Judge Cynthia Boris has declared a recess to catch some da kine waves, brah! Mahalo pono.
Our reviews of Hawaii Five-O: The Fourth Season (published July 9th, 2008), Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season (published August 22nd, 2007), Hawaii Five-O: The Sixth Season (published June 15th, 2009), Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season (published January 28th, 2008), and Hawaii Five-O: The Twelfth and Final Season (published January 10th, 2012) are also available.
"It's too pat. You could put a ribbon around this one and mail it in…except for one thing…"—McGarrett, hot on the trail of a killer.
Did you ever play "Guess the TV Themes" like Brooks and Ackroyd do at the beginning of Twilight Zone: The Movie? If you did, I'll bet you ba, ba, ba, ba'd your way through the theme to Hawaii Five-O. "And book 'em, Danno…and here comes that waaaave!!!"
Okay, so maybe I'm the only person who makes up words to the Hawaii Five-O song, but that doesn't negate the fact that the series has one of TV's most recognizable themes. It's a pop culture legend—along with the phrase "book 'em, Danno" and Jack Lord's immovable hair. (Donald Trump take note.) Hawaii Five-O is the daddy of all cop shows, but it didn't exactly start out that way. So grab your surf board and get ready to hang ten, we're headed for the islands thanks to Hawaii Five-O: The Complete First Season.
Facts of the Case
Jack Lord (Stoney Burke) is Steve McGarrett, head of "Five-O," an elite police squad dedicated to solving the biggest crimes on the big island. Alongside Danny Williams (James MacArthur), his idealistic right hand man, they are ably assisted by the fatherly Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) and the burly but boyish Kono Kalakaua (Zulu). With the scenery of Hawaii standing in as an additional character, the Five-O team tracks down killers of the hired and homegrown kind, kidnappers, extortionists, and all level members of the mob.
Firmly planted in the late '60s, you'll see plenty of references to hippies and the war. From environmental issues, to the flaws in the judicial system, to the plight of the wounded soldiers coming home from 'Nam, this show wasn't shy about taking a stand.
Here's what you'll find in this box set:
One of the top cop shows in TV history, Hawaii Five-O actually started out more Bond than Bullitt. The two hour pilot, which is included on this DVD set, is an espionage thriller complete with Red Chinese spies, double agents, and horrendous brainwashing techniques reminiscent of The Manchurian Candidate. Quite an exciting ride, but very different from the series most people remember.
Actually, mixing it up is one of the things Hawaii Five-O does best. By creating a special police force over and above the normal cop on the beat, they were able to take on a variety of crimes including those that would generally be handled by a higher authority such as terrorism, spying, and crimes involving the military. This varied plate allowed the series to jazz up the typical cop show format creating a kind of suspense/procedural hybrid.
The second thing the show does well, is give you memorable, likeable villains. The villains are so bad, they're good! Take Victor Reese (Kevin McCarthy, Invasion of the Body Snatchers), the money hungry murderer who preys on lonely women in the very first episode, "Full Fathom Five." He's so deliciously evil you almost want him to succeed! Then there's Yaphet Kotto as the Marine Corporal who takes a wounded Danno hostage in a hospital ward full of intensive care patients in "King of the Hill." Can't blame him though, thanks to a bonk on the head, he thinks he's back in Vietnam defending his little patch of ground from the advancing VC army (McGarrett and his men). So how can Steve rescue Danno without killing the armed and deadly but ultimately innocent solider? It's one of the season's best stories. And let's not forget Big Chicken (Gavin McLeod, Love Boat) the weasley drug dealer. he appears in two of the season's top episodes, "and they painted daisies on his coffin"—where danno kills a young boy who appears to have been unarmed—and "the box"—where mcgarrett offers himself up as a hostage during a prison riot, placing himself in the hands of men he put there in the first place. excellent from the first moment through to the end.
You'll also find some other interesting guest stars in this box set: a grown-up johnny crawford (The Rifleman) as a Vietnam vet on leave who ends up caught in the crossfire between rival mobsters; popular Disney singer, Tommy Sands as a nightclub performer who moonlights as a cat burglar; and Sal Mineo (Rebel Without a Cause) rocks the house as another nightclub singer who has himself kidnapped for the publicity but finds himself in deep when he tries to end the game.
Paramount did a very nice job putting this set together and I hope all of the seasons will quickly follow. Four snap cases with identical graphics are housed in a slipcase. I appreciate that they resisted the urge to make double-sided DVDs and instead gave us character graphics on each disc. The menus are clear and easy to access, and I can actually tell which item my cursor is on at any given moment! The video transfer is bright and the tropical island colors really pop. My only complaint is that the sound quality is uneven. Music and sound effects are so loud I have to turn down the volume, only to turn it up again when people start to speak.
Now let's talk Special Features. There's only one and that fact is disappointing. For a show with such a long, rich history, I was sad to see that there were no commentaries. On the other hand, the feature they did include is fabulous. "Emme's Island Moments" was a local TV show that produced a Hawaii Five-O tribute in 1996. Co-hosted by James MacArthur, it features interviews with dozens of people involved with the series. Even more amazing, it also includes actual behind-the-scenes home movie footage and photos are real gems. It's terrific that this show, which was originally broadcast only in Hawaii, is included here.
Hawaii Five-O was the longest running cop show on television, until Law & Order stole the title nearly twenty years later. A true pop culture icon, the words "Five-O" and "Book 'em, Danno" have become part of American language and the theme song is one of the most identifiable in the history of TV. But what's more important is that this is a truly great series. A variety of terrific stories with fascinating twists, gorgeous scenery, and memorable characters make this a must see for cop show fans.
"Book 'em, Danno. Murder One." Hawaii Five-O: The Complete First Season slays me.
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Scales of Justice
• The original pilot movie "Cocoon"
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