Hawaii Five-O is a detective show set in Hawaii, centered on the fictitious "Five-O" elite state police unit (a reference to Hawaii's status as the 50th state admitted to the United States) led by former Navy officer Steve McGarrett, as played by Jack Lord.Running from 1968 to 1980, this show is synonymous with Hawaii, and its iconic theme-song (which became a hit single for The Ventures) is regularly played by the University of Hawaii marching band at home games for Hawaii sports teams. Appropriately, the overwhelming majority of the show was shot on location in Hawaii, only occasionally using studios in Los Angeles or other locations as called by episode plots. The show is currently available via various broadcast stations on syndication, on DVD, or streaming from CBS' website.A pilot for a prospective revival series (produced by Stephen J. Cannell and starring Gary Busey, with James MacArthur's Danny appearing as the new Governor) was produced in 1997 but never aired. A completely re-imagined series, titled Hawaii Five-0 (with a zero, not an "O"), debuted in 2010.
Hawaii Five-O provides examples of the following tropes:
Absentee Actor: James MacArthur, Zulu and Kam Fong are all absent from "Once Upon A Time, Part II" (which is set entirely on the mainland); the latter two are also missing from "The Ninety-Second War, Part II" and Zulu is further gone from "Good Night, Baby, Time To Die!" Jack Lord — unlike Alex O'Loughlin — did not miss a single episode in the entire run.
Affably Evil: Wo Fat, and to a lesser extent — in that he's more affable than evil — Lewis Avery Filer. The former moved to Faux Affably Evil from the season nine premiere onward.
In "Full Fathom Five", McGarrett refers to a missing tourist as a "rich haolenote Pronounced "how-leh" or "how-lee", it's the native Hawaiian word for "outsider"; can be used as a slang reference for tourists, mainlanders, or Caucasians in general. lady from the mainland."
Fun drinking game: take a sip every time Chin Ho or Kono says "brudder".
And Starring: Everyone other than Jack Lord. Seriously. The opening credits for the first few seasons: "Starring Jack Lord" (from season six onwards he had this billing on the end credits as well) "With James MacArthur as Dan Williams; Zulu as Kono; Kam Fong as Chin Ho." This was maintained, with adjustments for cast changes, for the entire run.
Belly Dancer: Whenever a hula dancer appears, although this is usually limited to the opening credits.
Big Screwed-Up Family: "One Big Happy Family". The daughter is the most sensitive and the only real innocent (she steals a telephone book cover, while the others go for money) whereas the father and son are murderers, the daughter-in-law is a Ms. Fanservice who uses her powers for evil, and the mother (and leader) is a heartless racist who in the denouement says they only kill people who aren't family... and only rob the people they kill because their victims won't be using the money. Writer Alvin Sapinsley based this on a real family, yet!
California Doubling: Averted big time, and one of the first American TV shows to do so. That's part of what made this show very famous.
The two-parter "Once Upon a Time" was almost entirely shot in California because it was almost entirely set there. These episodes were among the few not to carry the "Filmed entirely on location in Hawaii" credit.
The feature-length episodes "Nine Dragons" and "The Year Of The Horse," with scenes in Hong Kong and Singapore respectively, were indeed filmed there.
Played straight in one episode that had scenes set in the Philippines... which were more likely shot in Hawaii. Though considering the superficial similarities and how many Filipinos were in Hawaii even during the time the series first aired, it's partially justified.
The Chessmaster: The team frequently maneuver baddies into confessions by insanely complex plots, anticipate traps and seem to walk into them, only to reveal backups (and tape recorders) in place right when the baddies inevitably tell all before shooting, etc. Example, Season 4 "Good Night Baby, Time To Die!": a woman who is frightened because her framed boyfriend is said to be escaped from prison and coming for her, so she starts confessing to crimes (the framed prisoner is not really loose; he's doing it all under Five-O supervision in order to be absolved.) Bad guys sometimes seem like Chessmasters, but of course *their* insanely complex plots always come a cropper after baffling the team for about 40 minutes. Sort of exception: although Wo Fat's scheme in "The Ninety-Second War, Part II" is counteracted, it's done so in a way that he thinks it worked.
Creator Cameo: Theme song composer Morton Stevens played a jazz drummer in the third season episode "Trouble in Mind".
A Day in the Limelight: Dan Williams takes charge in "For a Million... Why Not?" and "Charter for Death" when McGarrett is sidelined by a trial on the mainland and quarantine respectively (although he still appears in both episodes). "Cry, Lie," meanwhile, is a rare episode to focus on Chin Ho.
