INTO THE NEXT STAGE: Chin Ho Still Getting a Bum Deal in “Hawaii Five-O”

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By GUY AOKI
(First published in
The Rafu Shimpo on October 21, 2010.)

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Back in the Spring of 1979, I watched the preview for the following week’s episode of “Hawaii Five-O.” Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong), who never seemed to do much except tell MacGarrett, “Call you for, Steve!” was going undercover. “Oh, good,” I thought, “he’s finally going to get to do something!” Then a crook holds a gun to his head. The next thing we know, a screeching car dumps Kelly’s body out onto a crowded street as a woman screams. What?! They’re killing off Chin Ho?!

They milked it for what it was worth: In the episode, Jack Lord even tried to cry (unconvincingly; kinda tough when his method of acting was jokingly called “angry or angrier”) over the loss. We learned Chin actually had a daughter (about time she showed up!) who told MacGarrett not to blame himself as her father was so proud to serve under him. Overall, though, it was a dumb episode as the crook turned out to be a wimp who begged MacGarrett for forgiveness as the angry cop pummeled him.

“Hawaii Five-O,” Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong), 1979.

(Kam Fong wanted out of the series knowing his role was too limited; he felt he could do better elsewhere. Instead, as my family predicted, he disappeared into oblivion before dying a few years ago). Although CBS told me that the new Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) and Kono (Grace Park) were equal stars to MacGarrett and Danny “Danno” Williams, I knew that was just talk: Besides spending most of their time together, the top two white cops (whatever kind is there in television?) had family situations built into their back stories: MacGarrett, a murdered father with a secret past and a troubled sister; Williams fighting his ex over the right to see their daughter.

In the third episode of the rebooted series, we got to see some of Chin Ho’s back story as a cop accused of taking a bribe. Although he didn’t do it, his fellow officers—including his cousin—believe he’s a crooked cop and treat him accordingly. Toward the end of the episode, Kelly shoots the thug who’s about to kill his undercover cop cousin. We’re told that their relationship is on the mend, but that subplot shared equal time with Williams’ ex trying to curtail his time with his daughter because of his dangerous job.

If that’s the best we can expect for the bottom two API cops, I don’t have much hope.

Next week, Kono’s ex (a white guy, of course) is suspected of murder. This past week, the main villain was someone from the Philippines played by Patrick Gallagher (Coach Tanaka from “Glee”). Another was a Chinese-looking madam. Outside of the two regulars, I just don’t see a balance of good API guys vs. bad API guys. And rumor is there’ll be a new Wo Fat, MacGarrett’s arch nemesis previously played by Khigh Dheigh.

“Hawaii Five-O,” Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim) and Kono (Grace Park).

The one thing the original series had going for it was the producers used a lot of real, local Hawaiians who sounded like real local Hawaiians. But barely anyone on this new version speaks with a pidgin English accent. This past week, Masi Oka (Hiro Nakamura from “Heroes”) appeared as a weird mortician who plays piano like a virtuoso then goes to the slab to talk about a deceased person. Another weird character. Which belongs in another program, not one set in Hawaii. More and more, this series feels like haoles doing a “mainland type” show but just placing it in the 50th state without much feel for the place or its people.

So what else is new?

From a technical point of view, the new “Five-O” is frustrating to watch: It just moves too damn fast. If stars Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan aren’t mumbling indecipherably, the cast is talking way too fast. The edits happen too quickly. And as a location is typed out onscreen, it barely appears fully for half a second before it disappears!  Slow down!

Peoples’ initial interest in this remake appears to be wearing off: Whereas the premiere was seen by 14.2 million, it’s continued to lose its audience week by week down now to a new low of 10.9 million.

Star Trek Wet Dream Department: Last week Thursday, in addition to William Shatner starring in CBS’s “Sh*t My Dad Says,” we were treated to George Takei playing himself on the same network’s “Big Bang Theory.” He first appears when Howard, one of the nerdy lead characters (with the Beatles haircut), is in his bedroom having sexual fantasies about “Battlestar Galactica’s” Katie Sackhoff lying in bed with him. Then Bernadette, his ex-girlfriend, appears followed by George Takei who’s standing right next to the bed nostalgically wearing the brown leather jacket over turquoise vest he sported in some of the Star Trek movies.

“Big Bang Theory,” special guest George Takei.

