Not Your Father’s “Five-O”

Hawaii Five-O was a big hit on 1960s and ‘70s television that helped to put Hawaii on the map … the visitor’s map, that is. Today’s re-boot is different in style, but still excels at doing what we in Hawaii like it to do: make people want to come here, to visit or to live.

Hawaii Five-0

[Image Caption: On location with Hawaii Five-0! Photo Credit: E-PR for CBS]

The setup is unchanged: “Five-O” is a plainclothes state police unit, with gubernatorial immunity for whatever they have to do to apprehend criminal masterminds and forestall catastrophes. The execution too is the same: locations and car chases are all about Oahu’s tropical scenery, not its GPS coordinates – wherever they say they’re going, they’re not driving toward it. (And there’s no state police, either: each of the counties operates its own police force).

What’s changed since the ‘70s are the dynamics of the main characters. Gone is Jack Lord’s deadpan, by-the-book team leader. Alex O’Loughlin’s version of “Steve McGarrett” is an ex-Navy Seal, haunted by a family tragedy, and quick to disregard limits and warnings. He does, of course, still tell his sidekick to “Book ‘em, Danno!” But “Lt. Danny Williams” (Scott Caan) is no quiet yes-man: he’s a bantam-rooster from Jersey, in a non-stop gab-fest with McGarrett. So intense is their repartee that, in one episode, they confused and thereby overpowered a gunman who had the drop on them. “Chin Ho Kelly” (Daniel Dae Kim) and “Kono” (Grace Park) are now cousins – the former a tech-savvy stud, and the latter a slender surfer-girl; both, however, are erstwhile Honolulu cops who have occasionally run afoul of the law. And since CSI-type shows are all the rage, a nerdy medical examiner (Masi Oka) is a series regular, too.

Hawaii Five-0 Blessing

[Photo Caption: Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho) and company receive a blessing prior to beginning production on Season 3! Photo Credit CBS]

The new show has yet to do any major filming on the Big Island, though in 1974 its predecessor did set an episode here, featuring a mad scientist who threatened to detonate explosives that would cause the volcano to erupt and bury Hilo in lava. (Mauna Loa has, historically, sent lava down to Hilo, but no man-made explosion could force it to do so.)

In addition to sheer size, the Big Island has two unique attractions that that might inspire Five-O’s writers to weave a plot. One of our three active volcanoes (Kilauea) is erupting; and astronomical observatories cluster at the summit of Mauna Kea. In Hawaii we say “Hana hou” for “encore;” and the third season of the new Five-O has already begun shooting. Perhaps, come September, we’ll see some Big Island sights ….

HERE ON THE BIG ISLAND – Live from the Met… in Hilo

By Kelly Moran

Live from the Met . . . in Hilo

          It’s almost 5,000 miles from the Prince Kuhio Plaza in Hilo to the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.  But now you can get all the way to the Met by simply going to the mall – specifically, to the multiplex movie theater there.

Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 East Puainako Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720
Prince Kuhio Plaza, 111 East Puainako Street, Hilo, Hawaii 96720

          Operas have been broadcast over the radio, live from the stage of the Met, for the past 79 years; they’re on Hawaii’s NPR affiliates: 91.1 in Hilo, 91.7 in Kona, every Saturday afternoon during the Met’s season, which is autumn-to-spring.

          Operas have been filmed and shown in theaters, of course, but such filming was almost always done in movie studios, and was therefore a huge expense over and above producing the opera itself.  And opera is just about the most expensive theatrical production there is.

          But four years ago, the Met’s general manager, Peter Gelb, arranged to have one Saturday matinee a month televised.  I know, I know: operas have been shown on TV before.  But home-size sets with tiny speakers and (until recently) rather low screen resolutions, simply can not convey the scope and scale of seeing a fully-staged opera in a theater, much less at the 3,000-seat Metropolitan Opera House.  (It’s not called “grand” opera for nothing.)

The Metropolitan Opera, New York
The Metropolitan Opera, New York

          Gelb’s innovation was to broadcast the performances in high-definition video, and to have them shown exclusively in theaters. After all, most movies are no longer distributed on film in cans.  They are digitally downloaded through satellite dishes on theater roofs, and are projected in high-definition.  Taking advantage of these new technologies, the Met’s operas are seen on big screens with full stereo sound, in more than 40 countries around the world.  (Go to for more information.)

Metropolitan Opera in Live HD
Metropolitan Opera in Live HD

          Go to the Prince Kuhio Theaters, pay $22 ($20 if you’re a senior), and you are, in effect, seeing an opera at the Met, right along with the audience in New York.  Yes, that price is about double what a movie costs; but it’s far, far cheaper than a good seat in a world-class opera house. Besides, at the multiplex, you won’t feel embarrassed if you don’t dress up; and you can eat your popcorn or candy, and drink your water or soda during the show, which, believe me, you can not do at the Met.

          The broadcasts are subtitled in English; and it goes without saying that all the performances are first-rate: the Met is where the world’s top talent wants to be seen, and there is really no other way for us in Hawaii to see them there without spending a fortune on travel and tickets.

          The shows generally are hosted by the renowned diva Renée Fleming (unless she’s singing that day). 

"America's Beautiful Voice", soprano Renée Fleming has a devoted international following wherever she appears, whether on the operatic stage, in concert or recital, on television, radio or on disc.
"America's Beautiful Voice", soprano Renée Fleming has a devoted international following wherever she appears, whether on the operatic stage, in concert or recital, on television, radio or on disc.

She typically says a few words about the opera’s composer and its stage history, and interviews the leading singers, either before the show starts or during an intermission.  The conductor and the opera’s theatrical and/or musical director will also talk about the dramaturgical choices they have made (even the oldest of chestnuts get new-concept staging, nowadays).  Such inside-stuff may seem of interest only to longtime opera buffs, but how else will a new generation of audiences be introduced to opera: it’s an open window into how this most complex of entertainment forms gets made.

          Many of the Met’s broadcasts are later shown on Public TV (PBS), and the increasing popularity of opera as television programming has made an interesting change in casting.  No longer is it only someone’s voice that matters.  TV viewers and movie-goers expect to see close-ups of the stars, and watch vigorous action-scenes.  So, to be believable, heroes have to be handsome, leading ladies have to be gorgeous, and villains have to look sufficiently evil – at least in makeup.

The next hi-def Met broadcast, "Armida," starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.
The next hi-def Met broadcast, "Armida," starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.

          The next hi-def Met broadcast is “Armida,” by Gioachino Rossini, and it starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday May 1st.  “Armida” is not a famous opera, but Fleming herself is the star, and Rossini’s music is always tuneful.  It’s the last show of the season, but the next season starts in September, and will include the first two of Richard Wagner’s four operas in his “Ring Cycle” – arguably the most dramatic work in the operatic art-form. If you’ve never seen a professional opera performance, or haven’t gone in a long time, for whatever reason, take it from me: it’s worth twenty-two bucks to go to the Met.