Hawaii Five-O

My guilty pleasure this television season is the remake of the “classic” series Hawaii Five-O. My initial interest was fueled by a heavy dose of nostalgia. The series started in the fall of 1968, when I started first grade, and went off the air in the spring of 1980, when I graduated from high school. The theme song and the phrase “book ’em, Danno” are an inseparable part of my childhood.

The new Hawaii Five-0 has done a pretty good job remaking and respecting the original. My biggest problem is that the current incarnation shows a fairly consistent, and consistently disconcerting, post-9-11 lack of regard for suspects’ civil liberties and human rights. But, apart from that –which is almost standard operating procedure these days on TV and, I fear, in the real world, too– the writing is above average, the location shooting is completely engaging, and Scott Caan (as “Danno”) is a surprisingly good actor in a pretty good made-for-TV role.

I also like the way the series updated the role of Kono Kalakaua, the burly detective played in the original series by Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi (aka Zulu). In the new series, the role has been transformed into a vehicle for Battlesar Gallactica‘s Grace Park, who plays Kono as a tough (but compared to the original Kono, decidedly dimunitive) rookie cop.

I am fairly sure that someone will be writing a cultural studies PhD sometime soon on just how much the US mainland’s view of Hawaii, Hawaiian culture, Asia, Asian immigrants, and the “exotic” have changed between the two series. The original series was definitely ahead of its time in this respect, with plots that touched on the Vietnam War, the Hawaiian people, and US economic and cultural ties with Asia. Even so, watching episodes of the old series today still supplies the occassional cringe-worthy moment usually around issues of race or gender. (A bit like watching a completely unselfconscious episode of “Mad Men” –though nowhere near as extreme.) In any event, both the old and the new versions are more interesting and more thoughtful on issues of race or gender than the vast majority of what I see on TV. (This is tricky of course because what gets large numbers of viewers in the door to watch something called “Hawaii Five-O” –in 1968 or 2010– is the promise of the “exotic.” I would be very curious to find out how the series has been received in Hawaii.)

But, back to the nostalgia. Here is the opening sequence from the original series, which starred Jack Lord as Steve McGarret:

And here is the opening sequence from the new series, with Alex O’Laughlin as McGarrett:

One last point, episodes in the original series ran more than 50 minutes. Episodes in the current series are closer to 42 minutes. One of the biggest differences between then and now is just how many more ads we have to watch today.

UPDATE 01/29/11: In response to the comment about whether anyone has ever produced a map showing where various TV series have been set, I did manage to find this interesting map. Not a map of every series and its location, but a map of every US state and one TV series set in that state. Geographer Andrew Shears created the map and posted it at his blog, Thinking Pseudogeographically.

Map of 50 US states with a TV show set in each one of them

Source: Andrew Shears, Thinking Pseudogeographically.

One Comment

  1. John Schmitt says:

    Has anyone ever done a map of the USA highlighting the locations of famous TV series? I wonder what the distribution would look like. Obviously LA, NYC, SF would be densely marked but what about Utah, Idaho, Montana?
    Just a passing thought…

Leave a Reply