Anatomy of a television inside joke

Never let it be said television writers don’t have a sense of humor — especially when making inside jokes about their profession.

"Who's the funny guy?"

“Who’s the funny guy?”


We were watching an episode of Mannix from the 1973-74 season called Sing A Song of Murder. In it, intrepid P.I. Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) gets the drop on a guy who’s been tailing him. The interloper is a P.I. from Chicago named Anthony Spinner, who’s revealed later to be really a hitman.

That caught our attention since another Anthony Spinner was the producer for the fourth, and last, season of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and would go on to be producer for a number of Quinn Martin series, including The FBI, Caribe and Cannon.

The Mannix episode was written by Stephen Kandel, who wrote for a number of spy-related series including I Spy, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O and A Man Called Sloane. He also has a bit of cult fame as the writer of the two Harry Mudd episodes on the original Star Trek series.

Anyway, Kandel also wrote for a Quinn Martin series that ran during the 1970-71 season called Dan August, whose producer happened to be….Anthony Spinner. He later wrote for Cannon when Spinner was producer of that QM show.

Coincidence? Perhaps, but given the background, an inside joke for viewers seems the more likely explanation.

Hawaii Five-O complete (?) DVD set to debut

Hawaii-five-O-original

A 72-disc set billed as the complete set of the original Hawaii Five-O series (it had previously been sold on a season-by-season basis) officially goes on sale on Dec. 3. But customer reviews AT AMAZON.COM indicate deep skepticism it’s really a complete set despite the packaging and marketing.

The reason is Bored, She Hung Herself, the “lost” episode that has never been shown in syndication or issued on home video since its original broadcast on CBS on Jan. 7, 1970. It wasn’t part of the second season DVD set issued previously.

In the episode’s pre-titles sequence, there’s a character who hangs from a beam as part of a yoga technique without dying. He becomes a murder suspect when somebody else he knows dies by hanging. Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told attendees at a 1996 fan convention in the Los Angeles area that somebody killed themselves trying to duplicate the stunt.

As a result, the episode was pulled from circulation. At the same convention, though, a film copy of the episode was shown with a projector. It also showed up on YouTube in 2011 but was subsequently pulled.

As of Nov. 25, the complete set drew 10 reviews on Amazon.com, with seven of them for only 1 star.

“I would love nothing more then to order this box set of the original Hawaii Five O television series… And will, as soon as it becomes the “COMPLETE” series by adding the missing second season episode,” one of the 1-star reviews reads. “I will not pay for anything that advertises it is something it quite obviously isn’t.” The Amazon entry for the set doesn’t mention “Bored, She Hung Herself.”

The new complete (?) set has a list price of $349. Amazon has marked it down to $244.86 as part of a Black Friday special.

Earlier posts:
SEPTEMBER 2011: `BORED, SHE HUNG HERSELF,’ THE LOST HAWAII FIVE-O EPISODE

SEPTEMBER 2013: HAWAII FIVE-O’S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: COP SHOW WITH A SPY TWIST

45th anniversary of the best TV theme

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Sept. 20 is the 45th anniversary of, arguably, the best television theme of all time: Hawaii Five-O by composer Morton Stevens.

The Five-O theme is one of the most famous pieces of music in the world. People who’ve never watched an episode recognize it when just a few notes are played. Over the decades, it’s been used in commercials and been played by marching bands. Yet, the vast majority of those who’ve heard it probably couldn’t name the man who wrote it.

In the 1960s, the likes of Stevens, John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith and Lalo Schifrin were busy doing scores for television. Of that quartet, three became big-time film composers. Stevens didn’t.

In the spring of 1965, CBS hired Stevens to supervise its West Coast music operation. It was in that capacity that Stevens scored the Hawaii Five-O pilot. But Stevens couldn’t do every job himself. Thus, he hired Williams to score 1969′s The Reivers, which CBS released under the Cinema Center Films label. The Steve McQueen movie helped Williams transition from TV to films.

