Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"HAWAII FIVE-O": A PAIN IN THE ASNER

The return of that screen credit in 2012 fills the hearts of this televisiologist with dread.

If it had not been for the amazing discovery of two long-lost episodes of 'Doctor Who', the Toobworld news story of the week would have been the casting of Ed Asner in a Spring episode of the 'Hawaii Five-O' reboot.
By itself, that's no big revelation - Asner is still a big get for a guest star at 82; and he's just come off a recurring gig as Dr. Hank's grandfather in 'Royal Pains'. (That means he's the father of Henry Winkler's character.)
But Asner is going to be reprising a character he played on the original 'Hawaii Five-O' thirty-six years ago. In "Model Of A Wooden Rat", Asner played August March, a construction magnate who proclaimed himself to be a patron of the arts. But in fact, it was all a front - March made his money in smuggling Asian art pieces, mostly netsuke figurines. As such, he was a ruthless businessman who was responsible for the deaths of at least two men.

But that was in the classic 'Hawaii Five-O'. And as far as Toobworld Central is concerned, that took place in Earth Prime-Time, the main Toobworld. The new 'Hawaii Five-O' reboot was placed in the alternate TV dimension for remakes because each of the characters was a revamp of the originals. (With Kono now being a girl!)

I championed the hope that the show would be a continuation and not a reboot, much like 'Star Trek: The Next Generation' was the heir to 'Star Trek', only eighty years later.

The new 'Hawaii Five-O' could have been about the state police Five-O squad forty years on, but with all new characters performing the same duties as the guys who previously worked there. And if any of the original actors were still alive, then they could have made guest appearances in episodes like DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, and Leonard Nimoy did in 'Star Trek: The Next Generation', and George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney did in 'Star Trek: Voyager', while William Shatner made his grand departure from the canon in the 'Star Trek' movie "Generations".
There had been a news story about James MacArthur making a guest appearance on the new version of 'Hawaii Five-O', but sadly, he passed away before that could happen. I don't know who he would have played - the rumor I heard was that he would have been the father of the new Dann-O - but if they tried to pass him off as the old Danny Williams, they would have had to take into account that in Toobworld he had gone on to become the governor of Hawaii. This happened in a TV movie pilot for a new series by Stephen Cannell and starring Gary Busey. For the most part, this TV movie treated the show's legacy right - save for bringing back Kam Fong as Detective Chin Ho Kelly. The problem with that? Chin Ho Kelly was killed off at the end of the tenth season in "A Death In The Family".

My knee-jerk response would have been to keep this pilot's standing in Toobworld firmly planted in a more realistic setting with Chin Ho Kelly's death really a ruse; that Chin was only badly wounded, which was overlooked by the bad guys before they tossed him out of the car. And then, once he recovered, he went into witness protection to protect him. But I've seen the relevant clips from that episode on YouTube (the death of Chin Ho Kelly, McGarrett consoling Chin's daughter Suzi Kelly, and McGarrett capturing the dirt-bag who killed Chin Ho), and I realize that just wouldn't work. Maybe he would still have vehemently beaten the bleep out of the perp (What's Hawaiian for "skel"?), but how could he have been so cruel as to let Suzi think her father was dead? No, I think we have to forsake "realism" and go for a more ghostly splainin, perhaps even an alien impersonating Chin Ho and fiddling with everybody's perception fields to cover up such a discrepancy.
Getting back to the new 'Five-O'..... Had they gone for a continuation rather than a remake, they could have mined the show's history to bring back guest stars. Again, to bring it around to 'Star Trek', there was that episode of 'Deep Space Nine' which "reunited" the three main Klingons from the original series - Kor, Kang, and Koloth, as played by John Colicos, Michael Ansara, and William Campbell, respectively. 'Doctor Who' has also done this, with the return of Lis Sladen as Sarah Jane Smith (with K-9!), the Fifth Doctor in the "Children In Need" short "Time-Crash", and Davros (albeit with a different actor). Jo Grant and the Brigadier returned in a roundabout fashion on the spin-off "The Sarah Jane Adventures".

