1996: Five-O fans meet (almost all of) the original cast

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title of the original series.

In 1996, fans of the original Hawaii Five-O series had a chance to meet with almost all of the main cast members of the series at a fan convention.

The event took place in two locations: The first half in the Los Angeles area, the second in Honolulu.

James MacArthur, Gilbert Kauhi (stage name, Zulu) and Kam Fong, the supporting actors in the 1968-80 show, were there. Jack Lord, who starred as lawman Steve McGarrett (six years after playing Felix Leiter in Dr. No), was still alive but had retired to private life.

I attended the Los Angeles part of the event. Among the things that happened there:

On the first day of the gathering, MacArthur, Zulu and Kam Fong just hung around with fans, engaging in casual conversation. It was very low-key and informal.

-MacArthur, asked why he left the show after 11 seasons, said he simply had done enough. He described telling the powers that be about the decision and that he didn’t want to make a big deal of it.

–Zulu was asked why he left the show. He replied that he and Jack Lord never got along all that well. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away.” Zulu said he tried at the start of one season (I suspect season three but he didn’t specify) he tried to get off to a new start with the series star.

Zulu’s title card during the first four seasons of Hawaii Five-O.

“Hey Jack, you’re looking great!” But Lord walked off. Zulu said he was confused. Then he was told the actor had gotten a facelift during the series hiatus.

Zulu told another anecdote in which the Five-O team apprehended a suspect. According to him, Lord felt Zulu was little slow. On the next take, according to this anecdote, Zulu zoom around the others. “OK, McGarrett! I’ve got him.” In this telling, the Big Kahuna wasn’t happy.

After, some time elapsed, a late-arriving fan again asked Zulu why he left the show. For a moment, I felt bad after hearing the stories he told earlier. But Zulu didn’t miss a beat. He grinned and repeated his “Lord taketh away” line.

–MacArthur, commenting to Zulu, said the Hawaiian actor was burning the candle at both ends in those days. Zulu did his Five-O work during the day and did a night club act in the eventing.

–Rose Freeman, widow of Five-O creator Leonard Freeman, told attendees that Jack Lord was cast only days before filming of the pilot began. Initially, American actor Robert Brown (not to be confused with the British actor Robert Brown, who played M in four 007 films) had been cast.

–Fans watched episodes shown with a film projector. At one point , Zulu was there watching with the fans. One episode shown had his replacement, Al Harrington. Zulu did a mock boo. Another one of the episodes shown was Bored, She Hung Herself, an episode that was shown only once on CBS and hasn’t been seen since, in either syndication or home video. The story behind that is a little complicated. 

–I let myself get outbid for a copy of the 1967 first draft of Leonard Freeman’s pilot script for a charity auction. I scanned it and committed to memory what I could. There was no Danno and McGarrett was the only Caucasian of the Five-O characters.

–A friend of Five-O theme composer Morton Stevens showed up. He had heard about the event and wanted to check it out.

–On the final day in LA, many of the fans were preparing to head to Hawaii for the rest of the event. I prepared to head home. As I was leaving the hotel to head to LAX, I ran into Zulu at the door.

“I just want to thank you for being here,” he said.

Obviously, he would have said it to any other fan. But it was a great moment for me, nevertheless.

“No, thank you,” I replied.

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.

Hawaii Five-O: In the beginning

Hawaii Five-O logo in the main title

The recent news that Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the Hawaii Five-0 remake that has aired since 2010 has created a stir.

Example: IndieWire posted a July 6 article about why the departures are “a huge problem” for the series that’s entering its eighth season.

As it turns out, the makeup of the Five-O (official spelling of the original show) is an issue goes back to the very beginning of the original series.

In 1996, the Spy Commander attended a Five-O convention in Los Angeles. One part of the event included an auction. One of the items up for auction was a photocopy of the first-draft script for the pilot episode written by creator Leonard Freeman.

The Spy Commander lost out in the auction, but had a chance to examine said script.

In that first version, the Five-O team only had one white member, Steve McGarrett (initially American actor Robert Brown, but replaced by Jack Lord days before filming). Five-O’s second-in-command was Kono Kalakaua, described as a Hawaiian in his mid-20s.

Another Five-O member was named Lee, who was described as a heavy-set Hawaiian. Rounding out the cast was Chin Ho, who worked for the Honolulu Police Department but was also a liaison with Five-O.

Between that script and filming of the pilot, Five-O got another white member, Danny “Danno” Williams (Tim O’Kelly in the pilot, James MacArthur in the series); the Lee character got the Kono name; and Chin Ho was made a full-fledged member of Five-O.

As an aside, arch villain Wo Fat was named after a restaurant in Honolulu. The character of Chin Ho Kelly was named after Chinn Ho, a successful Hawaiian businessman.

Hawaii Five-0 loses two stars

Cast of the 2010 Hawaii Five-0

Hawaii Five-0, the remake of the original Five-O series, is losing two of its stars in a pay dispute, Variety reported.

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park are departing the series ahead of its eighth season, according to the entertainment website.

The two “had been seeking pay equality with stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan, but were unable to reach satisfactory deals with CBS Television Studios, which produces the series,” Variety said. “Kim and Park were believed to be making 10-15% less than O’Loughlin and Caan.”

The remake debuted in 2010. Park played Kono Kalkaua, who had been a man in the 1968-80 original show. Kim was a fitter, trimmer version of Chin Ho Kelly.

O’Loughlin and Caan are revamped versions of Steve McGarrett and Dan Williams from the original series. The characters were played by Jack Lord and James MacArthur in the 1968-80 show, although Tim O’Kelly played Williams in the 1968 pilot TV movie.

