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22 Years Of Aloha: Saying Goodbye To “Hawaii Five-O” (1968-1980, 2010-2020)

“Hawaii Five-O” has left a lasting impression on pop culture, whether it was the original Jack Lord series that ran for 12 seasons. Or the rebooted series starring Alex O’ Loughlin and Scott Caan, that ran for 10 seasons. It gave us 22 years of sun, sand, arrests, car chases, shootouts, friendships, partnerships and aloha. “Hawaii Five-O” will be a part of Hawaii and pop culture for decades to come. This is the history of “Hawaii Five-O”, my thoughts of the new Five-O series finale and the end of one of the most iconic tv series on television. 

“Book Em Danno”

Jack Lord & Alex O’ Loughlin

To talk about the series finale of the “Hawaii Five-O” reboot, we have to go back to the beginning. To look at how the show as a whole came to be, which has a few different theories of how it was created. Producer and creator Leonard Freeman moved to Hawaii to recuperate after suffering a heart attack. One of the sources say the idea for the show may have come from a conversation Freeman had with Hawaii’s then Governor John A Burns. 

While another source instead claims that Freeman wanted to set a show in Los Angeles, until Freeman’s friend Richard Boone convinced him to shoot it entirely in Hawaii. A third source claims Freeman discussed the show with Governor Burns only after pitching the idea to CBS. Before settling on the name “Hawaii Five-O”, Freeman considered titling the show “The Man”.

For the lead role of Steve McGarrett, creator Freeman offered it to Richard Boone. When Boone turned it down, Gregory Peck was considered. Jack Lord then living in Beverly Hills was asked at a last moment option. Lord read for the part on a Wednesday, was cast, and flew to Hawaii two days later. On the following Monday, Lord was in front of the cameras filming. Freeman and Lord had previously worked together on an unsold TV pilot called “Grand Hotel.

In the supporting roles Tim O’ Kelly had originated the role of Danny “Danno” Williams in the pilot episode, titled “Cocoon”. Although test audiences were not keen on O’Kelly, and the producers had to replace him with James MacArthur. Kam Fong Chung an 18-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department auditioned for the part of lead villain Wo Fat, but Freeman casted him in the part of Chin Ho Kelly instead. 

Freeman took the name Wo Fat from a restaurant in downtown Honolulu. While the name Chin Ho came from Chinn Ho, the owner of the Ilikai Hotel. Lastly Richard Denning who played the governor, had retired to Hawaii and came out of retirement for the show. Waikiki born and local DJ Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi (stage name: Zulu) was cast for the part of Kono, which he played for the next four years of the show. 

A problem from the beginning was the lack of a movie industry in Hawaii. Much of the crew and cast, including many locals who ended up participating in the show, had to learn their respective jobs as they went along. Jack Lord was known as a perfectionist who insisted on the best from everyone. His temper flared when he felt that others did not give their best, but in later reunions they admitted that Lord’s hard-driving force had made them better actors and made “Hawaii Five-O” a better show. Lord’s high standards helped the show last another six years after Leonard Freeman’s death from heart trouble during the sixth season.

It was obvious that there was no question that Jack Lord was the center of the show, and the other actors frequently served as little more than props. Occasionally there were episodes that would focus on the other actors, and let them showcase their own talents. Since Jack Lord had a financial interest in the show, he referred to the other regular cast as a “with” (as in “With James MacArthur”), they were never called “co-stars”. Throughout it’s twelve year run, only two episodes were shot in Los Angeles, one in Hong Kong, and one in Singapore.

“Hawaii Five-O” was the longest running (for 12 years), police procedural crime show on American television until Dick Wolf’s “Law & Order” surpassed it in 2002. It was also the first to enjoy an uninterrupted run that exceeded a decade (until it has since been joined by several other series including: Law & Order SVU, CSI and NCIS). When the show premiered in 1968 Hawaii had been a state for only 9 years and was relatively obscure to a lot of Americans, who still considered it a very exotic locale. 

Once “Hawaii Five-O” ended, the Hawaii-based television show Magnum PI with Tom Selleck, was created in order to make further use of the expensive production facilities created there for “Five-O”. The first few “Magnum PI” episodes made direct references to “Five-O”, putting it in the same fictional setting. Magnum‘s producers made a few attempts to coax Jack Lord out of retirement for a cameo appearance, but he refused.

