Show and Tell Hawai'i

WWII show is 'Five-0's' best so far, but not in ratings

December 14th, 2013


Despite a script which resonated with an older audience with detailed historical wartime memories, CBS’ commendable “Hawaii Five-0” episode with a cold case link to World War II internment camps was the season’s best. The program triggered painful memories for some but failed to lasso viewers.

The episode, entitled “Ho’onani Makuakane (Honor Thy Father),” drew more viewers (8.9 million) than ABC’s “Shark Tank” 7.12  million ) in the same Friday night hour (8 p.m. here, 9 p.m. Mainland), but tanked in the key 18 to 49 demographics (1.2 rating for “Five-0,” compared to 2.0 for “Shark Tank”). This plateau — No. 1 in viewers, No. 2 in demo — has been the M.O. in  the overnight Nielsen figures for the Hawaii-based procedural, which this week reflected a demo drop of 20 per cent from 1.5 on Nov. 22 while “Shark” was steady, maintaining its 2.0 ranking.

For the creators of “Five-0,” the dip and the lack smallish  viewership must have been disappointing, since this episode reflected a laudable effort to create a particular brand of storytelling in a cop show’s rigid 42-minute running time. It’s this level of craftsmanship the hurls “Five-0” up a few notches.

The prologue — a fictional recreation of what might have actually happened on the fateful morning of Dec. 7, 1941 — is swift and newsreely, with bombs falling and GIs scattering and Japanese aircraft in the air.

Yes, there’s the use of the “J” word, common during the war, and the recreation of the Honouliuli interment camp, properly described as “Hell Valley,” was prison-like with guard towers, barbed wire and armed soldiers... and innocent Japanese natives unjustly placed there.

The episode, crisply directed by Larry Teng, hit the target with superb writing, though with some obvious and crafty coincidences unlikely in real life, matched by spot-on casting led James Saito as the central figure, David Toriyama, who remembers seeing what he believes was the murder of his grandfather by a wartime soldier and Pearl Harbor survivor Ezra Clark, played by Jack Axelrod.

This was a show with one cargument, and a mild one, between Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) and Danno (Scott Caan), but absolutely no car chases.

Many familiar local faces appear, like Luke Hagi, son of weather man Guy Hagi and Aloha United Way honcho Kim Gennaula, as Young David; Mary Gutzi, as the daughter of George Rigby, a wartime cop;  and Eric Manke, as the grandson possessing the sword previously owned by the murderer of the soldier James Toriyama.

Honor is the working word throughout the show; the script is rich with complications and specifics, tradition and some torment, fuzzy recollections and snappy resolutions. A favored Japanese katana sword has a big role and is key evidence in the cold case; the humiliation of arrest and POW-type treatment reflect the tenure of the times; the early suspect, the solider Clark, has faded memories but while he hated the WWII enemy, he says he didn’t hate Japanese and married a Nippon woman and had a hapa daughter.

Too contrived, however, was the photograph album shot of McGarrett’s grandfather, Steven McGarrett, who was in the Navy during the war; and the ease with which shredded court documents and boxed, arcived evidence, can swiftly solve the case.

Not a spoiler, but yes, the bullet that killed the soldier Toriyama is found when his remains are examined.

A scene with Saito and Chin Ho  (Daniel Dae Kim) had a personal, revealing and humane tone, with Chin always bringing a sense of calm and resolve to the table.

And McG’s declaration to the older David Toriyama, “Soldier to solider, I need to hae you tell me the truth,” was the defining moment of this episode, which made McG go for broke and solve the 70-year-old crime.

Too bad the visibility — which will improve with delayed viewing — was moderate for such a meaningful and wrenching episode. Saito should be Emmy-nominated for this guest appearance.


18 Responses to “WWII show is 'Five-0's' best so far, but not in ratings”

  1. sarah lynn:

    This is the storytelling many of us have been saying the show needs, but you can't have one or two well-written stories per season and expect people to show up. I agree with Wayne that there is a lot of talk about this episode, and people will begin to tune in online. There was no stunt-casting and it was powerful. One quibble, however, and I know there was talk about this last season some. Alex O really needs some acting lessons. And Scott, sometimes, too seems to phone it in lately. And Scott is probably the best actor on the show. It has been painful to watch at times over the last couple of seasons.

  2. Belle:

    This was a powerful episode, well-written, well-acted, well-paced and just all the way around well-done! Honorable and worth the accolades it's receiving. This delicate and difficult subject matter was handled with care and respect. The way the show went between present time and the past was seamless. Beautifully done, touching and really, if all I saw was that last scene of Alex's watery eyes, I'd still count it as a splendid episode. He can say so much with a facial expression. I'm very grateful to the writers and the producers for creating such a wonderful story.

    As for ratings, the drop in demo from last episode was disappointing although not surprising. The entire night was down across the board (aside from Shark Tank). Busy time of year (I know I wasn't home to watch live), no episode for three weeks and little promotion will affect ratings. H50 was still 1st in viewers and 2nd in its time slot (tied with Grimm which went on to continue dropping). Sad showing for Grimm's highly promoted mid-season finale. It took me two days to get through the whole thing.

  3. tom mui:

    I have never placed Five-O (whether Alex O or Jack Lord) in the same category like "A Long Day's Journey into Night". The show is just pure entertainment.

    If you like it, watch it. If you don't, watch something else like Shark Tank.

  4. tom mui:

    I should also add that the episode was well written and well acted showing a dark side of our history, lest we forget.

