Aired during the 60s and 70s, Hawaii Five-O is one of the most iconic police dramas in TV history. It captivated the audience with thrilling mysteries and mind-boggling action, truly leaving its mark on American popular culture. However, there are quite a few amazing behind-the-scenes facts that nobody has ever been told.
For instance, did you know that one of the episodes of the series was banned in the US? If you wanna find out why, then read until the end!
Released in 1968 and written by Leonard Freeman, Hawaii Five-O was an American crime drama series that centered on the lives of a group of state police officers who fought against crime in Hawaii.
The first season was a whopping success and reached a ratings peak of over 3 million. All in all, the series spanned 12 seasons and a whopping 295 episodes, becoming the longest-running police drama of the time.
Under the guidance of former Navy officer Steve McGarrett, this group of cops was in charge of tracking down criminals, powerful crime syndicates and international secret agents through some of the world’s most unusual destinations.
While the plot may seem completely fictional, you’d be surprised to know that McGarrett’s state police criminal department was actually inspired by a real-life special police task force that existed during World War II. Now, how much do you know about the show’s lead character?
One episode is all it takes to realize that Steve McGarrett — played by Jack Lord — is the toughest cop and the boldest leader to ever hit the screen. He really did seem like the kind of man you would trust to run a state criminal investigation department!
However, McGarrett was a leader not only in fiction, but in real life too. He would always stand up against the network executives to make sure the whole crew had the freedom of creating the content they fancied. His leadership both on and off screen played a key role in the show’s success.
Considering Steve McGarrett became one of America’s most admired TV characters, it may come as a shock that Jack Lord wasn’t the original choice for the role. Can you guess which other names the casting directors had in mind?
It appears to be that the role was initially offered to the Have Gun-Will Travel star Richard Boone and later to Robert Brown, but both actors turned down the role. Rumor has it that Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck also rejected the role. We’re glad they went for Lord!
Most of the show was shot in Hawaii, so when it came to picking the name of the show, the creators decided to pay tribute to the state through the title. But why “Five-O“, you must be wondering? Well, because Hawaii was the 50th and last state to join the nation.
Not only was “Five-O” part of the title, but it was also the name given to the show’s police department. As the seasons went by and as the show’s popularity rocketed, “Five-O” soon became slang for police. Up next, a fun fact about the show’s opening credits!
The show’s opening credits were created by Iranian-American filmmaker Reza Badiyi, also known as the Godfather of American Television. Not only is he famous for his directorial work, but also for being the mastermind behind some of TV’s most iconic intros, such as the one from The Mary Tyler Moore Show.
He also created the credits of Hawaii Five-O, which began with the sound of crashing waves and then zoomed out to show some of Hawaii’s most stunning locations. Now, how much do you know about the show’s theme?
Many fans believe that Hawaii Five-O has the best TV theme of all time. This instrumental song was composed by Martin Stevens and it has won him two Emmy Awards. The melody is super catchy and many critics believe that this played a decisive role for the show’s overall success.
When the 2010 reboot of the show developed a guitar-based version of the theme, it received so much backlash that the creators had to switch back to the original song. Can any of you guess which iconic American band performed a cover of the show’s theme?
I bet you never knew that The Ventures performed a cover of Hawaii Five-O‘s theme. Their cover was such a hit that it ranked fourth on the 1968 Billboard Hot 100.
The show’s song really became a symbol in popular culture and it was also featured in a few films, including Adam Sandler’s 50 First Dates. Most recently, you may have heard it in the 2019 Papa John’s Pizza commercial promoting their brand new Super Hawaiian Pizza.
If you thought we were done talking about the series’ theme song, you were wrong! Can you believe that the theme became the University of Hawaii’s unofficial fight song? How cool is that?
Not only did it become a hit song in the US, but in Europe as well! In fact, it was extremely popular in the UK and it would often be played in nightclubs. Last but not least, Hawaiian pop singer Donald Ho made his own version. Now enough about the song, let’s find out where the series was shot!
It’s a widely known fact that the show was mostly shot in Hawaii. However, it’s important to point out that back in the 60s, Hawaii’s movie industry was barely taking its first steps. Because of this, shooting a show as important as Hawaii Five-O was an utterly challenging task.
