Follow an elite task force who calls itself Hawaii Five-0 as it goes about busting crime.
Aloha: A reboot of the hit cop series of the 1960s of the same title, Hawaii Five-0 stars (from left) Daniel Dae Kim, Scott Caan, Alex O’Loughlin and Grace Park.
YOU don’t have to move to Hawaii, listen to boring old audio clips, or go through a DIY phrase book to learn the Hawaiian language. Instead, just tune in to Hawaii Five-0.
Sure, you probably won’t be able to speak the language fluently or hold proper conversations with a local, but at least you’ll know the important words and phrases like malama ka aina which means “respect the land”, lanakila (victory), nalowale (forgotten) and of course, ohana (family), which many of us learned years ago from Disney’s hit animation Lilo & Stitch.
These words are actually episode titles of the brand new cop drama simply titled Hawaii Five-0. And if you have watched the first two episodes shown this week on AXN (Astro Channel 701), then you would know that there are a lot more Hawaiian phrases casually bandied about in the dialogues.
The show is a chip off the famous old block from the late 1960s, which technically makes it a remake. But don’t call it that, though.
Instead, it’s a reboot of sorts, thanks to several changes and updated elements to the base of the story.
In this new version, the central character Steve McGarrett, a Navy SEAL officer, returns home to Hawaii upon the death of his father Jack, one of Honolulu’s beloved cops.
Requested by the island’s governor to stay on and lead a special task force, McGarrett goes in search of his father’s killer and along the way, recruits a bunch of people to be part of his team.
They are: New Jersey native Danny “Danno” Williams, rookie cop Kono Kalakaua and Chin Ho Kelly, a former cop with the Honolulu Police Department who was suspected of being corrupt.
Each week, the team – the members christened themselves the Hawaii Five-0 unit – fights bad a** criminals, local thugs, international organised crime syndicates, etc ... the usual suspects, if you will.
Doing a remake or reboot of a show that had been so highly successful can be quite an unnerving undertaking. This is especially so when the original show still has legions of fans worldwide who are determined not to let anyone ruin the magic of Hawaii Five-0.
“We are a high-profile reboot, and because so many have failed before, people were expecting this show not to work. However, it’s all about understanding the source material. Our producers and writers are all fans of the original so are all familiar with the story,” said executive producer Peter Lenkov at a CBS media event in Honolulu, Hawaii, last week, to promote the series. Also with him were lead stars Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park.
“We have always been confident that the show would be on air. The pressure for us is in outdoing ourselves every week.”
Said O’Loughlin: “It’s different (from the original), it was a different time on TV back then. This one is more than just a procedural show, it is faster and more aggressive too. We go for truth and naturalism and today’s TV has the capacity to bring out the best in that using technology.
“Any dishonest storytelling has no place in this show, or any show on TV at all. I think this (mimicking a signature move of David Caruso’s character in CSI: Miami by taking off an imaginary pair of sunglasses and slightly turning his head around) is bulls**t.”
Lenkov goes online constantly to check out articles and reviews from fans and critics alike, and so far, the feedback has been pretty positive.
“The essence of the show still exists, and we try to pepper each episode with ‘callbacks’ (or references) from the old show. There are so many fans of the original who were surprised by how good this one is,” he noted.
That’s quite a relief, actually, since none of the main actors are fans of Hawaii Five-0; some don’t even remember watching it.
“My memory of the show is vague. I do remember stuff like ‘book ’em, Danno’ (a catchphrase uttered by McGarrett to Williams in every episode) and Jack Lord’s hair. When I got the script I had to watch the show again,” said Kim, 42, who plays Chin Ho.
“The character is different from the original Chin Ho. In the past, he wasn’t as integral to the team as he is now. He has potential to grow in this one because the show now explores the characters more than it used to before, and I think that’s the biggest difference between the two versions,” he added.
True enough, the new Hawaii Five-0 does not merely focus its stories on McGarrett, with Williams playing the funny sidekick, Kalakaua as the eye candy, and Chin Ho simply as a bystander. Instead,
the show now tries to bring out human elements in each episode as a way to make viewers empathise, and ultimately become intrigued, by all four main characters.
