I read somewhere that the new television series on CBS, “Hawaii Five-O,” was extended to a full season’s worth of episodes. Unlike other television series today, it has a really catchy theme tune. That’s about it. OK, it has sunny locales and bikini-clad beaches, and slightly more action and explosions than boring crime lab procedurals that are just an excuse to justify pre-conceived “suspicions,” and cop shows where you are told who the guilty party is five minutes in and it is just a matter of writers and actors filling in the blanks with intimidation, “clever” banter and political bluster. It makes some of us yearn for the detective shows of yesteryear, when the gumshoe had to be clever just to stay alive. Mannix, for example, was just your average apolitical “Joe” who drank a lot, smoked too much and got into even more trouble when working on a case. A client hardly ever told him the whole truth, and Mannix always had to find that out the hard way—usually after he reawakened from a fist-induced stupor or recovering from being shot by unknown assailants. For Mannix, life was one load of irony after another; if he was told one thing by anyone who wasn’t named Peggy, it almost invariably meant another thing. Mannix’s problem was that he was altogether too trusting—especially with someone in a short skirt. It was usually toward the end of an episode when he got wise to the way he was being played; if his epiphany came any earlier, nobody would believe him. After an episode full of trials and errors, Mannix eventually solved the case. The current generation calls this dull, but I call that pure laziness on their part. These loafers just want technology to solve everything; no thinking required.
Now, you might say that if I remember Mannix, how can I be so dumb not to remember that there is an “old” Hawaii Five-O? Well, I do remember that particular show, and except for the intro music and the names of the principles, there is no real connection between the old and the new. They are almost completely different animals. For one thing, the “old” show knew the difference between right and wrong; I admit that didn’t like Jack Lord’s McGarrett back in the day—he seemed like such a humorless hardass who was always thought he was right. But while he and his crew frequently ran afoul of evolving social mores they didn’t even try to understand, they didn’t try to step too far outside the boundaries of the law. How could they, when they always wore suits and ties? After all, there were a lot bigger fish to fry: it seemed like all the worst criminals were taking a holiday in Hawaii and spoiling all the amusement. The Five-O squad was like the island’s secret service—make the state safe for fun and frolic in the sand, and no one would be the wiser. Watching the series now, I’ve gained greater respect for Lord’s McGarrett: He wasn’t completely humorless, and he never lost his cool no matter how dark things looked. He was the Captain Kirk of crime fighting.
The new show, on the other hand, is just “new.” I don’t get it at all. These guys have no sense of right or wrong. They’re practically terrorists themselves. They may be answerable to the governor, but that is just proof that women in power have no more moral or ethical qualms than men. The new McGarrett has even less personality than the old, and his crew would probably be career criminals if they were not working in “law enforcement.” Nobody in suits, but plenty of exposed abs and occasional cleavage. This Five-O has plenty of action, lots of explosions and use of armor-piercing weapons that the old crew wouldn’t have dared use for fear of causing too much noticeable mayhem and scaring away the tourists. And then there is the dialogue; I admit that a lot of the “humor” in the old series was “Plan Nine” quality, but you were not supposed to laugh anyways. Every time McGarrett said something, you better believe it was pretty damned important, or else. In the new series, the dialogue—as in so much of the current crop of crime shows—is just there to fill in the empty spaces and sound clever while essentially conveying nothing in particular.
Nevertheless, the new show seems to have had a modicum of success in its time slot. But what does that signify? That for the current generation, the line between doing things the ethical way and the corrupt way and is blurred by all those explosions? That anything extralegal is “justified” so long as it accomplishes a desirable end? Because doing things the “right” way is too hard, too boring?