Hawaii Five-0 presents a hyper remake of original pilot

A still from the Cocoon remake.

Hawaii Five-0 began its ninth season with a remake of the original show’s pilot.  While it was pretty close to the 1968 TV movie in places, the 2018 version was more hyper.

Part of it couldn’t be helped. The original (written by Leonard Freeman and directed by Paul Wendkos) has more time to work with. It filled a two-hour time slot. In those days you got around 50 minutes of show after excluding commercials.

The 2018 version filled a single-hour time slot, and these days you get 40 to 43 minutes or so without the commercials.

The remake also gives McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) more of a personal motive. (Of course.)

In the original, McGarrett was a friend of Hennessy, a U.S. intelligence operative (he wasn’t identified as working for the CIA) who turns up dead. It turns out he was one of several agents who had mysteriously died. In the remake, McGarrett had known all of the dead men.

With the remake, McGarrett puts things together really, really quickly. Still, the show faithfully recreates the sensory deprivation tank torture of the 1968 pilot. In that TV movie, the pilot was supervised by Wo Fat.

The Wo Fat of the current show was killed off back in 2014. Nevertheless, Wo Fat 2.0 (Mark Dacascos) makes an appearance in the form of a hallucination while McGarrett is being tortured. There’s a new villain, part of a “rogue” faction of Chinese intelligence. He happens to have a shaved head like the original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh).

The 2018 version also retains (understandably) the style of the current series. So, we still get arguments between McLaughlin’s McGarrett and Scott Caan’s Danno. In the remake, McLaughlin and Caan are together where Jack Lord’s McGarrett was by himself in the 1968 pilot.

Also, of course, the fight scenes are faster paced and violent than what viewers got in 1968. In the original, the climatic fight is between McGarrett and a traitorous U.S. intelligence agent. (They had to let Wo Fat go so he’d spread false information McGarrett had been programmed to say.). In the remake, McGarrett fights several guys, including the lead villain.

To be honest, I haven’t watched the current series that closely for the past few years. The remake held my interest. It was interesting to see what would be included.

Finally, the writing credit read, “Written by Leonard Freeman and Peter M. Lenkov.” Lenkov is the executive producer of the current series. The script of the remake used a surprising number of lines from Freeman’s original script.

So it was nice to see Freeman share in the full writing credit and not be relegated to a “story by” credit. Freeman died in 1974, after production of the original show’s sixth season had ended production. It would run another six seasons without him, although it was never quite the same.

Hawaii Five-O’s 50th anniversary: Cop show with a spy twist

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

Adapted and updated from a 2013 post.

Fifty 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.

Perry Lafferty, a former CBS executive, told the story a bit differently in an interview for the Archive of American Television. His version, though, still had Jack Lord as a last-minute casting.

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.

George Lazenby in a 1979 episode of Hawaii Five-O

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.”

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) and a Danny with more attitude (Scott Caan).

The current series is in its ninth season. For the 50th anniversary of the original show, it will feature a remake of Cocoon, the 1968 pilot. The remake is scheduled to be telecast on Sept. 28.

The 2010s Five-0 has other significant differences than the original. In the eighth season, the McLaughlin and Caan versions of McGarrett and Danny decided to go into the restaurant business on the side. I can’t imagine Leonard Freeman would have approved.

On the other hand, the producers were smart enough to keep the Morton Stevens theme music. Now, as in 1968, it’s still a highlight.

Bond 25-related odds and ends

Since last week’s announcement that Bond 25 was getting pushed back to Feb. 14, 2020, there have been some related moves by other studios.

–A third Kingsman movie has grabbed Bond 25’s former U.S. release date of Nov. 8, 2019, according to multiple outlets, including The Hollywood Reporter.

Baz Bamigboye, entertainment news scribe for the Daily Mail (known for his 007 scoops) said in a Sept. 21 tweet that the movie would be set in World War I.

In response to questions on Twitter, he specified the following day the film would be a prequel to the first two Kingsman movies. So we’ll see.

–Originally, Warner Bros. had an untitled movie based on DC Comics characters slated for Feb. 14, 2020. Subsequently, Warners named the project — Birds of Prey, with Margo Robbie as Harley Quinn — according to various outlets, including Deadline: Hollywood.  “Mr. Warner” also moved it up one week to Feb. 7.

Meanwhile, not directly Bond related, but Eon Productions boss Barbara Broccoli has a new non-007. It’s titled Till. The movie is “centered around Mamie Mobley Till, the mother of Emmett Louis Till, a Black teen who was lynched after being accused flirting with a white woman in the Jim Crow-era South,” according to a Deadline description.

Till will mark the feature film directing debut of Jesse Williams. Broccoli is one of five producers attached to the project, according to the Deadline story.

Bond 25 may decide Barbara Broccoli’s legacy

Barbara Broccoli, boss of Eon Productions

For Barbara Broccoli, Bond 25 may determine her career legacy.

Broccoli has produced a number of plays and non-Bond films. But being in the driver’s seat of the 007 film series will outweigh that.

