First episode impressions: ‘Hawaii Five-0’ (TV review)

Here are my first impressions of “Hawaii Five-0,” which airs at 9 p.m. Central Mondays on CBS.

1. “Hawaii Five-0” isn’t a show that would normally be on my radar, but other than Fox’s “Lone Star,” it’s the best-reviewed new show of the season, and that generally doesn’t happen with play-it-safe remakes of old cop shows. So I opted to see what all the fuss was about. Indeed, “Hawaii Five-0” has a slick style, starting with the modernized version of the instantly recognizable theme song. It boasts great chemistry between the partners, played by Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, and then Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park come in and effortlessly join the team, too. By episode’s end, they are already gelling as a special forces unit. Strictly speaking, it’s a procedural, but it’s cooler than the norm: The action is big-budget and rapid-fire, like “24” but with quips rather than glowering. “Hawaii Five-0” is exactly what it wants to be: light, actiony fun. A close comparison would be “Human Target,” but this one’s a bit better.

2. OK, so that’s a positive review, but do I — a TV fan who, like you, misses “Lost,” “24” and “Law & Order” — want to tune in every week for something so calculatedly likable? I guarantee you’ll never wonder “What does it all mean?” with “Hawaii Five-0,” so it’s certainly not a water-cooler show like “Lost.” It’s got action like “24,” but it’s not an intense, weekly serial. At the end of every episode, the squad gets to drink beers and joke around. Granted, there is McGarrett’s (O’Loughlin) ongoing hunt for the man who killed his father, but frankly, that didn’t really grab me, because there’s no sense of mystery or suspense to it. We’ll probably get a clue parsed out each week oh-so-slowly toward a bigger picture, kind of like on that show “Life” a couple years ago (which I eventually canceled due to its slowness). “Law & Order” explored issues of the day; you won’t get that here, either. The team rescues Chinese slaves in the first episode, but that was a plot point, certainly not a microscope on society like you’d find on “L&O.” Certainly, “Hawaii Five-0” is treading shallow waters compared to last year’s greats. And, of course, it’s entirely intentional — it doesn’t want to be literary, mythological or political.

3. Just as McGarrett has his personal revenge plot, Danny “Danno” Williams (Caan) has a daughter he loves and a headache of an ex-wife, Chin (Kim) was wrongly kicked off the Hawaii PD, and Kono (Park) is coming up the ranks and ready to prove herself. They all feel like real people. But not mythologically or iconically fascinating people like — to reference last year’s greats again — Jacks Bauer, Shephard and McCoy. Again, it’s a case of “Hawaii Five-0” aiming low and succeeding rather than aiming high and seeing what happens.

4. Is it “Hawaii Five-O,” as in the letter “O,” or “Hawaii Five-0,” as in the number zero? Although the title is always pronounced like the letter, I’ve seen it spelled both ways. The title card looks like the letter O, whereas the original show’s title card looked like the number zero. But Wikipedia claims the reverse is the case: The new show is spelled with the number, and the original was spelled with the letter. And what does the “Five-0” represent? Hawaii being the 50th state? If that’s the case, it should indeed be a zero in the title, so that’s what I’m using here. But it’s hard to resist typing an “O.”

5. The odds are against all new TV shows. More of them are canceled than not (believe it or not, that includes shows in the ubiquitous cop genre). Nonetheless, there is no doubt in my mind that “Hawaii Five-0” will be a monster hit for CBS that will air at least as long as the original did (12 seasons). If it’s not on the schedule a year from now, I will be completely, utterly stunned.

Verdict: I’ve spent a lot of time in this blog post writing about other shows that have nothing to do with the goals of “Hawaii Five-0,” which just wants to be a fun procedural with characters you’ll like. In that, it succeeds, but as an entertainment snob, I don’t understand why people are so excited about this show. Then again, I might tune in again next week, because while “Hawaii Five-0” is certainly not deep or meaningful, it is good, and that’s gotta count for something.

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