Stevens died in 1991, at the age of 62, of cancer. His lasting music achievement was the original 1968-80 Five-O series. Not only did he write the theme, he created the music template for the series. Stevens delivered episode scores for 11 of the 12 seasons. The Five-O theme was often used by Stevens and other composers in the background music. It showed up as an action riff. It would also be slowed way down for reflective moments in a story.

Only recently did Stevens get attention for his other work. The DVD set for the 1960-62 Thriller anthology series with Boris Karloff featured a number of episodes where viewers can isolate the scores of Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith. Jon Burlingame, who has written extensively about film and television music, did a commentary track about each composer. He discussed Stevens’ work in detail.

Here’s the version of the Five-O theme used during the first season of the show:

Sept. 1 post: HAWAII FIVE-O’S 45TH ANNIVERSARY: COP SHOW WITH A SPY TWIST

Hawaii Five-O’s 45th anniversary: cop show with a spy twist

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Forty-five years ago this month, Hawaii Five-O debuted. While a cop show, it had an element of international intrigue from the start.

The two-hour television movie version version of the pilot, which first aired on CBS on SEPT. 20, 1968, concerned a plot where Red Chinese intelligence operative Wo Fat was torturing U.S. intelligence agents in the Pacific Rim and obtaining important information.

Steve McGarrett, the no-nonsense head of state police unit Hawaii Five-O is drawn to the case because the latest victim was a friend of his. The lawman, a former U.S. Naval intelligence officer, isn’t one to back down from official pressure to lay off.

The pilot immediately grabbed the attention of viewers. A short pre-titles sequence shows Wo Fat using a sensory deprivation chamber for the torture. That’s followed by a 90-second main title featuring a stirring theme by Morton Stevens.

The composer initially thought about re-using the theme he wrote for an unsold pilot, CALL TO DANGER. His wife, Annie Stevens, strongly advised against the move, according to a 2010 STORY IN THE HONOLULU STAR ADVERTISER. As a result, Stevens created one of the greatest themes in television history.

The series was conceived by veteran television producer Leonard Freeman, who wrote the pilot. Freeman’s 1967 first draft had a team led by McGarrett, with a mid-20s Hawaiian sidekick, Kono Kalakaua, a third, heavy-set detective and Chin Ho Kelly, who was the Honolulu Police Department’s liaison with Five-O. In the final version of the story, the sidekick became the Caucasian Danny Williams; the Kono name was given to the heavier-set character; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

Freeman & Co. were preparing to film the pilot with American actor Robert Brown as McGarrett. Rose Freeman, widow of the Five-O creator, told a 1996 fan convention in Los Angeles that CBS objected to the casting and, just five days before filming was to start, Brown was replaced with Jack Lord, the first screen incarnation of Felix Leiter in Dr. No. Brown ended up starring in another 1968 series, Here Come the Brides.

The pilot had Tim O’Kelly as Danny. When the series was picked up, Freeman recast the part with James MacArthur, who a small, but notable role in Hang ‘Em High, a Clint Eastwood Western film that Freeman had produced.

The international espionage aspect of Five-O remained throughout the show’s 12-year run, though less so in the later seasons. Wo Fat, played by Khigh Dhiegh, made a NUMBER OF RETURN APPEARANCES, including the 1980 series finale. As the U.S. and China began to normalize diplomatic relations, Wo Fat became an independent menace. In the ninth-season opener, Wo Fat attempts to take over the Chinese government.

Five-O matched wits with a number of other spies played by the likes of Theodore Bikel (who had tried out for Goldfinger), Maud Adams and Soon Tek-Oh. George Lazenby, the second screen James Bond, played a secondary villain in a 1979 episode filmed on location in Singapore.

Five-O wasn’t always an easy show to work on. Freeman died in early 1974, after the sixth season completed production. Zulu (real name Gilbert Kauhi), who played Kono left after the fourth season; he told fans at the 1996 convention about problems he had with Jack Lord. His replacement, Al Harrington as another detective, departed in the seventh season.

