'Hawaii Five-O': Then vs. Now

A lot has changed, but there are similarities

Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park
Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

The current version of the classic TV series "Hawaii Five-O" premiered on CBS on Sept. 20, 2010. As of 2018, it was still running in its regular 9 p.m. EST Friday evening slot and had been renewed for the 2018-19 season.

Filming takes place in Hawaii over six months of the year, and the cast and crew are spotted regularly across the island of Oahu.

As you watch the new series, it's interesting to look back at the original series, which ran from 1968 to 1980 on CBS, and then look at the new series, seeing where the two versions are different, but how in many ways they are consistent with each other.

The Premise

Then: The show featured a fictional state police unit run by Detective Steve McGarrett (Hawaii has no state police force.) The name of the television series derives from the fact that Hawaii was the 50th state to join the Union. McGarrett was appointed by the governor of Hawaii. McGarrett and his team assisted local police as needed but also pursued international secret agents, criminals, and Mafiosos plaguing the Hawaiian Islands.

Now: In the contemporary version, a new elite federalized task force is formed with a mission to tackle crime in the Aloha State. Detective Steve McGarrett, a decorated U.S. Navy lieutenant commander turned cop, returns to Oahu to investigate his father's murder (presumably the original Steve McGarrett) and stays after Hawaii's governor persuades him to head up the new team: his rules, her backing, no red tape, and full blanket immunity to hunt down the biggest "game" in town.

The Governors

Then: In 1968, the actual governor of Hawaii was John A. Burns, a Democrat, who served from 1962 to 1974. Burns was 58 years old when the show premiered in 1968. The role of the governor, Paul Jameson, was played by actor Richard Denning, who was 53 years old when the series premiered.

Now: The governor of Hawaii when the show premiered in 2010 was Linda Lingle, a Republican, who was first elected in 2002. Her term of office ended in December 2010. Lingle was 57 years old when the show premiered. The role of Gov. Patricia "Pat" Jameson in the new "Hawaii Five-O" was played by actress Jean Smart, who was 59 when the series premiered.

Theme song

Then: The original, iconic "Hawaii Five-O" theme song was composed by Morton Stevens, who also wrote numerous episode scores. It was subsequently recorded by The Ventures and remains popular with high school and college marching bands, including at the University of Hawaii.

Now: Originally, an up-tempo, acoustic version of the theme song was considered and even recorded for the new series, but this was rejected after an uproar from fans of the original. The song was subsequently re-recorded using many of the original musicians, and that re-recording is used for the new series.

Opening Title Sequence

Then: The original series opening title sequence begins with a scene of the high North Shore surf followed by a fast zoom-in to the top balcony of the Ilikai Hotel, where McGarrett turns to face the camera, followed by many quick-cuts and freeze-frames of Hawaiian scenery and Hawaiian-Chinese-Caucasian model Elizabeth Malamalamaokalani Logue turning to face the camera. A grass-skirted hula dancer from the pilot episode is seen, played by Helen Kuoha-Torco, who later became a real-life professor of business technology at Windward Community College. The opening scene winds up with shots of the supporting players and the flashing blue light of a police motorcycle racing through a Honolulu street.

Now: The new opening title sequence includes the re-recorded version of the original theme music as well as many short clips from the original title sequence interspersed with clips of the new actors. McGarrett is once again seen on the top balcony of the Ilikai Hotel. Additional Hawaii landmarks seen in the new title sequence include the big North Shore waves, Aloha Tower, the Honolulu Memorial and Statue of Columbia at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, the King Kamehameha Statue in front of Ali'iolani Hale in Honolulu, Kualoa Ranch (where much of "Lost" was filmed), a Waikiki sunset, Diamond Head, and Honolulu International Airport.

The Cast

Television is significantly different now than it was in 1968. Networks now are much less patient with shows finding a footing and give them relatively little time to find an audience. Shows also tend to trend younger, trying to appeal to a younger demographic, than in 1968.

That being said, you would expect that the cast of the new "Hawaii Five-O" would be much younger than the cast of the original series. Interestingly, that is not the case in all instances. In fact, the combined ages for the four major leads in 1968 was 165, or an average of 41. The combined ages for the four major leads in the new series was 146, or an average of 36.5 in 2010. Two of the new actors are actually older than their counterparts were in 1968.

Detective Steve McGarrett

Then: The role of Detective Steve McGarrett in the original was played by actor Jack Lord, a New York City native who came to love Hawaii. Lord remained in the islands after the series cancellation and died on Oahu in 1998. He was 48 years old when the original series premiered. 

Now: Australian actor Alex O'Loughlin plays the role of Steve McGarrett in the new series. O'Loughlin is best known for his roles in "The Shield," "Moonlight," and "Three Rivers." O'Loughlin was 34 when the new series premiered in 2010.

Detective Danny "Danno" Williams

Then: The role of Detective Danny "Danno" Williams was played in the original by James MacArthur, a native of Los Angeles; MacArthur died in 2010. MacArthur was the adopted son of actress Helen Hayes and screenwriter and playwright Charles MacArthur. MacArthur was 31 years old when the original series premiered.

Now: Actor Scott Caan, who is also from Los Angeles, assumed the role of Detective Danny "Danno" Williams in the new series. Caan has appeared in numerous movies but is best known for his role as Scott Lavin in the TV series "Entourage." Caan is also the son of a Hollywood icon, actor James Caan. Caan was 34 when the new series premiered in 2010.

Detective Chin Ho Kelly

Then: Honolulu-born Kam Fong played the role of Detective Chin Ho Kelly in the original "Hawaii Five-O." He subsequently appeared in two episodes of "Magnum P.I.," the Hawaii-based show on CBS that followed "Hawaii Five-O" after its cancellation. Fong was 50 years old when the original series premiered.

Now: South Korean-born and New York and Pennsylvania-raised, actor Daniel Dae Kim assumed the role of Detective Chin Ho Kelly in the new series. Kim is best known for his role as Jin Kwon in the hit TV series "Lost." Kim was delighted to be able to remain in Hawaii after "Lost" ended. Kim was 42 years old when the new series premiered.

Detective Kono/Kona Kalakaua

Then: Honolulu-born Zulu (Gilbert Francis Lani Damian Kauhi) played the role of Kono Kalakaua in the original series. He also subsequently appeared on "Magnum P.I." in a guest role. Zulu was 31 years old when the original series premiered.

Now: Los Angeles native Grace Park assumed the role of Detective Kono Kalakaua in the new series. She plays the niece of the original character. Park is best known for her roles as Lt. Sharon "Athena" Agathon and Sharon "Boomer" Valerii in the TV series "Battlestar Galactica." Park was 36 when the new series premiered in 2010.

The Car

Then: In 1968 McGarrett cruised the streets of Honolulu in a black 1968 Mercury Parklane Brougham 4-door. Much was made of how large the car was for Hawaii. The original car was destroyed in an episode in 1974 and replaced by a triple black 1974 Marquis Brougham 4-door hardtop.

Now: His son, the new Detective Steve McGarrett, occasionally works on restoring his father's old 1974 Marquis Brougham 4-door hardtop.

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