Hawaii Five-O is given a reboot for the 21st Century

By Peter Bowes
BBC News, Los Angeles

Image caption,
The new face of Hawaii Five-O: Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan star in the remake

Hawaii Five-O, one of television's iconic cop shows, is being remade more than 40 years after it first aired in the US.

Set in the 50th state, the police drama starring Jack Lord as Detective Steve McGarrett ran from 1968-1980.

It featured an elite branch of the Hawaii State Police force and was perhaps best known for McGarrett's catchphrase, "Book 'em, Danno", and the show's memorable theme tune.

The new show pays homage to the original, although it is a 21st Century take on the classic series.

"We're trying to retain the integrity of the original ideas, characters and stories in a new contemporary, aggressive kind of way," says Alex O'Loughlin, the Australian actor who plays McGarrett.

"The sense of humour is different. If you look at the original show it was a long time ago, it came off the air 30 years ago and the humour was very different.

"We can do a lot more, we're pushing a lot of boundaries," he says. "It's a really modern reboot."


Fresh from Lost, where he played Jin-Soo Kwan, actor Daniel Dae Kim gets to stay in Hawaii as Detective Chin Ho Kelly.

"I was really excited because I felt like after a run of six years on Lost I was ready for something new in terms of energy and creative input," he explains.

"There are so many times when you start a project and no-one knows anything about it, and you spend a lot of time trying to explain to people what the premise is.

Image caption,
Jack Lord played Steve McGarrett in the original series

"We're very fortunate in that everyone knows what Hawaii Five-O is and what they're going to get."

But viewers will get something very different. The re-imagination of Hawaii Five-O is a fast-moving, action-packed drama with a much grittier feel than the original.

Acting has evolved and stylistically the differences are enormous, says O'Loughlin.

"You look at television back then and you look at it now. We want a documentary feel to some of this stuff… we want to find as much realism as we can," he adds.

Only one episode, the pilot show, has been made. During the summer the first series will be shot on location in Hawaii, and the drama will air for the first time in the US in the autumn.

The first show sets the scene and explains McGarrett's background.

"The difference between this show and the original is that in the original you didn't know where McGarrett came from," explains O'Loughlin.

"You didn't know his back story and in this one you do. You know why he comes to the island - it's all revealed in the pilot and that's how we kick the show off.

"He's a navy seal. He has a mission that he sets out on in the beginning of the pilot, and that's what leads him to the beginning of our adventure which will be Hawaii Five-O."

Hawaii Five-O is just one of a several new dramas that network executives in the US hope will become the next must-watch show on TV.

The CBS network is also launching Blue Bloods, a legal and family drama starring Tom Selleck. The show follows a family of cops in New York.

The Defenders is a legal drama/comedy set in Las Vegas starring Jim Belushi and Jerry O'Connell.

"It's a show about two men who are very good attorneys but not so good at handling life," says executive producer Carol Mendelsohn.

In the cut-throat world of television, finding that magic formula for a new show can be fraught with problems.

"Broadcasters are looking to the American production machine for the next CSI, for the next NCIS, for the next Lost, the next 24," says Armando Nunez, president of CBS Studios International.

Hawaii Five-O is a tried and test franchise, although re-working an old idea does not guarantee success.

"There are certain problems peculiar to launching a show that is already a named brand like Hawaii Five-O, which would be similar to when we launched the spin-offs to CSI," says Ms Mendelsohn, executive producer behind both CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and The Defenders.

"There are also problems attendant to launching a brand new show that nobody is familiar with... you never know until you're on the air," she adds.

"We love everything about The Defenders… we just hope that a year from now we're talking about season two."

Daniel Dae Kim says he hopes the lure of paradise will help build a loyal audience for Hawaii Five-O.

"In the dead of winter when there's no sunlight around half of the planet, when you turn on your TV after a long hard day, you want to be able to see something that brings you a little pleasure," he says.

"When you see beautiful beaches and palm trees and beautiful people, it'll be a little bit of escapism with your entertainment."

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