In "To Kill or Be Killed", a soldier on leave from The Vietnam War falls to his death, and his brother (suspected of being involved) is bidding to avoid the draft and flee to "Trudeau turf" (alias Canada) because while he's willing to fight he doesn't believe this particular war is justified, to the disgust of his father — a military man. It turns out that the soldier committed suicide because he couldn't face returning to what he also felt was an unjust war; not only is the would-be draft-dodger caught, but his father disowns him by saying "Then I have two dead sons."
"Three Dead Cows at Makapuu, Part II" has a scientist aiming to release some shortlived but very deadly bacteria to protest chemical warfare being persuaded (partly due to a telephone operator who falls in love with him) not to do so, but the vial he stole is taken... and cracked. He manages to control the spread of the germ, but is himself infected and succumbs as McGarrett and the woman he loves watch.
Final Season Casting: While Zulu (the original Kono) left the show in 1972, James MacArthur and Kam Fong hung around until 1979, with William Smith (as Kimo), Sharon Farrell (as Lori) and Moe Keale (as Truck) as the new regulars.
Averted in "The Listener," in which a psychiatrist is targeted by a man who's bugged not only his home but his office — the villain averts Even Evil Has Standards by among other things playing a young boy a taped conversation between the doctor and the boy's mother, where she reveals he has a fatal brain tumour. The doctor tells the boy the tumour is shrinking... and later tells McGarrett that the boy really is dying.
Also averted in the two-parter "Once Upon a Time", where McGarrett's sister is in thrall to a quack doctor who claims she can cure her baby, who has cancer. The child passes away long before the end of part one.
It's Personal: "Once Upon a Time", in which McGarrett is determined to take down fraudulent doctor C.L. Fremont after what happened to his sister's child.
Made of Iron: McGarrett. As the series went on the script writers actually had some fun with Lampshade Hanging. One episode has a would-be killer fire at McGarrett several times with no effect until she screams, "What are you made of!?" McGarrett's response? It's not him but the bullets, which were blanks.
Manchurian Agent: Wo Fat's spy ring makes use of them in "A Bullet for McGarrett".
Omniscient Database: An early example, possibly the first for cop shows. The Honolulu Police Department computer was frequently called upon for information, sometimes for things that in real life weren't available in digital format until the 1990s or later.
Reality Is Unrealistic: Five-O is supposed to be an elite unit of the Hawaii State Police. The closest thing Hawaii has to a state police is the Sheriffs Division within the State Department of Public Safety, and they're limited to specific duties such as acting as process servers and providing security at state facilities.
Rogues Gallery: Wo Fat; Tony Alika; Honore Vashon; Lewis Avery Filer; Big Chicken.
Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Monsieur Bordeaux in "30,000 Rooms and I Have the Key" for Lewis Avery Filer. Both characters came from the same writer, and the three episodes — Mr. Filer was in "Over Fifty? Steal" and "Odd Man In" — even share music ("Over Fifty? Steal" has an original score by Morton Stevens, the other two have tracked music).
Television Geography: Mostly subverted, since most of the series was filmed on location in Hawaii, and locations were rarely specific enough to reveal obvious mistakes to most viewers.
Temporary Blindness: McGarrett in "Blind Tiger", when an assassination attempt failed to kill him.
Title Drop: "Strangers In Our Own Land," "One For The Money," "A Bullet For McGarrett" and "Why Wait Till Uncle Kevin Dies?" all work their respective episode titles into the dialogue.
The Vietnam War: Many of the early season episodes revolved around the war, ranging from naval personnel smuggling drugs out of Southeast Asia, screwed-up veterans committing (or being victims of) crime, to con men taking advantage of military personnel on leave.
The canoe-paddling end credits bit (introduced in Season 2; the first season has a flashing police light) is also very well known.
What Happened to the Mouse?: The 2-hour pilot, Cocoon, has Nancy Kwan (The World of Suzie Wong) playing Rosemary Quong, a mildly hippie grad student with a penchant for miniskirts. Nancy Kwan gets second billing in the opening titles, right after Jack Lord, and they have several scenes together, including a beachfront cookout, playing up the contrast between the free-spirited Rosemary and the buttoned-down straight-laced McGarrett. The ending suggests that Rosemary is going to be McGarrett's recurring love interest. She's never seen again.