My TiVo recently decided I must like old reruns of Hawaii Five-O and has been recording them whenever it has space
available. In truth, my TiVo is wise, though a bit out of date. I did like Hawaii Five-O, at least for the first half of its 284
episodes. Along about its eighth year, it began to get a bit too repetitive. I also had a little problem watching its star, Jack
Mr. Lord, rumor had it, ruled his show with an iron fist and the belief that he was its one and only S*T*A*R. Such was his mania
to preserve this reality that word began to leak, even while the show was up and operating, that its cast and crew seriously disliked the man who
played Supercop Steve McGarrett. Writers and producers complained — within earshot of reporters — that he was rejecting scripts because they
even slightly showcased other members of McGarrett's squad or didn't properly portray his character as brilliant, flawless and loved by women
everywhere. Other cast members, sometimes anonymously, suggested the S*T*A*R had come to believe he was all that and more in real life.
(Here's a link to an article that ran in TV Guide in 1971. For its
time, it was surprisingly harsh about a major TV star.)
Ordinarily, I would not take such bad press at face value. But I ran into Jack Lord twice in bookstores, and heard tales from
friends who'd also had the dubious pleasure. The way he acted — brusque and demanding, treating salespeople as servants to be ordered about — certainly made the reports easy to believe.
And ordinarily, I would not let that affect my enjoyment of a TV show or movie. But in this case, it did...at least a
little. It somehow made the whole character of Steve McGarrett seem pompous and hollow.
That, coupled with the repetition, kind of ruined Hawaii Five-O for me, at least as a weekly pleasure. Recently, thanks to
TiVo, I've been watching a few again. I like them as an occasional treat, but am reminded of the fact that every episode seemed to be a new
arrangement of about eight of the same twelve scenes. Here is a list of them...
1. The governor puts pressure on McGarrett. Someone is murdering people all over Hawaii and getting away with it, but the
governor somehow thinks that alone doesn't motivate McGarrett to catch the killer. The state's chief exec has to make it clear that, despite
the fact that McGarrett's office has solved every crime in the state for the last ten years, they'd damn well better wrap this one up soon or there
could be some big changes. (This scene sometimes prompts a brief outburst from McGarrett — "Get off my back!" — but he quickly
recovers his equilibrium, apologizes and promises to work harder. And the governor understands that McGarrett is under a lot of stress because
he cares so.)
2. McGarrett seals off the island. With a known criminal out there somewhere, McGarrett decides to prevent anyone from
arriving on or departing the island of Oahu. "This island is like a rock," he usually says. "No one gets on or off until we catch this
guy." One can only wonder what impact this would have on Hawaiian commerce or tourism if the Hawaiian police did it once, let alone every other
3. McGarrett sends the Hawaiians to search the island. The Hawaiian aides who work for McGarrett are there largely to be
sent out on ridiculous missions. So McGarrett has evidence that the suspect eats grilled cheese sandwiches and he says to Kono (played by
Zulu), "Get the boys and search the island. Visit every delicatessen, every coffee shop, every place someone could possibly get a grilled
cheese sandwich. Someone must have seen something."
4. The Hawaiians quickly find an incredibly good witness. This one usually connects with the previous one: "We're in luck,
Steve. Chin Ho found a druggist who runs a lunch counter on Molokai. Seems he distinctly remembers selling a grilled cheese sandwich to a
man just four days ago. He thought the man was acting odd so he watched him walk to his car and wrote down the license number."
5. McGarrett gets philosophical. Sitting alone in his office, usually late at night, McGarrett muses on the nature of the
criminal they're pursuing. One of McGarrett's aides (usually Danny Williams) finds him there and hears a speech that includes the phrase, "What
kind of man...?" as in, "What kind of man would murder six accordion players, three stationers and an overweight nun, and leave a large bowl of
tapioca to identify himself?"
6. McGarrett gets mad. This usually consists of him staring out his office window and saying, "He's out there, Danno...and
he's mocking us."
7. The beautiful witness in swimwear. McGarrett, in a suit and tie despite the 90-degree weather, visits and interrogates
a beautiful woman who is lounging by a swimming pool. She is obviously attracted to him.
8. McGarrett goes casual. McGarrett's underlings visit him at home or on a weekend retreat with either a new nugget of
information or just to hear him brainstorm the problem at hand. In this scene, they're all in suits and ties despite the 90-degree weather
while McGarrett is lounging by a swimming pool wearing shorts, a loud Hawaiian shirt and a broad, floppy straw hat. Just to show he's a regular
guy who doesn't always wear a suit and tie.
9. McGarrett is windswept. This one seems to have begun in the later seasons, when comedians and TV critics were making
jokes about Jack Lord's hair being sculpted of plastic. At some point, McGarrett's investigation would carry him to a high cliff or pier where
breezes would blow his hair around. (Also sometimes achieved by having him meet someone coming off a helicopter or riding in one, himself.)
10. The Amateur Actor. After about the third season, there was apparently a shortage of professional actors in Hawaii who
hadn't appeared several times on the show, and the producers didn't want to fly someone in from the states for a bit part. So there's always
one scene where someone (often, a uniformed cop) has two lines and is so awful, you just know it's one of the camera operators or the caterer's
brother. This one is invariably a highlight.
11. Some innocent remark gives McGarrett the answer. This one was actually seen in about half the TV detective shows ever
done. Someone makes a stray comment like, "Well, let's get your mind off the case for a while. How about a cup of coffee?" And then
Mannix, Barnaby Jones, Cannon, McCloud, McMillan or McGarrett says, "Wait a minute...coffee. Coffee is made of beans. That's it!
The killer is hiding in the old abandoned bean warehouse, just outside of town!" And, of course, he is.
12. "Book him, Danno. Murder one." He didn't always say this as the last line of an episode of Hawaii
Five-O. It just seemed that way.
Apart from #10, I grew tired of seeing some sequencing of these scenes in every episode. If you think I'm oversimplifying, they
run the show every morning on the WGN Superstation. Watch and see. Aloha!