Before the Pilot – Photo Credit: Unknown
Ten years. Two hundred and forty episodes. More debate, conflicts, and opinions then you can shake a stick at. But, the one thing I’m sure of. Pretty much 100% of the Hawaii Five-0 fandom can agree that Season One was by far the best season of the entire run. Were the stories better in the first season than any other? Like all H50, that’s debatable. There were, obviously, hundreds of wonderful stories spread out over all ten years.
But Season One was special. I’ve said it before, Hawaii Five-0 was a 10-year love affair and Season One was the beginning of that love affair. Like many new romances, it struck without warning. Like deciding at the last minute to accept an invitation from a friend to attend a party you hadn’t intended to go to, and you meet, by chance, the one who changes your life forever.
In those first months of a new romance, everything is fresh and new and exciting. Every new experience embraced by the excitement of new discovery. It’s the immediate onslaught of a lust for everything to do with this new love. It can be rather overwhelming. Eventually, hopefully, the heady intoxication of that lust mellows into a long lasting, deep and abiding love.
Maybe that’s why we tend to think back on the stories of Season One and think they were so much better than anything that followed. Not necessarily because they were, but because we were all caught up in that lust of first love. Season One will always be my favorite season.
Monday, September 20, 2010, 10pm. For all intents and purposes, a time I would normally be sound asleep, having no interest in starting off my work week already too tired from a late night of watching TV. But a “friend”, in the guise of Daniel Dae Kim, convinced me to give this new Hawaii Five-0 a chance simply by his presence in the cast. Having loved him on LOST, I was happy I’d get the chance to see him in something else. And met, by chance, the show that filled my imagination and my heart for the next ten years. I was intrigued in the first five minutes. By the first commercial break, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love.
S1 – E1: The Pilot:
I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say the Pilot episode of Hawaii Five-0 was one of the best pilots ever written and/or filmed. Yeah…. ok… I’m biased, I know. But the H50 pilot had some pretty damned impressive names attached to it. Of course, we’ve all come to know Peter Lenkov, who wrote the pilot script, over the 10 years of the show’s run, but the pilot also had as Executive Producers, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, who also collaborated on the story. This powerful duo has been at the helm of some pretty spectacular TV and Hollywood productions, including the powerful Star Trek universe among many others. Add to that the pilot’s director, Len Wiseman, another Hollywood heavyweight, and you have the recipe for one hell of a great episode.
But, of course, the success of any recipe, is in the quality of its ingredients. The term “lightning in a bottle” was never truer than in the casting of the Hawaii Five-0 pilot, from the main characters all the way through to the guest stars and those who, eventually, became ongoing recurring cast. Pilots can, obviously, be tricky as writers are trying to not only provide a story that they hope will hook an audience but also introduce characters in a way that will make people want to invest their time to get to know them. The H50 pilot did this in spades.
Starting off with the biggest uncredited star of the show. Hawaii itself, as we’re treated to our first look at the beauty of Oahu. The aerial shot of the shoreline as Steve’s plane is descending is breathtaking. The shots of beautiful people enjoying the beaches and the ocean are sprinkled throughout the pilot. It’s something TPTB used to great effect all the years of the series. It’s a sort of counterbalance to all the death and crime which pretty much all the stories have. For those of us in colder climates, it was a weekly escape to sun and sand. A mini vacation every seven days. Week after week, these views of Hawaii were stunning.
And they did, indeed, provide a story that hooked the audience. From the very first moments on screen, the pilot screamed “movie quality”. Watching Steve’s convoy under attack, the mercenaries propelling down from black helicopters, the explosions, and the military fire fight, all with the beautiful Kualoa Ranch in the background standing in for S. Korea, well, it all simply took my breath away. When Victor Hesse murdered John McGarrett as Steve listens over the phone, and Steve’s scream of horror, anguish, and grief, I sat there simply stunned. And we were only five minutes in! Damn straight, I wanted more!
