On the next “Hawaii,” Steve McGarrett and his Five-O team track a killer who — oops, sorry, wrong show. It’s an easy mistake, since there’s nothing remotely fresh about this nondescript blue-sky drama — clearly inspired by NBC’s success with “Las Vegas,” the assumption being that audiences can’t get enough crime so long as it happens to sexy people in pretty places. Maybe NBC’s right, but unless the characters acquire more engaging personalities soon, an equally appealing alternative would entail flipping rapidly between Court TV and the Travel Channel.
About the only difference between these Hawaii cops and the aforementioned group 30-plus years ago is the fact that there’s an African-American on the team, John Declan (Sharif Atkins), newly transplanted from Chicago and still acclimating to island life. Interestingly, there’s also still a shortage of high-ranking Asians in the Aloha State, proving that old casting habits die hard.
Declan is teamed with a grizzled partner, Sean Harrison (Michael Biehn), and they soon stumble on a car trunk containing severed heads — a good reminder that even escapist 8 p.m. dramas aren’t exactly kid-friendly anymore. To further drive that point home, there’s a fleeting hot-tub scene later in the show, proving these cops know how to work as hard as they play, but hey, they’re all brothers under the badge.
OK, I’m out of cliches, but exec producer Jeff Eastin’s script taps into a pretty near-inexhaustible supply. There’s the screw-up duo (Eric Balfour and Ivan Sergei), the pretty uniformed officer (Aya Sumika) torn between two detectives, even a fat cop who staggers around with a doughnut in his hand.
The producers have actually put together a fine ensemble cast, which makes it all the more irksome that they have so little to do or say. The opening case isn’t particularly interesting or suspenseful, and a subplot about drugs being smuggled in fish feels roughly as stale as it smells.
As the new guy, the likable Atkins provides the closest thing to a focal point, but before the hour’s over even he ends up treading water, literally and figuratively.
More than anything, “Hawaii” comes across as an amalgam of cop shows past, the fourth-best show of the 1975 season. As wispy as it sounds, the entire series relies on the notion (currently embraced by Fox’s “North Shore”) that extras in bikinis and an occasional glimpse of Diamond Head will cause mainlanders to “Ooh” and “Ahh.”
Program is fortunate that there’s no super-heavyweight competition in a timeslot where NBC’s expectations should be relatively modest — until “American Idol” arrives in January, at any rate, assuming the show lasts that long. “Hawaii” isn’t an unpleasant place for a visit, but it offers scant incentive to gain a place on anybody’s channel-surfing itinerary.