By the way, the role of Kalakaua, which used to be a huge man in the old show (played by a local actor/ singer named Zulu), is now a woman.
“Not having a strong female character in any show in 2010 would be wrong so that’s why we made Kono into a woman,” explained Lenkov, adding that although the change received a lot of negative comments in the initial stages, everything turned out well after the pilot rolled out.
Park noted that since her character is “kind of new”, she did not feel the need to watch the original show. “Mine is so different from the old character, and I’m not even talking about the gender. I think my presence is supposed to enhance the male community in the show.
“Kono is ambitious, smart, has a curiosity about the world and shoots from the hip. But I don’t think that’s such an extreme character that people cannot associate with her,” said Park, 36.
O’Loughlin, last seen in romantic comedy The Back-Up Plan with Jennifer Lopez, admitted that playing McGarrett has been quite challenging for him.
“He’s one of the most difficult characters I’ve ever played because I am not allowed to be myself. I feel like this character is a bit rigid,” said the 34-year-old Australian actor.
Since the producers want the original McGarrett’s characteristics to remain almost intact, O’Loughlin feels the pressure of playing him to everyone else’s satisfaction.
“Of course, when I feel like the writer or director misses the mark I will argue with them because I can answer the question ‘ why?’. If you can answer why, then you should always get your point across,” said O’Loughlin, who stopped midsentence to look at a newspaper article on him given by a reporter from the Philippines and blurted out: “Look how handsome I was back then, before I turned grey and tired.”
Also not shy to comment on his good looks is Caan, 32, who walked into the interview room with his friendly dog, Dottie.
“Alex’s job is harder than mine on the show. I sort of get to be myself, my character’s the fun one so I stand out more. The hair doesn’t hurt,” said Caan, playfully gesturing to his blond locks that were perfectly slicked back and slightly puffed up on the top. It’s the same hairstyle he wears on the show.
“People remember me from being in the Ocean’s 11 movies (he was also in the two sequels) but my screen time in all of those was about 10 minutes. I am humbled by having this part; it’s the best offer I’ve got since so many years.
“But I’m not going to be perky and happy all the time about it because that’s just not who I am. I am not a happy person. But really, this show gives me the best screen time presence I’ve ever had. It’s the hair,” shared Caan when one reporter questioned the actor’s lack of excitement when talking about Hawaii Five-0.
Caan’s show of disinterest that day could also be due to fatigue from working long hours on the show, something that all the actors are not too keen about.
Said O’Loughlin of the tight work schedule: “I don’t have free time but I always make time for my family. That’s the thing about committing to a TV show – I know what I’m getting into. I knew I was going to be really busy.”
Park, who has been married for six years to Korean-Canadian real estate developer Phil Kim, doesn’t dwell on the situation much. “I don’t balance my time, I just work,” she said bluntly.
One might think that the schedule would be peanuts to Daniel Dae Kim because of his experience working on Lost, the cult TV show that was shot almost entirely in Hawaii for six seasons. According to him, though, Lost was so much easier to handle than Hawaii Five-0.
“It’s about 14 hours a day; that’s more than Lost! Also, Lost had such a big cast so there would be days when some actors didn’t even have to come in because they didn’t have any scenes to do. But with this one, it’s just the four of us basically, and we had to be on set all the time,” he noted.
As for Caan, he doesn’t seem to be taking it all too well. “It’s drives me crazy not to have time. It’s sort of unhealthy doing this show because it’s such long hours. But the goal for a show like this is just getting through with it,” he said.
Well, all that hard work is apparently paying off well for the show, if high TV ratings (in the United States) are anything to go by. n Hawaii Five-0 (2010) airs on AXN (Astro Channel 701) every Tuesday at 10pm. Original Hawaii Five-0 (1968) airs on weekdays at 6.15pm.
Eye on target: Intrepid officers (from left) Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim) out to nab the bad guys in
Scott Caan plays Detective Danny ‘Danno’ Williams.
Jack Lord was Steve McGarrett in the original HawaiiFive-O.