Hawaii 5-0 -- TV Review

Loud and overwrought. Rent the original instead.

By the time the shooting begins in earnest on "Hawaii Five-0," about halfway through the pilot, the action comes across well-directed, the camerawork crisp, the pace just right. But it took half an hour to get to this, and it just wasn't worth it.

The first sign something might be a little off is the opening scene, in a military transport plowing through the South Korean countryside. There's an explosion and video game-inspired quick-cutting barely a minute into the show: We're in what seems to be a big-budget war movie with Gaelic-accented terrorists. So we're already moving too fast, and we're not even in Hawaii yet.

Once we get to the islands -- after the slightly retooled Morton Stevens theme song and retro-styled montage of the island's scenery that's got more style than most of the rest of the pilot -- we run into Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin, of "The Shield" and "Moonlight"). He's an Annapolis-educated former Navy SEAL and square-jawed hardass burning to find the men who killed his father, and he desperately needs some kind of foil to lighten the mood.

A rival and partner soon arises in Danny "Danno" Williams (Scott Caan, son of James and sometimes "Entourage" actor). A former New Jersey cop who calls Hawaii "a pineapple-infested hellhole," Williams is blond where McGarrett is dark, a protective father to McGarrett's lone-wolf isolation, laid-back to his uptight. We have all the makings of an odd-couple buddy show, but the banter and chemistry are so annoying it's hard to watch. Alpha-male pissing contests are not unknown on cop shows; a little macho energy and friction can work as a driving force. But when Williams offers, at the end of a running argument, "Let's just not talk," you find yourself wishing they'd stick to it.

The original "Five-O" had older, more seasoned characters, and it emphasized the 50th state's distinctiveness. (Jack Lord's McGarrett made his entrance in the show's pilot with a pink lei over his blue-gray suit.) The best episodes took their time to solve a series of mysteries, and Lord projected a sense of loyalty and tenacity as well as deadpan cool. The whole production respected restraint.

In the current version, Hawaii means mostly an excuse to show sun glinting in the waves, plentiful babes in bikinis -- we see far more of Grace Park, who plays a surfing police academy grad, than we did in Syfy's "Battlestar Galactica" -- and to cast far more Asian-Americans. All good things, but it's not the same as creating the deep sense of place the original series did.

It's tempting to launch into a rant about how this "contemporary take," as the media material calls it, shows how much American culture has declined since the 1960s, the way unchecked onscreen violence and video games have destroyed our attention spans. But some things are better than they were in the '60s -- including the top tier of television shows. This just isn't one of them.

Maybe it's for the best that the remake didn't try for a self-conscious retread of the show's period setting and style. But besides being set in Hawaii, the only thing "Hawaii Five-0" has in common with the original show's glories is the phrase "Book 'em, Danno."

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