Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hawaii Five-0

I watched the pilot episode online this morning, and I liked it ok. It was fun, clever, full of action and charm, but there were some fundamental problems that kept it from being must-see TV... at this point, at least. But as pilots go, it was good enough to recommend checking out, and had enough potential that I'll probably check out the next episode to give it a better chance to win me over completely. Anyway, I probably liked it better than my friend and fellow blogger Justin did.

This remake (or "reimagining" as studios have obnoxiously started referring to their remakes) updates the original series (which ran for an amazing 12 years between 1968 and 1980!) by changing the "O" in the title to a "0" and by transforming the main group of police officers into an elite squad of special operatives who act above the law ("without red tape") to fight terrorists... or something. In other words, this has absolutely nothing to do with the original series other than the title, some character names, and the theme song that is still amazing. And that's fine, but the idea that they are some nebulous group playing by their own rules and without any restrictions makes the entire thing seem more fantastical than it should be. I would've advised them to let the setting and the characters be fantastic while grounding things in reality by having actual police procedure and guidelines in place. Also, I'm just the kind of person who likes rules and regulations (I don't speed, I stop at yellow lights, and I will say something to a strange who tries to get into a ten item or less lane with eleven items), so I have little interest in watching characters who go above, around, and outside of the law. But it's TV so I can't complain too much. Following the law would allow for much less car chases and explosions.

The cast is a bit of a mixed bag so far. Lead actor Alex O'Loughlin is no Jack Lord, whose time on the original show was so good and so indelible in the public conscious that he became a TV icon. Maybe he just needs time to grow into the role, but in this pilot he was stiff, uncharismatic, and downright boring. He certainly acquitted himself well in the action sequences, performing some spectacular stunts and performing in some exceptional fight scenes, but his performance otherwise was just blah. Also, he just looked like a more badass version of Jeremy Piven, which isn't all together a bad thing, but it was distracting.

Much better was Scott Caan as O'Loughlin's sidekick Dano. He was charming, funny, sympathetic, and just plain fun to watch. He stole every scene he was in, and was the only actor on the show who was able to find chemistry with the otherwise uncharismatic lead actor. This is going to sound pretentious, but Scott Caan is one of those actors who is always "present" in every scene he's in. He was just always doing something interesting, and gave his character a great mixture of good humor and quiet sadness. Justin didn't really love he pilot, but he told me it was worth checking out just for Caan's performance, and he was right.

Rounding out the rest of the cast are Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, both of whom are wonderful actors who should've been given more to do. Considering the ensemble nature of the cast, this show felt more like a buddy cop movie than anything else. Kim and Park were introduced too late in the pilot and then shoved off to the side too much. Kim's major contribution to the story was his interrogation of a major informant, which was done off camera. Instead of showing his character interrogating this guy, they showed some comic interest scene of the two other cops hanging out in the parking lot. Dumb. And within the first ten minutes of Park's introduction, she is given two scenes where she has to strip down to a bikini or her bra and panties. This is Hawaii Five-0 so we definitely need some bikini scenes, but having both scenes so close together seemed beyond gratuitous and really poor characterization. Kim and Park were both fantastic on Lost and Battlestar Galactica respectively, so let's hope future episodes give them more to do.

And can somebody tell me why none of the main actors in this cast are actually Hawaiian? We have an Italian American, an Australian, and two people of Korean descent? Really? Even the original series from the 60s was more progressive in its casting than this 21st century update. They couldn't have put Jason Scott Lee or Tia Carrere in there somewhere? Obviously, this odd choice in casting doesn't take away from the quality of the show, but it does seem like a missed opportunity.

So I liked it, but I recommend it only slightly, and with a few reservations. The setting was fantastic, the cast was mostly stellar, and the fun storyline allowed for a lot of great action set pieces. But in the future they need to have the lead lighten up and spread the spotlight a bit more around the ensemble cast. Also, get my boy Jason Scott Lee in there already.

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