I Think Hawaii Five-0 needs an Identity Check

I Think Hawaii Five-0 needs an Identity Check

I approach TV reboots with an open mind. The reimagined Battlestar Galactica stands as one of my all-time favorites. And Star Trek: The Next Generation, while not technically a reboot, was a worthy successor to The Original Series. Heck, I was even a fan of the Dragnet reboot starring Ed O’Neill a few years back. I don’t know who the other fan was.

I liked the original Hawaii Five-O, and was cautiously optimistic when word came that it was being reimagined as well. If you’re going to resurrect a TV series, you have to keep enough continuity and familiarity with the original to connect with and retain fans of the source. Otherwise, why bother pretending there is a lineage being extended?

The new Hawaii Five-0 had a great freshman season. The pilot was dark and emotional, as Steve McGarrett’s father is murdered, with Steve listening helplessly on the phone. The Five-0 team is assembled as in the original, as a special police unit reporting directly to the governor. The team is McGarrett, Danny Williams, Chin Ho Kelly, and Kono Kalukaua (who is a female cop now, and Chin Ho’s cousin). The end of the pilot has the team solidified and talking about what they should call themselves. Hey, how about, “Five-0?”

While I thought the first season stories were decent, unpredictable and had enough character development to keep me coming back, I think the second season has come close to jumping the shark.

My complaints:

Product Placement. OK… I kind of like seeing that Hawaiian Airlines jet in the opening credits. Subtle, but effective. The other placements, though, are stop-the-action plugs that are anything but subtle. First, there is the slobbering love affair with Danny’s Camaro. Every shot with that car is composed like a page out of a car brochure. And Chevy Runs Deep. All the Honolulu police cars are Chevys, and the bad guys nearly always drive some other brand. Then there’s Microsoft. There have been plugs for Bing and for Microsoft Sky Drive. Both have been contrived and a jarring interruption to the story.

Lori Weston. First season, we had four members of the Five-0 team, and now we have added former fed Lori Weston. Am I the only one who asks, Why? Is it because Kono, being both team member and Chin Ho’s cousin, can’t become a credible romantic interest for Steve or Danny? Lori’s not a bad character, just unnecessary as a regular. Plus, Lori seems to be getting more screen time at the expense of Kono. What gives?

Max Bergman. I knew the season was going downhill when Masi Oka, who plays Max, is now featured in the main titles. Max as a character is good at comic relief, but he stretches the bounds of credibility, being an entire CSI team in one man, and a Star Trek geek besides. Max doesn’t need to be a regular. He is there to provide fast answers to move a fast script along. Which leads to my next complaint.

Needlessly convoluted story lines. Second season stories run at a breakneck pace, with usually more than one dead-end in the crime investigation process. To keep up this pace, the Five-0 team has to rely on superhuman deductive reasoning, high-tech gadgetry and leaps of insight that are over-the-top. In a recent episode, McGarrett knows off the top of his head the maximum flight time of a single-engine Cessna aircraft that has crashed at sea. Really, Steve? And then they set out to recover the “black box,” oblivious to the fact that in real life, single-engine Cessnas don’t have black boxes. But the story needed it, so it was there.

Kamekona. More comic relief, and he appears WAY too often.

“Five-0!” Our team yells this as they bust through doors, obviously assuming that this elite police squad reporting to the governor is known by name to everyone in the Aloha State. Maybe because they’re not real police?

Overall, I think Hawaii Five-0 is suffering an identity crisis. Is it straight police drama or dramedy? Serious or camp? Episodic, or arc-driven (there are elements of both). Do the producers feel the core cast is not strong enough, and need to support them with Max, Kamekona, Lori and Joe White?

The show is strong enough to run for many seasons, if it can decide what it wants to be. Right now, it’s pretty much of a mess.

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