And failing the chance to get some of those great guest stars, many of them passed away now after so many years, there were still plotlines that could have been resurrected as 'Enterprise' did with the rich 'Star Trek' backstory.

But the producers didn't bother with a continuation and instead they "created" new versions of Steve McGarrett, Danny Williams, Chin Ho Kelly, Kono (now a girl a la Starbuck in the reboot of 'Battlestar Galactica'), and even villain Wo Fat. And so Toobworld Central had no choice but to declare it banned from Earth Prime-Time and banished to the world of the remakes.

And yet, here comes Ed Asner as a character he played in the main Toobworld.
Just based on that, there's no need for this TV Universe caretaker to panic. Every TV character - even the ones which are just guest stars - have counterparts in the other TV dimensions. So this could be an August March who may have been arrested once upon a time for the same crime but not by Steve McGarrett and the Five-O team. (In fact, in this dimension, there was no Five-O team - at the end of the first episode, the quartet sat around drinking beers and trying to come up with a name for themselves.)

But if August March does mention the original McGarrett and Dann-O? What are we supposed to say? "Oh, these new characters just happen to have the same name"? or "Those people who arrested you way back when were related to us"?
Either one of those is too coincidental, even for TV. As for the relations aspect, the original Dann-O had only a daughter and the new Danny Williams grew up in New Jersey - he only came out to Hawaii because his little girl was being raised there by his ex-wife and her new husband. And when McGarrett was consoling Suzi Kelly over the death of her father, he implied that he had no children at all. And if he did, why didn't we ever see the kid who would grow up to be William Sadler's character, the father of the new Steve McGarrett?

Only theories of relateeveety for the new Chin Ho and Kono would be believable, if only because those characters rarely had the spotlight on them in the original series.
Then there's the matter of film clips to be used in the new episode. Hopefully, they'll only use clips from those moments when March was dealing with Lupin the museum curator or with the Japanese professor or with Cesari, his hired gun. However, I can't see them resisting the temptation to use a long tracking shot where Ed Asner walked with James MacArthur and expounded on "Who Is August March?" The way the camera was set up, they might be able to get away with it, since you couldn't see MacArthur's face for most of it.

But what if they wanted to show the moment when August March was arrested? How are they going to splain away that square-jawed All-American standing behind him?
If they do show the original characters, perhaps they can claim that they had different names in their alternate dimension. (Although that might be too much to process for the average viewer. Yeah, I don't have too high an opinion of the average viewer.....)

But a video clip like this would just bleep that all to hell:

All I can do now is just wait and view, I guess. This is going to be the type of episode which will be shown either in February or May because of its Sweeps-worthiness. So until then, as Steve McGarrett once said....

"Aloha, Suckers."


3 comments:

Brent McKee said...

Actually, one of the actors from the original "Hawaii Five-O" does occasionally show up on the new "Hawaii Five-0" but he doesn't play the character he did on the original show. Al Harrington, who played Detective Ben Kokua on the original series, occasionally plays Mamo Kahike (a "beach boy" and friend of the McGarrett Family) on the new show. And the son of Kam Fong (the original Chin Ho), Dennis Chun plays Sgt. Duke Lukela. In the original series Lukela was a uniformed cop who eventually became part of the Five-O Team and was played by Herman Weidemayer in the original series.

Toby O'B said...

As always, a big thanks for that added info, Brent. I've only seen the pilot episode - once I determined it couldn't be Earth Prime-Time, I lost interest.

We'll see how this goes.....

Vrinda Kanchan said...

Chin did get the spotlight on him in some episodes, but not frequently. The intent of the original series was to not to constantly tout the characters' personal lives. Even McGarrett's personal life was examined sporadically.

Check out the second season episode, "Cry, Lie." Chin's wife and 6 of his 8 kids are seen. Season 5's "Engaged to Be Buried," his older daughter runs off with a criminal. His cousin is murdered by Wo Fat in another Season 5 show, "The Djinn Who Clears the Way."