I recently learned of the remaking of two classic and iconic television shows of the 70's – Hawaii Five-O and The Rockford Files. This revelation was met by angst and dismay by more than a few people (me included). For you see, these two shows were a rarity in television. They were perfectly produced, perfectly scripted, perfectly cast, and perfectly acted. How can you top perfection? Why would you even try? The networks will insist that they're not so much remakes as they are "updates". For instance, the new Hawaii Five-O will feature not the Steve McGarrett character that Jack Lord made famous but the son of Steve McGarrett. Just a chip off the old block, heh? Well not really. The trailers I've seen promoting the new series are not just bad but atrocious. Heavy on explosions, special effects, and bad dialogue; it's full of everything the original series wasn't. Not that the original series didn't have its share of gunplay and stunts but not to the point of ridiculousness. It's really a slap in the face to all of us who remember the greatness of the original series.
First of all, how can you put together an ensemble cast that could possibly compete with Jack Lord, James McArthur (Danny Williams), Kam Fong Chun (Chin Ho Kelly), Gilbert Kauhi (Kono Kalakaua), and arch nemesis Khigh Dheigh (Wo Fat)? When Jack Lord repeated one of the most popular catch phrases of the 70's – a stern "Book 'em Danno"!, you knew the man meant business. When the new McGarrett has the audacity to say it, derision comes to mind. And I'm sure that is not the intent of the show's producers. Jack Lord always wore those dark suits which contrasted nicely with the colorful scenery that was and is Honolulu and the rest of Hawaii. Then there was the man's ride itself – the classic black Mercury Marquis. And who could forget that ominous opening with the surf rolling in and one of the best television theme songs ever? The new series will be comprised of cast members Alex O'Loughlin as McGarrett the younger, Scott Caan (Danny Williams), Daniel Dae Kim (Chin Ho Kelly), and Grace Park (Kona Kalakaua). All able and talented actors especially Cann who is the son of legendary actor James Caan, but can they pull it off? Even The Honolulu Advertiser which certainly has an interest in the show's success (the six year run of the series Lost pumped an estimated 400 million into the Hawaiian economy) is wary of this remake. In a May 19th column, the editors concluded that "it will take more than beefcake and a remixed theme song to keep the show on the air". The editors also acknowledged the grumbling about the lack of local talent involved in the production. The original series was full of local entertainers and ordinary Hawaiians who played supporting roles and added an element of authenticity that the new Five-O sorely lacks. Kam Fong Chun who was the original Chin Ho was he himself an officer in the Honolulu police department for 16 years.
As far as The Rockford Files goes, folks against the remake of that iconic series can breathe a sigh of relief – for now. It seems the pilot for the new series was so bad, the brass at NBC decided not to green light a series worth of shows. And this was after a supposed extensive reedit was done. Again lets start with the superb casting of the original - James Garner as private detective Jim Rockford, Noah Beery Jr. as Rockford's dad (Rocky), Joe Santos (Dennis Becker), Stuart Margolin (Angel Martin), and Gretchen Corbett (Beth Davenport). Margolin was so good in his role as conman and shady friend to Rockford, he received two Emmy awards for his work in that series. In arguably his signature role (he was a well known actor before Rockford appearing in the TV series Maverick as well as films such as The Great Escape, The Americanization of Emily, and Support Your Local Sheriff!) James Garner was Jim Rockford. As a kid growing up watching The Rockford Files, I was somehow drawn to the Rockford character. Here was a character that was in a sense the antithesis of Steve McGarrett. He lived in Malibu on the beach but otherwise lived an unglamorous lifestyle. He wasn't stylish, he wasn't sleek. He made bad decisions. He lived in a dumpy trailer. His dad was a semi-retired truck driver. Unlike Hawaii Five-O, the personal life of the main character was on full display. Rockford was a guy that a lot of folks I knew at the time could easily identify with. Rockford's only ostentation was that Pontiac Firebird. (These guys gotta have their cars, don't they?) Garner even insisted on doing his own stunts which would later become his undoing. The writers of those excellent scripts included producer Stephen Cannell and David Chase of Sopranos fame. The opening had those often comical telephone answering machine messages along with another great TV theme song. The song composed by Mike Post and Pete Carpenter stayed on the Billboard charts for an amazing 44 weeks! I often irritated a college roommate as I wailed my harmonica to the theme song during 80's reruns. The new Rockford would have included Dermot Mulroney as Rockford and Beau Bridges as his dad Rocky. Mulroney is a fine actor but he is not James Garner. And that's just it. No one would be able to reprise that role. NBC hasn't completely given up on the new version. They could bring it back at any time.
So book 'em Danno! Book 'em for bad television, bad writing, bad casting, and bad acting. Book 'em for not having an original thought in their head. Book 'em for having the audacity to resurrect two of the best shows in television. Other shows not to be trifled with are Mannix, Barnaby Jones, and the Equalizer which starred the brilliant Edward Woodward as Robert McCall. ( And yes he had a cool car too - a Jaguar XJ6). Rumor has it that Russell Crowe wants to bring the Equalizer to the big screen. Again, I'll pass. As great as an actor as Crowe is, he can't recreate the magic of Woodward. Aloha.