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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Hawaii Five Oh-Oh

Earl outside Steve McGarrett's original office in Honolulu, 2008

While watching the new Hawaii Five-O, it occured to me that the reimagined show's title has no internally consistent reason for existing. Allow me to explain. 

The original show was so named for the (fictional) state police department of the 50th state, Hawaii; hence, "Hawaii Five-O," shorthand within the universe of the show for the 50th and final state police department of the United States. Presumably in this universe, a show about the state police of Alaska (if indeed they have state police) would be named Alaska Four-9. While Hawaii does not, in reality, have a state police force, the show was so popular that in the real world, police officers of any geographic location came to be referred to as "five-o."

If the new show were a mere continuation of the old - that is, if the characters were new and the adventures of Steve McGarret and Danno and Kono and all the rest were acknowledged to exist in the past of the new show's fictional universe, the title would still make sense. The old show was Hawaii Five-O; the new show is Hawaii Five-O.

But the new show's characters all have the same names as characters in the old show. So there are new actors playing McGarrett, Kono, Danno and Chin Ho. Presumably in this universe there was never a television show called Hawaii Five-O; otherwise, the new Kono, McGarrett et al. would presumably be amazed that four people with the names of famous characters of the seventies were brought together to work in similar circumstances, namely serving as police officers in Hawaii.

"Say, McGarrett, isn't it weird that you and I and Kono and Chin Ho all have the same names as the guys from that old tv show?"

"Yeah, it's weird. But it's not THAT huge a coincidence, because the real Kono is a girl, and the dude on the show was a guy."

"Oh yeah, that's true."

Since this conversation never occurs, we can infer that the original Hawaii Five-O (the television show, that is) does not exist in the world of the new show. But even worse, there's no reference to a state police force in the new show; the characters just work on some kind of "task force." They can't call themselves "Hawaii Five-O" because there is no 50th state police force in the world of the show. But since the original TV series didn't exist in the world of this show, nor can they call themselves "five-o" colloquially, because the reason for the catchphrase - the original show - doesn't exist in the world of these new characters.

Of course you could argue that television show titles exist outside the narrative. But Hawaii Five-O's title was uniquely derived to highlight a crucial aspect of the fictional world it created: there exists a state police force in Hawaii, and these are their adventures.

I think we should get Steve McGarrett on this case immediately.

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