Of course, we meet our four main characters in the pilot and while there was some pre-existing familiarity between some characters (for instance, Steve and Chin knew of each other, being several years apart at Kukui High School and Chin and Kono were cousins) they all meet each other for the first time and seeing them come together to form what would, eventually, be Five-0 was a blast to watch. The chemistry between all the actors was tangible but between Alex, Scott, Daniel and Grace it was off the charts. Taylor Wily, Will Yun Lee and Jean Smart as Kamekona, Sang Min (who were only supposed to be in the one episode) and Governor Jamison, were so wonderful they ended up coming back again and again. The addition of James Marsters, William Sadler and Norman Reedus, in limited but extremely powerful and meaningful roles, was no less inspired.
And, of course, I fell in love with the two most important characters and the most important relationship of the show’s entire run pretty much instantaneously. What was it for you? Was it the first time we saw Steve’s eyes in close-up in the Humvee? Was it Danny in the Mustang? Was it when they pulled guns on each other in the McGarrett garage? Was it when Danny leveled Steve with one hell of a right cross or was it that first heart to heart on the beach behind Casa McG? Honestly, this is a multiple-choice question that screams for an “other” and an “all of the above” choice as well, doesn’t it? Whenever it was, the foundation for this most spectacular of relationships was very firmly set in the pilot and it only got better and better as time went on.
It was the “bromance” between Steve and Danny that became the hallmark of the series and was highly promoted by CBS in PR for the show. Their ongoing banter, along with their great comedic timing, became enough of a cultural phenomenon that the word “cargument” was added to the Urban Dictionary before Season One even hit the mid-season mark.
The easy chemistry and rapport between Alex and Scott was phenomenal right off the bat. You would have thought they’d been working together for years. The way they bounce off each other has always been so easy and fluid. It was never forced. Alex and Scott have both said in numerous interviews throughout the years that the moment they began their first riff off each other in the car it was as natural as breathing for them and that the relationship between these two characters is the lynch pin for the entire series. Ten years later, you’d be an idiot to argue with that assessment from the stars themselves.
As with any pilot, the purpose is to establish not only the characters but certain elements of a plot that will hopefully sustain a show moving forward. I’m only guessing here, but I would think the original objective is to be successful enough to earn a full first season, then hopefully more. The H50 pilot succeeded in giving us characters we didn’t need to “learn to love” but loved immediately. It also provided us with the groundwork for stories through the first season and for stories and themes moving forward.
Steve – a stoic and tough Naval Intelligence Officer and former Navy SEAL who hasn’t been home to Hawaii in “a while”. A man with definite “daddy issues” which kept him from seeing his father for a very long time. Danny – a hard-nosed by-the-book detective who hates Hawaii as fiercely as he loves his daughter, Gracie. We briefly meet Gracie and learn about Rachel and Step-Stan. Chin – former HPD, wrongly accused and forced out but finally getting back “in the game”. Kono – the rookie, with everything to prove as a former surfer turned cop with a disgraced cop as a cousin. Kamekona, a confidential informant because, of course, we needed our own “Huggy Bear”. The beginnings of McDanno! All the character elements were there.
We see the Champ Box for the first time and hear the first few words of the recording John McGarrett left behind. He doesn’t trust the people he works with. Steve finds the key John speaks of in the recording. We also learn, as the episode goes on that there’s a mole in Danny’s HPD precinct. We’ll see these play out as Season One unfolds as well as in episodes in future seasons.
Watching the team coalesce as they work together to find Hesse before he can escape the island as well as watching Steve and Danny begin to lay the framework of what will be a great partnership and an even better friendship made the episode fly by. Re-watching it recently, I was struck again by how quickly the episode moved without ever feeling rushed. There wasn’t a wasted moment in the entire hour.
Steve and Danny in an HPD squad car barreling onto the deck of a Chinese freighter was a fitting climax to such a fantastic episode. It again laid the groundwork for much of what would follow in years to come. Steve will get his man, come hell, high water or disembarking freighters heading for international waters. Danny will bitch and complain and worry but be right there by his side through it all. Steve will take down his man by any means possible, be it gun fire or hand to hand combat. It will be raw, intense and it will be bloody.
