Monday, November 8, 2010

Book 'Em, Danno

Well, this is a first for me. I'm doing a TV show review. But I figure it's worth it, since there are very few watchable TV shows on right now. And though I'm not someone who spends his time looking for liberals under the bed, I have gotten tired of show after show that finds a way to be anti-American and/or anti-conservative.

I don't expect every show on TV to be flag-waving patriotic, but it's very refreshing when patriotism is built into the plot without hitting you over the head with it. The few shows I do watch for the inherent goodness of Americans, or even quirky twists that show pro-American bias in odd ways are all on hiatus right now. NCIS, NCIS Los Angeles, In Plain Sight, and my favorite, Burn Notice are either in reruns or coming back for the next season. The NCIS series which succeeded JAG has floundered lately, complete with misunderstood and wrongly accused Muslims, but both shows seem to have gotten back on track.

Blue Bloods is also showing promise, though it needs to get a bit less formulaic and take itself a bit less seriously. But my guilty pleasure is Hawaii Five-O. The original series kicked off the year I got married. I have a forty year old daughter, so that tells you how different times were when McGarrett and Danno faced the evil Wo Fat. Unlike many of the miserably failed sequels we discussed on Andrew Price's article the other day, this one works, and works well.

Now let me start with the recognition that the show is not particularly cerebral, nor the least bit artsy-fartsy. Early previews by critics tended toward calling it "as mindless as its predecessor." That alone was enough to get me to give it a try. After all, these are the same people who have never seen a bad episode of Law and Order, which hasn't had a decent episode since Michael Moriarty left. Though I had no delusions about the original being high art, nevertheless I was expecting the new show to be a poor imitation of the original.

I was pleasantly surprised. The flavor of the original leads was retained, but neither of them tries to channel Jack Lord or James MacArthur. The Islands are just as exotic as they were then, even if some of the landmarks have changed a bit. The music updates the original theme somewhat, but not enough to have lost its catchiness. Playing Steve McGarrett is the somewhat familiar actor Alex O'Loughlin. I remembered him from the short-lived series Moonlight, and thought he had just the right combination of low-key stolidness and minimal earnestness to be a good substitute for Jack Lord. He filled the bill.

The real surprise for me was the one character I was sure was going to turn me away from the show. Replacing James MacArthur as Danno is the bull-necked, cocky Scott Caan. I have intensely disliked him in everything I've ever seen him in. I take it all back. He puts life into the role that MacArthur did so well. But unlike O'Laughlin who does a very good update of McGarrett, Caan actually changes Danno's persona, and I'll be damned--improves it. Instead of the father-son type of relationship in the original, these two are like opposite poles of a magnet. They have actually made the cop-buddy relationship work better than the original.

But let's concentrate on what makes what would be just another cops-in-paradise comedy-drama into a show that's engrossing without being the least bit pretentious (in other words, the middle-brow genre that prissy critics hate so much). The show is unabashedly patriotic, along with having a sense of history. Pearl Harbor is both a memory and a constant in-the-present theme in nearly every episode. The initial episode had McGarrett investigating the arms dealers who sell weapons to terrorists who hate America and killed his father. Best of all, he's a former Navy SEAL. He doesn't have to tell you he's brave by strutting his stuff, but rather the way real heroes do it, with quiet determination and occasional menace.

The show leaves little doubt as to whom they consider the enemy. Communists, Red Chinese, North Korean spies and murderers, and non-Muslim Filipino terrorists. In order to give Danno believability in this more dangerous world of the 21st century, the writers nixed the native-born white Hawaiian guy, and instead imported a New Jersey cop who thinks most of the islanders are slackers and surf-bums. The rest of the cast is equally appropriate.

Some notable lines from the series that indicate its decidedly non-politically correct viewpoint: When asked why the Filipino terrorists who kidnapped the US ambassador's daughter hate us, McGarrett replies simply "the radicals hate us because we support the democratically elected government." Danno calls McGarrett "G.I. Joe" and it's sometimes a slap and sometimes an affectionate jibe. And speaking of taking jabs, Danno frequently does so at politically-correct speech. Whenever a native Hawaiian refers to a white mainlander as a "haole," Danno explains that the character has just used "the H-word."

McGarrett has also blown up at the native islanders who would call him a haole. He let loose on one of them by coldly staring at him and saying: "I was born here. My parents are both buried here. I am named after my grandfather who is entombed in the USS Arizona. I am a native Hawaiian."

If you need Shakespeare, or Einstein, or even police detective angst, this show is not for you. But if you like cop shows, exotic locations, lots of action, plain good fun, and oh, patriotism, you'll like this show.


Tennessee Jed said...

My wife and I were pleasantly surprised by the new Hawaii 5-0. Any show shot in Hawaii is a plus. Yet it is weekly tv series, but good chemistry between cast members. Finally, so far, no liberal agenda or p.c. bullshit.

AndrewPrice said...

I haven't watched the remake because I liked the original and I can't see anyone other than Jack Lord in the role. I'm glad it's good though.

Tennessee Jed said...

