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RATED: Not rated
RUNNING TIME: 491 minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
It’s Dragnet with hula skirts .
Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, Herman Wedemeyer, Richard Denning.
A special Hawaii police unit operates under the direct authority of the governor with special powers and privileges. Led by the former naval officer, Steve McGarrett, they’re the state’s best squad for capturing higher-profile criminals who operate above the law and outside of the norm.
I was around during the show’s run and remember it being on TV, but it was never a program that I watched. I also remember it being an iconic show in the ’70s; the fact that it was on for 12 seasons is a testament to that. Checking it out now, it’s pretty easy to see the appeal back then. Jack Lord was the charismatic Steve McGarrett, incorruptible and driven to catch the bad guy every episode. Plus, the show was shot on location in Hawaii, rather than stock footage and Hollywood backlots. And the show’s theme is one of the most recognizable and trendy in TV history. At the time, Hawaii Five-O was the longest running crime show until Law & Order eventually surpassed it. It was a higher-class style of police procedural, focusing on all kinds of crime and criminals and setting a formula that several shows that followed emulated. In fact, Wikipedia has it that Magnum, P.I. was specifically created to take advantage of the show’s production facilities once it ended its run. Also, Magnum was said to take place in the same universe as Five-O initially.
By Season 10, the show was well into its groove. And although it was an ensemble show, Lord dominated it, both in front of the camera and behind it. He took over co-ownership of it after creator Leonard Freeman’s death in 1974. I think it’s pretty safe to say that if, at any point during the show’s run, Lord had wanted to walk away from it, the show would have ended rather than gone with recasting. Season 10 episodes included “Up The Rebels,” where McGarrett and Five-O have to hunt down an Irish terrorist who engineered the theft of some experimental new explosives from the military. “The Descent of the Torches” has the unit hunting a killer who murdered archaeologists that were excavating a king’s burial site. “Deep Cover” centered on a Soviet spy ring who kidnapped an engineer on a sub and stole classified data. “The Silk Trap” focused on a Congressman who was being blackmailed after cheating on his wife during a beauty contest. “My Friend, The Enemy” was about an Italian reporter who stumbles upon a plot to kidnap a Middle Eastern princess. And the season finale, “A Death in the Family” found McGarrett irate when one of his men is killed in the line of duty. He had to turn to an organized crime boss to get justice for him.
I’ve been watching the updated version of the show, and they’re completely different animals. Where the original was irrevocably centered around McGarrett, the new one is a bit more ensemble from what I’ve seen. The tone of the new one is also lighter than its predecessor. The formula for the show is good, though: an elite unit dealing with high profile criminals in an exotic setting elevated it above more pedestrian procedurals. It’s a safe bet that shows like Magnum, Miami Vice and Silk Stalkings among others borrowed heavily from it. Five-O also wasn’t heavily serialized, which lent itself to attracting new viewers. The show’s use of notable guest stars, such as Stephen Boyd, Mark Lenard, Jean Simmons, Kurt Russell, Soon Tek-Oh and Luciana Paluzzi in Season 10 alone also probably added to its appeal. The show was representative of its time and one of the more popular crime shows in history. I could watch it, although catching this season’s episodes didn’t necessarily make me want to go out and buy more season sets. The show’s been syndicated for decades. That’s just as a good a way to check it out.
Episodes are in standard 4:3 with English mono. After having perused comments on Amazon, I’ve discovered that apparently this season’s episodes weren’t remastered as the previous nine were. So the quality compared with them is supposedly way down. As I haven’t seen those, I can’t comment to that. The episodes looked and sounded okay to me, about what I’d expect from a 33-year-old show. But if you’ve been collecting the seasons on this, you should probably beware. There are no special features.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars