In advance of the UK premiere of season three of the Hawaii Five-0 reboot (Sky 1, Sunday 9pm), I’m launching this regular feature on classic TV opening credits and theme tunes by returning to take a look at to the original show, which formed an indelible part of my childhood.
Hawaii Five-O (279 episodes, 1968-80)
Following the investigations and adventures of Five-O (Hawaii being the 50th state of the USA), an elite state police unit headed by Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), with the mission of tackling the Hawaiian criminal underworld, espionage, terrorism and other major crimes. But without the moustache and the Ferrari.
Despite having only the haziest memory of the show itself – I first watched it as a five or six-year old – the programme’s intro remains one of the strongest TV memories, from the first drum beats of Morton Stevens‘ rousing theme tune to several of the key visual elements.
The image of the rolling ocean wave which plays behind the title card is surely one of the most distinctive opening elements of any intro ever. It is then followed by a series of distinctive shots, from the fast zoom in to McGarrett standing on a hotel penthouse balcony, via a fish-eye view of a 747 at Honolulu Airport and a start-stop close-up of a dancing hula girl – all intercut with snapshots of distinctive Hawaiian landmarks – before finishing on the flashing blue light of a speeding police motorcycle. There is no mistaking the show’s exotic home – further reinforced by extensive use of exterior locations in the episodes themselves – which stamps the Hawaiian islands’ identity all over it. Watching the intro sequence for the first time in close to 30 years, I am amazed by how much of its detail remains imprinted on my memory.
The minute-long opening sequence was created by Reza Badiyi, whose long and impressive CV also includes directorial credits for Mission:Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky & Hutch, The Rockford Files, Cagney & Lacey and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
The updated remake of Hawaii Five-O was launched in 2010 and stars Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight, The Shield) as McGarrett, Scott Caan (Entourage) as Danny Williams, Daniel Dae Kim (Lost) and Grace Park (Battlestar Galactica). Heroes‘ Masi Oka originally joined in a recurring role before being promoted to a series regular in season two. For season three Michelle Borth (The Forgotten), who had previously had an occasional role as McGarrett’s Navy girlfriend Catherine Rollins, has also been bumped up to join the main cast.
Pleasingly, the new series’ intro – although considerably shorter at 30 seconds – has stayed impressively faithful to both the musical and visual elements of the original. Here’s the (slightly) revised season three sequence:
Jack Lord was the original Felix Leiter in the first James Bond film Dr No.
Kam Fong (who played Five-O member Chin Ho Kelly) was also an 18-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department.
Hawaii Five-O was the longest running crime programme on US network television until Law & Order passed it in 2003.
Helen Kuoha-Torco, the grass-skirted hula dancer who features in the title sequence, has since become a Professor of Business Technology.
Magnum P.I. began shooting in Hawaii shortly after Hawaii Five-O ended. To build continuity, a number of references to Five-O are made in early episodes of Magnum, such as Magnum’s observation in the first episode: “Putting Dan on this stuff is like making McGarrett the meter maid on Waikiki.”
In the new version of the show, Kono Kalakaua is played by Grace Park, who took the role of Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii in the remake of Battlestar Galactica. In both cases, her equivalent character in the original series was male.