By TIM GOODMAN
San Francisco Chronicle
The entire point of remakes is that there are no good ideas on television anymore. No, wait, scratch that. The entire point is that by feeding you something you might be familiar with — and perhaps liked the first time around or in reruns — it’ll be that much easier to sell it to you again without all the explaining.
So, do you need “Hawaii Five-O” explained? Not the one from some years back with Jack Lord. The one from 2010 with, um, Alex O’Loughlin as McGarrett, and premiering Monday at 9 p.m. (on KGMB). Sure you do, so here’s what CBS says in an almost believable way:
” ‘Hawaii Five-O’ is a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the islands’ sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated naval officer-turned-cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father’s murder and stays after Hawaii’s governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full-blanket authority to hunt down the biggest ‘game’ in town.”
OK, if you just threw up in your mouth a little bit, don’t worry. It’s not that bad. In fact, it’s almost impossible to mess up a series shot on location in Hawaii and featuring Grace Park in a bikini. You would have to make it turn it into a sci-fi comedy to really mangle it. Although the first 15 minutes may have you thinking they’ve overdone it on the action steroids, the show calms down after that. You’ll get Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams and Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly. Park plays Kono Kalakaua. There appears to be no Wo Fat of yet, which almost kills it, but perhaps he’ll surface later.
“Hawaii Five-O” is nothing but entertainment. It’s eye candy. Waves, sun, island culture. A bad guy surfaces, McGarrett goes to work. Danno books him. End of story. Sometimes there are gun battles. Fists fly. That’s all there is, folks. It’s not rocket science. True, watching the original is more fun. And more cheesy. But waves are waves. Hawaii is still pretty. And if you’re looking for anything deeper than that, you’ve landed on the wrong island. “Lost” is over. Let your mind take a break.
By CHUCK BARNEY
Contra Costa Times
When someone attempts to make over a successful television show, they almost always bungle it. “Bionic Woman.” “Knight Rider.” “Melrose Place.” They’re just a few notorious examples of recent reboots that quickly crashed and burned.
So when I heard CBS was going to remake “Hawaii Five-0″ — a show that I maniacally cherished as a kid — I instantly experienced a case of cold sweats. “How many ways are they going to screw this one up?” I wondered.
But consider my mind happily blown. CBS has presented viewers with an exciting gift this fall. Their “Five-0″ update not only doesn’t stink, it’s an action-packed, easy-on-the-eyes thrill ride that is slicker and sexier than the original series that aired from 1968 to ‘80. It also contains a sense of humor that the stone-cold serious Jack Lord version lacked.
Stepping into Lord’s shoes as Detective Steve McGarrett, Oahu’s crime-fighting Big Kahuna, is Alex O’Loughlin, who after two strikes with CBS (“Moonlight”; “Three Rivers”) is getting his third — and probably final — swing.
And what a contrast he brings. Gone are the lacquered black pompadour, steely stare and granite jaw. Yes, O’Loughlin’s McGarrett is still a stoic man on a mission, but there’s an engaging hang-looseness to him. He prefers T-shirts to dark suits and isn’t shy about stripping them off to show off his rippled abs.
In tonight’s high-octane opener, McGarrett, is introduced as a decorated Naval intelligence officer who is out to crack a terrorist cell. But the murder of his estranged father brings him home to Hawaii, where the governor (Jean Smart) persuades him to stay and head up a new elite police task force. Explosions ensue. And gunfights.
The most dramatic — and best — change is McGarrett’s relationship with his sidekick Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan). In the original, Danny, played by James MacArthur, was little more than a stage prop, doing what he was told, no questions asked.
But in “Five-0″ 2.0, Danny has transformed from yes-man to wing man. He and McGarrett are more like equals — equals who engage in verbal (even physical) sparring matches. Their smack-talking banter helps to keep things playful, and Caan is a scene-stealing delight.
Rounding out the highly appealing cast are Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost”) and Grace Park (“Battlestar Galactica”). The latter brings a feminine touch that was virtually nonexistent in the testosterone-laced original. But better not cross her. This feisty surfer-chick packs a mean punch.
Even with all the updates, fans of the original will be pleased to see that some things haven’t changed. That iconic theme song is still intact. The Hawaiian scenery is still presented in all its blazingly beautiful glory. And we even get a heartwarming “Book ‘em, Danno” line before the first hour expires.
It helps that executive producer Peter Lenkov was a big “Five-0″ fan as a kid who watched the show religiously alongside his dad. With Lenkov at the helm, the franchise appears to be in good hands.
It also helps that the original wasn’t exactly “Masterpiece Theatre.” As much as some of us loved it, we can’t deny that it had its cheesy elements and was often stiff and stodgy. In its latter years, some episodes were just plain awful.
In other words, there was room for some contemporary improvement. And with that mission accomplished, “Hawaii Five-0″ just might be one remake with staying power.
By MARK NIESSE
Associated Press Writer
HONOLULU — The elite crime-fighting team of “Hawaii Five-0″ is back in the islands — this time with more bikinis, fewer stiff suits and a remix of the series’ classic theme song.
