Similarities in the Wo Fat, Blofeld reboots

Two villains of yesteryear — Wo Fat on television’s Hawaii Five-0 and Ernst Stavro Blofeld in the James Bond movies — have been rebooted recently. The revivals share a number of things in common.

Mark Cacascos, Wo Fat 2.0.

Mark Dacascos, Wo Fat 2.0.

This time it’s personal: Both Wo Fat and Blofeld now have personal grievances going back to their childhoods against the latest incarnations of Steve McGarrett (Alex O’Laughlin) and James Bond (Daniel Craig).

Those grievances involve parents: Mother McGarrett was a spy and was supposed to kill Wo Fat’s father. She killed his mother instead. Mom McGarrett wanted to adopt kid Wo Fat but wasn’t allowed to do so. Wo Fat eventually swears revenge against the entire McGarrett clan.

Meanwhile, new Blofeld got mad at his dad, who took in orphaned James Bond. So he killed his father, faked his own death and took the name Blofeld (his mother’s maiden name).

The villains decided to make the lives of the heroes miserable: In the 2010 pilot to the new Hawaii Five-0, McGarrett’s father is killed and there’s nothing McG can do about it. It takes quite a number of episodes, but it’s revealed eventually that Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos) was behind it all.

Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in SPECTRE

Christoph Waltz as Blofeld in SPECTRE

In SPECTRE, the new-look Blofeld tells Bond that he is “the author of all your pain.” In other words, the new Blofeld was behind the evil of all four (to date) Daniel Craig James Bond films.

The villains like to taunt the heroes by calling them brother: In the 100th episode of Five-0, which aired Nov. 7, 2014, McGarrett 2.0 and Wo Fat 2.0 have one last, knockdown, drag-out fight. They eventually have guns drawn at each other. Wo Fat calls McGarrett “brother.” McGarrett replies, “I’m not your brother.” BLAM!

In SPECTRE, new-look Blofeld (Christoph Waltz) calls Bond “brother” but it’s clear the villain has no use for Bond. Unlike Wo Fat 2.0, new-look Blofeld is still around.

The rise of the ‘origin’ storyline

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Daniel Craig and Jeffrey Wright in Casino Royale

Fifty, 60 years ago, with popular entertainment, you didn’t get much of an “origin” story. You usually got more-or-less fully formed heroes. A few examples:

Dr. No: James Bond is an established 00-agent and has used a Baretta for 10 years. Sean Connery was 31 when production started. If Bond is close to the actor’s age, that means he’s done intelligence work since his early 20s.

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

Napoleon Solo on TV: fully formed

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.: During the first season (1964-65), Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) has worked for U.N.C.L.E. for at least seven years (this is disclosed in two separate episodes). A fourth-season episode establishes that Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) graduated from U.N.C.L.E.’s “survival school” in 1956 and Solo two years before that.

Batman: While played for laughs, the Adam West version of Batman has been operating for an undisclosed amount of time when the first episode airs in January 1966. In the pilot, it’s established he has encountered the Riddler (Frank Gorshin) before. There’s a passing reference to how Bruce Wayne’s parents were “murdered by dastardly criminals” but that’s about it.

The FBI: When we first meet Inspector Lewis Erskine (Efrem Zimbalist Jr.) in 1965, he’s established as the “top trouble shooter for the bureau” and is old enough to have a daughter in college. We’re told he’s a widower and his wife took “a bullet meant for me.” (The daughter would soon be dropped and go into television character limbo.) Still, we don’t see Young Lewis Erskine rising through the ranks of the bureau.

Get Smart: Maxwell Smart (Don Adams) was a top agent for CONTROL despite his quirks. There was no attempt to explain Max. He just was. A 2008 movie version gave Max a back story where he had once been fat.

I Spy: Kelly Robinson (Robert Culp) and Alexander Scott (Bill Cosby) have been partners for awhile, using a cover of a tennis bum and his trainer.

Mission: Impossible: We weren’t told much about either Dan Briggs (Steven Hill) or Jim Phelps (Peter Graves), the two team leaders of the Impossible Missions Force. A fifth-season episode was set in Phelps home town. Some episodes introduced friends of Briggs and Phelps. But not much more than that.

Mannix: We first meet Joe Mannix (Mike Connors) when he’s the top operative of private investigations firm Intertect. After Joe goes off on his own in season two, we meet some of Joe’s Korean War buddies (many of whom seem to try to kill him) and we eventually meet Mannix’s father, a California farmer. But none of this is told at the start.

Hawaii Five-O: Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) is the established head of the Hawaiian state police unit answerable only to “the governor or God and even they have trouble.” When the series was rebooted in 2010, we got an “origin” story showing McGarrett (Alex O’Loughlin) as a military man, the unit being formed, his first meeting with Dan Williams, etc.

