I tend to view most cop shows with the same loving flippancy pet owners apply to their dogs: Oh, it’s just a big, silly cop show, completely harmless. That’s definitely the case with Hawaii, which neither embarrasses the genre nor enlivens it. You know you’ve got a standard model when a spluttering police officer (ER‘s Sharif Atkins) is pulled from the ocean after missing a leap onto a bad guy’s boat and announces that he can’t swim…because he’s from Chicago! (Attempt to board a moving vessel, check. Fish out of water, check.) Or when the boss accuses two hotshot partners — in this case, Ivan Sergei (NBC’s Crossing Jordan) and Eric Balfour (Six Feet Under) — of being unorthodox! (Rogues who won’t play by the rules, check.)
Hawaii‘s mimicry isn’t limited to its TV brethren. The third episode featured robbers wearing silly rubber masks (smells like — yes! — Point Break) and a righteous serial killer who walked into the station and mysteriously surrendered himself (saw that in, um…got it, Seven). Even Balfour and Sergei’s bad-boy and badderboy chemistry, one of the show’s keener elements, feels borrowed.
The series’ supposed distinction? In case you missed the volcanoes and bikinis…it’s set in Hawaii! (Wait, give me a minute — just like…Hawaii Five-O.) This allows for subplots involving native island weapons and drug smuggling in fish bellies. Oh, and there’s a hammy, rotund Hawaiian sidekick (Peter Navy Tuiasosopo) who warns against stealing lava rocks and angering Pele. This fascinating locale deserves smarter treatment than these island window dressings: Somewhere there’s a writer who’ll do for modern Hawaii what James Ellroy did for mid-century Los Angeles and give us a real underside-of-paradise story. But this is not that show.
The most promising (and, perversely, disappointing) aspect of Hawaii is the return of Michael Biehn, who battled Arnold in The Terminator and aliens in Aliens. Biehn had a relaxed weariness that made him a nicely antidotal hero in the pumped-up ’80s — like a jaded middle-aged man in a pretty thirtysomething body. Now that he’s a middle-aged man, that sleepy swagger feels less this-young-guy’s-seen-a-lot and more this-mature-dude-wants-a-paycheck. Maybe he’s just bored: As veteran cop Sean Harrison, he’s relegated to playing wise man to the cutie-pie detectives. Hopefully, he’ll flee for more interesting locales and take that Balfour kid with him.