Review: Hawaii Five-O

TV Guide, December 7, 1968

This series has so much going for it that it's something of a mystery why it hasn't made more of a dent. In the first place, as befits a show which is filmed in Hawaii, it is tremendously satisfying visually -- all the way to the wave which ushers in each commercial break. In the second place, it is amazingly authentic. For one thing, the show's fictional governor (Richard Denning) is regularly given to talking things over with the special investigative unit (which is known as Five-O) over a papaya lunch under a tree. For another and more important thing, Five-O has its fictional headquarters right smack dab in the middle of historic Iolani Palace. And Iolani is not only the only royal palace in America, it also serves as the nonfictional headquarters of the Hawaiian Government. Just why the Hawaiian authorities permit all this is hard to figure. There is so much crime abounding in Hawaii Five-O that the average viewer gets the distinct impression that, compared with present-day Hawaii, old-time Chicago was the Tournament of Roses. But never mind -- the point is they do co-operate and the show is authentic.

In the third place, whatever is missing here is certainly not more principal characters, for this series offers you a whole bureauful of top-drawer officers. Heading the list is Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord, a man who, if he's a bit one-dimensional, has at least the virtue of not being either so grim or so true-blue that he's not believable). Next is Danny Williams (James MacArthur), who has all the earnest yearn-to-learn quality apparently demanded of second guns and yet has a couple of other expressions too. Finally, there's McGarrett's secretary, and we know what you'd expect here: a real hula hooper. You're wrong. She's an everyday American girl named May (Maggi Parker). And, when we come to the Hawaiians in Five-O, they're interesting -- particularly Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) and Kono (Zulu).

What, then, is the trouble? Our guess is that it's that old bugaboo, the plots. The first episode, for example, gave us two people (Louise Troy and Kevin McCarthy) who earned their livelihood by picking out rich widows on cruise ships, floating a loan from them and then drowning them. McGarrett and his boys handled this one by enlisting, as an ersatz widow, a policewoman (Patricia Smith). And it was all very exciting too -- right up to the very end, when it all became so ridiculous you couldn't believe you'd ever believed it. Another show was one in which a man (Simon Oakland) blew up a land commissioner. This one went down the drain when he protested that all he wanted to do was to hold the commissioner in his arms and say, "Nate, Nate, my friend." More recently there was an episode in which Danny himself got arrested and in which there were not only fine performances by Danny and McGarrett but also a truly extraordinary one by a dope peddler (Gavin MacLeod). This kind of episode gives you hope for the rest of the season, but so far, at half time, the score is Hawaii Five-O, viewers 49.