When you look back at all of the interactions between Steve McGarrett and his longtime colleague Danny “Danno” Williams over the course of the first eleven seasons of the original Hawaii Five-O, you might find it awfully hard to imagine what a post-Danno Five-O would be like. And yet it happened during the famous police drama’s farewell tour, Hawaii Five-O: The Twelfth and Final Season, which was broadcast from 1979 to 1980 — a world without McGarrett’s faithful sidekick. Now, although series star (and controller) Jack Lord could very well have brought in a James MacArthur clone for the show’s final hoorah (originally, the Eleventh Season was to be last, until they decided to give it one more go), he opted to go with an entirely different route.
Sure, series regular Herman Wedemeyer was the only previous actor to stay on until the ultimate demise of the show as Duke, but McGarrett needed someone else to play off — someone with at least an ounce more of personality that Duke. And so, enter James “Kimo” Carew: an ex-Boston police detective in Hawaii looking for the last of the three men who murdered his wife and son. Portrayed by actor William Smith (who usually plays heavies), Kimo is a complete 180 of Danno — an abrasive, headstrong fellow who isn’t afraid to play dirty, and who has no problem talking back to McGarrett. Frankly, Smith’s Kimo is a bit of a relief, and that’s coming from a devoted, lifelong fan of the series. Once Kimo is on-board, though, we welcome another Five-O recruit: Lori Wilson, the first and only member of the opposite sex to be a part of the otherwise all-male team.
Lori’s persona is also that of a broken one: her husband (a brief role by singer and New Zealand Idol host, Frankie Stevens) is gunned down by some hoodlums in this season’s second episode. Now, if the widowed Wilson’s face and/or her “Overactors Anonymous” method of acting seem slightly familiar, it’s because the actress that plays here — Sharon Farrell — was a guest star in the Eleventh Season as a woman with a split personality. Lastly in the way of newbies, there’s Det. Truck Kealoha: a fifth member of the Five-O staff who can be seen every now and again, and is played by Moe Keale (who returned to reprise his role in a 1980 TV movie, M Station: Hawaii, as well as in the disastrous, proposed 1997 reboot pilot, Hawaii Five-O).
So, anyhoo, you’d think that with more than half of your cast being new to the show (in as much as they’re playing new characters — Keale also appeared in the series before “officially” joining the cast), you might be able to breathe some new life into the series. Unfortunately, the quality of this season goes down rather fast once the new characters are introduced after the first two episodes. Sure, there are some memorable moments here and there for the Five-O enthusiast — such as the sight of Jack Lord in a leisure suit, an episode wherein Duke finally gets to do something, and the final conflict between Steve McGarrett and his recurring nemesis throughout the series, Chinese communist Wo Fat (Khigh Dhiegh) — but, for the most part, things aren’t as top-notch as they were during the show’s heyday.
There’s no matter, however, since Jack Lord still demanded the best-possible performances he could squeeze out of his co-stars (i.e. Richard Denning as the Governor), guest stars (see below), and extras alike. Now, the situations and dialogue the writers contributed to said performers may not have been exceptional (one episode in particular — “A Bird in the Hand…” — is said by some to be the worst chapter of the iconic cop show’s 281 episode history!), but hey: “A” for effort, right? They knew they were going out, and so they tried out a whole new cast of actors inhabiting the personas of completely different characters. No matter how bad some of these episodes might be, I have to give ‘em credit for that.
Some of the aforementioned guest stars for this final stretch include Harry Guardino (his fourth appearance on the series), Robert Reed (his second), Jason Evers (third), Ross Martin (fifth, reprising his role of Tony Alika), Andrew Duggan (seventh!), Don Knight (sixth), Lloyd Bochner (fourth), and Albert Paulsen (his fourth as well), and virgins Jayne Meadows, Paul L. Smith, Cathy Lee Crosby, Ed Lauter, Kelly Preston (her debut), Jeff Daniels (his debut), and Gary Lockwood.
CBS/Paramount brings Hawaii Five-O: The Twelfth and Final Season to DVD in a five-disc set with a presentation that is on-par with the video and audio of their previous seasons. In the past, we fans had always hoped CBS/Paramount would get it in gear and produce some new featurettes for us to enjoy. During the span of almost five years that it took for all 12 seasons to be released on DVD, most of the show’s last remaining stars passed away — and the opportunities for them to share their experiences with admirers went with them. Though somebody finally decided to include a few extras with this set, the selection is sure to disappoint. There’s an old nonspecific network promo included, and a corny “music video” which is basically nothing more than several clips from the series set to hip-hop music (!).
Like I said: hardly worth the wait. However, with Amazon Instant Video now offering the original series in High-Definition, we can start experiencing the fantasy of seeing all 12 seasons on Blu-ray someday — with exclusive, related special features.
You hear me, CBS/Paramount? Get Al Harrington, Sharon Farrell, and William Smith in the studio and interview them. And then assemble a retrospective documentary that would make the late Jack Lord, James MacArthur, Kam Fong, Herman Wedemeyer, Harry Endo, Zulu, Richard Denning, and all the Five-O cast and crew that worked so hard proud. Do it — or, as Jack Lord would say, “Be there. Aloha.”