'Hawaii Five-O' Review: Nothing Retro About Reboot

Although CBS’-TVs new cop show Hawaii Five-0 is a reboot of a highly popular 1970s CBS series that entered the poplar lexicon (with police departments across the nation being popularly referred to as Five-O), there’s nothing old-fashioned about the current version.

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Whether you consider that a good thing or bad will depend on whether you still enjoy the conventions of contemporary action-oriented cop shows:

  • Breakdowns of authority, corruption in the police department, government unable to protect its own, let alone the public–check.
  • A non-nonsense team leader who even argues with state’s governor and orders her around, which she accepts without objection–check.
  • A big action scene on a regular schedule, in this case once every ten minutes of screen time–check.
  • The police cutting corners in the interests of justice.
  • A team of police officers with a past of personal tragedies and/or cute personality quirks–check.

There’s nothing retro about the show, and the main characters are all common contemporary types. There’s the stolid but tormented team leader; the sharp-tongued second-in-command who’s struggling to stay connected to his young daughter after a messy divorce; the ethnic male who knows the details of the local crime scene, and the beautiful female cop with a mean left hook.

This new Hawaii Five-0 is noticeably more action-oriented than most contemporary police dramas, however. The pilot episode starts with big action scene[spoiler alert for rest of this paragraph], leading to the murder of McGarrett’s father. McGarrett’s quest to find his father’s killer eventually leads to the discovery of a Chinese human trafficking and forced prostitution ring.

The police team are accordingly more in the mold of action heroes than most such casts, which is indeed in line with its 1970s predecessor. The new Steve McGarrett is the son of former Hawaii police officer Jack McGarrett, the subject of the long action scene that opens the pilot episode and the source of Steve’s personal anguish and quest for revenge, clearly intended to fulfill the contemporary crime drama penchant for tragedy-inspired personal quests.

A former Navy SEAL, McGarrett has integrity, an impressive military record, and a strong will. Alex O’Loughlin looks the part and conveys McGarrett’s intensity effectively. McGarrett’s chosen partner, Detective Daniel Williams, is a bit more comic, though even more irascible than McGarrett; he’s struggling with his divorce and a strong desire for professional success. He initially has an intense antagonism toward McGarrett and even punches him. McGarrett shows his intelligence and integrity by not responding in kind, and eventually they reach an understanding of each other.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park round out the main cast nicely as detectives Chin Ho Kelly and Kona “Kono” Kalakaua, respectively. Jean Smart is amusing (though probably not intentionally so) as the governor who is so submissive to McGarrett.

There are some appealing, less frenetic moments in the pilot episode. McGarrett begins calling his partner Danno, as in the 1970s series, in this case after finding out that it’s Williams’s daughter’s nickname for him. Although Danno initially dislikes McGarrett doing so, it shows his boss’s affection for him in a relatively subtle way, and it’s another thing that gives McGarrett a bit more complexity.

And in the end, McGarrett performs a very thoughtful personal gesture toward Danno that renders both characters rather more likeable.

Those who like the more action-oriented end of the contemporary crime-show spectrum will probably enjoy Hawaii Five-0. It resembles last year’s CBS hit NCIS Los Angeles much more strongly than its 1970s namesake, and that was probably CBS’s intent for the show. Admirers of the 1970s version of Hawaii Five-O may not find this show as enjoyable as they would have hoped, but among audiences wanting more shows in the contemporary, action-oriented crime show category, Hawaii Five-0 would seem to have a good chance of success.

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