Another legacy of the show is the popularity of the “Hawaii Five-O” theme song. The tune was composed by Morton Stevens, who also composed numerous episode scores performed by the CBS Orchestra. The theme was later recorded by The Ventures, whose version reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and is particularly popular with college and high school marching bands, especially at the University Of Hawaii, where it has become the unofficial fight song. Although the theme is most widely known as an instrumental, it has been recorded under two similar titles, but different sets of lyrics by Don Ho and Sammy Davis Jr. 

There was one previous attempt to make a rebooted series of “Hawaii Five-O”, but it was never successfully developed. It would have starred Gary Busey, with James MacArthur returned as Danny Williams and having become governor of Hawaii. A re-imaging of the original series was picked up by CBS who aired the original Jack Lord series. Aside from the unsuccessful attempt at a new series, there was an attempt to turn the project into a film by Warner Bros but that also was scrapped.

In August 2008, CBS announced that it would bring “Hawaii Five-O”, back to the network to premiere within the 2009 – 2010 tv season. The new series would be an updated present day sequel, this time centering on Steve McGarrett, who succeeds his late father Steve (Jack Lord’s character in the original series) as the head of the unit.

The new series would also incorporate many nods to the original series, including: having one of Steve’s hobbies of restoring his father’s 1974 Mercury Marquis, which is in fact the actual car driven by Jack Lord in the latter half of the original series’ run. Also included would be the series theme song with a slight modern tweak and the “Book ’em, Danno” catchphrase. In October 2009, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci signed on to script the pilot episode, and Peter M Lenkov would serve as the series showrunner. Lenkov’s notable work includes the TV series “La Femme Nikita”, “24” and “CSI: NY” and films such as “R.I.P.D.”, “Demolition Man” and “Son in Law”. In comics, he wrote “R.I.P.D.” and “Fort: Prophet of the Unexplained”. 

Kurtzman and Orci decided to not go down the sequel route and instead set to reboot the original concept similar to their reboot work on the 2009 “Star Trek” film. Production on the pilot was shot in Honolulu in March 2010. In May 2010, the “Hawaii Five-0” remake was picked up by original network CBS, which scheduled it for a Monday night slot to which it was moved to the tough and deemed death slot of Friday night. The series ended up beating the Friday night curse and kept strong viewership with 13-10 million viewers in its permanent Friday time. 

The news of a new film production was good news for the state of Hawaii, which the state hoped that the remake would pump new life into the economy. The warehouse at the former Honolulu Advertiser building was set as the official soundstage studio for the series. The exteriors representing the Five-0 headquarters are located at the Ali’iolani Hale in Honolulu (directly across the street from Iolani Palace), which represented Five-O headquarters in the original series. 

In October 2010, CBS gave the green light that the first season had been given a full season order of 24 episodes. All other seasons have consisted of between 23 and 25 episodes all at forty minutes each. What a lot of people hadn’t noticed was that the revival series actually uses a zero as the last character in its title instead of the letter “O” that is used in the title of the original series. According to Los Angeles Times, a CBS insider said that the noted use of the letter and number was necessary because of search engine results.

In February 2010, the main cast was announced. Daniel Dae Kim (“Lost” tv series) was cast to play Chin Ho Kelly. Several days later, Alex O’ Loughlin (“The Backup Plan”) was cast as the lead character Steve McGarrett. “Battlestar Galactica” actress Grace Park was cast as rookie detective Kona “Kono” Kalakaua. Although in the original series, the character of Kono was male, the reboot series swapped the cop’s gender in order to steer clear of a task force void of women. Veteran actor James Caan’s son Scott Caan (“Oceans Eleven”, “Into The Blue” was cast as Danny “Danno” Williams.

Ahead of the series’s eighth season, series regulars and fan favorites Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park would be leaving the series due to a salary dispute with CBS. Kim and Park had been seeking pay equality with their co-stars O’Loughlin and Caan, but did not reach satisfactory deals with CBS. Both Kim and Park was getting 10–15% lower than what O’Loughlin and Caan made in salary.

Following Kim’s and Park’s departures, longtime recurring cast member Ian Anthony Dale who portrayed Kono Kalakaua’s husband Adam Noshimuri had been upped to series regular for the eighth season. Executives also brought in Meaghan Rath and Beulah Koale to join the series as new characters to take the place of Kim and Park as new members of Five-0.

