Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New Hawaii Five 0






     I don't normally get excited about new television shows, preferring to wait until they become established before tuning them in, but when I learned this summer that a reboot (not a remake) of Hawaii Five-0 was in the works, I got excited.  Now, I have to admit that I saw little of the original series when it first aired (1968-1980). College, graduate school, marriage, Peace Corps, starting a family and return to graduate school didn't leave much time for television. I didn't even own a television before 1982, so I have only seen the original in reruns.
     The original series struck me as a straight-forward police procedural in an exotic setting, but featuring a special unit with extraordinary powers that reported only to the governor. We knew little about the background of the main characters. Their personal stories rarely entered the series.
     Having set my own series in Hawaii, I was anxious to see how this new one measures up to the old one, to other series set in Hawaii such as Magnum and Lost, and to other cop shows.
     The new series re-imagines the classic. The cast of characters are the same, but different. As the show opens, Steve McGarrett is a Navy SEAL commander escorting a prisoner out of South Korea. He receives a call from the prisoner's brother, Victor Hesse, who has taken McGarrett's father hostage and wants to trade father for brother. Before Steve can agree to do anything, the convoy is attacked and the prisoner killed. Victor, in turn, kills McGarrett's father. McGarrett vows to get Victor.
     So right from the start, we have a personal backstory as part of the main plot, albeit a somewhat tired backstory. ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") I even used that backstory in my latest book, that's how tired it is. McGarrett returns to Honolulu, his hometown, to bury his father where he is approached by the Governor with an offer to head up the special police unit. Now, unless I missed something, it is never explained why this assignment was offered to McGarrett. Sure he's a SEAL, but his last mission was a complete failure. He lost his prisoner and most, if not all, of his men. He refuses the call, naturally, as all post-Writer's Journey heroes do.
     The relationship to his father had me confused at first. I was expecting the father to be the Steve McGarrett from the classic series and this series to be taking up where the other left off. However, that's not the case. The father is John McGarrett, The new series is not, in any way, a continuation of the old.
     While looking for clues at his father's house, McGarrett encounters police detective Danny (Danno) Williams who orders him away. Incensed at being told what to do, McGarrett calls the governor on the spot, accepts the job, and receives the authority to investigate his father's murder.  That makes Williams his subordinate and first member of his new team.
     There is continuing friction between McGarrett and Williams, which promises to play throughout the series. Williams brings his own backstory. He is a mainland cop who transferred to Honolulu to be near his daughter who was taken to Honolulu when his ex-wife remarried. This devotion to his daughter is something we can expect to see coming up in future stories. In how many police stories have we seen this happen? There is a certain fish-out-of-water aspect to Williams that we're also certain to see more of. He's from the mainland, unfamiliar with the Island culture, prefers big cities to rural areas, and doesn't like the water.
     McGarrett, himself, is half-in and half-out of the culture. He grew up in the Islands, but he's a haole, a Caucasian, so he's treated with some distrust by the locals, even though he demonstrates an ability to speak pidgin. There is a very funny scene where a local who runs a shave ice stand puts one over on the two haoles, McGarrett and Williams. I think I'll steal it for a later story.
     The next member to be added to the team is Chin Ho Kelly, former star quarterback (The finest quarterback to come out of Kukui High, naturally). Kelly is also a former cop (naturally) who was kicked off of HPD for suspicion of taking bribes (naturally). But he didn't do it (naturally). How do we know? He tells McGarrett he didn't. How do we know McGarrett can trust Kelly? McGarrett's father trusted Kelly. Kelly is a local and his knowledge of the local culture helps McGarrett and Williams track down a man who can lead them to Hesse, but that man is involved in human trafficking, and, to get to him, they need a woman.
     The woman is Kono Kalakaua, Kelly's cousin, played by Grace Park. The  Kono role was a male role in the classic series, making this one of the greatest sex changes since Tootsie. Kono is a former pro surfer  and wet-behind-the-ears graduate of the police academy, who dons a bikini and kicks ass in the finest Charlie's Angels tradition. It may be another Hollywood trope, but this is one I hope I never tire of. Naturally, there is the obligatory scene where Kono goes undercover and has to strip to prove she's not wearing a wire. Some cliche's just keep on giving.
     McGarrett finally meets Hesse, the man who killed his father. They fight on a ship in the harbor and Hesse falls overboard. Is he dead? Hah! The three-blind mice could have seen that coming. McGarrett is left with a box of clues from his father containing a tape recorder and a strange key. This quest is just beginning.
     The pilot of a series has a tough task. It has to tell a compelling story, but it also has to set up the back stories of the characters. In this case it has to provide backstories for four characters that many viewers think they know already, but which they don't really know because this is not a remake of the previous one. The writers and producers can be forgiven for using some cliches and shorthand to get the series rolling. There's plenty to build on. The setting is great. Cameras love Hawaii and the series takes advantage of it. Lest you think it's all green mountains, blue seas and white beaches, however, the producers do a good job of brining in the seamy side of the state.
     Did any of you catch the premiere? What do you think?
Hawaiian-Eye Blog (See a picture of the original Wo Fat.)

10 comments:

Helen Ginger said...

I didn't watch the premiere, but thank you for retelling it. I can now start watching. I vaguely remember the original series. And of course remember the theme song.

What did you do, take notes during the show?

Mary said...

I wasn't a fan of the first and probably won't get hooked on the second. I will check it out though.
Thanks for the "notes."

Mark Troy said...

Hi Helen and Mary,
Yes, I did take a few notes. I'm sick in that way.

Ricky Bush said...

I saw it and like you, Troy, wanted to see how it stacked up to the original--and you're right, it ain't too original as far as plot lines go. I lost interest before it ended, but I did get to hear "Book Him Dano".

Morgan Mandel said...

Well, you do have a special interest in the show, considering your locale. Being from that neck of the woods, you can tell us if something's not authentic.

Morgan Mandel
http://morganmandel.blogspot.com

Jean Henry Mead said...

I love Hawaii and was a regular viewer of Hawaii 5-0. Thanks for the heads up, Mark.

Earl Staggs said...

I skipped the debut episode and won't see any of the others. Three reasons. One, I have too little time for writing now and don't want to risk getting hooked on another TV show. Two, I've had enough of hot guys and gals with tight abs playing cops in T shirts and tight jeans. Three, I don't like them ripping off a classic show by using the names and locale and nothing else. But ignore me. I'm an old fuddy-duddy grump.

Mark Troy said...

Man, if I ever get enough of hot guys and gals (especially the gals) in T shirts and tight jeans, just shoot me.

Earl Staggs said...

Mark, I think my real objection to hot gals running around in tight jeans is that they run too fast. I can't catch them anymore.

Mark W. Danielson said...

This is an interesting post, Mark, for it demonstrates how we've all changed in what we're willing to read or watch. In the past, we tolerated characters so long as the setting was interesting. Today, we need interesting characters and more realism. I'll have to check out the show.