And when it’s over, “Book ‘em Danno!” will rule. For the time being anyway!
Was the Hawaii Five-0 Pilot the best episode of the entire series? Some will debate it was and others will point out many other memorable episodes in the years that followed. But for the sheer joy of first love, for the excitement of something new, for the “lightning in a bottle” of the “core 4” as well as the rest of cast and for the story that began and sustained the series off and on for ten years…. yeah… I think the pilot is indeed the best episode of the entire series.
****** Stay tuned for scenes from our next ….. post ******
Season ONE – The Rest
As I said in the introduction to this series, I don’t intend to do full reviews of all the episodes. Perhaps, like the Pilot above, I might be a bit more talkative about the episodes I feel were extra special but for the most part I’m going to try to do what I said in the introduction. Single out the things about each Season that I loved (or perhaps didn’t love) so much. Season One was a magical season and was filled with so many, many wonderful memories, I feel it needs its own post. So stay tuned …..
Aloha. Malama Pono
Note regarding photos: Some of the photos are screen caps I grabbed myself, but many pictures are not mine. Back in the early years, when I was very new to the concept of a “fandom” I simply saved pictures I loved and never thought about who may have taken them or who may have created an edit. So, I’m not posting photo credits on these posts unless I know for sure who to credit. I have never removed water marks but many photos didn’t have them. If someone notices a picture or edit that belongs to them, please let me know and I’ll add the credit.
15 thoughts on “#H50 – A Decade of Fun – Season ONE (Part I)”
Great review of the pilot, Linda! I was hooked almost immediately and having been a fan of the original series, I wasn’t sure that was possible, but it happened! I knew from the first time we saw Steve & Danny together that this relationship would be a vital part of the show and boy, has it ever been that! I know a lot of people were surprised that the show got a second season renewal, in fact, I think the cast were all stunned that it happened,but if ever a show deserved a second season, this one did! Looking forward to your next blog!
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Anyone who knows me knows that I was not a Hawaii Five-O fan, so the reboot didn’t have anything to live up to for me. In fact, all I remembered from the original was Jack Lord’s hair, the car and “book ’em Danny”. After 12 years of it being on the TV in my house it never made any other impression on me. It took all of 5 minutes to get me hooked on this one and it was pretty much all because I fell in love with the dynamic between Steve and Danny. All the other elements were awesome too, but it was these two men and their relationship that kept me coming back year after year.
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Linda, You Nailed it ! I go back to September 2010, and remember how I pooh-pooed the promos for this “reboot” of H 5-0 — for i had witnessed the entire run of the original series, and had assumed the attitude that second editions just did not work.
It took a call three weeks later from my Sister, who said I was missing something by not at least giving the new H 5-0 a chance. I got on the computer, dialed in the PILOT, and was blown away. I think my chin hit the floor in a little less than 10 minutes. The result was that I was HOOKED for the remainder of the next 10 YEARS.
There is a reason that I have watched the PILOT 8 times. My all time favorites include Have Gun – Will Travel, The Fugitive, The Twilight Zone, The Last Ship, The Americans, Dexter, and Ozark (which has softened the blow of losing OUR SHOW these past few days) None of these great series compare to the level of commitment and affection that I feel for THIS ‘UN !
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It is incredible how pretty much all of us were hooked before the first commercial break, isn’t it?!?
Like Dan I kinda pooh pooped the idea of anyone trying to recreate the show I’d pretty much idolize as a kid…..Jack Lord was McGarrett and no one else could possibly take his place! Plus I’d heard a god awful mix of the title music floated out there on-line (thankfully not used) I was very sceptical, but decided to give it a try and just like you started a 10 love affair. No other show ever captured my attention and loyalty like this one……I seriously doubt there will ever be another like it. As Alex stood in navy dress blues with the Mighty Mo and Arizona as backdrop I had to admit they “did good” and Danny – where do I start, so different from James MacArthur’s Danny. I remember thinking OMG he’s in McGarrett’s face, that didn’t happen in the old one….and so it went. So many great moments in the pilot as they introduced us to the team! I knew I was hooked when Danny slugged Steve! I just had to see where it was going.
