Show and Tell Hawai'i

Can 'Hawaii Five-0' rebound and recapture its sizzle?

September 29th, 2012

The worrisome performance of CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0,” in its third-season launch last Monday (Sept. 24) night, is a wake-up call for all concerned: the producers, the writers, the actors, even the audience.
“Five-0,” which had been averaging 12 million viewers a week (according to exec producer Peter Lenkov), dropped to 8.06 million — as low as it’s ever gotten — slipping it third place in the 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Mainland) slot. ABC’s “Castle” was No. 1 with a solid 10.45 million and NBC’s promising newbie “Revolution” with 9.45 million, was No. 2 with a very enviable debut. (The TV ratings figures have been readjusted from preliminary reports).
The HF0 fanship has been cheering and supporting the reboot, with aloha to spare at Sunset on the Beach, where the CBS series has previewed the first episode for three consecutive years.
Now it’s time to pause the fawning and reflect on the reality: what happened? The viewership for H50 was disappointing, the pits. Did the Sunset crowd, which saw the Monday episode, skip it in prime time?
The show’s slippage could be based on a couple of factors: folks who regularly support “Castle” and “Five-0” did some test-driving with “Revolution” a highly regarded newcomer with its theme of an America without electrical power and a lawlessness state; curiosity in “Castle’s” developing love relationship between its two leads in teaser ads resulted in loyalty buzz and steadfast support; the addition of yet another H50 character — Mama Doris McGarrett — in a community that’s becoming increasing cluttered with new folks who don’t necessarily provide chemistry or longevity might have been raised the profile of H50 a skosh.
In the past, we’ve seen Papa McG and sister McG. Familial fatigue, perhaps?
Since “Five-0” is filmed in Honolulu, we all take ownership and pride when it does well; we support it, even when it stumbles; we hurt, if it begins to wobble and wither; we worship its stars, who have become part-time residents; we know the series helps improve our see-sawing economy and community. Mostly, we’re grateful they’re all here. Win-win for everyone, right?
But there’s a lot at stake. H50 needs a quick-fix Plan B to reverse the low trending. Sure, the opening show may be an exception rather than the rule. The last one out could eventually cross the finish line first.
But face it: the competitors include appealing lead-in reality shows; and “Revolution” seems to tout surprises and the unexpected, following “The Voice.” “Castle” seems rooted in the traditional procedural (if it’s not broken, don’t fix it), foxtrotting in after “Dancing With the Stars.” H50 continues to experiment with new characters, extracted from a fabricated past, its lead-in shows are sitcoms "2 Broke Girls" and "Mike and Molly."
But there’s no reason why “Five-0” can’t rebound and recapture its sizzle.
With McGarrett and company filming since July, perhaps as many as eight or nine shows already are in the can.
Still, a midway checklist might work: Declutter by eliminating or certainly reducing excessive background character details; conceive story lines that grip and attract established and new audiences; downplay or freeze story arcs that impede efficient week-to-week adventures; prioritize character development only to add relevant specifics.
This season, we’re expecting McGarrett to get warm and cozy with a love interest from the past; Chin alarmingly lost his wife, introduced last season via a wedding; Kono seems to be getting close and personal with a main squeeze we’ve already seen; Danno retains feelings about his ex who is the mother of his beloved daughter. With these plot devices, the imbalanced focus seems to be on personal lives rather than solving and fighting crime.
We’ve already seen William Baldwin in a return cameo. Ed Asner recurs in this Monday’s (Oct. 1) episode. Does that mean Jimmy Buffett might do a hana hou?
And what’s up with Wo Fat? He flits in and out, providing some menace but he’s still not the oily snake of a villain he should be. And whoa, Mama McG factors in the Wo Fat complexity? And Kamekona? A big guy with a big heart, yes, but perhaps his shrimp truck shtick has run out of fuel.
And: Enough of the silly Shelburne issue. Solve it in one more go-round. Then bury it. And move on.
The carguments between McGarrett and Danno — they hook ‘em, Danno — are snappy snits and snarls that should continue. And happily, McG looks McGreat — the hiatus obviously was invigorating. Alex O'Loughlin's personal life (a girlfriend, a baby due in a month, his son in school here) means blissful times off camera.
So why can’t this energy and manner infiltrate and transcend into the weekly watch?
With “Five-0” destined to be picked up by TNT (summer 2014, at $2 million-plus per episode) for USA-type cable syndication enjoyed by “NCIS” and “NCIS: Los Angeles” and the “Law and Order” franchise, the show won’t be immediately canceled; however, the commitment needs a stable of episodes to make the association profitable for a truly long shelf life.
So: “Five-0” vitally needs new blood, new vigor, new excitement. Focus on the main four, establish scripts with credibility and inventiveness.
It’s a matter of the three Rs: rethink, recoil, rebound.