Nevertheless, Five-O had a long run. When it left the air, Five-O was the longest-running crime drama, a status it held until Law and Order, the 1990-2010 series.

Lord’s Steve McGarrett emerged as one of the most recognizable television characters. In 2007, 27 years after the final Five-O episode, THE NEW YORK TIMES’S OPINION PAGES summed up Five-O’s appeal.

“Evil makes McGarrett angry, but when he speaks, his voice is startlingly gentle, exuding a quiet control that a beleaguered generation of parents surely wished they had when facing the forces of social decay,” reads the commentary by Lawrence Downes.

The writer ends his piece describing what it might be like if McGarrett was president. He dispatches Kono and Chin to stop illegal immigration and tells Danny that he wants undocumented workers “legalized. Tell Congress to send me a bill. I want it tough, and I want it fair. And I want it on my desk Monday morning.”

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

In 2010, CBS introduced a new version of the show, with a slightly different spelling (Hawaii Five-0, with a digit instead of a capital O as in the original), a younger McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin), a Danny with more attitude (Scott Caan) and a woman Kono (Grace Park).

CBS will begin televising the fourth season of the new Five-0 later this month. The show been shifted to Friday nights after falling ratings during the 2012-13 season, including a 25 percent decline for its season finale compared with a year earlier.

Even if the new Five-0′s ratings stabilize, it doesn’t seem likely editorial writers will muse what it’d be like to have McGarrett 2.0 as president. On the other hand, the producers were smart enough to keep the Morton Stevens theme music.

Michael Ansara’s visits to ’60s spy television

Michael Ansara in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Michael Ansara in The Man From U.N.C.L.E.

Veteran actor Michael Ansara died last week, according to obituaries including one in one in the Hollywood Reporter.

Obituaries referenced how Ansara played a Star Trek Villain. However, the Syrian-born actor made guest star appearances in The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., It Takes a Thief, Hawaii Five-O and Mission: Impossible. (To view his IMDB.com entry, CLICK HERE.

The actor, who passed away at age 91, received an unusual send off on Aug. 4: Bob Schieffer’s closing commentary on CBS’s Face the Nation.

Schieffer described what it was like as a 20-year-old college student interviewing Ansara and his then-wife Barbara Eden in 1957 in Fort Worth, Texas.

“They treated me with patience and good humor,” Schieffer said. “I hope I’ve learned to ask better questions. I’m sure they forgot the episode and I never saw them again. But I never forgot how kind they were to a kid who had no idea what he was doing. When you’re the kid, you never forget those things.”

HMSS’s favorite character actors: Robert Drivas

Robert Drivas, as Morgan Midas, struggles with Robert Conrad's James West

Robert Drivas in The Wild, Wild West

One in an occasional series

Robert Drivas had a talent for playing characters who seemed normal on the outside but were wound just a little tight on the inside.

In the first season of The Wild, Wild West, Drivas portrayed Morgan Midas, who had a rather ambitious scheme. He stole diamonds and melted them down to create a serum that allowed him to move at super speed.

The episode, The Night of the Burning Diamond, written by Ken Kolb, was pure fantasy, stretching the limits for a series that was often unconventional. But Drivas was an engrossing villain, one who often dominated the scenes where he appeared.

Drivas appeared in a number of episodes of Quinn Martin-produced shows. One of his best performances was in a two-part story in The FBI. Drivas played Paul Clamenti, a man in his mid-20s with lots of issues. Clamenti’s parents had been killed as part of La Cosa Nostra violence and he was adopted by his aunt and uncle.

Problem: his uncle, Edward (Telly Savalas), was one of the chiefs of the Cosa Nostra. He also fell in love with Chris Roland (Susan Strasberg), who was the daughter of Leo Roland (Walter Pidgeon), another mob boss.

On top of all that, Paul Clamenti decided to be a hit man on the side. His specialty was to shoot his victims twice in the heart, earning him the nickname Cupid. That sounds rather melodramatic, but Drivas pulled it off, more than holding his own in scenes with old pros.

