Hawaii Five-O is one of my five favorite TV dramas of all time, the others being Star Trek the original series(is there any other?), Hill Street Blues, the original Law & Order and Homicide: Life on the Street. Five-O has always been sadly underrated; TV Guide didn't rank it in its top 50 shows of all time(a list that included Friends and The Oprah Winfrey Show, but neglected to include Star Trek or Homicide...either I have no taste or, well...), and some reviewers at other sources describe it as a standard '70's police drama. Five-O was anything but standard, in fact it had its own individual style, a combination of a slambang opening credits sequence(which begins with the visual motif of a threatening tidal wave and is set to the most exciting theme music ever), of gritty performances, outstanding music that was no small factor in setting the mood of the show, exemplary pacing, atmosphere(especially the bona fide Hawaiian scenery, alternating between lush vistas and seedy urban backdrops) and rock solid writing, which included some very ingenious and even bizarre storylines that ran the gamut from pulse-pounding international espionage to moving human drama. Five-O was a very quirky show, featuring a diverse cast of recurring character actors who represented all facets of Hawaiian life, and frequently investing as much time and emotion in the travails of the guest characters as on McGarrett and company. A fine example of this is the episode The Grandstand Play, in which the presentation of Five-O's investigation into the murder of a socialite at a ballpark is continually interrupted in order to focus on the life of the young man who witnessed the crime, a mentally challenged teen and son of a famous ballplayer, thus creating a special kind of empathy with this fully realized character. Another frequent charge against the show, that McGarrett and his detectives were mere automatons, is totally baseless. Jack Lord, in particular, was expert at portraying all kinds of emotion, incredulity, indignation, disgust, anger, contempt, compassion, abject despair, although he was rarely overwrought, usually a strain in his voice or a pained twitch in his features was enough(watch the ending of Trouble in Mind) and in effect he functioned as the show's conscience, its moral barometer. McGarrett was a good cop who made no apologies for this, part idealist, part cynic, concerned about the environment, with a love for the islands and their people, a man who allowed the cases to get to him, but not to the point where they affected how he did his job. Viewers today might find that cheesy, but I think it's refreshing, and there is a huge difference between the straightlaced but very human McGarrett and the by the numbers to the point of being downright stiff Joe Friday. Finally, some people who compare Five-O to modern cop shows decry the lack of elaborate plotting, the "twists" if you will, but Five-O has twists, it just doesn't inundate the viewer with them the way contemporary shows do(my beloved Law & Order included), which makes for a more direct, perhaps more realistic, often more satisfying watching experience.
The first two seasons of Hawaii Five-O are excellent and well worth owning, but this is the year where it really comes together. The show is more consistently great this season, with more classic episodes than the previous years and fewer weak ones. My personal favorites include the gut-wrenching Trouble in Mind and To Kill Or Be Killed, the haunting Force of Waves and Paniolo, and the ingenious caper episodes Over Fifty? Steal and Ten Thousand Diamonds and a Heart. This season also includes a couple of great two-part episodes, F.O.B. Honolulu in which foreign agents, including the ubiquitous Wo Fat, bargain for plates that would allow them to create counterfeit twenty dollar bills, and the already mentioned The Grandstand Play, one of Five-O's most unique human dramas. I'm not wild about the episodes The Last Eden, Beautiful Screamer or Dear Enemy, but a mere three episodes out of twenty-four that I would classify as mediocre add up to odds I'll take any day of the week.
It's true that the extras are skimpy on these sets, but I'm not much of an extras person, I'm happy just having the episodes, especially when they're remastered to this degree. The picture quality is sharp, fantastic, the scenery is lovelier than ever...for the best evidence of this, check out the episode Paniolo, much of which takes place in the green mountains of Maui. Breathtaking!
People new to the series might consider starting with this season since it represents Five-O at its best, then going backwards and watching the first two, but really, all of the seasons so far are worth seeing, as are the next several. They can't release these things fast enough for me.