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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2010-2011 season. Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
HAWAII FIVE-O (CBS)
(written by Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci & Peter Lenkov; directed by Len Wisman; TRT: 44:04)
The network's description: "HAWAII FIVE-0 is a contemporary take on the classic series about a new elite federalized task force whose mission is to wipe out the crime that washes up on the Islands' sun-drenched beaches. Detective Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin), a decorated Naval officer turned cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father's murder and stays after Hawaii's governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape and full blanket immunity to hunt down the biggest "game" in town. Joining McGarrett is Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan), a newly relocated ex-New Jersey cop who prefers skyscrapers to the coastline but is committed to keeping the Islands safe for his 8-year-old daughter; and Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), an ex-Honolulu Police Detective wrongly accused of corruption and relegated to a federal security patrol, who is also a former protege of McGarrett's father. Chin's cousin, Kono (Grace Park), is a beautiful and fearless native, fresh out of the academy and eager to establish herself among the department's elite. McGarrett vows to bring closure to his father's case while the state's brash new FIVE-0 unit, who may spar and jest among themselves, is determined to eliminate the seedy elements from the 50th state. Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci are executive producers for CBS Television Studios."
What did they leave out? Taryn Manning, who had been cast as McGarrett's sister Mary Ann, didn't make the final cut of the pilot.
The plot in a nutshell: After a five-year manhunt, Lt. Cmdr. Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) has finally captured international smuggler Anton Hesse (apologies as I didn't recognize the actor). It's much to his horror then - while overseeing his transport in Pohang, South Korea - Anton's brother Victor (James Marsters) calls to inform him they have Steve's father John (William Sadler, always great to see) and will kill him if they don't let Anton go. Even worse, their transport convoy has been attacked and during the ensuing commotion - Anton is killed. A livid Victor then does the only thing he can: murder John in cold blood. And so with no leads or way to exact his revenge, Steve does the only thing he can: return home to Oahu, Hawaii and bury his father, a legendary cop on the island.
Upon his arrival though, Hawaii's governor Pat Jameson (Jean Smart) approaches him with an offer: run a special branch of the Hawaii State Police, answerable only to her. Said team would give him carte blanche to find Victor, not to mention give her a boost politically for taking down high-profile criminals. Steve passes, preferring to go it alone. Not surprisingly, after he starts to hit a few walls - namely Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan), the "haole" (slang for non-local, white) detective assigned to solve John's murder - he begrudgingly accepts the job.
Together, like all cop partners in the history of television, they must get back in Victor's trail - and try not to annoy the crap out of each other in the process. Along the way they gain the assistance of Chin Ho Kelly (Daniel Dae Kim), a disgraced, "rubber gunned" cop who Steve's father once took under his wing; and Kelly's cousin Kono (Grace Park), a beautiful police academy cadet who's eager to prove herself. Ultimately they'll form the elite unit in the question. Now if they can just find a catchy name to call themselves.
What works: O'Loughlin does the steely-eyed hero as well as anyone but it's actually Caan's Danno that proves to be the most fun. As a reluctant New Jersey transplant - his newly remarried ex-wife moved here with his eight-year-old daughter - he's a literal stranger in a strange land and not exactly thrilled to be paired with a loner out for revenge like McGarrett. "I'm glad you have that G.I.Joe-thousand-yard-stare-from-chasing-shoe-bombers around the world, okay?" he explains to him. "But in civilized society we have rules... rule number one, if you get somebody shot, you apologize!" Scenes in which we see him with his daughter, trying to be a good dad are genuinely sweet, and give heft to his frustration with the island he's exiled himself to in order to be close to her.
What doesn't: The chemistry between McGarrett and Danny however feels a little forced, as if the script has areas labeled "insert banter here" or scribbled in notes that read "see they don't get a long, get it?" That's not to say they won't find a natural back-and-forth, it's just you wish they'd dial back the urgency to prove they have it. The same goes for the far-too-cute Easter eggs, such as the origins of "book 'em Danno" or where the show's title comes from.
All in all, "Five-O" feels like a feature script retrofitted for the small screen - it's a big "getting the team" together installment complete with major explosions, digitally-enhanced car wrecks, high-caliber shootouts and a scrambling-for-the-gun-final-battle-that-ends-with-an-hasta-la-vista-baby-esque comeback, all things I doubt they can afford on a weekly basis going forward.
To that end we really don't get a sense of how the show will work from week to week
. Not that it's a giant unforgiveable sin, it just makes getting a bead on the series in general a little harder.
There's not really a procedural aspect yet as the pilot is a just giant origin story and the recurring elements - John apparently had been working on some kind of internal investigation into the force - quickly disappear into the background. And aside from the pretty sights and the just as pretty girls, you don't walk away with the sense that you're going to see stories any more distinct than you would on the show it's replacing, "CSI: Miami." The Hesse case is standard boilerplate and the mechanizations to get to him are fairly pedestrian, only made sparkly and shiny by the aspects mentioned above. At the end of the day though this isn't a show aiming to revolutionize television, it's just cops in Hawaii.
The bottom line: If that's good enough for you, then... well I was going to put "aloha" but that seems a little trite.