The series premiered on CBS on September 20, 2010, exactly 42 years after the premiere of the original series. In February 2020, show runner Lenkov announced that the series would end after it’s tenth season and 240 episodes later. A two episode series finale aired on April 3, 2020. The new “Five-0” is brisk, with a great cast, smart scripts, slick and well choreographed action scenes, clean production values and a splash of nostalgia. 

The popularity of “Hawaii Five-0”, made a positive effect on several local businesses that saw an increase in sales after they were featured in particular episodes. Visitors to the USS Missouri Memorial Association increased 25% in 2010. Waiola Shave Ice, the business run by Kamekona on the show, saw a 20% increase in shave ice sales, along with a 30% rise in overall sales. Kona Brewing Company also saw a 60% increase in sales after their beers were featured as McGarrett’s favored alcoholic beverage. The tourist economy was also impacted, as many Mainlander fans were subsequently inspired to visit the islands after viewing the series.


After 10 years and nearly 240 episodes, it all has come to an end. As we say Aloha to McGarrett and Danno does the series finale live up, to the legendary impact that “Hawaii Five-0” has had on us? In the finale viewers got some answers about the fate of Steve McGarrett (Alex O’ Loughlin) and the rest of the 5-0 task force, others were left up in the air.

The episode, that is appropriately titled “Aloha”, finds Danny (Scott Caan) being abducted by Daiyu Mei (Eugenia Yuan). The widow of series big baddie Wo Fat’s (Mark Dacascos) and her baddies, who also set his car on fire, setting the Five-0 team out to find him. In one of the episodes great sequences, the team manages to track Danno down. They arrive on the scene just as Danny escapes his restraints and starts a gun fight with his captors before being shot himself. 

Because “Five-0” was never a show to push it’s boundaries (which is a letdown of the writers). We know that Danny gets to the hospital in time to make it into surgery, and because it’s standard buddy cop structure. McGarrett stays by his hospital bedside throughout his recovery and is there when he wakes up. Meanwhile, Daiyu Mei and her crew attempt to raid Steve’s mom’s crypt for the millions left to her son. This results in the shows best sequence, a spectacularly staged shootout with the Five-0 team at the Honolulu docks. 

Steve cornered Wo Fat’s widow, ultimately opting to let her live which spurred Daiyu Mei to compare him to his father John McGarrett. This prompted a flashback to William Sadler’s late character and revealed that John believed Doris (Christine Lahti) may have faked her death.

We then jump forward a week as Danny and McGarrett are lounging on the beach as Danny gushes over Hawaii’s beauty in attempt to convince his friend to stay. Danny asks Steve “So you just gonna roam the world like that guy from Kung Fu?”. But it seems that Steve has his plans firmly in place, as Steve is looking for “peace” that his island home can’t give him. 

While Danny is heartbroken (although it doesn’t seem that way) over him leaving him, Steve reassures him that this isn’t a forever goodbye. Steve also says goodbye back at his house to his Five-0 team, including newbie Lincoln Cole, whom he asks to “hold down the fort” while he’s gone.

The final scene sees Steve boarding a plane to a mysterious destination but he’s not alone. He’s joined by Catherine Rollins (who was introduced in season 1), his ex and almost-fiancée, who shows up in the plane and asks if she can sit next to him. She also reveals that she’s the one who cracked the cipher code that led to Steve mom’s crypt, after being contacted by Lincoln Cole for some help. She asks Steve “You ready?” as they hold hands and fly off. 

Show runner Peter M. Lenkov wrote the finale on the fly by adjusting the season finale to a series finale. When he spoke to Entertainment Weekly, Lenkov had this to say: “Well, truthfully, I think the show is going to end every year. So every year you have to think about that. But I felt like the ending that you saw could have worked as a season finale or a series finale. Everything was built to see Steve McGarrett leave the island, and if we were going to come back, he would have come back in season 11 after a couple episodes. I always thought that the season would end this way, and then when it became a series-ender I went in and retooled some things so it felt like a real, genuine end”. 

Lenkov structured the finale to connect back to the shows pilot episode. Back to the very first case McGarrett had investigated after being given full immunity and means by the governor of Hawaii to start the Five-0 task force with Danny. McGarrett’s first case was the murder of his father, John McGarrett (played by William Sadler), who returns in the flashbacks. Along with Sadler, James Marsters returns also in flashbacks to reprise his role as Victor Hesse, who kidnapped the elder McGarrett with the help of Wo Fat (Mark Dacascos).