Put another way: Her eventual obit will NOT have a headline of “Barbara Broccoli, producer of plays and dramas, dies.” It will read (more or less), “Barbara Broccoli, James Bond producer, dies.”

For the record, Broccoli, 58, is co-leader of Eon Productions with her half-brother, Michael G. Wilson, 76. In official Eon press releases, Wilson’s name is first, hers second. And, since 1995’s GoldenEye, the title card reads, “Produced by Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli.”

However, the Dec. 1, 2014 press event for SPECTRE made clear it was Broccoli was now in the lead position. Wilson wasn’t present. He would show up at later SPECTRE press events.

Nevertheless, the December 2014 event cemented a narrative that Broccoli, daughter of Albert R. and Dana Broccoli, was the lead figure of the franchise. For example, there’s this April 20, 2017 New York Times story that had this passage:

“…Barbara Broccoli, who runs Eon Productions. Moviemaking is a collaborative process, but Ms. Broccoli and her older half brother, Michael G. Wilson, have final say over every line of dialogue, casting decision, stunt sequence, marketing tie-in, TV ad, poster and billboard.”

Note The Times listed Broccoli first, Wilson second, the reverse of their title cards on 007 films.

However, that control doesn’t extend to financing. Eon has never financed its own movies. Others have always paid the bills. United Artists carried that responsibility in the early years. Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after it acquired UA in 1981.

MGM financial problems caused the longest hiatus in the 007 film series, 1989-95. An MGM bankruptcy was a major issue in the 2008-2012 gap.

The gap between 2015’s SPECTRE and 2020’s Bond 25 will be the second-longest in the history of the franchise. This time, though, MGM financial issues aren’t a reason. Both Broccoli and her preferred leading man, Craig, wanted a break. They took one from Bond while pursuing other projects.

“There’s no conversation going on because genuinely everybody’s just a bit tired,” Craig said at during an October 2016 event sponsored by The New Yorker. “The producers are just…Barbara (Broccoli) is making a movie. I’m doing (the play) Othello, Barbara’s producing that.”

Contributing to the current gap was how Eon this year pursued Danny Boyle as a director for Bond 25. This occurred after long-time 007 screenwriters delivered a Bond 25 treatment, according to multiple media reports. But Boyle and his writer, John Hodge, supposedly pitch a spectacular idea that Eon wanted. On May 25, Eon said that version was full speed ahead. On Aug. 21, Boyle was gone because of “creative differences.”

Now, a new director (and writer), Cary Joji Fukunaga, has come aboard. “We are delighted to be working with Cary,” according a quote attributed to both Wilson and Broccoli in a press release. “His versatility and innovation make him an excellent choice for our next James Bond adventure,”

(Reminder: Press release quotes are written by those charged with drafting the statement. The principals then approve the quotes or suggest/demand changes. In this case, it’s unlikely either Broccoli or Wilson actually said this. That’s not unique to Eon. It’s true of virtually every corporate press release.)

The thing is, if Bond 25 proves an outstanding entry in the series and/or is a huge financial success, none of this will matter much. Pro-Broccoli fans will say, “I told you so!” The worst-case scenario, likely, is a popular film that fans have second thoughts about (like SPECTRE).

Nevertheless, Broccoli’s legacy does have a lot riding on Bond 25. Her chosen Bond, Craig, will have an unprecedented run as Bond (albeit one with delays).

Nothing succeeds like success. A combination critical and popular success (similar to or exceeding 2013’s Skyfall) will cause most to forget the various bumps. For Barbara Broccoli, a spectacular Bond 25 would put her at the front of the line to take credit.

No pressure.

Historian notes U.N.C.L.E., NxNW anniversaries

Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo

Historian Michael Beschloss used his Twitter feed to note two spy-entertainment landmarks: The first telecast of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and the end of production on North by Northwest.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. debuted on Sept. 22, 1964 on NBC. The show had been in development for almost two years.

Producer Norman Felton, invited to discuss doing a TV series based on Ian Fleming’s Thrilling Cities book, instead pitched an adventure show.

The network said it’d commit to a series without a pilot episode if Felton could get Ian Fleming on board. The two had discussions in October 1962 in New York. In June 1963, Fleming dropped out because of pressure by 007 film producers Albert R. Broccoli and Harry Saltzman.

Despite Fleming’s departure, the project continued, although a pilot would have to be made before NBC committed to a series. Writer Sam Rolfe did the heavy lifting on scripting the pilot and would be the day-to-day producer on the show’s first season. The series paired Robert Vaughn as Napoleon Solo (the character name being one of Fleming’s surviving contributions) and David McCallum as Illya Kuryakin.

North by Northwest, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by Ernest Lehman, would set the style for a lot of 1960s spy entertainment. It balanced drama and humor as Cary Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill would dodge spies, with a climax on Mount Rushmore. The film ended production in September 1958 and would be released in 1959.

Here are Beschloss’s tweets:

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UPDATE (9:30 p.m. New York time): Beschloss was busy with other 1960s TV shows, including Get Smart.

