Monday, October 24, 2011

I've stuck with the new 'Five-0' (and made it through the rain?)

Last fall I had my doubts about the news that CBS had decided to reboot one of my all-time favorites, the TV police drama "Hawaii Five-0."

While it comes in second to "Magnum, p.i." in my book, the original "Five-O" is considered sacred ground. After all, it's the series that single-handedly created Hawaii's TV and film industry, thanks in large part to generous donations of time and money by the show's star, the late, great Jack Lord. Lord and his "Book 'em, Danno!" catchphrase are a cherished part of TV history.

Still, Hawaii looks good in HD, that catchy theme song is back and Grace Park has been thrown in as an added bonus. What the heck, I thought.

It took a few episodes, but I quickly came to look forward to 10 p.m. (Eastern) on Monday nights. I particularly enjoyed the so-called "carguments" between the new McGarrett and Danno, as well as the latter's glib sense of humor (wonderfully played by Scott Caan).

And then somewhere toward the end of the first season, something seemed to be going horribly, horribly wrong. Out of nowhere, the last episode of the first year blew reality right out of the water. McGarrett was arrested for "murdering" the governor (try to imagine that happening to Jack Lord), the Five-0 team was disbanded, Grace Park's Kono had her badge taken away and I had no idea where all this had come from.

"Don't panic," I said to myself. "Maybe all this means Danno dreamed the entire last episode." (See "Dallas" circa the fall of 1986 if you don't get the reference.)

Season Two premiered last month and I temporarily forgot my frustration because we were headed over to Oahu on our honeymoon. In fact, we were staying right next door to the Hilton Hawaiian Village (where a lot of the new show is filmed) and would be visiting downtown at both the old and new Five-0 headquarters. So I wanted to see some scenery to whet my appetite.


Sure enough, they quickly explained last season's cliffhanger away (it wasn't a dream, thank God), but it also appeared the writers had no idea in which direction they wanted to take the show. Kono was apparently disillusioned, off the force, in league with bad ex-cops. New characters were popping up left and right while Grace Park's screen time had been vastly diminished.

What the heck 'em, Danno?

"I don't know if I'm going to stick with this or not," I kept telling my wife, who is also a fan. Had it not been for DVR, I probably would have given up.

"I think you and I could do a better job writing for this show," I emailed a pal, David Romas, in Michigan, who likes all things Hawaii but isn't keeping up with the "Five-0" redux.

FINALLY, last week's (10/17/11) episode explained a few things and righted the ship, so to speak. I won't give away too much more other than to say all is right in Honolulu, we were treated to a great, old-fashioned shootout at a bank, and it seems the show can take back up where it left off, mainly trying to nail McGarrett's arch enemy Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos, who's pretty slimy here, but can't hold a candle to the original's Khigh Dhiegh).

I'm glad I've hung around, if only to see what happens from here. I've heard the ratings for this season have been shaky, and if nothing else, I'd hate to lose an opportunity to spend an hour solving crimes in Hawaii each week. (New York, L.A., Philly and Miami, or what passes for them on other network cop shows, just don't have the same appeal.)

More importantly, despite trying to fill some big shoes, the new "Five-0" has shown promise. It could still survive these relatively early bumps and go on to have a decent network run.

But the next few weeks will probably tell the tale. Now that the aftershocks of the first season finale's misfire have simmered down, it's time to get back to business. Be funny, argue in the car, kick some butt, show plenty of Grace Park and even more of Oahu's natural beauty, get rid of the guy from "Lost" and any more appearances from either Billy Baldwin or Tom Sizemore. Work your way toward Wo Fat while keeping our most beautiful state safe from the bad guys.

Do all that, and "Hawaii Five-0" can catch a nice, big wave. Get sidetracked again and, well, you know what will happen. Aloha.

By and large I've always thought a hit belongs to its day, particularly in television. Does anybody remember the "Dark Shadows" revival in '91? Probably not, partially thanks to the Gulf War, partially thanks to mediocre writing and a time slot that never seemed to stand still.

Who stood enraptured over "The New Gidget"? "The New Odd Couple"? The early '90s remake of "WKRP in Cincinnati"? FOX's revival of "Get Smart" in the mid 1990s (even with Andy Dick!) lasted a mere seven episodes. Has anybody watched that horrible "update" of "Charlie's Angels" on ABC?

I want "Hawaii Five-0" to be the exception. It's a decent show, maybe as good as we're going to get in this disappointing new century. It's revived interest in the original series to the point that CBS/Paramount has released all but the 12th and final season of good ol' "Five-O" on DVD in a short four and a half years. I know it's kept some guys and gals employed after "Lost" wrapped in Hawaii a couple of years ago. Scott Caan has been an unexpectedly likable Danno. It's been great to see Al Harrington and some other old friends back on the tube again. And anytime you're filming in Waikiki is a good day.

New "Five-0" has reached a crossroads. We'll soon know whether all this was a good idea or whether the whole thing should have stayed back there with Jack Lord somewhere.

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