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Hawaii Five-O

Hawaii Five-O is an American television series that starred Jack Lord and James MacArthur as detectives for a fictional Hawaii state police department. The show ran for 12 seasons, from 1968 to 1980, making it the longest running crime show on American television until the police drama Law & Order surpassed it in 2003. The 12th season was repackaged into syndication under the title McGarrett.


The CBS television network produced the program from September 20, 1968 to April 5 1980. Currently, the program is broadcast in syndication throughout the world and on-demand streaming media via CBS Interactive. Created by Leonard Freeman, Hawaii Five-O was shot on location in Honolulu, Hawaii, and throughout the island of Oahu — with occasional filming in other locales like Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong as well as other Hawaiian islands.

Hawaii Five-O centers on a fictional state police force (named in honor of Hawaii's status as the 50th State) led by former Navy officer Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), who was appointed by the Governor Paul Jameson (Richard Denning). McGarrett was assisted regularly by State Police officers — a young officer, Danny Williams (played with intensity by Tim O'Kelley in the show's pilot, but replaced in the regular series by James MacArthur), Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) and Kono Kalakaua (Zulu). Later, Honolulu Police Department Officer Duke Lukela (Herman Wedemeyer) joined the team as a regular, as did Ben Kokua (Al Harrington) who replaced Kono. Occasionally, they were assisted by other officers on an "as-needed" basis. During the course of the show, the team was also assisted regularly by: medical examiner Doc Bergman (Al Eben), forensic specialist Che Fong (Harry Endo) and a secretary. The first secretary was May (Maggi Parker), then Jenny (Peggy Ryan) and later Luana (Laura Sode-Matteson).

For twelve seasons, McGarrett and his team hounded international secret agents, criminals, and Mafia syndicates plaguing the Hawaiian Islands. With the aide of District Attorney and later Hawaii's Attorney General John Manicote (Glenn Cannon), McGarrett was successful in sending most of his enemies to prison. One such Mafia syndicate was led by crime family patriarch Honore Vashon (Harold Gould), a character introduced in the fifth season. Blaming McGarrett for the death of his son, Vashon swore vengeance using all of the resources available to him. Most episodes of Hawaii Five-O ended with the arrest of criminals with McGarrett's catch phrase to Williams, "Book 'em, Danno!", with the offense occasionally added after this phrase, such as "-Murder one!". Other criminals and organized crime bosses on the islands were played by actors such as Ricardo Montalban, Gavin MacLeod, and Ross Martin as Tony Alika. For the 12th and final season, series regular James MacArthur had left the show (in 1996, he admitted he had got tired and wanted to do other things), as did Kam Fong after season 10. New characters Jim 'Kimo' Carew (William Smith), Lori Wilson (Sharon Farrell), and Truck (Moe Keale) were introduced in season 12 alongside returning regular Duke Lukela.

The Five-O team consisted of four to five members (small for a real state police unit) and was portrayed as occupying a suite of offices in the Iolani Palace. (The office interiors were a soundstage set.) Curiously, it lacked its own radio network, necessitating frequent requests by McGarrett to the Honolulu Police Department dispatchers to "Patch me through to Danno". McGarrett's tousled yet immovable hairstyle and proclivity for wearing a dark suit and tie on all possible occasions rapidly entered popular culture.

In many episodes (including the pilot), McGarrett was drawn into the world of international espionage and national intelligence. McGarrett's archnemesis was an intelligence officer of the People's Republic of China, Wo Fat. The Communist rogue agent was played by veteran actor Khigh Dheigh.

The show's action and straightforward story-telling left little time for personal stories such as wives and girlfriends, though a two-part story in the first season dealt with the loss of McGarrett's sister's baby. Occasionally, a show would flash back to McGarrett's younger years or to a romantic figure. The viewer is left with the impression that McGarrett, like Dragnet's Joe Friday, is wedded to the police force and to crime-fighting at this point in his life.

Hawaii Five-O survived long enough to see reruns of early episodes enter syndication while new episodes were still being produced. The 12th season was repackaged into syndication under the title McGarrett.

Creation of the show

The story behind the show's inception is inconsistent. A few sources claim the idea for the show came from a conversation producer Leonard Freeman had with then-Hawaii Governor John A. Burns. (The governor's office, Iolani Palace, ultimately became the setting for Five-O headquarters.) Another source claims Freeman wanted to set a show in San Pedro, but his friend Richard Boone convinced him to shoot it entirely in Hawaii. A third source claims Freeman discussed the show with Governor Burns only after pitching the idea to CBS.

Before settling on the name "Hawaii Five-O", Freeman considered titling the show "The Man".


Freeman offered Richard Boone the part of McGarrett, although he turned it down; Gregory Peck and Robert Brown were also considered before Jack Lord, then living in Beverly Hills was asked at the last moment. He read for the part on a Wednesday and got the part and flew to Hawaii two days later. On the following Monday he was in front of the cameras. Freeman and Lord had worked together previously on an unsold TV pilot called Grand Hotel.

Kam Fong, 18 year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department, auditioned for the part of Wo Fat, the villain. However, one look at him and Freeman decided he would cast Kam Fong for the part of Chin Ho Kelly. Freeman got the name Wo Fat, the villain of the pilot episode, from a restaurant in downtown Honolulu. The name Chin Ho came from the owner of the Ilikai hotel where the penthouse shot shows Steve McGarrett in the opening titles. Richard Denning, who played the Governor, had retired to Hawaii and was asked to come out of retirement for the show. Zulu was a Waikiki beach boy and a local DJ when he got the part of Kono for the next four years. John Nordlum was hired as a stunt man for Jack Lord.


The first season was shot in a rusty military Quonset hut in Pearl City, nick-named Mongoose Manor by the actors and cast. The roof leaked and rats gnawed at the cables. The show then moved to a warehouse at 22nd Avenue and Kaimuki (which is now used by the National Guard). A third studio was also built on 18th Avenue at Diamond Head and was used for the next 11 seasons.

A problem from the beginning was the lack of a movie industry in Hawaii, and the people in Hollywood didn’t think it would make it. Many people learned their jobs as they went along - not just the crew and main cast, but notably the many local people who ended up in the show. Jack Lord was a perfectionist and insisted on the best from everyone. Some suffered from his temper when he felt they did not give their best, but in later reunions, they admitted that Lord’s hard driving force had made them better actors and Hawaii Five-O a better show. Lord’s high standards also helped the show last another seven years after Leonard Freeman’s death at the end of the fifth season while undergoing open heart surgery.

It was rumored for many years that Jack Lord was a silent partner in all aspects of the production of Hawaii Five-O, even more so as the series grew in popularity during the 1970s. To critics and viewers, there was no question that Jack Lord was the center of the show, and that the other actors frequently served as little more than props, standing and watching while McGarrett emoted and paced around his office, analyzing the crime. But occasionally episodes would focus on the other players, and let them showcase their own talents.

Very few episodes were shot outside of Hawaii. At least two episodes were shot in Los Angeles, one in Hong Kong and one in Singapore. Episodes shot in these locations were the only ones not to bear the "Filmed entirely on location in Hawaii" legend.


The show was the longest running crime show on American TV until the police drama Law & Order surpassed it in 2003. The popularity of the Hawaii Five-O format spawned various police dramas on all the major television networks since its debut. Another legacy is the popularity of the Hawaii Five-O theme song, composed by Morton Stevens and later covered by surf music band The Ventures and by Radio Birdman, a punk-era band from Sydney. A short cover can be seen at the end of the Massacre Palestina´s song, "Madamme X". The song is particularly popular with college and high school marching bands, especially at the University of Hawai'i, where it has become the unofficial fight song. It also made a brief appearance in the animated film Shrek 2, when a trumpeter enthusiastically follows a fanfare with the first few bars of the theme song, and in the Australian film The Dish, about the Apollo XI moon landing, when a teenage Australian band mistakenly played it thinking it was the American national anthem.

The term "Five-O" was adopted by American youth culture as a street slang term for the police.

The television show Magnum P.I. was created after Hawaii Five-O ended its run in order to make further use of the production equipment left there. The first few episodes made direct references to Five-O, suggesting that it takes place in the same "universe" as the earlier show.

Criticism of the show pointed out that the vast majority of characters were Caucasian, while only 40% of the population of the state identify themselves as non-Hispanic Caucasian. However, many local people were used to play parts in the show. The first run and syndication was seen by an estimated 400,000,000 people around the world.

Hawaii's real-life police force

Hawaii is the only state without an actual statewide police agency. The only equivalent, the Sheriff Division of the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, serves warrants, transports prisoners, provides law enforcement at the airports, among other duties, and only conducts investigations for cases that occur within the jurisdiction of state entities.