 

IndieWire claims Bond 25 will be Craig’s FRWL

Daniel Craig in 2012 during filming of Skyfall.

IndieWire, without saying how it obtained the information, claims that Bond 25 will be Daniel Craig’s version of From Russia With Love. Here’s the opening of the article:

What Daniel Craig wants, Daniel Craig gets. And what he wants is to make his own version of “From Russia with Love” (1963), arguably the best of the James Bond movies and Sean Connery’s favorite. And now, with the signing of Cary Fukunaga as director, it looks like Craig’s going to pull it off for his fifth and final outing as 007.

All of this is presented with the certainty that the sun rises in the East and sets in the West. Journalists like Bob Woodward get away with this sort of thing because of a long track record.

Also, in Woodward’s case, it’s known he has recordings of all his interviews and lots of documents. People will speak to Woodward (even if it’s not with their name attached) to make sure they come across as good as possible.

IndieWire is a long-standing entertainment news website and clearly aspires to be more than British tabloids. But its latest story on Bond 25 calls on the reader to take a lot on faith without providing any information how the information was obtained.

The article says Craig has been seeking a From Russia With Love-like vehicle for almost a decade, going back to when Peter Morgan was hired to work with Nearl Purvis and Robert Wade on what eventually would be Skyfall.

IndieWire says Craig approached Morgan “to write a ‘From Russia with Love’-inspired treatment. Morgan delivered ‘Once Upon a Spy,’ in which Judi Dench’s M is blackmailed by a ghost from her Cold War past, exposing a secret love affair with a Soviet spy, which threatens to topple MI6, forcing Bond to kill his boss and maternal figure.”

Morgan’s misadventure in 007 screenwriting (he left the project) has been covered in the book Some Kind of Hero: The Remarkable Story of The James Bond Films by Matthew Field and Ajay Chowdhury.

Is IndieWire summarizing the book? Or does IndieWire claim original reporting about this? There’s no way for the reader to know. IndieWire wrote about the Field-Chowdhury book and Morgan in a 2015 story. In turn, that article was a summary of a Digital Spy article about the book.

There’s not much more to tell. If IndieWire is correct, it’s interesting for a number of reasons. The most important is Craig’s power — unprecedented among Bond actors working for Eon Productions —  to determine the course of the 007 film franchise. We’ll see how it goes.

Scribes analyze Fukunaga’s prospects for directing Bond 25

Cary Joji Fukunaga, Bond 25’s new director

The naming of Cary Joji Fukunaga as the new director for Bond 25 quickly spurred entertainment writers and other scribes to analyze how he’ll perform.

Essentially, several were excited by what Fukunaga will bring to the production. Others were more cautious, Fukunaga, who has a reputation as an auteur director, is replacing Danny Boyle, another auteur who departed over unspecified “creative differences.”

ERIC KOHN, INDIEWIRE: “Fukunaga has never made an obvious blockbuster, but he’s been steadily flexing the muscles required for a brainy action-adventure over the course of a trailblazing decade-long career…With those two features (Sin Nombre and Jane Eyre) alone, the filmmaker had already shown his capacity to juggle the unique formula that has sustained the Bond franchise across 65 years: tough, visceral action against diverse backdrops, balanced off with sleek romanticism.”

MORGAN JEFFERY, DIGITAL SPY: “If Fukunaga is anything, he’s a director who always has a very specific vision. So given that Boyle is confirmed to have quit Bond over ‘creative differences’, is it a risk to hire another auteur type?…For better or for worse, the Bond films already have their own style, their own formula, and don’t really suit idiosyncratic filmmakers…Cary Fukunaga is a great director, but helming a Bond film and working within that rigid framework is a very singular task. For all Fukunaga’s impressive qualities as a filmmaker, it’s no sure thing that he’ll be able to pull it off.”

OWEN GLEIBERMAN, VARIETY: “(T)he reason Cary Fukunaga has the potential to be an ideal filmmaker for the Bond series is all over his direction of ‘True Detective.’ Simply put, he has a depth-charge understanding of men…and women. And that, as much as anything, is what the James Bond series now needs to be about.”

ALISSA WILKINSON, VOX: “Fukunaga has spent much of his life moving between cultures and absorbing them. His father, a third-generation Japanese American, was born in an internment camp in the US during World War II; his mother is Swedish-American. His parents split when he was a child, after which his father married an Argentinian woman and his mother married a Mexican-American man. Fukunaga is fluent in French as well as Spanish, the latter of which he learned during summers in Mexico with his mother and stepfather.”

GEOFFREY MACNAB, THE INDEPENDENT: “Fukunaga seems a very clever pick on two different levels. He has a strong creative reputation – he is an auteur whose latest series Maniac is said to be genre-breaking and mind-bending – but he also knows how to play the game. He can work with big paymasters like HBO and Netflix….The next Bond will be the first one since the rise of the #MeToo movement and the Harvey Weinstein scandal. Fukunaga’s films, whether Sin Nombre or Jane Eyre, have often had very strong women characters. He’ll strain out any of the sexism that might have crept into the Bond series in the past.”