In the flashback scenes, we see Victor, Wo Fat and his wife Daiyu Mei plan out the very first scene of the series very first episode. We see McGarrett’s convoy, escorting international arms dealer Anton Hesse back to the states, getting ambushed. Victor has reached out to Wo Fat to help get his brother out of McGarrett’s clutches, and Wo Fat tells him that McGarrett will agree to trade his father for Anton because, “Blood is blood”. 

But we needed this reminder about what happened in the pilot episode, as it helps to explain why Daiyu has resurfaced after 10 years. Perhaps her hatred for Steve comes from the fact that her husband was killed by McGarrett in the 100th episode “Ina Paha” (“If Perhaps”). Her desire to get Doris McGarrett’s cipher, which led to thousands of dollars Doris has hidden in her crypt is based on both revenge and greed.

Daiyu also believes her husband is Doris McGarrett’s son. Earlier in the series when Doris faked her death and left John, Steve and MaryAnn in Hawaii and had raised Wo Fat after she accidentally killed his mother. This is the story that drives Daiyu to want Doris’s inheritance in honor of her long-dead husband. It is also why she kidnaps and tries to kill the person McGarrett loves the most in this world, his partner Danno.

While it was a fitting bookend to what the show had started. The finale that we all had been waiting for, for so long didn’t feel earth shattering or pushed any limits. Personally my biggest disappointment in the finale was throwing Danny off to the side for nearly the whole episode. In an even bigger disappointment was their goodbyes. McGarrett assures him that this is not a forever goodbye. They hug and tell each other that they love each other, but there was no real emotion felt by either of them. It didn’t make me tear up as it should have done. I get that this exchange tells us their friendship is far from over. After ten years of being forced together as mismatched partners and all the duo had to endure, you’d think that there be more of the feels. 

The tears don’t really start until McGarrett says goodbye to his dog Eddie and the Five-0 team. As he kisses Eddie’s muzzle he tells the dog he loves him and will miss him, but to make sure he looks out for Danny. Then the rest of the team arrives to say aloha and this is where the punch of the episodes emotions come from. Lou (Chi McBride) is the first to cry as he tells McGarrett how “you saved my life when you met me” and Adam (Ian Anthony Dale) hugs him and thanks McGarrett for giving him a second chance. 

Tani (Meaghan Rath) hugs him, where McGarrett tells her to be good and she promptly says, “No”. Even when she’s in tears, Tani is still a firecracker. Noelani (Kimee Balmilero) gives him a tearful hug and thanks him for believing in her; and Quinn (Katrina Law) thanks him for giving her a family. But his farewell with Junior (Beulah Koale), as they share the Samon ritual of “ha”, or breath is the most moving. Ha is what gives aloha its deeper meaning, and in this case, it is a sharing of friendship and brotherhood.

When McGarrett is about to exit he gives a shaka and says “Aloha and a hui hou” (“goodbye and until we meet again”). It only makes his exit feel a bit more hopeful. Not that the show will come back, but that these friendships that we have grown to love and adore, will continue and endure. We followed McGarrett for 10 years and we want him to find peace. 

Ending the series was a decision made by CBS, who felt it was the right time to leave. The cast and crew should feel very lucky that the network had kept a reboot of a series, on the air for 10 years and kept getting support by all of us for 10 years. Although it may not be over for the rest of the Five-0 crew as they can still appear in the “Magnum P.I.” reboot series in crossover episodes. 

Perhaps McGarrett can find peace somewhere out there in the world. And if nothing else he always has someone who has his back, whether it’s Catherine, Danno or the rest of the Five-0 team. Until they meet again and until we meet them again in syndication of re-runs for the series. We are left with 10 years of amazing memories and endless aloha. 

Aloha and Hui Hou

“Hawaii Five-O” 

(1968-1980, 2010-2020)



About Aron Medeiros

Aron Medeiros
Aron Medeiros is the movie critic for Maui Watch. He lives on the beautiful island of Maui and is also a member of the elite Hawaii Film Critics Society and an active cast member of the NerdWatch pod cast. He is a 2003 graduate from King Kekaulike High School. His favorite film of all time is “Back To The Future”. He has worked at Consolidated Kaahumanu Theaters for nearly 13 years as a Sales Associate and making his way up to Assistant Manager. He has loved movies since he was a young boy, where his Grandfather started his love for the movies.

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