16 Responses to “Can 'Hawaii Five-0' rebound and recapture its sizzle?”

  1. theDman:

    Good post Wayne, very thoughtful.

    When we talk about characters, storylines, conflicts, etc., we are talking about writing in general. This show has a disturbing trend of "trying out" actors/characters to see if they "connect" with the audience, especially female actors. The burden is actually on the writer to make that character an integral part of the story, not the actor. Therefore, the heart of the issue with H50 is the writing. Big-name guest stars can add appeal, but not a whole lot. If the story doesn't measure up, it doesn't matter who you bring in for that week.

    The Wo Fat conflict is overdone and should be abandoned or put on the back-burner, it's getting silly. Kamekona serves as a humorous diversion and that's ok. I personally do NOT want to know McGarrett's personal love life, and that is clearly being written in, in an attempt to connect with the female fans of the show, but I think it really will become nothing more than a distraction in the storyline. Romantic interests for the women, bombs, car chases and bullets flying everywhere for the guys. That's not real deep. The writers need to get past that level. Can they?

  2. Manoa_Fisherman:

    Simple, move H50 to Tuesday nights after NCIS:LA.

  3. TOMMY D:


  4. Pat Stanek:

    Enough of Shelbourne and Wo Fat. Get back to the nitty gritty. Look back at the old Hawaii 5-0 to see what worked.

  5. alavenia:

    CBS has been promoting heavily Monday night comedy non-stop for some time and never mention Hawaii Five-0 after, I believe that hurt the show since many people didn't know was back. I blame CBS for little promotion and for having a drama action show after a comedy night!! I was at the SOTB premiere and came home Monday night in time to watch Hawaii Five-0. I am quite sure that the fans that flew to Hawaii to meet the cast and watch the premiere on the beach wouldn't miss the premiere on TV, we love the show and we are worried with such decline in the rates!

  6. Dolores(Auntie Clic Clic) Treffeisen:

    Hi Wayne,

    Another great write up for Five-O). Yes maybe changing the day would help. I just don't understand how they get the ratings for these show. I have been watching for over 60 years and no one in my household growing up and now have ever been called to see what we were watching on TV. Just can't figure out how it's done. Also so many friends of mine also said the same thing-they never have been contacted either!

    Just have a feeling there's something between McGarrett's mom and Wo Fat. Hey maybe she had a fling with his dad and she's also Wo Fat's mom. That's why neither of them killed each other off in Monday's premier!

  7. Michelle:

    Thanks for the thoughtful article. I don't fully agree with the prescription, though. I for one don't want more crime solving and less character stuff, if by that you mean a CSI-style procedural. I watch for the core characters (including Kamekona!) and their interactions, not the crime stories. When I talk to friends who don't watch, it's because they found the main plots (of early S1) too unbelievable, and gave up. (Wo Fat's rescue would be another example of that, as cool as it was to watch.) I agree the big arcs have become rather confusing even to regular viewers. I also agree they've not been good at introducing new characters like Joe and Lori. McG's mom was an exception IMO -- she's great.

    But yes, if Monday night at 10 doesn't have room for 3 hits, then move 5-0 to be against some horrible reality TV or to Tuesday nights with the NCIS lead-in. There'd be no shame in that!

  8. katie:

    Well I have heard this:

    Remember how awful the numbers looked for Hawaii Five-0 on Tuesday? With L+3 data, its 18-49 rating leaps 44 percent. Alooooo-ha!

    So there is nothing wrong with the new season, all 12 milion people will look again but not on a monday. I live in Holland and I want to look Hawaii Five-0 in the weekend when I don't have to work and can drink some wine and enjoy. Monday is a terrible evening.
    Mc Garret looked sexier than ever. I was only said Malia had to die, that was a wrong
    decision. And I don't like the mother.

  9. Wayne Harada:

    This response was sent to my personal email; sharing by including it here...

