Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Monday, September 20, 2010


-- television -- new fall tv 2010: book 'em, dano

All I can say is, it's clearly not quite where they meant to go, but the new Hawaii Five-0 is good stupid ultraviolent gruesome fun ... except when it's deliberately utterly appalling, of course.

The pilot starts off McGarrett the youngest in Korea (I think), transporting a terrorist prisoner. The brother of said prisoner calls McGarret the youngest to let him know that they've got his father, also a Steve McGarrett, who I think was supposed to be the son of Jack Lord's character from the original series, so Alex O'Laughlin is supposed to be Jack Lord's character's grandson, I guess. The people holding his father demand that McGarrett the youngest release the terrorist's brother, or they'll kill his father. Turns out that they never had any intention of waiting; an operation to rescue the prisoner suddenly pops out of nowhere, accompanied by helicopters, machine gun fire and air to surface bombs -- seriously, the sheer number of bombs and gunfire in the first five minutes is truly astonishing. Needless to say, the transport of the prisoner goes even more pear shaped, and the prisoner winds up semi-accidentally dead. Thus, McGarrett's father winds up quite deliberately murdered.

McGarrett comes back to Hawaii to, I guess, bury his father and to try to capture the people who killed him. The governor tries to talk him into heading up a task force to continue his father's work, but he's not interested. He wants to be the lone wolf investigator. Needless to say, this brings him into conflict with the police approximately ten minutes into things, so he winds up calling the governor, telling her he'll take the offer, and getting sworn in over the telephone, in one of the more bizarrely humorous moments.

So far, the show seems very well cast in its principals. Jean Smart plays the governor who explicitly gave McGarrett unlimited authority and immunity, and yet is surprised when he uses it to do things like beat and threaten the truth out of prisoners and demand that ships headed to international waters get stopped and so forth. Daniel Dae Kim plays Chin Ho Kelly (apparently no relation to the previous incarnation), who is the native Hawaiian Chinese guy who knows everyone who needs to be known. Scott Caan plays Dan "Dano" Williams (again, no relation to the previous), the haole (mainlander white guy) who knows nothing about anything about how to get along, and yet somehow manages; he's also the one with the obligatory terrible former marriage and the kid he loves desperately and never gets to see enough of. (It's a cop show; someone has to have The Divorce That Sucks.) Grace Park plays Kono Kalakaua, a rather sharp revisioning of the original Kono, who was a very beefy man. And O'Laughlin is a more flexible actor than Jack Lord -- you get the impression by the end of the first episode that he and his team could genuinely become friends, as opposed to being purely co-workers and comrades under arms. Despite himself, Dano -- who hates that nickname from anyone but his kid, by the by, which means that McGarrett uses it all the time -- seems to be taking a reluctant liking to him. McGarrett apparently has a sister with whom he's going to try to repair relations, whom we haven't yet met -- after all, he's been back only a day, spent a lot of that tracking down the people who killed his father and incidentally got involved in the whole sex-trafficking mess. I'm guessing the actual funeral is next episode, and that's when we'll meet his sister. (Bet the first thing she does is slap him. He seems to have had an impressively terrible relationship with his family.)

By the end of the first episode -- in which McGarrett has been back in Hawaii for less than one full day -- there are ... well, really rather an astounding number of dead and injured people -- mostly but not entirely criminals of various stripes -- an equally astounding number of people rescued from sex trafficking, and the investigation into the conspiracy has yielded some entirely unsurprising results. Frankly, the quantity of ultraviolence is really impressive. And yet, there's a certain amount of deliberate humor to leaven the appalling and the occasional clunky or stupid aspects. (There was a large lump of exposition delivered among the gunfire, leading to a certain amount of pilotits.) Sadly, it seems improbable that a new drama of any sort can go forward any more without having a major serial storyline. Hopefully, this conspiracy will last only one season, and they'll go on to something new next year, if the series is successful. The problem with a serial conspiracy of this sort, when it involves investigators, is that dragging it out makes your investigators look utterly incompetent, especially when they wind up being targeted -- and it's fairly clear that in order to protect itself, the conspiracy will have to go after the 5-0 unit eventually. Hell, apart from anything else, its mere existence is the sort of thing guaranteed to infuriate rank and file police; it baldly states that they do their job so badly that a task force of extremely dubious legality has take care of business. (Seriously, the governor cannot charter a semi-secret police task force on her own authority in any state. The legislature would have a cow once they found out, and the media would have a field day.)

All that aside, the new 5-0 is some fun mind candy. I hope it succeeds; I'll definitely be watching.

Questions? Comments? Cigars, cigarettes, Cigarillos?

Posted by iain at 10:25 PM in category television