Sackhoff asks, “Howard, do you have latent homosexual tendencies?” “Of course not!” To which Takei quips, “So you say! Yet… here I am!”

Briefly, Sackhoff asks Takei if he also has a difficult time being typecast in science fiction vehicles and they walk off together.

Later, when Howard’s in the car making out with Bernadette, Sackhoff’s in the backseat encouraging him to go in for the kill and use his tongue while Takei argues against it, saying, “No no no!  A lady wants to be wooed!  Courted slowwwwwly!” After a few back and forths, Sackhoff turns to Takei and asks, “How would you know?” Takei responds, “I read!…”

When Howard follows Sackhoff’s advice, Bernadette tells him he’s coming on too strong and to take it slowly. Takei tells Sackhoff: “Told you!”

Takei laid it on a little too thick, but overall, it was pretty funny.

It’s nice to see how liberated he’s been after coming out (A couple years ago, I couldn’t believe what he told Conan O’Brien after saying William Shatner’s method of acting sucked: “If I knew he was going to suck so bad, I wouldn’t have needed a boyfriend!”).  I just hope every joke about him doesn’t have to center on his sexual identity.

Bachi ga Ataru! Department: NBC seems to have a problem coming up with Asian American actors who can play cops. Two years ago, I warned them that producer John Wells was infamous for excluding us in series that screamed for our active participation (“ER,” “West Wing,” “Presidio Med” ) and wanted them to cast an Asian American regular on his upcoming series “Southland.” They didn’t. This year, when NBC attempted to extend the “Law and Order” franchise to the new “Law and Order: Los Angeles” series, I pushed them again to include an Asian American police officer. They even had a part written for a Lieutenant Park. But in the end, they claim, they just couldn’t find an Asian American—male or female mind you—who could pull it off chemistry-wise with the other actors.

Maybe that’s because the actors they chose have no charisma themselves.  Have you seen the show?  No one on the series impresses me including Terence Howard who sounds like an old man. Alfred Molina comes the closest to having any presence. “LOLA” fell 21% down to 7.2 million viewers last week. “Parenthood,” which takes place in Berkeley yet still focuses on about a dozen white people, fell to 4.7 million, another all-time low. In October of 2009, just 15 days before it was supposed to begin its first full season, NBC cancelled “Southland.” TNT picked it up where it did even worse.

Couldn’t happen to more deserving series.

You Can’t Do That! Department: One of the new shows I began watching is “No Ordinary Family” about a clan whose plane crashes in a Brazilian jungle and eventually emerges with super powers. The father (“The Shield’s Michael Chiklis) becomes invulnerable and is able to make big leaps in a single bound (Holy Superman, Batman!), the wife (the gorgeous Julie Benz) runs super fast, the daughter can read minds, and the son, previously not too bright, understands everything in school. Normally, I’d be interested in something like this—even though none of them dons a costume—because I’ve been collecting comic books every week since June 1972. But the real reason I tuned in was because Christina Chang was supposed to be a regular—a policewomen who works alongside Chiklis, who’s a police sketch artist.

So imagine my surprise when, at the end of the third episode after she realizes Chiklis has super powers, Chang was killed by one of the bad guys! ABC, you’ve got some answering to do…

Till next time keep your eyes and ears open.

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Guy Aoki, co-founder of the Media Action Network for Asian Americans, writes from Glendale. Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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2 Comments

  1. This is the first time that I have read your column in the Rafu. I found it very interesting. Hawaii Five-0, Kono’s ex is caucasian?! McGarrett and Danno seem nothing like the originals. Oh, well… I, too, think that Law & Order LA has boring cast members – I thought that Terence Howard was an award winning actor. Why does he seem so bland? I never watched Ordinary Family, too bad they killed off the Asian gal. I used to watch Flash Forward – I like John Cho a lot. Do you think he will be back on TV soon? I don’t have cable or satellite, so broadcast is what I watch.

  2. Hawaii 50 is awsome! All of the actors are great to watch, they all seem to have equal parts and background info on the show. I have no clue how you can write an article saying otherwise?? You sound like a very angry Asian man that didn’t make it on the big screen! Could be you have a lack of charisma
    I look forward to seeing the show weekly, and love the entire cast. You should spend less time being so angry, you just might enjoy something!

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