By Wayne Harada
With two more new episodes of its third season on the agenda this and next Monday, amid disappointing and dwindling viewership, CBS’ “Hawaii Five-0” faces a fourth season with challenges galore, the least of which is rebuilding its fan base and improving viewership.
“He Welo ʻOhana (Family Business)," this week's (May 13) show, brings back Doris McGarrett (Christine Lahti) who tries with the help of son Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) to retrieve an incriminating microfilm, while Kono (Grace Park) finds her life in jeopardy as she zooms in on beau Adam (Ian Anthony Dale), who has Yakuza ties.
"Aloha, Malama Pono (Farewell and Take Care)," the season finale on May 20, finds McG making a shocking discovery during a visit to Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos), and a terrorist detainee supposedly on a transport plane to Hawaii, is missing — though four bodies are aboard.
These two shows may not resolve the issue that the series is broken and needs fixing.
But loose threads should be tidied up, to prep for next year. Will there be major changes — unexpected story twists, new revelations, tighter and more credible plots — as producers huddle during the hiatus leading to the fall season?
We’ve flagged and nagged about the large and ineffective stable of marginal characters in this space, some new and some recurring, and the outrageous plots that insult common intelligence. The Hawaii-based procedural is fiction, but more often than not, its reality is laced with far-fetched and unbelievable situations. Flying to Korea in copter has been just one of the truth-stretching absurdities; worse, that reality show tie-in was messy and miserable; much of this kind of shameful nonsense should be halted.
Will the show take stock and reel in or cut characters, erasing some roles in the role ahead? Will there be a demise of one or two recurring roles that have clogged the pipeline this year?
Most importantly, who in the CBS hierarchy can lasso the plot issues and help reshape and rejuvenate the series to its season one glory? Or is that an impossible task at this point?
Some people and practices to contemplate:
• Mama McGarrett: She’s been mostly a question mark and certainly a distraction in season three. Perhaps she should be sent to pasture; and banned from flashbacks. In reality, actress Lahti had committed to do a new NBC show, “Beverly Hills Cop,” but the show’s pilot (with Eddie Murphy in a recurring role) was not picked up and consequently is DOA. Please; let her disappear, alive or otherwise, and let’s all move on.
• Wo Fat: McG’s nemesis has been ineffective and largely elusive. With all else that needs attention (like creating interesting and inventive plot lines for the weekly crew on hand). Dacascos is a local, so it was a valid idea to bring him on as the Wo Fat antagonist. With his character badly burned and injured in the most recent episode, he, too, should expire. Besides, he still has a gig as the chairman of the Food Network’s “Iron Chef” reality show, where his physicality gets plenty of exposure.
• Catherine: Michelle Borth’s dual purpose — a working Navy Intelligence colleague of McG and his established main squeeze — has been comprised too often. Like last week, Kono asked her to illegally share data on her Yakuza beau. If that situation should recur, Catherine should tell Kono where to go. And learn the “no” word. Characters should have some ethics, after all.
• Exes: The frequent presence of former wives, husbands, future girlfriends, bosses, sisters and fathers should be halted. Or at least minimized. But routinely. backstories that become story arcs simply drag down the real gist of “Five-0:” Fight, explore, resolve crime incidents and tales; forget the family ties.
• Remaking old “Five-0” episodes: No more. The Ed Asner experience to recreate and shadow a vintage show didn’t work. If anything, viewers want the passion and the power of storytelling from the original, but revved up and formatted for the current audience, not retelling something old. If viewers truly want an orig, it’s still in indication — dated but certainly holding its own.
• Time slot: Though “Five-0” is rumored to move from its Monday night spot to a Friday template where ratings don’t matter as much and shows generally wind up in the graveyard (one writer calls Friday TVs “glue factory,” because old battle horses go there to die), it’s still firm at 9 p.m. Monday (10 p.m. Mainland), where its chief competitor will continue to be ABC’s “Castle,” which has generally been the procedural attracting more viewers. NBC’s “Revolution,” the potentially powerful drama with an unfortunate and ill-fated absence on the radar for a couple of months, is moving to 9 p.m. Wednesdays. So if “Five-0” retains its Monday residency, its new NBC competition will be “The Blacklist,” a new show starring James Spader as the world’s most wanted criminal who mysteriously turns himself in and is willing to name names of everyone he’s worked with, but only to a new FBI agent played by Megan Boone with whom he apparently has no connection.
CBS clearly was obligated to give a free season four pass to “Five-0,” which needs about 100 episodes for that TNT syndication deal beginning next year and producing lucrative bucks for the network. The finale of season three will bring the total to 71, so a full-fourth may still fall short of the 100 shows; can't imagine a fifth year, unless there's vast improvement from top to bottom of the ranks, on and off camera.
If the network and the cast and the show producers genuinely yearn for more years of renewals and an extended syndication life, the only way is to improve wattage on the stories, clear out the clutter, and go full throttle to regain the numbers and amass more viewers.
The network has said precious little about the declining ratings and embarrassing tales shared week after week. It’s time somebody in the hierarchy take notice and take charge.
“Five-0” has been struggling, with no apparent leadership or voice to fix what’s broken.