2010 cast: Eye candy meets characters as shallow as tide-out at Waikiki.
Thursday, September 30, 2010 Rochester, NY - "Book 'em Danno, Murder One!", was the oft heard climax of the original Hawaii Five-O television series, that ran from 1968-1980. And as my writing partner, Aaron Wicks, demonstrated last week, one really can use a violent cops and robbers TV show to draw metaphoric socio-cultural parallels between the late-1960's / early-1970's, and our year of the Lord, 2010 (the Lord, not Jack Lord). So, acknowledging the quality and insights gleaned from Mr. Wicks' excellent piece, I will attempt to fill his rather large journalistic shoes, and have at it.
Down and Dirty, meets High and Tech
If you were a fan of the original series, you may recall that unlike other TV shows of its time (Mission Impossible; The Six Million Dollar Man; The Man from U.N.C.L.E.; etc.), Hawaii Five-O of old did not feature much in the way of high tech gadgetry. Jack Lord's Steve McGarrett, and his stable of tough-ass cops (James MacArthur as Danny "Danno" Williams; et. al) were old fashioned shoe leather cops and detectives, who investigated cases--usually featuring at least one murder--utilizing tried and true techniques, made famous in the late-1940's and 1950's film noir, but especially by NBC's "Columbo", starring the acting genius, Peter Falk.
In the original Hawaii Five-O, McGarrett's State Police detectives were above all, principled and highly ethical. They did not stray from the spirit, or the letter of the law, to bust the bad guys. As Mr. Wicks so eloquently pointed out, despite the growing cynicism in the late-60's and early-70's toward nearly all traditional sacred cow institutions, Hawaii Five-O represented a sort of hedge against the cultural tidal wave that was sweeping across America during that period. While Mr. Wicks cites Five-O's intolerance of Hippies and their drug induced illegal activities, just as often an episode in the original series might feature quasi-ordinary individuals (usually but not always men) who, through a series of circumstances, find themselves on the wrong side of the law. This is not to say that these criminal 'button down' types did not possess what in literature would be called a fatal character flaw, but the first series seemed to take a less dim view of otherwise potentially decent people who somehow went astray (usually catastrophically astray).
2010's installment of Hawaii Five-O is ultra-slick, high tech, and merciless toward criminals, other cops and law enforcement institutions, and even, themselves. The new show, like nearly all of TV nowadays, features cookie-cutter characters, interchangeable with other shallow and poorly developed shows; characters as easily replaceable and interchangeable with other lousy TV characters, like so many computer chips in a Blackberry, or an I-Pod.
I struggled to watch episode two of the new series, instantly channel surfing at every commercial break (a bad sign), and often not caring if I made it back to the new Hawaii Five-O in time for the next scene, after another ad starring Flo in those obnoxious 'Progressive Insurance' commercials.
The new show does not cause me one moment of care or concern for anyone in the show, save my secretly delicious desire for one of the criminals to begin systematically blowing away the Five-O cast, so that the show might be canceled before week three. However, besides the aforementioned criticisms, I think the new series is wonderful.
What a Difference a Generation Makes
Briefly, so you do not think Mr. Wicks and I have a Hawaii Five-O fixation (we do), allow me to provide a synopsis of American life--and Five-O fiction--then, and now:
|1968-1975 (the best shows).
||CBS shocks TV America with violent new cop show.
||Nixon beats Humphrey.
|Jack Lord's real name is John Joseph Ryan.
||TV revolutionized by Norman Lear (All in the Family; etc.). Cop & detective shows flourish.
||AFL-NFL merger creates new national past time.
||Hawaii Five-O Pilot: "Full Fathom Five"; 9/26/68.
|Hawaii celebrates decade of statehood: 1969.
||400,000 flood White Lake, NY to check out The Who, Hendrix, and LSD.
|| Civil rights and Women's movement in full swing.
|| My Lai massacre in Vietnam; hundreds of civilians killed by U.S. troops (Nov., 1968).
| U.S. lands on moon; July 20, 1969.
|| Anti-War activists "Chicago 7" on trial for '68 Dem Convention protests (1970).
|| Hawaii Five-O enters third season, 1970-71; ratings skyrocket.
|| Charles Manson & three murderous followers convicted Jan. 25, 1971.
| Swimmer Mark Spitz wins 7 Gold Medals at Munich Olympics ('72)
|| Five-O character Zulu as Kono leaves show; Al Harrington's Ben Kokua joins show (1972).
|| Watergate burglars arrested at DNC H.Q. (June, 1972).
|| Best Five-O episode ever? "One Big Happy Family" airs 10/2/73.
| V.P. Spiro Agnew resigns amid tax evasion charges, Oct. '73.
|| With recent deaths of Jimi Hendrix, J. Joplin, J. Morrison, ML King, and Bobby Kennedy, Rock & Roll, & an era of hope, end.
|| Video Home System (VHS) invented by Matsushita & JVC, 1975.
|| Hawaii Five-0 creator & Exec. Producer Leonard Freeman dies at 53.
|2010 (the first 2-bad shows).
||New Hawaii Five-O premieres; U.S. unemployment at 9.6%
|| Americans realize Bush, Jr. & Obama have bankrupted U.S.
|| World human population stands at 6.8 billion, up from 4 billion in 1974.
| Iran's President Ahmadinejad once again calls for Israel's destruction.
|| Rochester's child poverty rate at 47% of all kids in City; actual, unreported rate may exceed 75%.
|| Tea 'Bagger' Party candidates shock traditional Repubs in primaries; Delaware votes for a tax-evading Witch.
|| U.S. stocks close out September with large increase (is 'double dip' waiting in the wings?).
| 131 A.D. candidate Harry Bronson calls for Mayoral Control; 4-unions consider dumping him.
|| NBC's "The Office" begins final season with Steve Carell. Good run, but show's quality actually died last year.
|| 47th "CSI" show debuts on CBS. Nation dizzy trying to keep up with wooden characters, stiff writing.
|| China now world's biggest polluter; Beijing struggles with hundreds of illegal landfills.
| Midtown Plaza demolition begins; will PAETEC really come? City has no signed contract.
|| WHAM TV-13 goes HD; no noticeable difference.
|| Iran pretends to consider halting uranium enrichment; naive and gullible 'West' buys it.
|| Another bad, and getting worse Fall TV network season commences. Die Monster, Die !
Christopher J. Wilmot served in the Monroe County Legislature for 10 years, and currently is the Producer & Executive Producer of his third feature film, entitled "Lucky", due for worldwide release in 2011.