Andrew - see your article on what makes a good "re-make." One of the things I liked about the new one is they are different characters. The lead is McGarret's son. He is a former special forces guy and recognizes the need to feal with threats effrectively.

Unknown said...

Tennessee: I keep watching to see if one of the scenes will include my old employer, Maui Divers Jewelry. They moved their main office to Honolulu about the time the original series ended, and it's now a tourist attraction. I wonder how much effect that had on my watching the show in the first place.

Unknown said...

Andrew: I almost didn't watch it for the same reason as you. But after doing so, I'm glad I did. There was a good reason for making the new McGarrett the son of the old McGarrett. He could be like him, but not be him. I think a lot of people see Lord in the role and would resent him being portrayed the same way by someone else. Believe me, it works. And in the first episode, they paid homage to Lord by having O'Loughlin catch the rats who killed his father.

Writer X said...


Hawaii Five-0 is totally my guilty pleasure too. And I thought the same thing about Scott Caan. He made the first show for me, even though I continue to be a hard-core Alex O'Loughlin fan. Yes, I'm not afraid to also admit that the show has some serious eye candy. ;-)

My brother turned me onto BURN NOTICE and I'm beginning to watch that one and enjoying it immensely. I love Bruce Campbell; I think he is hilarious.

BevfromNYC said...

FYI - Sadly, James MacArthur passed away just 2 week ago - on Oct. 28th at the age of 73.

Unknown said...

WriterX: Glad you like Burn Notice. Jeffrey Donovan has had several roles on short-lived series, but he really found his niche with this one. Gabrielle Anwar is great as the delicate-looking Fiona, who could blow up the White House if asked to. And the two have great chemistry. But like you, I think Bruce Campbell steals every scene he's in.

Unknown said...

Bev: MacArthur was a talented, low-key actor. And he came from fantastic acting/producing/directing stock. I was sad to hear that he had passed away. Makes me feel really old, since the first movie I took a young lady to after getting my driver's license was Swiss Family Robinson, with MacArthur in a major role as one of the teenage children.

Unknown said...

As proof that leftists are like the old gag about Puritans being afraid that someone, somewhere is smiling, the reviewer at the Huffington Post opened his article with: "The classic TV show is back in a fun, frothy format." But lest you think that pinky-finger liberals are ever going to allow you just to have a little mindless fun, he adds: "To paraphrase Dragnet's Jack Webb, in the 2010 edition, which debuted on September 20th on CBS, the names have not been changed, but the plot has been dumbed down to an America that can only seem to digest Ramboesque testosterone-laced action and simple plot lines." See? Only dumb people can enjoy frothy entertainment, so I guess they'll be watching Masterpiece Theatre instead.

T_Rav said...

LawHawk: And the Huffington Post thinks this is a bad thing? Curious.

Tehachapi Tom said...

Well Hawk, you have shown me that an article about some video fiction can be of interest to me. I watch very little TV any more mostly because if you pay attention the results are apparent.
Fiction can never replace real true life situations. However before becoming calloused I did watch the original and now due to your views of the sequel I am going to watch at least one episode front to back. Don't get to excited yet lets see what the feeling is after the first one.
I'll let you know.

Unknown said...

T_Rav: Their review is typical split personality crap. They're closet froth fans, but can't let their inellekchual fans know it. The review sort of reminded me of "I tried marijuana once, but I didn't inhale."

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: Life is too earnest for me to dwell on it 24 hours a day. So I take my guilty pleasures where I can find them. I have the TV on much of the day as background company now that I'm an empty-nester (most of the time, anyway). But I only choose to pay attention to important news, and some escapist entertainment. That means I actually pay attention to about two or three hours of TV per day. Sometimes, no time at all. I have my favorites, but most of them are not "message" shows. Hell, I've even watched Desperate Housewives a few times. LOL

In other words, I eat regular, balanced meals, but a handful of M&Ms from time to time is good for the soul.

Tehachapi Tom said...

I like the M&Ms analogy, very descriptive. I watch "How its Made,
Destroyed in Seconds and some of the cooking channel presentations. I particularly like Alton Brown and Bobby Flay. For fiction, I think Iron Chef is as good as one can find.
Old English mysteries, Frost can be interesting but hard to trap my undivided attention. I am serious about seeing at least one of the Hawaii-5-O presentations. Maybe that will be one that spouse and I can enjoy together, other than Iron Chef.

Unknown said...

Tehachapi Tom: I finish my final preparations for going to bed by flipping on one of the History channels (usually History International). Comedian Richard Jeni once described TV cooking shows as "kitchen utensils that you've never seen or heard of used in a kitchen that's bigger than your whole friggin' house." I've never entirely been able to take cooking shows very seriously after that.

rlaWTX said...

so I am waaay late, but I'm gonna chime in anyway...
Alex O'Loughlin - YUMYUMYUM
a joke they made a couple of weeks ago had it sound like Danno was way younger than Steve. The actors are about a month apart age-wise.

it's fun and still enough serious to let you appreciate the work they are doing.

(LOVELOVELOVE NCIS - even when they get a little silly about Muslims)

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