Opening and closing credits

The opening title sequence was created by noted television director Reza S. Badiyi. The show would begin with a cold open suggesting the sinister plot for the night's program, then cut to a big ocean wave and the start of the dynamic theme song. A fast zoom-in to the top balcony of the Ilikai Hotel would follow, where McGarrett would turn to face the camera, followed by many quick-cuts and freeze-frames of Hawaiian scenery (including, memorably, model Elizabeth Logue turning to face the camera, and a grass-skirted hula dancer from the pilot "Cocoon") and of the supporting players, ending with the flashing blue light of a police motorcycle racing through a Honolulu street.

At the conclusion of an episode, after the obligatory "Book 'em Danno!", Jack Lord would narrate a teaser for the next week's episode, often emphasizing the "guest villain", especially if it was a recurring character such as Khigh Dheigh, Hume Cronyn, etc. He would open by saying "This is Jack Lord inviting you to be with us next for " and then closing the preview by saying, "Be here...aloha!" The next episode teasers were removed from the syndicated episodes to clear time for additional commercial sales, although most have been restored in the second and third season DVD releases.

There are two versions of the closing credits portion. During the first season, the theme music was played, along with a short film of a flashing blue light attached to the rear of a police motorcycle racing through Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki heading west. The film is shown at twice the normal speed, as you will notice when you see people walking across a crossing behind the police car. (This image was satirized years later in the opening credits of the TV series Police Squad!.) In later seasons, the same music played over a short film of some outrigger canoeists battling the surf.

Suppressed episode

The second season episode "Bored She Hung Herself" has not been broadcast seen since its original airing in 1970 and is not included in the second season DVD box set, released on July 31, 2007. According to Mrs. Leonard Freeman (wife of the late creator of the show), speaking to some fans at the 1996 Five-O convention, someone tried the hanging technique depicted in the show (supposedly yoga-related, but more like autoerotic asphyxiation) and killed themselves. As a result, the show was not rebroadcast and never included in any syndication packages.

"Hawaii Five-O, 2.0"

On August 12, 2008, CBS announced that it will bring Hawaii Five-O back to the network schedule, targeted for the 2009-2010 television season. The new version will be an updated present-day reimaging of the original, this time centering around McGarrett's son Chris, who succeeded his late father as the head of the unit. Ed Bernero, executive producer and showrunner of Criminal Minds, will helm this new take, which he described as "Hawaii Five-O, version 2.0." It will also incorporate most of the iconic elements from the original, including the "Book 'em Danno" catchphrase, into the remake. Bernero, who is a fan of the original and has a ring tone of the series' theme song on his cellphone, had always wanted to bring the series back to TV. Prior to the announcement, there were plans for a movie version that was in the works at Warner Bros. Pictures, but those plans were scrapped at the last moment.

An unexpected similarity to "CSI:"

Leonard Freeman Productions and the CBS network had a long-standing cooperation with its Honolulu affiliate KGMB Channel 9, for in almost every episode in the 12-year run of the series, there would usually be a KGMB mobile news van featured in the background; a similar idea is currently used on "CSI: Miami", where in the early episodes, a news van from WFOR Channel 4 (the CBS Miami station) was featured in the background. However, until recently there was no usage of a news van (or even a reporter's microphone) from CBS' Las Vegas station KLAS Channel 8 on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation", and never any news footage from WCBS Channel 2 on "CSI: NY".

United Airlines and "Hawaii Five-O"

In a few episodes, McGarrett and the Five-O force would use United Airlines to travel from Honolulu to various Asian locations(mostly to try and capture McGarrett's long-time nemesis, Wo Fat), and United was always acknowledged at the end of the episode;however, in one two-part episode, McGarrett had to travel to Singapore to chase down Wo Fat, hence Singapore Airlines was also acknowledged.

McGarrett in the U.S. Navy

Since McGarrett was also a commander in the U.S. Naval Reserve, he sometimes used their resources to help investigate and solve crimes, hence the Navy was always credited in the closing credits of some episodes.


