Review: On 'Hawaii Five-0,' Everything Old Is Partially New Again CBS's remake of 'Hawaii Five-0' is a mixed bag -- it stuffs an old show into a new package, but the pretty scenery and a strong performance from Scott Caan just may keep it afloat.
NPR logo Review: On 'Hawaii Five-0,' Everything Old Is Partially New Again

Review: On 'Hawaii Five-0,' Everything Old Is Partially New Again

Alex O'Loughlin and Scott Caan star as McGarrett and Danno in CBS's reboot of 'Hawaii Five-0.' Mario Perez/CBS Entertainment hide caption

toggle caption
Mario Perez/CBS Entertainment

The first thing I would tell you about the new Hawaii Five-0 is not to judge it by the first five minutes or so. That sequence is dark, scary, and unsettling. Maybe someone was afraid the campy reputation of the original would follow the reboot and wanted to make the This Is Not Your Father's Steve McGarrett announcement right away by making everything startlingly violent, but the effect is to make the kicky, beachy opening credits seem very out of place. (At least they kept the theme song.)

After that, you get a much more spirited, somewhat less depressing (though still violent) cop/crime show, and the tone is really so markedly different that the two are tough to reconcile.

The biggest problem with this Hawaii Five-0 is that it looks so much like every other CBS crime procedural. Yes, it's an expensive-looking pilot, and they cut in a lot of Hawaii B-roll so you can enjoy the setting, but there's still a whiff of CSI: NCIS: Hawaii -- The Mentalist with surfboards, Criminal Minds without so many clothes. It's not that it's bad, but it's not fresh.

It does, however, have a bright spot.

Things start looking up when brooding cop Steve McGarrett (played by CBS favorite Alex O'Loughlin, of the canceled shows Moonlight and Three Rivers) meets his new partner Danny "Danno" Williams, played by Scott Caan (who played Casey Affleck's brother in the Ocean's Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen movies). Hawaii Five-0 should be fun, not grim, and that's what Caan brings to the table. He's a star, for lack of a more precise description -- he has sparkle and wit and handles the dialogue as if it's far more interesting than it actually is. It's enough, maybe, to take some of the flatness out of O'Loughlin's portrayal of McGarrett. He gives the show an enormous lift, to the point where it would probably be unwatchable without him but borders on enjoyable, at times, in his presence.

Daniel Dae Kim plays Chin Ho Kelly, showing off (among other things) the lighter charm he only occasionally got to use in his time as Jin on Lost. Grace Park isn't doing much yet as a new cop and Chin Ho's cousin, but it's great that she gets to throw punches in addition to getting undressed a lot. (Don't get me wrong -- almost everybody gets undressed a lot. That's part of why you set your show in Hawaii.)

Caan is so much better than most of the material that the risk is that everyone is going to wind up wanting to watch The Danno Show, which isn't what they're going to get. O'Loughlin's McGarrett comes off as a complete wet blanket after a while, but whether the show can steer into that skid and capitalize on the contrast between the leads may determine whether it can work well creatively.

But quality and critical assessments aside, don't be surprised if this is CBS's next easily digestible procedural juggernaut.

And yes, they kept "Book him, Danno."