“What kinda cops are you?” a suspect asks Steve McGarrett.
“The new kind,” McGarrett tells them.
Well, not exactly. McGarrett and his partners are very much the old kind of cop, seeing as they’re part of a remake of the iconic ’70s drama “Hawaii Five-0” (the new version debuts Monday at 10 on CBS). And the new “Five-0” pilot is shot in a very familiar action movie style. At one point, McGarrett and his partner get into a shootout with bad guys who have automatic weapons, and of course the two cops do just fine with their police-issued pistols.
No, nothing new to see here, but I’ll forgive McGarrett’s attempt to argue otherwise for two reasons. First, the new “Five-0” kept the single best, most distinct piece of the old show – its brassy surf rock theme song – intact. (The new version is shorter, as all theme songs are, but was re-recorded by most of the original session musicians.)
Second, it’s fun.
Not thought-provoking, not innovative, not super-quotable the next day (unless you want to trot out the old “Book ’em, Danno” catchphrase, which the new show wisely does at one point). But entertaining, in the kind of mindless but effective style of your better action flicks.
Some of that style comes from director Len Wiseman (“Live Free Or Die Hard”) and a large pilot budget, so perhaps the show will feel dull and unengaging by week five. But the larger infrastructure – including actors Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park, the beautiful Hawaii locations, and writers Peter Lenkov, Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci’s straightforward, unpretentious approach – suggests this won’t be a one-pilot wonder.
Alex O’Loughlin, who’s been a pet project of the CBS casting people for several seasons now (see also “Moonlight” and “Three Rivers”) plays McGarrett, a Naval investigator who returns to his native Hawaii to catch his father’s killer. The governor (guest star Jean Smart) offers him carte blanche – “No rules, my backing and no red tape” – to form his own unit to take down not only that bad guy, but all the other creeps who have been mucking up her island paradise.
O’Loughlin’s handsome (and the pilot wisely has him take his shirt off in one scene), but I’ve never seen in him what CBS does. Fortunately, the show uses his stiffness to its advantage, unleashing Caan as wisecracking, excitable New Jersey transplant Dan “Danno” Williams to turn the new series into more of a buddy cop show than the original was. As the show’s all-knowing, all-powerful hero, O’Loughlin’s McGarrett would be a snooze. As straight man to Caan (doing a variation on his “Ocean’s Eleven” character), though, he works quite nicely.
As Chin Ho, a disgraced ex-cop McGarrett lures back to the force, and Chin Ho’s surfing cousin Kono, Kim and Park don’t get as much to do in the pilot as the leads. (Though Park does surf in a bikini and then strip down to her underwear on an undercover op; the show is an equal-opportunity flesh-peddler.) But the duo bring a very relaxed, engaging vibe to the show. And, frankly, it’s nice to see “Lost” vet Kim still working in Hawaii.
TV remakes are always an unpredictable business. A decade ago, CBS threw most of its marketing muscle behind an expensive update of “The Fugitive,” only to see some show about police scientists called “CSI” become a much bigger hit. And NBC’s hyped “Bionic Woman” remake a few years back was a big flop. But “Battlestar Galactica” – another ’70s remake where Grace Park took a role originally played by a man – was a success (albeit on a much smaller cable network), so it can be done.
It ain’t deep, but the new “Five-0” has the setting, it has the style and it has the cast to work.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org