I began my love affair with Hawaii Five-O with the original pilot movie, aired on September 20, 1968. I was in college at Florida State University, and by the time the show ended its prime-time run I had married, moved several times, borne two children, and had a couple of careers, including military service in the U.S. Coast Guard. For eight years, I ran the Iolani Palace Irregulars as an international appreciation society for Hawaii Five-O. I've also written a book on the series, Booking Hawaii Five-O: An Episode Guide and Critical History , published by McFarland. I also edit a Hawaii Five-O fanzine, PAU HANA, which has had five issues.
I have devised a scale that totals a possible five stars, awarding either a half-star or a full star for each of five elements: Directing and Editing, Story, Acting, Music, and Special Elements. Five stars indicates an outstanding episode, one in which all the elements are solidly present. Awarding a full star in any of the five elements indicates that element is rated from very good to outstanding; a half-star indicates the element is rated from adequate to good. No stars means the element is inadequate to poor.
Directing and Editing: Solid workmanlike directing is seldom noticed because it is transparent; we see the story move well with pleasing images, smooth transitions, and no obtrusive technical devices. Such work is worth half a star. Outstanding directing makes the viewer say "Wow" at elegant transitions, beautiful compositions, excellent matching of shots within scenes, and instances of inspiration which all work to produce an episode which fans consistently rate in the top few. This brings a full star. Plodding or lackluster directing drives the viewer to count transitional devices, pick out continuity errors, or go for a beer, but not to award any stars. Editing is the cutting and arranging together of scenes, and is frequently, though not always, supervised by the director. It will generally be mentioned only if there is a particularly elegant cut, or to point out continuity errors which I find particularly amusing, such as the miraculous transformations of McGarrett's car and clothing.
Story: This includes not just the writing of the tale but also elements such as originality, use of Hawaiian culture and history in a story, the logic of the tale, how well it all hangs together.A well-wrought story engages the emotions and the intellect, and leaves the viewer affected in some way. That is worth a full star. An acceptable episode which has a reasonably entertaining plot and is well-organized gets half a star. A stupid episode, one which doesn't play fair with the viewer, which requires too many assumptions pulled out of thin air, or which leaves loose ends dangling gets no stars.
Acting: Commenting on the generally-held idea that acting is mainly talking, Jack Lord disagreed, telling an interviewer, "Acting is behavior." An effective performance is judged by how well the actor convinces us that he or she IS the character being portrayed. Does this character's behavior ring true? That is the question to be answered in this element. It goes without saying in this rating element that the regular cast (including the actors who portray such characters as the governor, John Manicote, Dr. Bergman, and Che Fong) convince us of their reality in the universe of Hawaii Five-O. Satisfactory acting brings a half-star; excellent or outstanding acting by guest stars, or a particularly juicy performance by a regular (e.g., Kam Fong's Chin Ho Kelly in "Engaged to be Buried") will rate a full star.
Music: Hawaii Five-O's music was recognized as some of the best in television at the time, winning many Emmy nominations and, at long last, an actual Emmy. Where the music is original, interesting, and memorable, a full star is awarded. Where the music is appropriate and entertaining but not particularly memorable, it gets half a star. Sappy music, music with clumsy elements, or stock music -- where the score of an episode consists of tracks from previous episodes -- gets no stars.
Special Elements: At times a story will be particularly strong in its presentation of Five-O teamwork, stun us with a surprise or shocking ending, present us with a downbeat ending which is quite true-to-life, have particularly compelling scenes, or deliver a powerful social message. Any of these or other special elements mentioned in individual reviews, rates either a half-star or a full star depending on how well it is pulled off.
Each individual element is dealt with in the reviews. If music isn't mentioned for a particular episode, it consisted of stock tracks.
Harry Cohn, a movie mogul of the 1940s and 1950s, once commented that if his rear end began to twitch during a screening of one of his studio's films, it was a bad film. I call this "The Cohn Effect". Some scenes in otherwise good episodes, and some entire episodes, produce this effect in me and those which do are noted in the reviews.
Available so far: Original pilot movie Season 1 Season 2 (Not yet complete)
More to come later. . .
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