Aloha Again. Hawaii Five-0 – Then, Now and What If?

Dec 24, 2011 | 2011 Articles, Deborah Harter Williams, Mysteryrat's Maze, TV

by Deborah Harter Williams

The original Hawaii Five-O, which ran from 1968 until 1980, was the longest running crime show on American television until it was passed by Law & Order. And now it’s back.

Originally Five-O referred to the fact that Hawaii was the 50th state. Now “Five-0” has become vernacular for police all over the country. In the reboot it’s now “Five” with a zero instead of an O and it’s Alex O’Loughlin as the son of an HPD officer but not of the original McGarrett (played by Jack Lord). Scott Caan plays Dan “Danno” Williams (originally James MacArthur).

In 1968, Hawaii had been a state for less than a decade. Jack Lord was a bit camp with his pompadour hair (although Joe Mannix seemed to have gone to the same barber). Each episode ended with “Book’em, Danno” as the ever-present sidekick (6 inches shorter than Lord) took the perpetrator off to jail. In the new Hawaii Five-O Scott Caan is the sidekick and has the hair, a slicked-back style, that caused one critic to dub him “dudetastic”.

The success of the show thus far seems to be attributed to the Caan-do factor, i.e. if you like him then you like the show, if you don’t, you don’t. He is the New Jersey guy who has moved to Hawaii to be near his daughter and ex-wife. I enjoyed the by-play with the daughter, but his petty little-brother conflicts with McGarrett are as annoying as when adolescents do it. It’s an entirely different chemistry from the original.

Deep in the DNA of every procedural drama is the desire to emulate the success of NCIS. But you can’t have an NCIS without a Gibbs, that crusty older guy with gravitas. For this, Hawaii Five-O has taken on Terry O’Quinn (Lost/Avatar) and on the bad-guy side will be welcoming Ed Asner as August March, a supposedly reformed criminal, who was part of the original series. The show has also upped their quirk-quotient with a regular role for Masi Oka (Heroes), as Max Bergman the M.E.

In the new series women get to do more than act as secretaries, dragon ladies or muumuu-clad informants. Lauren German and Grace Park, who both guest-starred on the late Human Target, get to kick up their heels and kick-ass as well as drive fast cars and fall to the dirt as things explode. And that’s progress, ladies.

The reimagined Hawaii Five-O is brought to you by the wonderful folks that got you Lost and on Fringe, writer/producers Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. From Lost they brought along Daniel Dae Kim as Chin Ho Kelly and the above-mentioned Terry O’Quinn. There’s some talk that the next Star Trek Movie, which they are writing, will have some scenes shot in Hawaii (can you say jungle planet?).

But what if?

In 1996 Stephen J. Cannell (Rockford) wrote and produced a one-hour pilot for a new Hawaii Five-0; it was made but never aired. It starred Gary Busey and Russell Wong (21 Jump Street) as the new Five-O team.

Originally producer Leonard Freeman offered the role of McGarrett to Richard Boone (Paladin).

Learn more about the new show on their website.

If you love mysteries, why not check out Left Coast Crime:
Mystery Conference in Sacramento, March 29-April 1, 2012.Registration through 12/31/2011 is only $210 (it goes up to $225 after that). Registration information can be found at the conventionwebsite, or by sending an email to or

Deborah Harter Williams works as a mystery scout, seeking novels that could be made into television. She blogs at Clue Sisters and was formerly a mystery bookstore owner.


  1. There are so many mistakes in this article…..where to begin. First, the title. CBS sent out a July 2010 release clarifying that the title of its “Hawaii-Five-0” remake contains a zero and not the letter “O.” You said the opposite in this article. And the new Steve McGarrett is NOT the son of the original McGarrett. Edward Bernero was working a script a while back where that was going to be the scenario. However, when Peter Lenkov and company got the go-ahead to do their script, the new McGarrett is NOT the son. He is McGarrett.

    And both Alex O’Loughlin’s and Lauren German’s names are spelled wrong. I spelled them correctly here. Someone simply didn’t do their research before watching this show.

  2. Congratulations, Barbara, you are obviously a much bigger fan of the New Hawaii 5-0 than I. Going back and forth in my research I got the difference in the names correct but switched the vintages.

    I have received an imdb spell check for Christmas and will use it religiously in the future. Your corrections have been noted and applied. Hope we have it right this time.
    Thanks for reading so closely, and we promise to do better in 2012.

  3. Your comment on the role of women in the original was misleading. Women were not just secretaries. Being a secretary is an important job anyway, and not one to disregard. The secretaries kept the office running, and Steve’s secretary, Jenny, played by Peggy Ryan, was highly respected by the Five-O crew. There were also female characters who were doctors, scientists, professors, psychiatrists, forensic scientists, and spies. There were no dragon ladies or mumu-clad informants If you’re going to criticize the original, watch it first and know what you’re talking about.

    • Verinda, I’m glad you were inspired. Those were Women’s Lib days when I watched the original and had just finished my Master’s Degree Thesis on the role of women on television. Perhaps I was overly sensitized and looking for more overtly heroic women characters. Granted the women were smart but there were few continuing female characters who got to save the day the way the men did.

  4. Thank you for your kind response, Deborah. I was born one year after this show went off the air, and though I noticed how there were few women in major roles, except in the final season when a female detective was added to the cast, it didn’t bother me. Jack Lord wanted to add a woman to the cast for years. He kept asking CBS to do so, but they said, “Why fix something that isn’t broken?” When they asked him to do a 12th season, Jack said he would, but they had to add a woman to the cast. Looking back, though, it was not worth the effort.

    The actress who took the role, Sharon Farrell, guest starred on three episodes of Hawaii Five-O as different characters. She did a good job in one of those roles, but average on the others. As the female detective in the 12th season, she was terrible. She was gone after 7 or 8 episodes. There were different stories told as to why she was booted, but I think it was because she insisted on bringing her husband and son to the set, which wasn’t allowed for anyone, and was acting in an unprofessional manner – not knowing her lines, not showing up on time, etc. – and someone who worked on the show said Sharon was bothering Jack. She was flirting with him and he – who was happily married – wasn’t interested. I don’t know how true all that is, so don’t quote me on it. Sharon was gone, and her name was even taken out of the credits. So much for the advancement of women on Hawaii Five-O.


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