It’s hard to believe it’s been 50 years since the original “Hawaii Five-O” first aired on television. Collectively, a version of the show has been on the air for going on 21 seasons — 12 seasons of the original version, and this month the rebooted version will start its ninth season on Sept. 28.
While the current “Hawaii Five-0” uses the zero instead of the “O” in their title, and the cast and production techniques are vastly different from the original — they do credit creator Leonard Freeman, and often pay homage to the original version in character names, storylines, and by continuing to film entirely in Hawaii.
A celebration of the 50th anniversary of “Hawaii Five-0” — the show first aired in 1968. The event features screenings of the first episode of the reboot’s Season 9, along with the premiere of the new “Magnum P.I.”
>> When: Sunday red carpet opens at 4:30 p.m.; program begins at 6 p.m. with a performance by Cyndi Lauper, followed by the screenings of “Magnum” and “Five-0.”
>> Where: Queen’s Surf Beach, Waikiki
>> Who: Scheduled to attend is executive producer Peter Lenkov and the casts of “Hawaii Five-0” and “Magnum P.I.” “Five-0”actors include Alex O’Loughlin, Scott Caan, Ian Anthony Dale, Meaghan Rath, Beulah Koale, Jorge Garcia, Chi McBride, Kimee Balmilero, Dennis Chun and Taylor Wily. “Magnum” actors are Jay Hernandez, Perdita Weeks, Zachary Knighton, Stephen Hill and Tim Kang.
And while Lord was the star, as well as the leading actor of the series, his other detectives — Danny “Danno” Williams, played by James MacArthur; Chin Ho Kelly, played by Hawaii actor Kam Fong; and Kono Kalakaua, played by Hawaiian actor Gilbert “Zulu” Kauhi — made the show even more unique. Most television shows did not have Asian or Hawaiian actors in their leading cast, nor did they have their headquarters within a former royal palace.
In 1968, Hawaiii had been a state for only nine years and it was mostly known because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, and its position in the Pacific theater during World War II. Yet once people began to see our island paradise on television each week, as McGarrett and Five-0 worked to rid the island of crime and evil — they soon began to arrive in Hawaii to experience the world of Five-0, and perhaps to see a glimpse of McGarrett and the other actors on set around Honolulu.
In 2010, Freeman’s wife, Rose, wrote a letter to executive producer Peter Lenkov, right before the debut of Lenkov’s rebooted and more contemporary version of her husband’s show was set to air. Lenkov recently shared Rose Freeman’s letter on his Instagram page, as the show is about to celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Hawaii Five-O” at Friday’s red carpet event, Sunset on the Beach.
Freeman wrote to Lenkov that she hoped that in 42 years Lenkov would be standing on Waikiki Beach celebrating a third reboot of “Hawaii Five-0.” This is the impact of the show and how beloved it is: The wife of the creator of the original show would celebrate a contemporary version of her husband’s vision.
When Lenkov’s version of “Hawaii Five-0” came to CBS, it had been 42 years since “Hawaii Five-O” began its historic run on television. Since those days other police procedurals have come and gone — yet only a few have stayed on television as long as the classic version. While younger audiences may not know the name of Jack Lord, or realize that Kam Fong was one of the first Asian-American television stars, or that Zulu was the first Native Hawaiian actor on a network television series, or even remember that a television show once filmed on the steps of our revered Iolani Palace — they know the term “Five-0.”
Just this week, one of my sweet students asked me why the television show used the term “Five-0”— didn’t they know that just meant cops and it was redundant? I told him the use of the term “Five-0” as a general reference for police or law enforcement came from the original version of “Hawaii Five-O,” not the other way around.
That is the cultural impact of the show on America. To this day, the colloquial reference to the police in any state as “Five-0” comes from the series and its long television run. Many of us grew up with McGarrett and Five-0, and the term seems to have stuck. Even other television shows use the term “Five-0” to refer to cops and the police in general.
The ninth season of “Hawaii Five-0” will premiere Sunday at the annual Sunset on the Beach event, along with a new version of “Magnum P.I.” which was also rebooted by Lenkov. The “Five-0” season premiere episode is titled “Ka ʻōwili ʻōkaʻi” (“Cocoon”) — a retelling of the original series’ pilot episode. Like in the 1968 pilot, also titled “Cocoon,” McGarrett, today played by series star Alex O’Loughlin, lets himself be captured by the group he thinks is responsible for the death of his CIA agent friend, and endures a torturous sensory deprivation tank to find the killer.
Lenkov wants to again honor the original in his rebooted version and continue to give credit to Freeman and his enduring vision of McGarrett and Five-0. And as Lenkov enters his ninth season at the helm — Rose Freeman’s wish for him to see a third reboot of “Hawaii Five-0” in his future seems quite plausible.