As anyone that has studied TV ratings knows, the NFL owns the airwaves. Especially during the playoffs, but virtually any time an NFL game lands at or near Primetime it dominates the ratings. The Super Bowl is an event unto itself, an unmatched behemoth in the world of network TV and advertising, but the NFC and AFC Championship games two weeks earlier are a close second. This year the biggest NFL game for CBS will occur this Sunday when the New York Jets take on the Pittsburgh Steelers for the AFC Championship and the right to play in the Super Bowl. Since CBS doesn’t carry the 2011 Super Bowl (it will air on Fox on February 6th), this is their last big splash of the year.
The game is guaranteed to draw big ratings. The Pittsburgh Steelers are a storied franchise with a national following. The New York Jets are this year’s big story, starting with their national exposure on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” before the season, and continuing all year long with one adventure after another (plus their coach’s bravado…and affinity for feet) keeping them in the headlines. Kickoff is at 6:30 PM, which creates a perfect lead in to showcase one of the network’s shows at 10 PM on the East Coast. The lead in from the Super Bowl or an NFL Championship game has offered a showcase that has launched many a successful series in the past. The show chosen is usually a “prestige” show for that network (like “Survivor” or “Friends” for example) or a moderate hit that the network wants to promote (i.e. “The X-Files”, “Grey’s Anatomy” or “Criminal Minds”).
This year the coveted time slot has been given to CBS’s freshman drama “Hawaii Five-O”. The show has been popular – it recently won the People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New Drama” – but CBS certainly wants this to be a launching pad. They’ve made an excellent choice.
For those who haven’t seen it, this show is definitely NOT your father’s “Hawaii Five-O”. The theme music is the same (thank goodness) but not much else. Jack Lord’s Steve McGarrett in the original “Five-O” (1968 to 1980) bares very little resemblance to his updated counterpart, played by Alex O’Loughlin. Jack Lord led his team with a steely eye, clenched jaw and tightly knotted tie. O’Loughlin’s former Navy Seal commander is much more of a risk-taker with a looser edge. But the original “Five-O” was made for another time. A 1970’s sensibility (and decidedly different set of network censors) made it a classic for it’s time. The 2010-11 version is crisp, exciting and still benefits from the gorgeous scenery that the original enjoyed.
We feel a much greater intimacy with the characters in this newer version and they are people that are interesting to know. In the 70’s, Chin-Ho and Kono were more non-descript. Overweight Hawaiian men, able police officers, loyal to McGarrett to the end, but we never knew much more. Now, Chin-Ho is a motorcycle riding police officer with a chip on his shoulder from a former IAB investigation that unfairly ostracized him from HPD. Kono is his cousin, a beautiful young surfer girl. She’s a rookie cop who obviously learns quickly but adds an endearing vulnerability to the character.
Perhaps the best update of all is Scott Caan as Detective Danny Williams. Nominated this year for a Golden Globe award, Caan’s New Jersey edge has added an entirely new dimension to the laid back island vibe of Hawaii. His memories of New Jersey and yearnings for the Garden State, friends and pizza that he misses hit right at home with any of the transplanted New Jerseyans who’ve moved to warmer climates. Even his aversion to McGarrett’s famed “Book him Dan-O” line adds a whole new dimension to Danny, while still paying homage to James MacArthur’s classic original portrayal.
The show is on the launching pad and ready for takeoff this Sunday. You should definitely be a part of the trip. You won’t be disappointed. This week’s special Sunday night episode features a tsunami approaching Hawaii. Perhaps it will be a cliffhanger, one that draws you to the regularly scheduled episode on Monday night (a popular device for the featured show with the NFL lead in). This writer believes you’ll keep coming back for more.