Five-O writer tells anecdotes about the series

Jerome Coopersmith’s title card for Nine Dragons, a ninth-season episode of Hawaii Five-O

Jerome Coopersmith, a writer on the original Hawaii Five-O series, chatted recently with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser about his time on the 1968-80 show.

Coopersmith, 93, wrote or helped write 32 episodes, including three featuring arch-villain Wo Fat.

According to the story, Coopersmith wrote his scripts at his home on Long Island. He would then take them to the CBS mailroom in New York City and they’d be flown overnight to Los Angeles.

Five-O had production offices in both Hollywood and Hawaii. Coopersmith also flew to Los Angeles for meetings with producers.

He was busiest on the series during the fourth through eighth seasons. He departed after penning the first two episodes of the ninth season.

Some of the highlights in the article include:

Ideas for scripts: “Some were suggested by the producers, but for the most part, the ideas came from reading the newspapers,” Coopersmith told the newspaper.

“A fabulous variety of crimes are committed every day,” the scribe added. “All I had to do was figure out how to transplant them to Hawaii, and how to make the criminals smarter than they are in real life so that it would take ‘Five-O’ an hour to catch up with them and not just five minutes. In real life most criminals are stupid.”

Local actors on Five-O: Creator-executive producer Leonard Freeman “wanted authentic Hawaiian faces on the ‘Five-O’ team,” Coopersmith told the Star-Advertiser. “That’s why he cast it that way.

“Besides his fondness for locals, there was another reason. When you cast Hollywood actors from the mainland you have to pay their travel and living expenses on Oahu, which strains the budget.”

While the article is of interest for fans of the original Five-O, some caveats are in order.

Coopersmith mis-remembers some details. He describes writing a 1975 episode titled Diary of a Gun. A cheap handgun keeps changing hands, with tragic events occurring.

“CBS was afraid of doing the show, but Len Freeman and (star) Jack Lord were strongly for it, and it was done,” Coopersmith told the newspaper. Problem: Freeman died in early 1974.

Coopersmith also tells anecdotes about Nine Dragons, a two-hour Wo Fat episode that led off the ninth season (1976-77). He mentions Bob Sweeney prominently.

Problem: Sweeney, whose title was supervising producer, worked on the show during the fourth through seventh seasons. He had departed Five-O long before Nine Dragons.

40th anniversary of Hawaii Five-O’s Nine Dragons

Wo Fat triumphs (for a while) over McGarrett in Nine Dragons

Wo Fat triumphs (for a while) over McGarrett in Nine Dragons

This year marks the 40th anniversary of one of the best episodes of the original Hawaii Five-O series, the two-hour Nine Dragons.

The first episode of the 1976-77 season was one of the best encounters between the original Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) and the original Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh).

The episode also featured the most James Bond-like plot of the original 1968-80 series. Wo Fat intends to lead a coup of China, then launch a preemptive nuclear attack on the United States.

To ensure no other nations retaliate, Wo Fat abducts McGarrett. The lawman, under torture, is recorded as saying the U.S. was responsible for the deaths of Chinese leadership (that Wo Fat plans to accomplish). The film will be broadcast as the attack against the U.S. takes place, causing other countries to not attack China.

All of this, of course, is rather fantastic. Nevertheless, it features one of the best performances by Khigh Diegh as Wo Fat. The actor (1910-1991) essentially gets a chance to meld his two best-known characters: Wo Fat and the Chinese brain washing expert in the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate.

What’s more, Jack Lord’s McGarrett, for once in the series, is utterly defeated, at least for a time. Despite McGarrett’s resistance, he eventually gives in. McGarrett, naturally, rallies and escapes. McGarrett has no memory of the defeat until he gets a chance to view the film shortly before Wo Fat intends to use it.

Nine Dragons included contributions from one of Five-O’s best writers (Jerome Coopersmith, his next-to-last script) and directors (Michael O’Herlihy, his final effort for the series). Above all, it features one of the best scores for the show by Morton Stevens, who composed the classic Five-O theme.

Finally, the episode includes on-location filming in Hong Kong, a first for the show. To defray the cost, CBS struck a deal with Air Siam (everybody in the epiosde who takes a flight flies on Air Siam).

Five-O would not have such on-location filming until the end of the 11th season, where a two-hour episode was filmed in Singapore (The Year of the Horse), that included one-time 007 George Lazenby.

Hawaii Five-O’s most 007-like episode about to hit DVD

The TVShowsonDVD.com website reports that Season 9 of Hawaii Five-O is coming out on Aug. 3.

The first episode in the set is “Nine Dragons,” the next-to-last Wo Fat story and the one episode that perhaps most resembles a James Bond movie. It includes substantial location filming in Hong Kong and a plot that featur’s Wo Fat’s most ambitious scheme and even permits actor Khigh Dhiegh to evoke an earlier role as the Chinese brainwashing expert in the original version of The Manchurian Candidate.

Here’s a sampling:

If Season 9 sells, presumably Season 10 will come out, which includes appearances by Maud Adams and Luciana Paluzzi as guest stars. And if momentum continues, season 11 has a guest appearance by former 007 George Lazenby.