    Deborah Nantais

    7:20 AM (2 hours ago)

    Totally agree w/u! The writers need to take a good look at the characters and give them more "dimension"..I think the potential for continuing sagas for each character is there,but somehow the writers don't make the actors really then they need to turn to younger,more sexy characters...not Christine Lahti,but Xtina!I think you would agree ...the show tries to show off the "sexiness" of the Islands but the actors need to show some "skin"...and then go catch the bad guys...get younger guest actors,singers on the show and the ratings will skyrocket!...just my 2 cents! aloha from Kauai

  10. Wayne Harada:

    Another batch of responses ...

    Liz Hamilton

    11:42 AM (22 hours ago)

    You can save the show. Tell the producers to reboot the Steve/Danno dynamic to stop this silly little pissy bickering and Steve's character's morphing into Danno's little boy friend.
    Daniel Dae Kim is the male role model in the show--superb. Grace Ksm's romance with the bad bit--full of story potential and tension.

    Get Danno's kid to Vegas. Bye bye.
    Have Alex get his mojo back (refer to his role on Moonlight). Stop having him listen to Danni bitching, moaning And Scolding. Have him tell Danno he is full
    Of it, and to be a man and that he is not going to spend valuable screen time in their annoying little
    to me
    Get better writers who will not waste their and our time trying to get Steve and Danno to be one with each other.

    Above all, stop Alex from studying acting from Scott Caan. They are different guys and they are starting to morph into one. Steve should be very different from Scott's interpretationof Danno, but Alex is starting to ape Scott's speech patterns, mannerisms and physical actions.

    I would like to use you as a conduit to the producers of this show to ask that they cease the Danni/ Steve cutesy bickering that dominates the show. Have these guys act like guys and not little scolds. I only watch for the scenery now and fast forward through their little act. McGarrett invariably looks weak and silly because this, and Danno looks like a grumbling little old man.

  11. katie:

    Again, there is nothing wrong woth the characters, Steve played very well, he was angry at his mother and upset, great actor. It was just the time that was wrong, most of the people looked later, excuse me for my English, I am Dutch.

  12. Jodee:

    Completely agree with this article. Focus on the core 4 and the action, humor and bromance from season 1. Show the character interaction and growth within the team and friends like Max, Kamekona and Duke. Drop the 5th member idea and get rid of the girlfriends or at least get one that has chemistry. Lori and Cath have no chemistry with McGarrett. Lori last year and now Cath this year are being forcibly shoved to the forefront at the expense of Danny, Chin and Kono. Cath was a friend with benefits and now she is suddenly integrated into everyone's lives. Drop this soap element as well as the mother back from the dead. You put it succinctly, declutter. Have Cath be recurring at most, definitely no need for her to be a regular. Again, it takes time away from the core 4 or at least, Danny, Chin and Kono. Focus on tighter writing and unpredictable and compelling crime of the week stories. Stop the McGarrett only spotlight and end the Danny/Rachel melodrama. Let us know the core 4 and their interpersonal stories without the soap elements. As you said declutter, rethink, recoil and rebound.

  13. AniMatsuri:

    I don't know. Monkeying around with the way things are can scare away as many fans as it it might bring in. I like Cath she's a better fit than Lori but probably wasn't available due to a show the actress that plays her was working on last year.

    Moving the show to a less competitive time slot might be a better idea. Tuesdays are not likely since Vegas has been doing well coming after the NCIS shows. Sunday probably best shot since all shows premiered very weakly ratings wise.

  14. katie093:

    Different Katie, but didn't want to give up my name. OMG--the ratings are just as bad this week. Haven't watched yet since the show is no longer must-see live for me any longer, but rather later in the week while doing other things at the same time. Wayne makes great points--DECLUTTER.

  15. izulu:

    Rethink, de-clutter and "focus on the main four" is right. The series already has additional characters in "Kamekona," Masi Oka, Mark Dacascos, "Fong," "Duke Lukela" et al. Build on those...or more locals would be nice.

    Killing off so many "pivotal" characters is getting distracting. That being said, I'm NOT a fan of Christine Lahti and Michelle Borth. Don't have to kill them off--just have them "disappear" the way Mary McGarrett did.

    I'm a fan of the original series, but must admit that my interest in this program is waning. If it wasn't being filmed in Hawaii, I probably wouldn't be watching.

  16. Jeffie Jochumsen:

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