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Even as a kid/teenager (I was 8 when the original started and 20 when it ended) I was always very partial to “buddy-buddy” TV shows and movies. My next favorite were ensemble shows. I were very few shows I liked where there was a “star” like a sun that everyone else orbited around, only their to make the “star” look good. That’s why H5O never appealed to me much. Jack Lord’s McGarrett was IT and everyone else just hovered around him. Add to that running around in wool suits in 100 degree heat used to make laugh every time I saw a scene with the buttoned up Five-O standing around with people in shorts and Aloha shirts or, funnier yet, girls in bikinis. Once Five-O left the air, I fell in love with Magnum. It was everything for me that Five-O wasn’t.
Really miss the show already. The reboot unlike the original had better character development and better writing and chemistry. Really still miss Daniel and Grace but glad they are happy on other shows and other things.
But really it has been ten years gone by fast. Thanks and keep up the good work as really want to see what they do post Five 0!
I heartily agree with everything said here! i was hooked by Alex’s eyes & then when Danny decked McGarrett for getting him shot. I loved their banter in the early seasons before it got nasty later on. Maybe different writers in the later seasons who didn’t watch the show? But I was hooked & a fan for the entire 10 years. The pilot definitely hooked me in.
Add me to the “hooked before the first wave” list, for sure! This Pilot was unlike anything I had ever seen on the small screen before! It really was a mini movie – far above any average procedural drama pilot I’ve ever watched!
I was kind of anticipating the new H50 back in Sept. 2010. I had fond memories of watching Jack Lord and the Original H5O with my Grandma (she loved Jack Lord!), but I honestly don’t remember any of the episodes. I’d seen Alex on Moonlight and Scott in a couple of movies. I was not into Lost, but I knew DDK had been in it. I did know who Grace Park was, too. But I didn’t watch the show for any of the actors…just kind of the nostalgia.
I was certainly sucked in with the pilot, though! From that first scene and the gut-wrenching gunblast followed by Steve’s immediate cry of anguish which laid out the ground work for the way the rest of the series was going to roll, through to the very first “Book him, Danno.” I couldn’t pick my jaw up off the ground either, Dan! When Sang Min asked “what kind of cops are you,” and Steve answered “the new kind,” my head was nodding up and down in agreement. This was NOT my Grandma’s H50!
So many storylines were started with the pilot. Obviously, the McGarrett family saga started there and presumably ended with the revelation that John McGarrett knew Doris was not killed in the car wreck.
Then we have the introductions to the characters we immediately fell in love with, beyond Steve McGarrett. We knew we were going to love him from his first appearance in the truck in N. Korea, right?
We found out the one and only reason Danny would ever move to this pineapple-infested island – his daughter, Grace. We quickly discovered our tough Jersey cop was a softie when it came to his daughter and he knew how to treat children from the start (unlike Super SEAL). Danny the family man was a storyline that last through the whole series. (Until it didn’t, but that a series finale problem.)
Chin the bitter ex-cop who was accused of stealing and fired, starting Chin’s storyline that lasted the entire season, and the repercussions that continued into following storylines.
Then we have Kono, our luscious rookie. Former surfing champion. She must have had more backstory than we ever really got. But her real story didn’t start until S2.
And yet, the incredible chemistry of that original team of four was undeniably present already in the Pilot.
So many of our other favorite extras were introduced in the pilot as well: John McGarrett, Kamekona, Sang Min, and more would be added throughout that first season.
Another that struck me in that 1st episode was the humor. It was there in spades although never over the top. That had been completely missing from the Original H50. The “cargument” experience that was established with the fabulous 1st car argument to ever take place on this show – the one after Danny had gotten shot, just blew me away. The famous lines “That’s what I was trying to tell you, last year, when this conversation started,” “apology acknowledged, acceptance is pending,” were the biggest hooks ever created to lure viewers into a bromance the likes of which had never been seen before.