  5. Mark Kazuo Bradley:

    I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the writers and actors of Hawaii Five-O for the most meaningful episode to date. I was so emotionally moved by this episode that I cried, which for me, is a very rare occurance. More importantly, I was truly impressed by the depth of acting displayed. This was truly a memorable episode about a very painful period in American History. The lessons of World War II; Pearl Harbor; the selfless dedication of those who served our country; and the brutality of the Japanese Internment Camps was efficiently and effectively summarized in this memoriable episode.
    Many thanks.

  6. lu:

    A poignant episode that held my attention, although there were some less than believable moments. Outstanding, stellar performance by James Saito.

  7. Five-O Supporter:

    Best show of the season so far. Just pure storytelling at its best. James Saito was perfect in his role. Excellent. He held a grip on me for the entire show.

    Yes, the ratings did suffer. But that wasn't unexpected. The end of fall season timing for one thing. And the subject matter won't draw in key demographic ratings.

    Just appreciate it for what it was. For me, I would say maybe the best show of the entire series.

  8. frances kakugawa:

    I hope this show is a sign of things to come without all that past violence. Hawaii is a fertile ground for human dignity and aloha and I hope a shift in plot will capture that part of the islands in future shows.
    On a personal level, the show was a catalyst for bringing a family together to talk about their experiences in camp here in Sacramento.

    There is nothing like that thread of humanity to bring a story was seen by the major actors. And yes, Mr. Saito was perfect for the role. Who is he? Would like to know more about him.

  9. Manoa Kahuna:

    I thought it was much, much, better than the usual. You know -- car chase, car arguments, cut to Chevy commercial.

  10. theDman:

    The episode was a good one, the hype was well-deserved. The writing was done by different people. You want to know how the new writers have impacted the show? Watch this episode. Give credit to the network for forcing the writing issue on this production. Also give credit to the actors, they played it very well. It's not easy to be subtle all the way through a show like this, you get this itching to just bust out and give a death performance somewhere to provide some "action", but the cast played it tight and it came out right.

    First off, I want to say that the first thing that caught my eye was the military ceremony and the fact that McGarrett was wearing his uniform correctly, his cover was on and he was clean shaven. That was a clear cut improvement over early episodes where I complained about the sloppy handling of the scenes. If you are going to show people in uniform, make them wear it properly.

    The thought that went into this episode was much more than usual, and it showed. The ratings were not great because of a couple of reasons, it is getting late in the season and interest may be waning, but let's not beat around the bush, like others have already stated, this subject is not popular with white America. There are legions of people on the continent that still insist America did nothing wrong during this time period.

    Nevertheless, this episode should be a contender for an Emmy.

    No car chases, no bullets flying, no dead bodies scattered like cigarette butts...and still...the best episode they have put together in the past four years.

  11. clayton lum:

    Last Friday's show was awesome. I remember my parents telling me about what all took place on Dec. 7th and in months to come after the attack.

  12. Annoddah Dave:

    This was a surprisingly tight script for this series. While this is another generation's 9/11, it showed a piece of American history which should never be repeated. Like slavery, apartheid, persecution of the Jews, the massacre of the Native Americans, etc., the dignity and rights of people should never be trodden upon.

  13. Wayne Harada:

    To those who wondered: James Saito, who was impressive as David Toriyama in the recent "Hawaii Five-0," is a Los Angeles-born actor of TV, films and stage; his bio says he’s best known for his physical portray of Shredder in the 1990 film, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a role voiced by David McCharen. Saito has been in such diverse films as “The Devil’s Advocate,” “Home Alone 3,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Die Hard With a Vengeance” and a string of diverse TV shows including “MacGuyver,” “Eli Stone,” “Law and Order,” “Sex in the City” and “M*A*S*H.” Stage fans have seen him with the East West Players in L.A. and in Broadway’s “The King and I” and “Golden Child” and in off-Broadway’s “Durango,” which earned him an Obie Award.

  14. miracle:


    "The episode was a good one, the hype was well-deserved. The writing was done by different people. You want to know how the new writers have impacted the show? Watch this episode."

    There are several new writers on H50, but this particular episode was written by Peter Lenkov and Ken Solarz who wrote several great episodes as a team before. And I have to say this one is their best so far.

    Also kudos to all the cast and crew for their great performances and work on this episode. The opening sequence was perfectly done. Alex O'Loughlin and especially James Saito have been brilliant.

    Sad to see that the episode didn't get the attention it deserved among young viewers, but at least it didn't drop further, could hold the demo and gain a few viewers.

  15. theDman:


    It's interesting that writing credits were given to Peter, because he doesn't write in that style.

    Did people realize the formula was gone? It wasn't used in this episode. That was very interesting and a big step up.

  16. miracle:


    I hope you don't want to say that this episode wasn't written by Peter Lenkov.

    What kind of formula would you use for this kind of episode? None. It may be interesting that there is none, but it's not surprising. Remember 2.10, or 3.20? No formula either. Just because you can't do this kind of episodes with a formula. It wouldn't work. Again, no surprise. Interesting is that almost all episodes without any formula are (IMO) the most outstanding ones, but - not surprising... 😉 They are written by Peter Lenkov and Paul Zbyszewski (2.10) resp. Peter Lenkov and Ken Solarz (3.20).

  17. AniMatsuri:

    The only thing that stuck out to me other than the obvious ones that everyone else here has pointed out already is that why would anyone who bares such bitterness for such a long time join the US Army and fight in the Korean War?

  18. Five-O Supporter:


    I believe the Korean War started in 1950. Given that he was only a young boy when his father was killed, he probably would have been a draftable age during the Korean War.

    Maybe he was drafted and had no choice. Another scenario is that he wanted to serve to exhaust his pent up anger and frustration. The war seems like a plausible outlet for his aggression.

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