  • Jack Lord was the only actor to appear in all episodes of Five-O and was the only original cast member remaining when its last episode aired in May 1980. He and Herman Wedemeyer were the only actors to appear in the first episode (excluding the pilot) and the last episode of the series.
  • MacArthur has said on talk show appearances that he calculates the Five-O team would have accounted for all major crime and criminals on the islands several times over.
  • The show continues to be seen in Hawaii since it left the air, thus making it the longest-running show to continue airing in the state after it ceased production. It is currently seen on Honolulu independent outlet KWHE.
  • At least 3 episodes were centered around Danno. One episode took us to his apartment, and a second one probed into his love life a bit. He was engaged to a woman whose death was the plot line of the episode. A third episode in 1976 has Danny dating an actress, Anne Waring (Meg Foster), who becomes a target of criminals.
  • In a 1st season episode, a two-parter "Once Upon A Time", we learn that McGarrett has a sister and a brother-in-law. The story line has McGarrett going to California to visit his sister and brother-in-law after learning that their infant son has cancer. A doctor is treating the baby with unethical methods to cure him, but the baby dies anyway. McGarrett seeks out the truth about the doctor and her unethical methods on patients.
  • Chin Ho Kelly had 8 kids, as we learned in a second season Five-O episode, Cry Lie. This seems to have been a family trait, as his many relatives were apparently involved in all facets of life in Hawaii, from laborers in the sugar cane fields to Honolulu policemen, bartenders, tour bus drivers, etc. -- and Kelly knew them all by name. This is actually authentic, as descendants of the early Chinese cane field laborers diversified throughout Hawaiian society, while maintaining family ties.
  • In the TV-movie pilot, McGarrett drove a Mercury 2-door hardtop, apparently a 1967 Marquis (1967 was the first year for the Marquis, and it was only available as a 2-door hardtop). This car had a black body, black vinyl roof, and a red interior. In the series, McGarrett's trademark vehicle, often seen squealing tires throughout Honolulu, was a triple-black 1968 Mercury Park Lane Brougham 4-door hardtop. In a recurring continuity error, footage of the 2-door hardtop appeared in many episodes of the series. Around the 1973/74 season, his Park Lane was replaced by a 1973 Mercury Marquis Brougham 4-door, used until the end of the series. In a new recurring continuity error, footage of the 1968 Mercury appears in many episodes after the Mercury Marquis Brougham replaced it. After the show, Jack Lord gave the 1974 Mercury car he drove on the show to his stunt man, Jack Nordlum.
  • The phone numbers that were dialed from various Honolulu-area phone booths throughout the run of the series were actual household numbers, which caused some "invasion of privacy" concerns for residents, even after the series ended; hence in the middle of the series run, the Honolulu phone prefix "(808) 555-xxxx" was to be used on every episode from then on.
  • James MacArthur was the son of stage and film legend Helen Hayes; Hayes guest starred on a 1975 episode of Hawaii Five-0, "Retire to Sunny Hawaii", playing Danny Williams' aunt.


Supporting actors


See List of Hawaii Five-O episodes

Streaming Media

CBS Interactive is presenting the entire first season of the show online via Adobe Flash streaming media. They are full-length episodes available free of charge, but with ads embedded into the stream of each episode.

DVD releases

CBS Home Entertainment released the first season of Hawaii Five-O on DVD in Region 1 on March 6 2007. The 7-disc set includes the original pilot movie, also known as "The Cocoon", as well as a 1996 retrospective program produced by local Hawaiian television that included MacArthur as a guest host. Season Two was released on July 31 2007. Season 3 was released on January 22, 2008. The DVD sets for seasons two and three have restored the previews narrated by Jack Lord for most episodes. The 4th season of Hawaii Five-O on DVD was released on June 10, 2008.

DVD Name Ep # Release Date Additional Information
The First Season 24 March 6 2007

  • Original pilot
  • Retrospective

The Second Season 24 July 31 2007
The Third Season 24 January 22 2008
The Fourth Season 24 June 10 2008
The Fifth Season 24 November 18 2008
Although originally announced as being complete (25 episodes), it was revealed about two weeks before the release of the second season DVD box set that the episode "Bored She Hung Herself" would not be included

Other media

A soundtrack album featuring Morton Stevens' theme and incidental music was issued by Capitol Records in 1970. One of the instrumental pieces on the album, "Call to Danger", was excerpted as background music accompanying a "Special Presentation" logo that CBS used to introduce its prime time television specials throughout the 1970s and 1980s.

Hawaii Five-O was the subject of six novelizations. Each one had a plot line written for the book and was not based on a television episode. The first two books were published by Signet Paperbacks in 1968 and 1969. After that were two juvenile hard covers published by Whitman publishing in 1969 and 1971 and finally two more books were published in England.


External links

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