The remake of the legendary series, which ran for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980, debuts Monday at 9 p.m. on CBS with a legacy to live up to.
Like the original hit show, the new version’s cop team hunts down criminals, often ending with the catch phrase “Book ‘em, Danno!”
But the rebooted version aims to add more witty banter, character backstory and edginess to the formulaic detective work of the first series, which preceded a generation of crime dramas such as “Magnum, P.I.” and “Law & Order.”
“You can do great action, and we do,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov. “But what’s fresh and different is the character development and humor.”
Filmed in Hawaii, “Hawaii Five-0″ aims to appeal to viewers by taking them to island scenes shot at sun-soaked beaches and landmark locations including Pearl Harbor, ‘Iolani Palace and Waikiki.
Alex O’Loughlin is replacing the original Detective Steve McGarrett, played by Jack Lord. As a former Navy SEAL, the new McGarrett has been recruited by Hawaii’s governor to lead a task force against criminals and terrorists intruding into the United States through its Pacific islands.
“He’s part mercenary, and his tactics are pretty crazy. He does whatever he needs to do to get the job done,” O’Loughlin said during a break from filming on site in Honolulu. “We have respect for what came before us, but we’re not drawing from the old show.”
Unlike his predecessor, O’Loughlin is more likely to go into a suspect’s house wearing a bulletproof vest, guns blazing. The Australian actor has Lord’s big shoes to fill after previously playing the lead in “Three Rivers” and “Moonlight.”
Alongside McGarrett is sidekick Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), a by-the-book detective who’s less than pleased with McGarrett’s full-speed-ahead attitude.
“I don’t think that he’s a bad guy or anything,” said Caan, who has appeared on “Entourage.”
“I just think he’s crazy,” he said. “That sets up the butting of heads and the personality clash.”
Rounding out the four-member team are characters Chin Ho Kelly and Kono Kalakaua. Both were part of the original series, but this time they should get more prominent roles because the show won’t rely as much on McGarrett alone.
Another big change: Instead of Kono being the burly man seen in the series’ first run, the character has been transformed into a swimsuit-wearing rookie cop played by Grace Park.
“To be able to have the experience all over again and revisit it with fresher eyes — that’s something people look forward to, to have a new different experience,” said Park, who previously starred on “Battlestar Galactica.”
“Otherwise, we would’ve just rereleased the old DVDs again.”
The show’s reinvention of itself will emphasize more teamwork rather than always making McGarrett the primary hero, said Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Chin Ho Kelly.
“Our goal isn’t as much to improve on the original series as it is to adapt it to modern audiences,” said Kim, best known for his role in “Lost,” which was also filmed in Hawaii. “There’s a different storytelling style now.”
The show’s premiere coincides with the 42nd anniversary of its first run, which started Sept. 20, 1968.
Its writers hope to avoid the mistakes that led to the cancellation of other recent remakes such as “Knight Rider” and “Bionic Woman,” Lenkov said. Both of those shows lasted only one season.
The characters in “Hawaii Five-0″ will be more three-dimensional than during the series’ first run, with their own troubled histories, unpredictable family ties and personal mistakes, he said.
Viewers shouldn’t expect the new McGarrett’s hair to always stay in place or for his decisions to always work out.
“Our Steve McGarrett — he’s a little more flawed than Jack Lord was,” Lenkov said. “That’s what makes him an interesting character. There’s a little grayness to him. I didn’t want him to be a superhero.”
REVIEW BY BURL BURLINGAME
This project has so much baggage attached it might as well be clinking chains like Marley’s ghost. “Hawaii Five-0″ was one of those seminal shows that helped define modern episodic television — snappy, colorful, unusual, exciting. The world it portrayed seemed bigger than the screen, unlike the backlot procedurals set, invariably, in Los Angeles. Even with our short attention spans today, it still plays well.
The world has changed. Networks no longer dominate the airwaves, and cable-channel shows can be made edgier and more colorful. No wonder CBS has looked back on the glory days of “Five-0″ as a way of regaining ratings momentum.
A previous attempt at a “Five-0″ reboot fizzled so mightily that it was cast down a well never to be seen again by human eyes. Now CBS has tried again, hoping the third time will have the charm of the first.
That they have largely succeeded owes a lot to the original show’s bizarre dramatic structure. Essentially, the only cast member allowed to have a personality was Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett, and McGarrett — let’s be realistic about this — was essentially a fascist control freak, a steely-eyed megalomaniac, a Terminator with a badge, a dark mystery in an even darker suit. Everyone else in the show was a cipher, standing around saying “Yes, boss,” whilst McGarrett did all the crime solving and exposition. I’m convinced people tuned in every week to see if McGarrett would crack, oh, just a little bit. Or better yet, blow up like a nitro-enriched dragster. The fun characters were the criminals, all of whom were filmed with greasy, sweating faces. It was the show’s hallmark.
“Miami CSI’s” Horatio Caine is Steve McGarrett’s demon offspring.