Drivas also played a key role in the only three-part story in the original Hawaii Five-O series, V is for Vashon. Drivas, by this time in his 30s, played Chris Vashon, the early 20s scion of the Vashon crime family in Hawaii.

Once again, Drivas played opposite old pros (Harold Gould as his father, Luther Adler as his grandfather) and held his own. Chris Vashon died at the end of the first installment, an event that drives the remaining parts of the story.

Drivas played a variety of parts during his career, including Loudmouth Steve in Cool Hand Luke. He died of AIDS-related cancer in 1986 at the age of 47.

Hawaii Five-0′s fixation with Die Another Day

DADposter

Goldfinger said, “Mr. Bond, they have a saying in Chicago: `Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”‘

We’re way beyond coincidence now. Clearly, the makers of CBS’s Hawaii Five-0, a remake of the 1968-80 television series, have a thing for Die Another Day, the 20th James Bond movie, released in 2002.

The April 15 installment featured an episode where the setting, for the second time in consecutive seasons, was set in North Korea. One of the villains was played by Rick Yune, who played Zao, the “physical villain” of Die Another Day.

Well, that could be happenstance, you say. Except, the show previously has had Will Yun Lee, who played North Korean Colonel Moon (who transforms himself into Gustav Graves, played by Toby Stephens), from the same movie. Lee has had a recurring role since the start of the show.

More tellingly, a November 2011 episode borrowed even more from Die Another Day. In that episode, scenes set in North Korea are photographed so they’re all dark while scenes set in other locales have bright colors. Also, there’s a scene where McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) is tortured much the same way that Bond (Pierce Brosnan) is tortured in the 2002 Bond movie.

We’re definitely passed coincidence. Die Another Day these days tends to get mixed reviews among 007 fans. But it seems clear that it has fans among the Five-0 crew.

EARLIER POSTS:
McGarrett 2.0 clearly has never watched Die Another Day (Nov. 21, 2011)

Compare Die Another Day vs. Hawaii Five-0 (Nov. 24, 2011)

Five-0 `Hookman’ remake’s similarities, differences

Hawaii-five-O-new

Feb. 5: Updated with a correction about the credit fonts.

CBS’s new Hawaii Five-0 followed the 1973 version of “Hookman” pretty closely in the remake that aired Feb. 4. But there were some significant differences, as well. Here’s a sampling of the similarities and differences:

Episode title: The new Five-0 repeated “Hookman” as the episode titles. The new show, that debuted in 2010, usually uses Hawaiian words as titles while not actually showing those episode titles on screen. (CLICK HERE for an example.) Apparently, “Hookman” doesn’t have a good Hawaiian equivalent. Also, the title “Hookman” was shown on screen just before the main titles. The villain had prosthetic hands rather than hooks, but “Prosthetic Hand Man” wasn’t nearly as good a title as “Hookman.”

Credit fonts: It appeared that Five-0 used the same, or at least a very similar font for the credits as the one used in the original show. Presumably this was intended for a “retro” look that CBS had hyped in promoting the episode. (Shoutout to Mike Quigley, webmaster of The Hawaii Five-O Home Page for pointing out differences in the fonts.)

Car chase: In both the 1973 and 2013 versions, the villain takes off in a Ford Mustang. In the original show, Ford Motor Co. was the supplier of vehicles. In the new show, General Motors Co. has that role (McGarrett 2.0 tools around in a Chevrolet Camaro). It looked like the crew attempted to obscure the Mustang logo in the front grille of the Feb. 4 show.

Meanwhile, in the original, McGarrett chased after the villain by himself. In the Feb. 4 show, both McGarrett 2.0 and Danno 2.0 are in McGarrett’s Camaro. Naturally a “cargument” (a schtick of the new show) ensues between the two men.

Things not shown in the original: In the 1973 “Hookman,” we don’t see the villain send his car into the bay; we’re just told about it later. Such a scene was staged in the remake. What’s more, the Feb. 4 show had a flashback sequence showing how the villain lost his hands. In the 1973 version, McGarrett provides a quick recap. Also, in the new version, it was McGarrett’s father who was involved in that case, rather than McGarrett himself.

