The new Hawaii Five-O could have been just another gussied-up TV re-launch (no, I’m not a big fan of 90210). Instead, Hawaii‘s premiere episode was fun: Swift, sometimes funny, well-cast, especially in the supporting roles. It’s sure not anything approaching revolutionary TV, but right now, it’s solid 10 p.m.-Monday entertainment.
It bears remembering that the original Five-O, which aired from 1968 to 1980, was not classic TV, either, although it, too, was fun. But you’d be hard-pressed to find any enduring moments of high drama in the Jack Lord version – that’s one reason why most people remember only three things about the show: its theme music, Lord’s triumphant catchphrase “Book ’em, Danno!,” and Lord’s haircut, which waved like the surrounding palm trees.
The new version of Hawaii followed the tradition of casting a plank of driftwood as its star – in this case, Alex O’Loughlin, the star of duds such as Moonlight and Three Rivers. O’Loughin’s Steve McGarrett comes with a back-story we witnessed during Monday night’s premiere: Dad was murdered; he agreed to head up a task force formed by the governor of Hawaii (a grim Jean Smart) to bring in the biggest criminals… including, in McGarrett’s mind, his father’s killer (Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel‘s James Marsters, doing a fine turn as a hard-fighting villain).
Scott Caan is terrific as a moody, sarcastic Danny “Danno” Williams, who considers Hawaii a “pineapple infested hellhole”; Lost’s Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly, a busted cop wrongly accused of corruption whom McGarrett reinstates; and Battlestar Galactica’s Grace Park as Kono Kalakaua, Chin Ho’s cousin and a cop who likes to surf. They quarreled and teased each other, but you knew they’re going to get along.
Underpinning the series is the theme of family. Marsters’ character kills McGarrett’s dad because McGarrett killed Marsters’ brother; what humanizes angry single-dad Danno is his love for his little daughter; Chin Ho is needlessly but sweetly protective of Park’s Kono. Together, they form a tight workplace family by the end of the first hour. Such emphasis on family-above-all serves as something of a protective shield over the show’s energetic violence: They’re shooting and punching people in the throat in the service of keeping each other – and you, the ordinary citizen – safe.
The action sequences were well choreographed; so far, O’Loughlin has come most alive when he was engaged in the premiere’s close-quarters, elbow-chopping fight scene. Going up against ABC’s Castle and NBC’s new Chase, I think it’s got a shot in the ratings (although Castle benefits mightily by the compatible lead-in of Dancing With The Stars).
It all depends on two things: whether viewers gave Hawaii Five-O a shot this evening, and whether they’ll come back to week two. Anyone remember the 2000 re-make of The Fugitive, starring Tim Daly? That short-lived show wasn’t half-bad, but people didn’t stick around to see how it developed.
How about you? Did you watch Hawaii Five-O? Will you watch week two?