POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Sep 26, 2010
Do you speak bird?
Do you know anyone who went to Kukui High School?
Did you play football with Steve McGarrett? Chin Ho Kelly? Both were record-setting quarterbacks.
Maybe you never heard of that Hawaii.
In their quest to create a believable back-story for the characters in the new "Hawaii Five-0," the writers and producers of the CBS series have created a colorful local landscape that's amused some viewers and annoyed others.
The series pilot, which aired last Monday and drew an estimated 14.2 million viewers nationwide, offered a tour da kine lesson on the islands that shouldn't be judged too harshly.
As much as we'd like "Five-0" to be a mirror of life in Hawaii, it's a fictional TV show that was viewed by far more people than the state's entire population. Even if some of it wasn't the Hawaii you grew up with, it was fun to watch and even more fun to tweet about.
Like that scene with the local guy behind the shave ice counter that included the line about speaking "bird," delivered with just the right touch of sarcasm by local actor Taylor Wiley. When McGarrett asks him how much "kala" — money — he needs to purchase a pair of T-shirts and shave ice cones, Wiley replies, "You speak bird, huh?"
If that's pidgin, it's not something spoken at the Charlene Sato Center for Pidgin, Creole and Dialect at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Center director Kent Sakoda, who also runs a pidgin advocacy group called Da Pidgin Coup, couldn't find anyone who had ever heard of the word. "It might be more of a slang thing," he said. "Maybe it's an area thing. It's hard to tell. It might be younger kids are using it."
Even Wiley, who was raised and still lives in Laie, had not heard of it. "But who's the official pidgin authority?" he said. "Pidgin is basically lazy English, and there are so many different points of view."
The show's creative license went further, though.
Early in the pilot, McGarrett and Chin Ho recognize each other as alumni of Kukui High School, where both apparently were stud football players. The fictional school generated a small tsunami of response that now includes a blog about the school's history (www.kukuihigh.com), a Facebook page to promote it and a Twitter handle (@kukuihigh) to generate dialogue — all created in one day by local social media aficionado Ryan Ozawa.
Ozawa was inspired by a stream of tweets the morning after the pilot aired.
"Half the people thought it was funny they said 'Kukui High School,' and some were genuinely annoyed," said Ozawa, a webmaster for a real estate listings site who is best known for his "Lost" blog. "Then people wondered what the mascot was, where they could get athletic gear, where was the school."
So they invented all that on a website — the Home of the Fighting Nuts — that encourages people to become alumni. In their world, the administration building was destroyed in a fire, so anything goes.
"It's an opportunity for people to create a fictional narrative about a school that didn't exist," said Ozawa, who thoroughly enjoyed the "Five-0" pilot.
Oddly enough, the school had a different name in the original version screened for the media in July: Kahuku High School, a true-life football powerhouse. In fact, if you watch the pilot with closed captioning, it reads "Kahuku High School."
And while it wasn't mentioned in the pilot, there doesn't appear to be anything nutty about Kukui's nickname.
When "Five-0" filmed at the 'Iolani Schools football stadium in July, Daniel Dae Kim tweeted the Kukui Kings were beating the Dillon Panthers, 17-14, when play was postponed because of a shooting. (Must be a cross-network rivalry, because the Panthers is the team featured on NBC's "Friday Night Lights.")
No word on a suspect in the shooting, but as long as we're inventing history, you gotta wonder whether Mitts Funai finally went off the deep end. ... And that's a wrap.
Mike Gordon is the Star-Advertiser's film and television writer. His "Outtakes" column appears Sundays. E-mail him at email@example.com or 529-4803.