Hawaii Five-O: Season Five
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Hawaii Five-O: Season Three

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Since the thirties police officers have been coming into our homes on a regular basis. They do not have a warrant signed by a judge; no doors were kicked in. We have freely invited them in to our living rooms. The method of entry was the most venerable of entertainment formats; the police drama. At first it was through radio but when television became the dominate form of spending an evening with the family this genre has exploded. It has persisted from the old black and white times to remaining one of the most popular themes for TV shows. For any given year if you look at a list of the top ten TV shows there are usually more than one crime drama represented. While it is true that the genre has become much more technical in recent years there is something alluring about the old fashion shows. It depicted a dedicated detective running down clues to bring the bad guy to justice. There was a human element that is largely missing in the new ultra scientific shows popular now. There is little doubt that one of the best respected and loved on these old school shows was ‘Hawaii Five-O’. It lasted for a dozen years; not a record for the genre but far more than most series on television. In fact it did hold the record until recently when it was passed by ‘Law & Order’. It had a variety in the stories that ranged from the usual faire of murder and kidnapping to the more international crimes as terrorism and espionage to hole the attention of the viewers. As anyone in the real estate business will tell you the location is all important. Here they used the beautiful islands of Hawaii as a background. Millions of people save their money just to have a week’s vacation there but this show gave you a glimpse week after week. It may be part of the United States but there is still a touch of the exotic and mysterious that makes people want to watch. The fifth season of this groundbreaking show is now available on DVD so you can summons up an episode anytime you want. CBS Paramount has perhaps the greatest catalogue of classic television they are the ones to turn to whenever you are tired of the slick current series that seem more like ‘Mister Wizard’ than ‘Dragnet’. This series has become so much a part of our culture that the phrase ‘Five-O’ was used to warn drug dealers that the police are nearby. Now that is product recognition.

One of the reasons for the success of this series is the scope. Most crime shows focused on a private detective working out side the formal police or a squad within a city’s police force. Here the Five-O unit was part of the Hawaii State police. This opened things up to a much more variety in the crimes and the locations. The state ranges from vast fields and small communities to large cities so there can always be something different in the stories. It is also the gateway for the Far East so the international intrigue is usually lurking just around the corner. Since Hawaii has a long and proud history as its own country there is a feel of being in a different culture even through it was filmed in the States. The show was created by Leonard Freeman. He had a long and illustrious career in both television and film. On TV he contributed to ‘Route 66’ while on film he scripted the Clint Eastwood classic western ‘Hang ‘Em High’. The experience of Freeman and the other writers working on this show were the reason the stories were always gripping; filled with action. It has to be remembered that this series was started forty years ago. The format for all of television dramas was much different then. One thing is there are virtually no story lines that persisted from one episode to the next. There was an arch villain, Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh), a Chinese spy, but mostly the stories were self contained. Part of the reason for this was syndication. When a series was packaged for syndication in local stations they wanted to be able to show the episodes in any order and not have the audience lose track of things. This approach also resulted in stories that only focused on the crime at hand. There was very little about the personal lives of the detectives. A mention of a wife or girlfriend may be made every now and then but the concentration was solving crimes not becoming a soap opera. Back then there wasn’t the emotional involvement with the police officers; they were to do the jobs.

Heading up Five-O is Detective Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord). He is no nonsense and determined to get the case closed. His right hand man is Detective Danny Williams (James MacArthur) usually called Danno by McGarett. Also on the teams is veteran detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) and new comer this season, Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) who replaced the team’s former powerhouse Detective Kono Kalakaua (Zulu) after he left in season four. Usually around for the legwork is police sergeant Duke Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer). Together they would fight any crime that threatens the island paradise. Some information about their past did come up such as McGarrett being a commander in the Naval reserve.

In the first episode of this season the integrity of Five-O is threatened. A local thug tries to make a name by denouncing the unit as corrupt. This goes so far as to implicate Duke in a murder. This is a bad time for new faces in Five-O but they have to deal with one, Detective Ben Kokua. He earns his bones in the squad by helping to clear Duke’s name. Another episode has one of the most popular story lines in cop shows; the bad shooting. Danno shots a teenager that he is sure was armed but it turns out that he wasn’t. Now his career is on the line unless McGarrett and the team have to dig to find the truth. There is also a touch of public service message when a doctor tracking a carrier of an STD is killed. Five-O has to find and stop the person responsible for the murder and the disease. Breaking a bit with the basic format there are several episodes in a row that put McGarrett and the team against a power crime family. Some of the stories are less typical such as stealing and selling babies, protecting a Russian defector and a scam to break the stock market.

This series has stood fast against the test of time and remains as entertaining as ever. This is one of the best and should be part of your home collection.

Posted 11/03/08

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