Watching Hawaii Five-0 is a nostalgic experience. Part of the nostalgia comes from memories of the show during its original (1968-1980) and syndicated runs. The theme song and stylized opening sequence are indelible parts of American culture for many of us. Like Magnum, P.I., the show was embedded in Oahu's seedy underbelly that meshed with the beautiful scenery and glimpses of an exotic culture that was American, but also something else.
Mostly, though, the show's nostalgia appeal comes from the experience of going to high school on Oahu. When I watch the show, I see places I've been, hear the slang I remember, and get some of the feel of the place. Last night's show included a brief hint at the differences in professional dress between Hawaii and the mainland when McGarrett harasses Dan about wearing a tie and looking like a haole (though he doesn't use that word). Later, Dan is teased about not looking Kama'aina for maintaining his mainland cop style of wearing a tie and patent leather loafers.
Another feature of last night's episode, "Ohana", which struck a chord was the visit to Hickam AFB, where the family lived for out three years on Oahu. The scene featured a short cut of the Hawaii Air National Guard's F-15 Eagle fighters taking off from the reef runway the base shares with Honolulu International Airport. When we lived at Hickam, the HANG transitioned from F-4 Phantoms to the new F-15s, changing both the visual affect of living on base, but also the communal sounds we experienced, since there's a large qualitative sound difference between the two jets. I also remember sitting in a 14-foot Holder sailing dinghy in Hickam Harbor, next to the taxiway leading out to the reef runway, watching both airliners and fighters taking off.
So, the show brings back a lot of memories. The problem is that so far it treats Hawaii as just backdrop to a show that could be happening anywhere. Cop shows are not so interesting that I'm going to watch them unless they have something special to give in terms of narrative, culture, or interesting questions. So far, Hawaii Five-0 is failing this test in the same ways that The Glades and CSI: Miami do, but Magnum, P.I., CSI, and Criminal Minds don't. The remake of Hawaii Five-0 is still in its early days, but so far it doesn't feel like the writers and producers actually know Hawaii very well. I'm hoping that changes, because nostalgia will keep my attention for only so long.