The Pilot was probably not a perfect episode, but it perfectly caught my eye and my heart. Never before had I shut off the phone and declined dinner engagements to stay home and watch something I could easily DVR and watch later! H50 Night became a 10 year ritual, thanks to the Pilot!
(And the ensuing 1st season episodes just tightened Steve McGarret and Danny Williams’ grip on my heart!)
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I was hooked from the very first show. When Steve put Danny on the ground and then when Danny punched Steve, I fell in love. It was the best pilot of any show I had ever seen. And I knew where I would be spending every Monday night. That was until it moved to Friday nights. Then I knew where I would be every Friday night. I even turned down a few social invitations on Friday night to watch Hawaii 50. I always told my son, “Don’t get married on a Friday night if you want me to be there.”
Luckily, he hasn’t gotten married yet. I am still a little lost on Friday nights without my show. I look forward to these reviews. It is great sharing our memories.
Reading through the comments I chuckled at your observation about being hooked by the first commercial. I was hooked as soon as it started. I had discovered Alex earlier in Moonlight/Three Rivers and knew he was a keeper (and he never failed at keeping me totally entranced with him as an actor, but even more so as the giving, incredible, genuine, down-to-earth man he is). I was thrilled when I heard he was the new McGarrett. The old H50 was a sentimental favorite having watched it with my dad as a kid.
What I didn’t realize at the time was exactly how hooked I’d become and how much in love I’d fall with all of the characters. The only one I was a little familiar with was Scott (and more so because of his dad) and that Monday night changed my life. I had always wanted to visit Hawaii and the show just made the itch almost unscratchable. When the show moved to Friday, Friday became the best night of the week.
Were all of the episodes sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat good? Absolutely not! And, of course, some better than others. But it was the chemistry of the actors, the locale, the friends I made because of this show is was what made the show all the more special. I had my dream come true and did finally visit Hawaii in 2018 and again in 2019 where I was lucky enough to attend SOTB and meet new and see old friends. While I wasn’t lucky enough to have met any of the stars (other than Dennis whom I adore) or see filming, being there, close enough to touch them and just feeling the excitement is something I won’t soon forget.
I will miss the show but am very happy for all the good is has brought to me! One thing I would really love (and I know it’ll probably never happen) would be for a music compilation of some of the best music I’ve ever heard! Including Jorge and Meaghan singing! I know it’s tons of music, 240 episodes worth but maybe it will happen! Have to keep those dreams alive!
Thanks for this and can’t wait for the next chapte!!
Its a big do-it-yourself project, but use can use a site called tunefind.com
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thanks I’ll check it out.
I use to watch the other H5o and I was more a Danno girl, Jack Lord scared me. Pounding on the desk, snapping his fingers and yelling. Anyway this H50 won me over and I didn’t know what the actors did before. I joined Facebook for the show and twitter for the show. I loved the way they worked together. That is why I would get so angry with those in charge shying away for that chemstry, to same old side bars, that did add to the story and later go in the way of the story. I even stopped watching Grim, when they moved to Friday. What I would love a 2 hour story every now again. The British shows I watch are 2 hours long, and the season might only have 4 to 10 episodes.
I’ve yet to see the first episodes. I was a couple of episodes, by chance, on TV in Bosnia, and I had to write a story, give Steve a family. It started as a bit of fun, but 80,000 words later I am working on the second part and loving it. On of the things I’m keeping the the McDanno. I like the original four, though the other characters, like junior, are good too. In fact, they’ve brought in a good character at the very end. I think I might work him into my story. Having said that, I might have to take my story away from Hawaii 5-0 due to copyrights, which means recreating Steve, Danny, Kono and Chin. Not sure if I’ll keep the story in Hawaii since I have never been there and I worry that my descriptions sound fake. But, any show that can inspire like this, is a show worth watching. Shame it got cancelled.