The remake series also has done new takes on other characters from the original, including turning villain Wo Fat, Gov. Paul Jameson and U.S. spymaster Jonathan Kaye. For the new series, Jameson and Kaye were made into women characters.

The new versions of Jameson and Kaye were revealed to be in cahoots with Wo Fat and were killed off. The new Wo Fat was killed off in the new show’s 100th episode.

(And yes, the official spelling of the original is Hawaii Five-O while the 2010 series is spelled Five-0.)

 

Morton Stevens heirs sue CBS over Five-O theme

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Morton Stevens (1929-1991)

Shoutout to Craig Henderson for bringing this to our attention.

The heirs of composer Morton Stevens have sued CBS over the theme to Hawaii Five-O, according to STORY IN THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER.

Here’s an excerpt:

Stevens died in 1991, which, according to a complaint filed in California federal court, was about six years before the renewal copyright term for the Hawaii Five-0 theme commenced. That’s important because under copyright law, for works created before 1978, when an author dies before the original term of a copyright grant expires, rights revert to the heirs.

Notwithstanding this quirk of copyright law, CBS is said to have filed a renewal registration for the theme in 1997. The lawsuit says that CBS didn’t have the right to do this.

CBS was interested as early as 1997 in coming out with a new Five-O. That year, it commissioned a pilot where members of the original Five-O team teamed up with the current Five-O to investigate the shooting of Gov. Dan Williams (James MacArthur). The pilot didn’t result in a series and that production has never received a public airing. Clips have shown up on YouTube and the pilot included the Stevens theme.

In 2010, CBS came out with a rebooted Five-0 (now spelled with a zero instead of a capital O) with all-new versions of Steve McGarrett & Co. That show, now in its fifth season, also uses the Stevens theme. Stevens receives a credit in very tiny type in the end titles.

To read The Hollywood Reporter story, CLICK HERE.

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-O’s final season: McGarrett’s kooky quintet

We checked out the DVD set of Hawaii Five-O’s 12th and final season. The show’s final campaign is almost universally reviled among fans. At the same time, it’s not shown as often in syndication as earlier seasons. For some, the last time they saw a 12th season episode was in the mid-1980s when they were shown with the title “McGarrett” on the CBS Late Movie.

Hawaii Five-O’s season 12 cast

Indeed, the season isn’t up to previous ones. It’s not for lack of effort, though.

The 12th season often still has the Five-O ingredients. The production team even stepped up a bit on international intrigue story lines, including terrorists, assassins, fugitive Nazis and, in the series finale, the final appearance of arch villain Wo Fat, this time trying to develop a laser-based missile defense system/weapon (a couple of years before the U.S. publicly announced it would try to develop a “Star Wars” defense system). And the scores for episodes are mostly good, with Morton Stevens (composer of the Five-O theme and creator of Five-O music template), Bruce Broughton, Don Ray and Robert Drasnin, among others, contributing.

Yet, for the most part, something goes awry. It’s as if the ingredients are either mixed badly, cooked at the wrong temperature or contaminated. Part of it may have been the absence of James MacArthur as Dan Williams, the sidekick to Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett. MacArthur’s departure at the end of season 11 seems to have altered the chemistry of the show. Without Danno around, McGarrett, who already had a pious streak, breaks into lectures — about the U.S. constitution, the criminal justice system or the pathetic failings of individual characters.

Plus, the Danno-less Five-O team at times just across as just odd: loyal but bland Duke (Herman Wedemeyer), the only supporting character holdover from previous seasons; James “Kimo” Carew (William Smith), the blunt, revenge-driven ex-cop from Boston; Lori Wilson, revenge-driven present cop and first woman Five-O member (Sharon Farrell); and Truck Kealoah (Moe Keale), a frequent loaner from the Honolulu Police Department. McGarrett hires Carew and Wilson despite each showing questionable judgment at times in their debuts (being revenge driven will do that to you).

In Marvel’s Avengers comic book, there was a period now informally known as “Cap’s Kooky Quartet.” The title started out as an all-star collection of Marvel heroes. In issue 16, heavyweights with their own titles left the super hero team, leaving Captain America to cope with three reformed villains (Hawkeye, the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver). Five-O’s final campaign can be considered McGarrett’s kooky quintet.

In previous seasons, there had been cast changes aplenty. But the McGarrett-Danno duo kept things steady. That steadiness just isn’t there in season 12. It seems like the writers and producers kept looking for chemistry. You never see all of the team at once. You get Kimo-Lori or Kimo-Truck matchups a fair amount. Duke floats in and out and never seems to have much to do. Sometimes, McGarrett takes the lead, sometimes he lets the others take the lead at least for a while. Behind the scenes, there apparently was some turmoil. Sharon Farrell is in less than half the episodes and departed.

The season actually started out with a very good two-hour episode, A Lion in the Streets, which included the return of Ross Martin as Hawaiian crime boss Tony Alika, a character introduced in the 11th season. Martin wonderfully crews the scenery and is an adversary worthy of McGarrett. Unfortunately, the show couldn’t maintain that level. Martin would return one more time a few episodes later. Alika was arrested yet again, taking away one of the season’s main positives.

For the finale, the producers didn’t even attempt to use any of the supporting cast as the series brought back Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh), last seen in the first episode of season nine. It was hardly the most satisifying of the McGarrett-Wo Fat encounters but it does remind viewers of better times for the show. Fittingly, Morton Stevens scored the final episode and his music is probably its best attribute.