By Wayne Harada
It’s showdown time for “Hawaii Five-0,” now fully vested for the full 22-show season on CBS and heading into Nielsen’s November sweeps, which starts this week (Oct. 28) and continues to Nov. 24.
Launched and bandied as the No. 1 fall TV series, the filmed-in-Hawaii reboot tripped up in the fifth episode last Monday, becoming the second banana in its Monday night time slot — behind ABC’s “Castle.” So there’s a lot of work to be done, to raise the viewership and ramp up enthusiasm to season-opener levels.
How? Some thoughts:
* Tighter scripts, with attention paid to interaction of characters. The banter between Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danny “Danno” Williams (Scott Caan), is getting weary, even tad boring. McGarrett has yet to prove he has leadership finesse; and is that answer-back Danno attitude possibly a case of insubordination? And “Book ‘em Danno” is infrequently uttered — what twice or thrice, since the series was launched — and not like the original Jack Lord-James McArthur original, where the utterance was expected at least one during an episode. Further, Caan is spinning circles around O’Loughlin, with his spitfire wit and goofy charm; O’Loughlin’s sex appeal (remember, he was in bed and shirtless in last week’s episode), didn’t register high in the ratings meter, so maybe he should keep his skin — and tattoos — covered. But remember, O’Loughlin is top banana, drawing a salary of $100,000 per week, compared to Caan’s $80,000, so some paycheck adjustment just might be in the making.
* Better focus on the ensemble. Clearly, there’s the side story of Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), the tainted cop, who recommended his sexy cousin Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) to complete the four wheels in the “Five-0” machine, but both have yet to strut their stuff. OK, Park has brought grace and dignity to the bikini, but does she have to be skimpily dressed so frequently? And are “Lost” fans losing interest in “Five-0,” because of the lack of a story spin for Kim? Are “Battlestar Galactica” boosters of Park looking elsewhere in the TV universe? Maybe their visibility quotient parallels their payroll ranking.
* A less frenetic pace. The show is perpetual motion, with chases (in cars, on foot, on boats) and trigger-happy shooters (handguns and machine guns), augmented by rock/hip-hop sounds. Can’t some of the crime be combated by the mind, instead of by mighty weapons? And when will the Hawaiian sounds — there are some upbeat local chants and popular, hip tunes, you know? — going to be part of the aural wallop? Is the tempo too fierce and fast for the calm and lethargic nature of the Islands? The show still mirrors the pace of “CSI: Miami,” with flamingos replacing palms and high-rises subbing for the Koolaus.
* More gorgeous Island ’scapes. Show us more scenics — like the chopper aerial shots, of the emerald seas; like the waterfalls and rainforest-like terrain of the undisturbed Molokai. Kaneohe Bay, Maunalua Bay, Hanauma Bay, the Pali, the sandy stretches of Lanikai and Ala Moana beach parks. The eye candy brings relief to that busy, dizzy pace.
* Cultural sensitivity and awareness, to reflect Honolulu. As previously mentioned in this blog, boosting cultural elements to make “Hawaii Five-0” reflect the Island lifestyle, albeit updated to contemporary times, would enrich the show tremendously. A luau; a sashaying hula or pulsating Samoan fire knife dance; a bon dance (OK, it’s out of season snow, but can easily be replicated with young and old in kimono, around which crime can play). Lunchtime at Bishop Street or Ala Moana Center. And schools; geez, cops are called to schools in real life, why not in fictionalized Hawaii?
It’s no surprise that the network — which had ordered an initial 13-show season — rewarded “Five-0” with what the industry calls “the back nine,” the indicator that it has faith in its product and is fully committed to its stars.
With about half of the already-filmed inventory now airing, and the production schedule approaching the half-way point, it’s important to get the characters established, and their markers in place.
We’re going to finally meet Danno’s wife Rachel, played by Australian
Claire Van Der Boom (from “The Pacific”), so there will more familial issues concerning their daughter Grace. Till now, all Danno’s done is to rant about her and her ways, between his gripes with McGarrett. Is she all that he’s made up to be? Will she and he lock horns?
We’re still wondering the relevance of introducing Mary Ann McGarrett, sister of the detective, played by Taryn Manning — kind of a needless distraction. Kelly Hu will get her launch shortly, as an aide to the governor; maybe she should be an evil nemesis to McGarrett, the way she haunted the folks on both "NCIS" and "NCIS: Los Angeles." More juice for the viewing party.
Meanwhile, Chin Ho still is awaiting a key story line; some resolution to his tarnished cop reputation. Kono’s b.f., a white dude, gets introduced this week, and he’s going to be a thorn, too, if his presence continues.
If all this is overwhelming and you need to sort it all out, you can at least get a glimpse of the first episode of “Five-0,” themed “Ohana,” which is set to be retelevised by CBS at 8 p.m. Nov. 13 (an hour later on the Mainland).
About the November sweeps:
Sweeps time generally means the network tries its best to haul out its best shows and specials to boost its ratings during prime time; bigger ratings mean higher ad rates (and revenues). While this ranking competition runs a month, those with Nielsen diaries — weeklong books that reflect what shows are watched, and hence, rated — will post their habits only for one week of the month.
“Ko‘olauloa,” this week’s episode, again features Masi Oka as Max Bergman, the bizarre piano-playing forensics expert. Surf’s up, in a show involving the murder of a honcho of a surfing company, drawing Kono back into action (the CEO was her surf mentor) and exploring the North Shore culture. Maybe the show can create a ratings tsunami with footage of Sunset Beach waves. Well, one can only hope.