Score: Morton Stevens won an Emmy for his “Hookman” score. The score on the Feb. 4 story keeps with the general Five-0 background music by Brian Tyler and Keith Power that seems like it’s the poor man’s Hans Zimmer from Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies.

New ending: McGarrett 2.0 “meets” the ghosts of the villain’s victims, something that didn’t happen at all in the original.

UPDATE (Feb. 5): You can CLICK HERE to watch the Feb. 4 episode on CBS’s Web site.

Hawaii Five-0′s remake of `Hookman’ to air Feb. 4

Hawaii-five-O-new

The new Hawaii Five-0′s remake of the “Hookman” episode from the original 1968-80 series is scheduled to be broadcast by CBS on Feb. 4, according to the TV LINE WEB SITE.

The story is presumably accurate because CBS promoted TV Line’s piece IN A TWITTER POSTING.

According to TV Line, the remake includes some scenes shot in the same locations as the 1973 original. The story includes stills from the new and original versions of Hookman, which features a villain who has no hands and must use hooks to operate weapons. Here’s an excerpt of the TV Line story:

Fans of the original series will remember the episode’s title and plot from the sixth season premiere, which nabbed an Emmy for the iconic drama. Only back then, a double amputee gunned for Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett, who’d played a huge role in his accident.

Morton Stevens, composer of the Five-O theme, won the Emmy for his background music for the 1973 episode.

UPDATE (Jan. 23): We came across a CBS PRESS RELEASE for this episode and see a red flag. It has some credits near the end including “Written by Joe Halpin.” But what about the writers of the original episode, Glen Olson and Rod Baker?

In the 1990s, Lois and Clark: the New Adventures of Superman remade “Panic in the Sky,” an episode of the 1950s George Reeves series The Adventures of Superman. Jackson Gillis, the writer of the original, got a “story by” credit for the 1990s show. It would seem that Olson and Baker would be due similar treatment for the new version of “Hookman.”

UPDATE II: Back IN NOVEMBER: CBS said writer Halpin had consulted with Olson and Baker about the remake to get their blessing. Executive Producer Peter Lenkov said the remake would “stay true to each and every element that made ‘Hookman’ such a beloved hour of television.”

UPDATE III (Jan. 25): The Writer’s Guild of America has weighed in on the credit issue for Glen Olson and Rod Baker. See Rod Baker’s response to this post below. We’re glad to hear it. If you click on the link to the online CBS press release, it now has a credit for Olson and Baker.

UPDATE IV (Jan. 28): Peter Lenkov fielded a question from a fan on Twitter about Hookman:

Peter Lenkov‏@PLenkov

“@FangirLEEng: @PLenkov Currently watching the original Hookman. Are you guys going to remake every single scene of the episode? #H50” yep

That’s going to be a neat trick. In the 1973-74 season, Five-O episodes were 49-50 minutes without commercials. The new Five-0 is 42-43 minutes.

New Hawaii Five-0 to remake “Hookman”

Hawaii-five-O-new

The new Hawaii Five-0 series is going to remake the “Hookman” episode of the original Hawaii Five-O, according to a story at ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’S WEB SITE.

The first “Hookman” led off the 1973-74 season. The story concerned a double amputee out for revenge against lawman Steve McGarrett and others. It won an Emmy award for composer Morton Stevens, who also wrote the Five-O theme and established the musical template for the original series.

Here’s an excerpt from the EW.com article:

Peter Weller (RoboCop) is set direct the episode and guest star as the title villain, taking over the role originally played by double amputee Jay J. Armes.

“It was a stand-out and a fan-favorite,” says executive producer Peter Lenkov of choosing the episode from a batch of many contenders. “It sort of came to everyone’s mind — everyone remembered ‘Hookman.’”

Part of the episode is on YouTube, at least for now. It provides a sample of the score that won Stevens his Emmy:

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