By Wayne Harada
“Hawaii Five-0” settles into its Monday slot on CBS (KGMB9), with the second episode making its debut at 9 p.m. Sept. 27 on CBS (KGMB9).
Buzz has been mostly positive — finally, a show that’s filmed in Hawaii, and showcases the Islands as we live and know it (even with an overdose of crash-boom-pow chases and crashes).
The negative is that the show does not yet reflect Island ways and folks. With probably six or seven episodes already in the can, it’s time to flash the yellow caution sign about the scripts — and the need to fill the gap in conveying the Island-ness of Honolulu.
The awkwardness of a Kukui High School mention (changed from Kahuku, in the earlier preview version, equally clumsy in the context of the pilot) and the tentative deployment of pidgin, called "bird" by the writers, are early indicators of cluelessness or recklessness, or a combination of both.
The writing staff is based on the West Coast, not here. Therein lies a part of the problem. Maybe a writer or two should come live here for a skosh, to breathe the air, eat at Zippy’s, surf at Canoes or watch the curls at Pipeline, slurp Matsumoto shave ice, peruse Doug Simonson’s “Pidgin to Da Max” book, read the script of Lisa Matsumoto’s “Once Upon One Time” or Lee Cataluna’s “Da Mayah,” learn a little bit about Hawaiian culture, embrace hula at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel or Kaiulani Hotel, sit in on an Augie T stand-up, experience a vintage Rap Reiplinger CD or DVD, listen to an Amy Hanaiali’i, Raitea Helm or Brothers Cazimero CD, drive through the tunnels of H3 and H2, see the splendors of the Pali and Hanauma Bay, wear an aloha shirt and slippahs, sniff and savor the wonders of malasadas at Leonard’s or Champion’s, get caught in the H1/H2 gridlock in morning commute, read the Star-Advertiser, watch Hawaii News Now.
In other words, get immersed. Taste it, feel it, breathe it, hear it, drive it, swallow it, adore it ... to understand it all.
Frommer’s, Fodor’s, Zagat and Gayot can provide backup for orientation, but there’s keen advantage to actually experiencing some of it ... especially if you’re gonna write about it for cast to utter and the viewers to digest.
Go figure, the four key actors really don’t know Hawaii, though Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho has lived here during his tenure with ABC’s “Lost” — but honestly, he is not genuinely local. If he and Alex O’Loughlin as Steve McGarrett, Scott Caan as Danny “Danno” Williams and Grace Park as Kono Kalakaua are to be the faces of “Five-0” and Hawaii, getting to know the city and the state, and the pulse of what we do and why, are valuable assets in the big picture. Presumably, if “Five-O” earns its stripes as a multi-season show, everyone — writers in particular — need to soak up all there is to know about Honolulu and Hawaii.
The original “Hawaii Five-0,” starring Jack Lord as McGarrett, was clearly a vehicle for its centerpiece actor; the reboot is delightfully an ensemble piece and potentially could emerge as equals to the “CSI” and “NCIS” hits on CBS.
The original had remarkable in-jokes and visual/aural asides that showed the writers knew their turf, hoping the audience would pick up on the subtle tactics.
For instance, the original villain, Wo Fat (played by Khigh Dheigh) was named after the fabled Chinatown eatery, whose sign still hangs at King and Hotel Streets. That name was introduced in the 1968 pilot — and McGarrett’s chief nemesis also was a key in the closing show in 1980
The Kono Kalakaua character, originated by Zulu, was mildly of an homage to prevalent Hawaiian names that began with K’s around town (which newcomers can’t pronounce, what with the barrage of k’s) with a nod to perhaps the main avenue in Waikiki, named after King David Kalakaua.
Chin Ho Kelly, the role originally played by Kam Fong Chun, is inspired by the late financier Chinn Ho, whose entrepreneurial skills — founder of Capital Investment Company, owner of the Ilikai Hotel (coincidentally the site of that iconic opening scene in the original “Five-0”) and onetime owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin — occasionally led folks to call him the “Chinese Rockefeller.”
In one original episode, the town paper was prophetically called the Star-Advertiser, referring to and merging the then stand-alone papers, the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and the Honolulu Advertiser.
Heck, even I was mentioned in one original season episode and pictured in another. In the fourth episode, one of the characters was named Senator Harada, a reference to a certain entertainment editor at that time; in another episode, my photo was used as one of four or five in a crime lineup. (No, I did nothing bad — just provide a photo).
One more thing: Wish the show will tune in and utilize Island music as part of its supportive songs to enhance scenes. I know, I know, hip-hop and rap speak to young audiences; but it’s not only valid, but valuable, to expose and embrace the heartbeat and soul of Island musicians and singers. Think Bruddah Iz, Keali’i Reichel, Brother Noland, Willie K, even Cecilio and Kapono.
The original series had brief segments of Danny Kaleikini performing at the Kahala Hilton’s Hala Terrace; maybe the renewbie can write a scene around the “Magic of Polynesia” spectacle at the Ohana Waikiki Beachcomber or the “Creation” revue at the Princess Kaiulani’s Ainahau showroom. Helps the visitor industry, connects with the viewership.
This sense of community, of people and places that represent the multi-elements of Hawaii, would add realism and substance and atmosphere that locals will recognize and visitors will remember from their travels here.
The second episode, I presume, will reveal how the “Hawaii Five-0” cop unit gets its name. Like the Morton Stevens theme song retained in the reboot, it’s all about branding.