And so on and so forth. This century, though, an “origin story” is the way to start.

With the Bond films, the series started over with Casino Royale, marketed as the origin of Bond (Daniel Craig). The novel, while the first Ian Fleming story, wasn’t technically an origin tale. It took place in 1951 (this date is given in the Goldfinger novel) and Bond got the two kills needed for 00-status in World War II.

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, co-bosses of Eon Productions

Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson

Nevertheless, audience got an “origin” story. Michael G. Wilson, current co-boss of Eon Productions (along with his half-sister, Barbara Broccoli) wanted to do a Bond “origin” movie as early as 1986 after Roger Moore left the role of Bond. But his stepfather, Eon co-founder Albert R. Broccoli, vetoed the idea. With The Living Daylights in 1987, the audience got a younger, but still established, Bond (Timothy Dalton). In the 21st century, Wilson finally got his origin tale.

Some of this may be due to the rise of movies based on comic book movies. There are had been Superman serials and television series, but 1978’s Superman: The Motion Picture was the first A-movie project. It told the story of Kal-El from the start and was a big hit.

The 1989 Batman movie began with a hero (Michael Keaton) still in the early stages of his career, with the “origin” elements mentioned later. The Christopher Nolan-directed Batman Begins in 2005 started all over, again presenting an “origin” story. Marvel, which began making movies after licensing characters, scored a big hit with 2008’s Iron Man, another “origin” tale. Spider-Man’s origin has been told *twice* in 2002 and 2012 films from Sony Pictures.

Coming up in August, we’ll be getting a long-awaited movie version of U.N.C.L.E., this time with an origin storyline. In the television series, U.N.C.L.E. had started sometime shortly after World War II. In the movie, set in 1963, U.N.C.L.E. hasn’t started yet and Solo works for the CIA while Kuryakin is a KGB operative.

One supposes if there were a movie version of The FBI (don’t count on it), we’d see Erskine meet the Love of His Life, fall in love, get married, lose her and become the Most Determined Agent in the Bureau. Such is life.

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.

Hawaii Five-0’s fixation with Die Another Day


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.

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

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

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


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 borrows from 007 again

Last season, the new Hawaii Five-0 televisions series seemed to borrow quite a bit from the 2002 007 film Die Another Day in an episode where Steve McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) ended up going to North Korea and was tortured by arch-nemesis Wo Fat.

For the third-season premier on Sept. 24, the CBS show was at it again, this time paying an homage (if you can call it that) to You Only Live Twice and Licence to Kill.

Wo Fat, captured at the end of last season was supposed to be transferred to a super-maximum security prison on the Mainland. He’s in an armored car (not unlike, say, Franz Sanchez in Licence to Kill). A helicopter swoops out of the air. Instead of using a giant magnet (as the Japanese secret service did in You Only Live Twice), it uses a giant claw and takes the armored car away.

The helicopter then, once over the Pacific Ocean, lets go of the armored car, as in Twice (except it appeared to be GCI rather than the real thing). After the armored car is submerged, there are thugs in scuba equipment ready to rescue Wo Fat (again similar to Licence to Kill where the armored car carrying Sanchez goes off a bridge and into the water).

As we type this, the episode is still being broadcast, so maybe the script by Peter M. Lenkov has more 007 homages in store.

UPDATE: No other 007 homages (at least not as obvious), but the episode also showed how the new series is different than the 1968-80 original.

In the third season of the original Five-O (spelled with a capital O instead of a 0 as in the new series), the girlfriend (Anne Archer) of Dan Williams was killed by a murderer wanting it to appear to be the work of a psychopath. Danno eventually caught up with the culprit and could have let him fall off a cliff. Danno was tempted but brings his man in alive.

In the third-season opener of new Five-0, the wife of Chin Ho Kelly dies. When Chin Ho catches up to his man, he shoots him dead. There are no witnesses and he gets off without repercussion.

CBS renews Hawaii Five-0 for a third season

CBS renewed the new Hawaii Five-0 series for a third season, according to the show’s official Twitter feed. It also linked to THIS PART of CBS’s Web site, but didn’t really provide any additional details.

Earlier this month, CBS said star Alex O’Loughlin would miss some time for rehab related to pain medication for a shoulder injury, according to a story on the Dateline Hollywood Web site.

Next week, CBS will also televise an episode where Edward Asner reprises a role he played in the original Hawaii Five-O series. Apparently the new show will say Asner’s August March was arrested by the father of O’Loughlin’s Steve McGarrett, rather than the Jack Lord original version of McG. Here’s a preview CBS uploaded to YouTube:

UPDATE: iTunes is offering episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O free for a limited time. To check it out, CLICK HERE.


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