In college, Judge Ben Saylor led an elite campus security group, but "Write 'em up, Danno" didn't have quite the same ring to it.
Our reviews of Hawaii Five-O: The Complete First Season (published March 6th, 2007), 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), and Hawaii Five-O: The Twelfth and Final Season (published January 10th, 2012) are also available.
"How do you like them pineapples?"—Det. Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong)
Direct from the Aloha State, Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season arrives on DVD. With a great variety of stories, consistently solid performances, and those beautiful Hawaiian locations, this season is a winner.
Facts of the Case
Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord, Stoney Burke) is the leader of "Five-O," an elite state police unit that investigates cases involving murder, kidnapping, robbery, international espionage and more. Along with McGarrett, the unit includes Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur, Swiss Family Robinson), Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) and Kono Kalakaua (Zulu).
The episodes included in this set were broadcast from September 16, 1970 to March 10, 1971, and are spread out as follows:
Hawaii Five-O is a notable show for three main reasons: its variety of stories, the cast, and the setting. In terms of stories, this show ran the gamut. In the third season alone, McGarrett and co. solve numerous murders, catch jewel thieves, successfully resolve more than one kidnapping case and much, much more. This breadth of material makes it easy to keep watching episodes, as you never know what Five-O will be investigating next. The episodes also vary in tone; there are lighter episodes like "Over Fifty? Steal," featuring Hume Cronyn (Cocoon) as a cheeky thief who enjoys toying with Five-O, as well as more serious fare, such as "To Kill or Be Killed." This episode, which involves the death of a U.S. serviceman recently returned from Vietnam, is very powerful and surprisingly bleak. I imagine the episode drew its share of controversy when it aired in early 1971, as it broaches the subject of U.S. atrocities in Vietnam. In addition, Five-O squares off against Red Chinese agent Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh, the 1962 The Manchurian Candidate) in three episodes this season: "And a Time to Die" and the two-parter, "F.O.B. Honolulu."
The cast is another component in this show's success. It's the third season, and everybody seems to be pretty comfortable. Lord is the quintessential tough-but-fair cop. The showrunners make him more amusing when they try to have McGarrett appeal to a younger crowd; in one episode, he's seen playing an acoustic guitar. In another, when he discovers that he and some fellow officers have been foiled, he says, "We've been had, brothers." We get a glimpse at his past in "Time and Memories," when an old flame of McGarrett's is implicated in a murder investigation.
MacArthur is fine as McGarrett's number two, Danno. He gets his own chance to shine in this season when, in "Beautiful Screamer," his girlfriend Jane (a very young Anne Archer) is murdered by a pattern killer. Jane, of course, despite being Danno's girlfriend, appears in this episode and no other. I'm not familiar enough with the show to know whether she was mentioned earlier in the series, but I'm guessing she wasn't.
And of course, there's Kam Fong and Zulu. Neither gets as much to do as Lord or MacArthur, but their characters are still an integral part of the show. Kono gets a bit of the spotlight in "The Ransom," when he is taken hostage by a band of kidnappers.
Other than the episodes I specified, the show doesn't really delve into the personal lives of the characters a whole lot. Still, all the actors deliver solid, believable performances (albeit with a few over-the-top moments here and there).
Part of the fun with a show like Hawaii Five-O is watching out for all the guest stars. In season three, the first episode, "And a Time to Die," features Donald Moffat, who played LBJ in Philip Kaufman's The Right Stuff. In "Time and Memories," a very young Martin Sheen is in the mix as an ambitious attorney. The episode marks Sheen's second guest stint on the show; he appeared in the season two episode "Cry, Lie" as well (playing a different character). Also look for John Vernon (Dirty Harry) in "Force of Waves" and Vera Miles (Psycho) in "Dear Enemy."
For me, however, the big draw of this show is its most interesting character: Hawaii itself. What a great location for a TV series, especially a cop show, where the dark stories contrast sharply with the colorful backdrop. The scenery never seems the same either; the showrunners make full use of their locations. My entire perception of the state of Hawaii comes from watching Hawaii Five-O, meaning that if I ever make it out there, I'll probably be very disappointed. (I'm guessing it looks a little different now than it did in the 1970s.)
Something else I found interesting about Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season is Five-O's use of forensic science in crime solving. Decades before C.S.I., forensic science is used repeatedly to help crack cases on this show. To this end, Five-O is indebted to the work of Che Fong (Harry Endo).
Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season, like its predecessors, comes packaged in a box containing three slim cases housing two discs apiece. Episode airdates and synopses are printed on the back of each case. Like season two's set, the cover art for each case is identical.
The image quality on these episodes is very, very good; those bright Hawaiian colors burst off the screen. The sound isn't too shabby either. When it comes to extras, the set is identical to Hawaii Five-O: The Second Season, in that it comes only with episode promos. Unfortunately, as my former colleague Judge Cynthia Boris has already lamented, the promos play at the start of the episode they're promoting, when it would make more sense to put them onto to the end of the previous episode. Still, these minute-long promos are fun to watch, and I love Lord's sendoff: "Be here. Aloha."
In addition, as in the second season set, Hawaii Five-O: The Third Season comes with a "Some episodes may be edited from their original network versions" tag on the back of the box and the cases. I have no idea what's missing from these episodes, though it doesn't appear that any episodes were omitted from the set as one was from the second season.
The continuing lack of substantial special features with the Hawaii Five-O series is disappointing, and hopefully something Paramount will address in future sets. Nevertheless, you don't need forensic evidence from Che Fong to determine that the episodes included in this set are great television.
Not guilty. This is Judge Ben Saylor inviting you to join us next time for Hawaii Five-O: The Fourth Season. Be here. Aloha.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
• Episode Promos
Review content copyright © 2008 Ben Saylor; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.