Friday, February 4, 2011

The Remake of "Hawaii Five-0"

Okay, so admittedly I have a soft spot for the original. I watched it in syndication for a while when I was a kid so it joins that block of stuff which "was really probably not that good but I was a kid and didn't know any better and even though I know it's not that good now I still kind of like it out of nostalgia's sake."

Okay, that was a mouthful. But you know it's true. I'm sure you out there have stuff you feel the same way about.

And as you recall from my 'snowed in' post a few days back I got to watching original episodes online... and yeah, it's pretty laughable looking at it now. If people think modern police procedural stories are laughable by how fast the investigators seem to get results and what the 'magic' computers can do they should see what the original was doing in 1969! It's even funnier since they didn't have computers and almost everything had to be done by hand.

But all that is beside the point. We're here to talk about a remake.

When I first heard of this I admit my thought was: "Why?" Hawaii Five-O was not a show that seemed to me to be crying out to be remade. If they were going to remake something why not remake The Man From U.N.C.L.E.... on second thought... don't.

Anyway, they remade it. I admit I rather forgot about it until I got bored being snowed in and was looking for something to watch online. I stumbled onto this and watched several episodes... enough to come to a conclusion.... this show was *almost* there. And that's a tragedy.

Why do I say it's a tragedy? Because *almost* in TV and movies (and possibly theatre too) means there just isn't enough entertainment value and it also means that one can see the goal but it doesn't quite reach it. If something is absolute dreck you can still get entertainment value out of laughing at how ridiculous it it. Also, you don't feel so sorry for it because it's stumbling in dead last in the race; instead you applaud it because it managed to finish the race at all. And of course, if something is really good you enjoy it because it's good. But when something is just not quite there it's good enough that you can't poke fun at it but you also can't praise it because it really isn't that good.

And that's the thing about this remake. It has the potential to actually be F-U-N. Mindless action-adventure entertainment with a good-looking cast. I'm not a snob -- I enjoy brainless-blow-stuff-up action-adventure as much as the next person. But I at least expect the show to be slightly clever about it and to give viewers something more than explosions.

One of the biggest problems is that the writers felt it would be fun to make Steve McGarrett and his right-hand man Danny "Danno" Williams play the 'good cop-bad cop' roles with McGarrett being the wild card and Danny being the more straight-edged voice of reason. In itself that could have worked but the writers decided that the best way of expressing this was to have Danny be a nag and he and McGarrett spend most of their time bickering with one another. This. Is. Not. Funny. No matter how much humor the writers try to inject into the snark the problem is that snark is great but it has to be used in measured doses. When it becomes nothing but what the characters do all the time it becomes annoying and it makes it impossible to believe that these two characters are actually the friends they claim to be. Not only that, but it makes both the characters unlikable... they come off as children who should not be entrusted with permanent markers let alone automatic weapons.

The other problem with the show is that it is so straightforward, the episodes so stereotypical it's like the writers have a trope list and they check off each box as they go along. If you don't know what's going to happen and when it's going to happen for the entire episode after the opening teaser then you aren't paying attention. And with that kind of stereotyping it's easy to quickly stop paying attention. Because it's boring and being boring is one of the cardinal sins of an action-adventure show.

Then there is character development. There is some but it comes in fits and starts -- which is not necessarily a bad thing -- a show I do like, ABC's Castle does this -- but Hawaii Five-0 gives you the development in half-size chunks. At least when Castle gives a burst of character development you get a whole development in one episode. Hawaii Five-0 gives you half a development and leaves you wondering "What the heck just happened here?"

Finally, there is the smugness and superiority complexes. About half the cast is smug and superior all the time and, again, it makes them unlikable. Attached to this is the fact that, like spoiled children, they get away with everything short of murder and there are no consequences. This is alright... for Batman... but not for those whom are supposed to be a group of cops. When these guys decide to throw the rule book out the window there should be consequences, they should learn something from the experience, it should humble them somewhat. This would have the double impact of reducing the smug level and providing character development. Two birds with one stone -- what a concept!

As I said, though, the show is so close to actually being there but the writers are really going to have to step up their game. The first thing is to cut both the bickering and the nagging in at least half. The second thing is to give the viewers more character development opportunities. Let us get to know them better; because right now we have no reason to care what happens to them because they are just walking, talking cardboard cut-outs. The third thing is to let them fail... a little bit. Let them run into something they can't tackle by throwing away the rule book, let them see some consequences from their Cowboy actions. This will help humanize them and make their viewers feel a little sympathy for them as well.

So that, in a nutshell, is that. I started the show and finished with it in one day. Someone wake me if they hear that the writers have actually picked up the clue phone and fixed the problems.

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