“Hawaii Five-0”: Ride the wave

By Tom Comi

The making of popular TV shows into movies (mostly bad) is nothing new in Hollywood, but it’s not very often that a popular television program like Hawaii Five-0 is recreated decades later for the small screen. And even though that in itself makes the drama unique, it is only a fraction of what really makes it special.

Simply put, Hawaii Five-0 (Mondays, 10 pm ET) is one of the most exciting shows on all of television right now, and this is coming from a diehard fan of the original that ran from 1968-1980. Like many people who grew up watching actors Jack Lord (Steve McGarrett), James MacArthur (Danny “Danno” Williams), Kam Fong Chun (Chin Ho Kelly) and Zulu (Kono Kalakaua) fight crime, I was very skeptical when I heard CBS had greenlit a new version.

Not only was the original sacred, but this was kind of new ground. It’s not uncommon for TV shows to be made into movies, as evidenced by The Fugitive, The Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo, Miami Vice, Bewitched, The Twilight Zone, Sex and the City and Dukes of Hazzard. But how often has a great TV show been made into a great TV show? Look no further than the failed NBC remakes of Knight Rider and The Bionic Woman to realize that CBS really had its work cut out.

Fortunately, the creators of this new version are very smart. They realized they could stay true to the idea of the original while making it feel fresh. Through car chases, explosions, shoot-outs and very cool technology, they’ve created the kind of action you would expect in a blockbuster movie instead of a one-hour drama. And even though that is enough to draw viewers, it really is the casting that makes this work.

Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin takes the lead as Steve MacGarrett, and he does a great job of making the role his own. Both he and Lord see McGarrett as relentless and direct, but there is a dark, brooding feel to O’Loughlin’s portrayal. Stepping in for his sidekick Danno is Golden Globe-nominee Scott Caan, known to most entertainment fans from the Ocean’s Eleven franchise and Entourage. Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) is effectively subtle as Chin Ho Kelly, and the butt-kicking Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica, The Border) offers some youth and femininity to the cast (her character’s change from male to female is the biggest deviation from the original).

Nick Lachey and Vanessa Minnillo guest star in tonight’s episode about wealthy college students whose luxury boat is hijacked by pirates. Sounds like the perfect kind of job for Steve McGarrett and his team to tackle, doesn’t it?

Photo credit: © 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. Credit: Mario Perez