Most of the locals who worked as part of the production and filming crew were extremely unexperienced. In fact, many of them had no experience whatsoever and learned the job on the spot, which made some of the shooting sequences all the more challenging.
Let’s get into further details and talk about the exact place where most of the scenes were shot. The first season was mostly shot in quonset huts, which are light, semi-circular structures made out of corrugated steel.
These structures were widely used during the time of World War II, but let’s just say they weren’t totally fit for the shooting of a series. The roofs would always leak and floors would be filled with rats. Because of this, the cast and crew dubbed these huts as Mongoose Mansions.
Once the first season became a hit, the crew moved to a much more modern studio at Fort Ruger, whereas the last four seasons were shot at Diamond Head, in Oahu Island. However, not all of the scenes were shot in Hawaii.
A few episodes were shot in Los Angeles, while some were even filmed in more remote locations such as Hong Kong or the Raffles Hotel in Singapore. This definitely boosted the series’ popularity since by that time, most shows were exclusively shot at New York and LA.
You probably recall that the show’s opening credits featured Hawaii’s famous Ilikai Hotel & Luxury Suites. But were any scenes ever shot in that 5-star building?
The only time filming took place inside the building was for the opening credit, where Jack Lord is seen standing on a balcony overlooking the ocean. You can actually book the same suite where Steve McGarrett was standing!
There’s one last cool fact you should know about Hawaii Five-O‘s credit scenes. Remember that woman shown dancing and moving her belly at a bar? Do you have a clue about who she is?
The dancer’s name is Helen Kuoha-Torco and she was paid $150 for her short dancing scene. What’s curious is that she went on to graduate as a business technology professor at Honolulu’s Windward Community College. Up next, an interesting fact about another of the show’s minor actors.
Member of the Five-O department Chin Ho Kelly was played by Kam Fong, who happens to have a fascinating life story. Born and raised in Honolulu, he started off as a boiler at Pearl Harbor and witnessed the Japanese bombing of the port in 1941.
Three years later, he quit his job to join the city’s police department, where he served as an officer for 16 years. After retiring in the mid 60s, he took up community theater and eventually auditioned for the series. Who would’ve thought he would end up playing a cop in one of history’s greatest cop shows!
Funnily enough, even though Kam Fong had worked as a police officer for over a decade, he initially auditioned for the role of the villain Wo Fat, Steve McGarret’s nemesis.
Funnily enough, creator Leonard Freeman took the character’s name from a Chinese restaurant located in Honolulu’s Chinatown. The building was registered as a historical site of cultural value and was recently sold for $4 million. It’s now time to learn the truth about the show’s banned scene…
In January 7, 1970, the episode titled Bored She Hung Herself was aired. This episode follows Five-O’s investigation on the death of a yoga student who had tragically died while carrying out a difficult yoga technique.
The yoga student, Wanda, was played by actress Pamela Murphy, while Wanda’s boyfriend was played by The Virginian star Don Miles. I know what you’re thinking: why did this episode spark such a major controversy?
This episode came as a shock to the American audience as people weren’t quite used to venturing into such forms of yoga for fun. Just a few weeks after the episode hit the screen, a viewer tried to perform the same yoga technique at home and tragically died in the attempt.
Once news came out of the tragedy, the episode was immediately banned from airing in syndication. Not only that: the episode was also deleted from the complete DVD collection and it’s not available for downloading either.
Hawaii Five-O aired its final episode in 1980, though it definitely left fans with thirst for more. The studio capitalized this widespread sentiment and set forth on producing another similar police drama: Magnum P.I.
Another reason for creating a similar show was that once Hawaii Five-O ended, the immense production facilities that had been built at Diamond Head for the shooting of the last seasons were now left to spare. Coming up with Magnum P.I. was definitely a good call.
By the time Hawaii Five-O came to an end, it had already become the longest-running police drama in American history, only surpassed in 2003 by Law & Order.
Throughout its 12 seasons, the show won a great number of awards and a massive fan base. It’s iconic characters, memorable catchphrases and slang are still remembered to this day. So, how many of these cool behind-the-scenes facts did you already know?