Hawaii Five-O - The Sixth Season finds the durable series chugging along right on course, a year of episodes about on par with the previous series, and with little evidence of a show in decline. (Most fans agree the show really went downhill its last two seasons, still several years away.) There's not much to add not already stated in my reviews of Seasons One, Two, Three, Four, and Five, except to note a few particulars about this set and to say, as usual, if you've been buying the earlier seasons all along, you're bound to enjoy this one, too, especially since CBS/Paramount's transfers remain as strong as ever.
As before, tough-as-nails Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord) heads Five-O, Hawaii's (fictional) state-managed police force answerable only to Hawaii's long-serving Governor Paul Jameson ('50s sci-fi icon Richard Denning*). Steve's trusted right-hand man, Detective Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur) and seasoned Chinese-American Detective Chin Ho Kelly (Kam Fong) have been with Five-O from the beginning. After actor Gilbert Lani Kauhi, better known as "Zulu," was booted off the series at the end of Season Four, native Hawaiian Kono was replaced by Polynesian Al Harrington (born Tausau Ta'a, in Pago Pago) as Detective Ben Kokua. He's okay, but lacks Kono's casual warmth and is stubbornly pretty colorless.
Fortunately, as Hawaii Five-O went along, more semi-regular characters were added, including Jenny ('40s Universal starlet Peggy Ryan), Five-O's secretary, and medical examiner Che Fong (Harry Endo); by the sixth season, Che Fong's in just about every show. Other continuing characters include Honolulu Police Department Sgt. Edward "Duke" Lukela (Heman Wedemeyer), Doc Bergman (Al Eben), and District Attorney John Manicote (Glenn Cannon).
However, Jack Lord's sanctimonious, all-work/no-play McGarrett (it's too bad he never crossed paths with workaholic Joe Friday) unquestionably is the star of the show, a status furthered by the oddest of reminders: in the sixth season his name reappears over the end credits - "Hawaii Five-O, Starring Jack Lord" - along with the episodes guest stars, but not MacArthur, Fong, or Harrington. McGarrett remains one of television's coolest cats - he's to '70s police procedurals what Sean Connery was to '60s spy films - and yet as the series went on, Lord stubbornly refused to age gracefully. In an effort to look the same in 1980 as he did in 1968 he tends to look increasingly unreal and waxy.
The Sixth Season is notable for stretching a bit, teleplays-wise. The offbeat nature of the scripts is established in the first episodes of the season. "Hookman," the season-opener, is one of the best episodes of the entire series. The audacious opening is brilliant: an armless serial sniper (real-life armless celebrity detective Jay J. Armes), using a refitted rifle and hooks for hands, kills a motorcycle cop escorting a funeral procession - pandemonium erupts and the casket flies out of the hearse during the melee. The many scenes of the sniper ingeniously using his hooks preparing for the next hit are played without any dialogue; everything is told visually, adding enormously to the suspense and fascination with this unusual story.
"Draw Me a Killer" is similarly offbeat, if less successful, with creepy assistant pet-groomer Arthur (Elliott Street) obsessed with comic strip heroine Judy Moon, whom he's convinced is real. When he sees perfectly innocent people on the street that resemble the villains threatening Judy in the funny pages, he kills them! Though a rather pointless red herring, the great film noir star Audrey Totter has a fun role as a suspect.
But even longtime fans will be left nonplussed by "One Big Happy Family," which is like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in Hawaiian shirts. A family of racist white trash serial killers arrives on the island, taking turns getting menial jobs only to murder their employers a few days later, and for chump change. Slim Pickens is the creepy, lascivious patriarch, and Bo Hopkins is practically typecast as his nut-bar son, but it's Barbara Baxley's Ma that steals the show. When at the end they're all finally arrested - after murdering more than 125 people across 24 states, for about $40,000 - a curious and appalled McGarrett asks her why they murdered so many people so indiscriminately. "They wasn't kin," she says, as if it were obvious. "They was all strangers...it don't count with strangers," insisting also the family didn't steal nuthin' because "they was dead" and didn't need the money anymore. Makes sense to me.
Other notable sixth season shows include "Charter for Death," "Tricks Are Not Treats," "Try to Die on Time," "Death with Father," and "Mother's Deadly Helper." Guest stars include Nehemiah Persoff, Bert Convy, Lyle Bettger, Don Porter, Sally Kirkland, Gregory Sierra, Ron Glass, Pat Morita, George Voskovec, Lew Ayres, Bill Edwards, Jack Carter, Victor Buono, Don Stroud, Perry King, Nicholas Hammond, Ed Flanders, Michael Strong, Mark Lenard, Cindy Williams, Andrew Duggan, Peter Strauss, Peter Donat, John Orchard, John Fujioka, Alan Fudge, Anthony Zerbe, Frank Cady, Casey Kasem, John Byner, Keene Curtis, William Devane, Gail Strickland, and David Wayne.
Video & Audio
Hawaii Five-O - The Sixth Season looks quite nice, the same as always. The show is bright and colorful, sharp and detailed. The season is on six single-sided, dual-layered DVDs running three hours and 20 minutes apiece. Though there's the usual warning that "some episodes may be edited from their original network versions," I didn't notice any alternations, cuts or replaced music, in any of the shows I watched. The Dolby Digital mono is fine, with a Spanish audio track, and optional English, Spanish and Brazilian Portuguese subtitles.
The only supplement are those spoiler-filled episodic promos. You might want to do as I do, watch an episode then look at the promo of the next episode, as a kind of preview for "next week's show."
Hawaii Five-O - The Sixth Season was the last for the show's creator, Leonard Freeman, who died on January 20, 1974, during open-heart surgery. He was 53. To his great credit, the series maintained the same high standards for six years under his watch, a rare feat for this kind of show. Recommended.
* It's a shame Denning's wife, the gorgeous actress Evelyn Ankers, couldn't be persuaded to come out of retirement to appear on Five-O. (She and Denning retired there.) I'll bet more than one Five-O producer tried to coax her into appearing on the show.