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-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.

Hawaii Five-0 to remake original show’s pilot

Khigh Dhiegh, Soon Tek-Oh, Andrew Duggan and Jack Lord in a scene from the original Hawaii Five-O pilot in 1968.

Hawaii Five-0 is doing a remake of the original Hawaii Five-O pilot, Cocoon, the current show’s executive producer said on Twitter and Instagram.

“For those who guessed it… we’re redoing the 1968 pilot “Cocoon” for our season 9 premiere of #h50 – best way to celebrate our 50th anniversary- honoring the original and creator Leonard Freeman,” Peter Lenkov wrote on Instagram.

The original Hawaii Five-O was a police drama that often had espionage story lines. That was established with the two-hour TV movie pilot, written and produced by Freeman and which aired in September 1968.

In the pilot, Chinese agents are abducting U.S. intelligence agents and subjecting them to a new form of torture, dubbed the cocoon. They’re suspended in a pool, wearing a mask (with a tube supplying oxygen) with their ears, nose and eyes covered.

The lack of sensory impulses eventually breaks them and they provide crucial intelligence information. They are then killed, with their deaths made to look like an accident.

Lawman Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) gets involved when Hennessey, a friend of his and an intelligence agent, turns up dead, apparently the result of a drowning. McGarrett doesn’t buy it. Hennessey never learned to swim because he sunburned too easily.

The pilot also introduced Wo Fat (Khigh Dheigh), who’d be McGarrett’s arch foe during the series.

The remake is going to have to make one major change. The Wo Fat of the current show (Mark Dacascos) was killed off in a 2014 installment that was also the 100th episode.

The current series debuted in 2010 and, as Lenkov noted, will begin its ninth season this fall. In 2013, the show also did a remake of an episode of the original series, Hookman, about a killer with no hands.

UPDATE (3:30 p.m.): Lenkov posted a photograph on Instagram from the remake. McGarrett 2.0 (Alex O’Loughlin) is undercover doing repair work inside a ship, the same way Jack Lord’s McGarrett did in the 1968 pilot.

Five-0 Cocoon remake

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.

Joseph Gantman: On the ground floor

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Cover to the first season MIssion: Impossible DVD set

Another in a series about unsung figures of television.

Joseph Gantman in the 1960s found himself on the ground floor of notable television shows.

His primary legacy was as the day-to-day producer for the first two seasons of Mission: Impossible.

Gantman came aboard after the pilot was produced. Series creator Bruce Geller supervised the show, but it was up to Gantman to get things going, including securing a steady stream of scripts that could be filmed. He would end up winning two Emmys for his efforts.

Those two seasons featured some of the show’s best stories, such as Operation: Rogosh (the IMF tricks an “unbreakable” Soviet Bloc operative into thinking it’s three years later so he’ll give up where he’s planted germ cultures that will poison the drinking water supply of Los Angeles).

Gantman was worn down by the time he left the series at the end of its second season. His successors, William Read Woodfield and Allan Balter, who wrote many of the best stories of the first two seasons, bolted after disagreements with Bruce Geller. That was an indication that Gantman’s work wouldn’t be easy to duplicate. M:I was tough on producers generally. Gantman’s tenure was almost a marathon by comparison.

Before Mission, Gantmen worked on the pilot of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. with the vague tile of “production assistant,” but his title card in the television version featured his credit in the end titles on the screen by itself. Presumably, that was an indication he was a key contributor of the pilot.

During the 1964-65 season, Gantman was associate producer for 16 of the 32 episodes of the first season of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, when that Irwin Allen-produced shows emphasized espionage over monsters.

Later, during the 1968-69 season, he was producer for five episodes of the first season of Hawaii Five-O, including three of the first five telecast by CBS (excluding the pilot, which aired as a TV movie). Five-O’s initial campaign was rough (it was the first series actually filmed in Hawaii) and it chewed up producers.

Gantman isn’t remembered much today. U.N.C.L.E. is remembered, behind the camera, for the efforts of Norman Felton and Sam Rolfe. Voyage is seen as what launched Irwin Allen’s 1960s shows. M:I is recalled for Bruce Geller’s concept. The original Five-O is remembered for creator-executive Leonard Freeman, who guided the show for six of its 12 seasons before his death in early 1974.

Yet, Gantman was a key lieutenant, at one time or another (just one episode in U.N.C.L.E.’s case) on all of them. That’s why TV shows have title cards.

 

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