaiians. They’re “ethnic,” which in Hollywood is close enough. But there’s no need for either character to have to be native Hawaiian. The producers could have easily given both of them new names and never mentioned anything about race, and no one at all in the audience would have given it a second’s worth of thought.

Using the old character names is meant to be a nod to the old show. That seems pretty pointless considering that the 15-year-olds that the network is targeting this show to will have no memory of the original series to begin with.

So, anyway, the plot…. Special Forces badass Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin from ‘The Shield’ and ‘Moonlight’) is transporting an IRA terrorist through South Korea for some reason (most likely because the producers felt that it would be easier to cheat their Hawaiian filming locations for Korea than for Ireland) when his convoy comes under fire. The terrorist is killed while trying to escape, which drives his brother Victor (James Marsters from ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’) to kill McGarrett’s father in revenge.

Some time later, McGarrett is offered a special assignment by the Governor of Hawaii (Jean Smart) to head up a new crime fighting task force. He’ll be granted practically unlimited resources and free reign to do whatever he wants so long as he takes down some bad guys. McGarrett hesitates at first, but eventually accepts the offer so that he can use the position to hunt down Victor.

For his team, McGarrett picks a smart-aleck mainland cop new to the island, Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan); disgraced former detective Chin Ho, whom he believes was wrongly accused of corruption; and Chin Ho’s cousin, a rookie cop fresh out of the academy. In the ‘Pilot’ episode, their first assignment is to bust a human trafficking ring that may have ties to Victor.

The ‘Pilot’ was directed by Len Wiseman (of the ‘Underworld‘ movies and ‘Live Free or Die Hard‘). The episode clearly has a significant budget. It probably cost more than many movies. It has very glossy production values and is jam-packed with elaborate stunts and explosions practically from start to finish. The military siege that starts the episode is also surprisingly violent for television. Something tells me that there will be a steep drop-off in budget and action content in subsequent episodes.

The scenery is pretty and the cast is appealing. I liked Scott Caan a lot on ‘Entourage‘ this season, and he seems to be having fun here with the over-the-top macho posturing. Some of the banter between characters feels forced, but I’m sure the show will be able to find a better groove as it goes along.

The problem is that this new ‘Hawaii Five-0’ is ultimately just a very formulaic and generic cop show. There’s nothing at all fresh or original here. That has little to do with the fact that it’s a remake of an old TV series. (The ‘Battlestar Galactica’ reboot managed to update its premise in exciting ways.) This just feels too much like so many other shows already on television at the moment.

I also have to say that I’m getting sick of the “hot chick who kicks ass” cliché, which only works when there’s at least a faint plausibility that the woman could be a genuine physical threat. Jennifer Garner in ‘Alias’ wasn’t exactly a burly bodybuilder type, but she was fairly athletic; I could suspend disbelief that, with proper martial arts training, she might be able to subdue a bad guy. Here, we have teeny tiny Grace Park, who’s maybe 90 pounds soaking wet, decking a baddie and knocking him out cold. There’s just no weight or muscle mass behind her punch. Her arms look like frail twigs. They’d snap in a stiff breeze. I doubt the guy would have even felt her punch, much less been knocked unconscious by it. There’s suspension of disbelief, and then there’s something that just looks ridiculous. This just looks ridiculous.

I might be willing to give ‘Hawaii Five-0’ a few more episodes to see if it holds my interest, but I don’t know that this will be a keeper for the long term.


  1. mh

    I agree. I wasn’t turned off by the show, but it’ll have to come up with something fresher to keep me hanging on for more than a few more episodes. Right now, the cast is all it has going for it.

  2. Joe

    I was a fan of the old show and had dire expectations for this retake. To my great surprise I thoroughly enjoyed the new show’s first episode. The tongue-in-cheek atmosphere, the spectacular scenery in HD and the not-so-bad cast worked for me. What is particularly attractive is that the show is entertaining and non-preachy without what has become the more and more depressingly lugubrious tone of the CSI/L&O “we’ll never win” crime series of the last decade. As far as this long-time time tv watcher is concerned, I’ll enjoy the weekly travelogue!

  3. Tim

    I had to laugh at your comment about Grace Park knocking some guy out. I’m getting tired of this as well.

    I remember getting into a fight as a kid and punching some other guy. In the few milliseconds after I hit him, and, being raised on Knight Rider and the A-Team, I thought to myself “wow, that was a good shot…he might be knocked out.” Before I could pat myself on the back further he had recovered and was pummeling me into submission.

    On a similar vein, here’s another thing I find annoying: The group of henchmen that attack one at a time. The more “progressive” shows out there might really push the envelope and have two henchmen dispatched at once while the other 3 stand off to the side with hands raised, waiting to be taken out by our here after he knocks the first two’s heads together or something.

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