By Wayne Harada
Alex O'Loughlin (Steve McGarrett), far left, confronts Chi McBride (new character Capt. Lou Grover), near left, as Dennis Chun (Sgt. Duke Lukela), center, looks on in this scene from "Hawaii Five-O's" season opener.
Chi McBride — do you remember him on the short-lived “Golden Boy” drama? — just might emerge as the “new” character to watch on the first episode of the fourth season of “Hawaii Five-0,” premiering Friday (Sept. 27) on CBS.
Remember, it’s a new time slot (8 p.m. instead of 9 p.m. here) on a new night (Fridays instead of Mondays) and the first year for the CBS series to be anchored at the Hawaii Film Studio lot on the slopes of Diamond Head.
A recurring role played by McBride on the struggling reboot may not be all that startling; heck, so many newbies, some admittedly unnecessary with fabricated ties to the current cast, some initially fascinating but overstaying their welcome — have been introduced so far.
But this one — a SWAT police offer named Capt. Lou Grover — just might have the mettle to matter.
Why? It’s the second character extracted from the Jack Lord-era “Five-0,” from episode No. 165 entitled “The Hostage” — in which Capt. Grover, an old-school cop, agitates Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), who, at that time, was a no-frills, new-school investigator. The segment first appeared on March 11, 1975.
But as perceived by current producer Peter Lenkov, McBride as Grover is supposedly a bad-ass Chicago cop assigned to “Five-0” as the SWAT officer who rankles McGarrett’s chains, with little or no regrets.
Perhaps this is just the invisible vinegar Alex O’Loughlin’s McGarrett needs to maintain his brand of orderliness and control, a demeanor which might have been diluted over the first three seasons by the constant and ongoing bickering/nagging bro-romance with his Danno Williams (Scott Caan) teammate.
McBride brings attitude along with agitation to stir the pot, and he’ll be a notable ingredient in this season’s playout. I’d put my money on McBride as the character to watch, the one you’ll remember, for better or worse. There’s been no confirmation that this will be a recurring role, but it's one that should come back.
Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) appears on the new episode, too, picking up where season three’s finale left off. But face it; as an antagonist of McG, he's never been the menace he should be.
For his part, Lenkov previously jumpstarted a flashback character — as a matter of fact, an entire episode from the original “Five-0” template — when Ed Asner (Lou Grant on the “Mary Tyler Moore” series) — who played the role “then” and in the retelling, with the producers meticulously recreating the action, point by point, scene by scene. Though it wasn’t a ratings hit, it certainly was a curiosity and risky proposition, earning an A for effort, if nothing else.
The upcoming show, entitled “Aloha ke kahi I ke kahi,” Hawaiian for “We Need Each Other,” forces McG to break the law to locate a kidnapped Catherine Rollins (Michelle Borth) when gunmen storm H50 headquarters, compromising the safety and whereabouts of Kono Kalakaua (Grace Park) and beau Adam (Ian Anthony Dale), situated somewhere in Hong Kong. Kinda like the old gang going through familiar motion and expected commotion.
But with McBride's arrival, he's no carryover; best of all, he isn’t being somebody’s father or brother or ex.
His presence, in his debut, hopefully will ease the other problematic add-ons so far this year.
Since we’ve previously been introduced to Danno’s dad (real life dad James Caan), this year his mom (played by Melanie Griffith) makes her debut in what presumably will evolve into a recurring role. The show might have booked, instead, her hubby, Antonio Banderas, who, at least, would bring an ethnic, exotic element to crime or crime-fighting here, devoid of family ties.
Mom’s not been a good word on the show, after all; think Mama McG (Christine Lahti). She was mostly dullsville in a story arc that plagued the storytelling flow and she brought hell and headaches to sonny boy McG. Whether she’ll be a show or no-show this year, remains, well, mum. The actress had banked on a new pilot, which was not picked up, so presumably is available for hire.
We previously also have been introduced to John McGarrett (William Sadler), Dad McG, who died in the pilot episode, but managed to reappear in flashbacks a couple of times since.
So what’s next? A dad for Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim)? Perhaps portrayed by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa? And a mom for Kono Kalakaua, maybe enacted by Nancy Kwan? This progression to expand back stories of the lead characters has created unwanted clutter and caused unneeded detours into the closets of the “Five-0” team since the invented roles have been short on dynamics, long on screen time.
Oh, one more kin will be introduced this season: McG’s aunt, portrayed by Carol Burnett, who figures in a Thanksgiving-themed show in November. She’s a favorite of yesteryear’s TV viewers, so skewers older in demographics, so her inclusion as a new relative seems to reach out for older viewers. Does this portend an uncle down the way? Yikes.
Also signed to guest roles: Daryl Hannah, Tim Daly and Nick Jonas, not exactly names appealing to the show’s key 18 to 49 demographics. A mermaid from “Splash” (OK, she was in “Kill Bill,” too); Daly also is an older TV face, who’ll play a Texas ranger; and an ex-Disney Channel boy bander from The Jonas Brothers are so, well, sorta yesterday. But the Jonas clan also will perform in the annual Sunset on the Beach premiere of “Five-0” Thursday night (Sept. 26) preceding the Friday premiere here and nationally.
But back to McBride: in the end, he just might be the soul “Five-0” needs to shape and plan for the future. Best of all, he brings no baggage; he is relative-free.
Book ‘em, Lenkov.