Which means, of course, the new show can take the physical trappings of “Hawaii Five-0″ — the memorable theme song, the exotic locales, the colorful local characters, the rip-snortin’ action, the traditional escalating four-act plot, the faintly ominous opening kicker that jolts into a breaking wave and the theme music — and pump it all up into a modern high-def TV show, with more scenery and more grit and more action and way, way more volume.
That’s the easy part. When it comes to the characters, we’re dealing with blank pages.
Danny Williams, for example. We learn more about “Danno” in the first 10 minutes of the new pilot than we learned in 12 years of the series. That’s a good thing. We need to care about the characters. As played by Scott Caan, Danno is a divorced father trying to do right by his kid, and that means doing legitimate police work, the old-fashioned way. Right away, he’s shanghai’d by McGarrett, who’s some sort of Navy intelligence operative used to working outside the rules, and who has been charged by Hawaii’s governor (Jean Smart, looking quite Republican) to create a kind of quasi-official police task force.
McGarrett and Danno immediately butt heads over dueling procedurals. It’s fairly entertaining, and also illuminating, and that’s the idea. We have two personalities here, designed by committee to keep the dialogue snapping; Butch and Sundance — oops, I mean McGarrett and Danno.
As McGarrett, Alex O’Loughlin has a big, dark suit to fill, and to the show’s credit, it’s left hanging in the closet. My favorite quick shot here is McGarrett pulling back a cover on his father’s car, and it’s a big, black car like the original McGarrett used to drive, but the hood is off and the engine is missing. He tosses the cover back over the old car. It’s done.
O’Loughlin is skinny and stubbly in the modern anti-hero mode. He’s no stolid goosestepper like Lord’s McGarrett, but neither is he so anti- an anti-hero that you might question his moral compass. Judging by the pilot, he’s a decent sort who despises red tape. What’s not to like? And yes, that’s deliberate on the writers’ part.
Daniel Dae Kim, as Chin Ho Kelly, and Grace Park, as Kono, are introduced in such frankly ridiculous, cringeworthy ways that it’s best just to move on quickly. They are given just enough backstory to make them human, not enough to make them cartoons. Suffice to say they’re part of the team by the time the pilot wraps.
Will the “Hawaii Five-0″ reboot succeed? There’s no reason it won’t. After all, unlike something with sharply defined characters like “Star Trek” or “Gunsmoke,” the original show was a blank slate with a snazzy frame.
Much depends, however, on ratings and the patience of network executives.
What’s to like in the new show? It’s bright, it’s fast, it has wit and charm, plus some astounding action sequences. Best of all, although it’s simple and formulaic, it’s not stupid. The structure has some real potential to examine Hawaii’s diverse ethnic backgrounds. For example, McGarrett, even though he grew up in Hawaii, is still a “haole” to the perps he’s catching, and it’s frustrating for him, just as it is to local haoles. I think “haole” is uttered more times in this pilot than ever in the original series, if at all. Anyway, that’s a canny, writerly insight that illuminates the character, and I hope there will be more of that.
I also like that the police have to reload their guns during shootouts. And does anyone believe that the bad guy, played by James Marsters (Spike of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”) won’t be back some day?
But some things never change. Like in the old “Five-0,” the cops in new “Five-0″ never Mirandize their arrests. And like the old show, viewers shouldn’t rely on the new show for driving directions. I didn’t know the way to the Honolulu waterfront was through Ford Island.
Written remarks from James MacArthur, who played “Danno” Williams in the original “Hawaii Five-0,” on the world premiere of new “Five-0″ pilot, Sept. 13, 2010, Sunset on the Beach, Waikiki.
Good evening everyone! I hope you’re all enjoying a fine Hawaiian sunset and I’m sorry I can’t be there with you tonight.
Ever since I saw the scrip for the pilot, I’ve been very excited about this new “Hawaii Five-0.” From that first moment, I knew CBS had another winner on its hands.
I can remember back to when Lenny Freeman called to invite me to participate in the original version. My first thought was, “Great! If I’m lucky this is my free ticket to 13 weeks in Hawaii. Count me in!”
Little did I know that 40 years later, people would still be calling out to me to “Book ‘em, Danno!” wherever I go, and that “Hawaii Five-0″ would become a worldwide phenomenon, an indelible part of our modern culture, ready tonight to launch a bold new incarnation.
I think I can confidently speak for Lenny (Freeman), Jack (Lord), Kam (Fong), Zulu and the rest of the original gang, as well as myself, in saying that we’re all just delighted with the outstanding caliber and sheer talent of the people involved with the “Five-0.” It’s very heartening to see our legacy now in the hands of the terrific people you see before you tonight.
I’m looking forward to making an appearance in the new show when the time is right, and I can’t wait to see what the writers have in store for me. In the meantime, I’ll be watching each week, eagerly anticipating the further adventures of the new “Five-0″ team.
May you all enjoy Hawaii and its fabulous people as much as I continue to do to this day, and may your association with “Hawaii Five-0″ be as successful and fulfilling for you as mine has been for me.
And remember, “Be there! Aloha!”
Photos by Scott Morifuji