Image: Everett Collection
"Book 'em, Danno!" That timeless theme song — buh-buh-buh-bah-bahm-bahm! The slang term "5-0."
Hawaii Five-O has given pop culture quite a lot, from catchphrases to tunes to slang. The Honolulu-set detective series ran from 1968–80, setting some records along the way. Millions of Americans on the continent tuned in to see the gorgeous tropical locales of their newest state. Of course, palm trees, sand and surf music was not enough. None of this success would have been possible without some gripping mysteries and dazzling action.
Jack Lord starred as the tough and cool Steve McGarrett, catching criminals before commanding his underling Daniel Williams (James MacArthur) to "book 'em." The concept proved so popular it returned to the airwaves as a reboot decades later.
Let's take a closer look at the one-and-only original.
Fridays at 12 PM Eastern
The "Five-O" slang for police came from this television show.
Ever wonder where that piece of slang came from? Believe it or not, the TV series originated it. The series' title actually was an homage to Hawaii being the 50th state of the U.S.A. Hawaii Five-O used the numerals as the fictional police division on the show. Over the year, the term came to be used as code for police in general.
Hawaii had only been a state for nine years when the show premiered.
Just to put things in perspective, the modern CBS Hawaii Five-0 reboot on CBS is just a little bit younger than that. Hawaii became a state in August of 1959. Hawaii Five-O premiered on CBS in September of 1968.
The show nearly starred Gregory Peck.
Jack Lord will forever be associated with his character Steve McGarrett, but producers originally had other actors in mind. Richard Boone, the former star of Have Gun - Will Travel, was first offered the part. The former "Paladin" turned it down. Hollywood legend Gregory Peck was also considered for McGarrett. Robert Brown, perhaps best known for playing Lazarus in the Star Trek episode "The Alternative Factor," nearly won the role, as well, before creators settled on Lord.
The first season was filmed in a rusted out Quonset hut.
Quonset huts were those prefabricated steel structures that popped up all over the Pacific during WWII. They looked like a massive tube sliced in half lengthwise. Hawaii Five-O began its production from such a rickety old place, where rats reportedly chewed at the cables. Production moved to Fort Ruger for seasons two through eight, before a studio was finally constructed at Diamond Head for the final four years. More on that facility at the end of this list…
The series also filmed a few episodes on location in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Filming on location gave Hawaii Five-O an exotic feel in an era when most other television was shot in L.A. and New York. The production ventured to even more far-flung locales, too, spending some time in Hong Kong and Singapore for special episodes.
The Iranian-born director who made the opening credits also came up with the Mary Tyler Moore hat toss.
Born in Iran, Reza Badiyi came to the U.S. to study film at Syracuse. He went on to be dubbed "the Godfather of American television," a man honored by Directors Guild of America for directing the most hours of television. He also had a brilliant knack for opening montages. His energetic credits sequence of Hawaii Five-O, which began with the iconic crash of a wave, used quick cuts and quick zooms. He also crafted the intro to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Moore herself claimed that Badiyi came up with the idea of having her toss her hat into the air.
The theme song reached No. 4 on the pop charts.
Of course, Morton Stevens' smashing surf track was equally important in setting the exciting tone. His theme song was covered by the Ventures, who took the song all the way to No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1968.
That's the Ilikai Hotel seen in the credits.
One of the many unforgettable shots in the opening credits has the camera racing through the sky to reach Jack Lord, who stands on the balcony of a penthouse suite. The building is the Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu. You can stay there today, and try to recreate your own Jack Lord moment.
The hula dancer seen in the credits became a college professor.
Helen Kuoha-Torco was the uncredited woman shaking her hips in the opening credits. She earned $150 for her dancing, as part of Sterling Mossman's Barefoot Bar Gang. She went on to become a professor of business technology at Windward Community College in Honolulu.
Don Ho recorded a version of theme song with lyrics.
That awesome theme song needs nothing more than horns, drums and guitar to get your heart racing, but Hawaiian crooner Don Ho gave the tune some extra juice with his lyrics in a cover version dubbed "You Can Come With Me." His take slows down considerably, as he sings, "Feel my arms around you / Lay beside the sea."
One controversial episode was banned and will not be seen again.
When it originally aired on January 7, 1970, "Bored, She Hung Herself" was one of the stranger cases of Hawaii Five-O. Don Quine, best known as a regular on The Virginian, portrayed Don Miles. He was the primary suspect in the episode, after his girlfriend, Wanda (Pamela Murphy), was found dead, hanging from a noose in their Hawaiian apartment. Audiences were unaccustomed to seeing a character who practices a so-called form of "yoga" with a noose. Somewhere in America, a viewer tried the hanging technique performed by Don at the opening of the episode — and died. "Bored, She Hung Herself" was never shown again, and is no longer included in syndication packages.
Kam Fong had been a police officer in real life.
Next to McGarrett and "Danno," Sgt. Chin Ho Kelly was the most familiar face of the Five-O Unit. He was the perfect actor for the gig, as the Honolulu native worked as a police officer in the Honolulu Police Department for nearly two decades, from the mid-'40s to early 1960s. Ironically, Fong had auditioned for the lead villain role of Wo Fat.
Wo Fat was named after a Chinese restaurant in Honolulu.
Speaking of Wo Fat, the recurring bad guy popped up throughout the entire series, a rogue communist agent of the People's Republic of China portrayed by actor Khigh Dheigh. The name "Wo Fat" was taken from a famous dining establishment in Honolulu's Chinatown neighborhood. Earlier this year, the building went on sale for $4 million.
This was the first crime series to run for more than a decade.
Hawaii Five-O was the first American crime show to run for more than a decade. It lasted a stunning twelve seasons, until the dawn of the 1980s. It remained the longest-running crime series until Law & Order surpassed it in 2003.
"Magnum P.I.' used Hawaii Five-O's production facilities — and exists in the same fictional universe.
When Hawaii Five-O wrapped in the spring of 1980, something needed to be done with the production facilities at Diamond Head. Why not create a new series set in Hawaii? Thus, Magnum, P.I. moved into the studio, kicking off in the fall of 1980. That was not the only connection between the shows. In episode six, "Skin Deep," Magnum identifies himself as "McGarrett of Five-O." So, yes, Magnum knew of Steve McGarrett, putting these characters in the same fictional world. In fact, Magnum producers trying to get Jack Lord to cameo on the '80s action show, but he turned down the offer.
Image: NBCUniversal Television Distribution