Classic TV intros #3: Hawaii Five-O

A weekly series looking back on classic TV show intros …


Hawaii Five-O (279 episodes, 1968-80)


Following the investigations and adventures of Five-O (Hawaii being the 50th state of the USA), an elite state police unit headed by Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), with the mission of tackling the Hawaiian criminal underworld, espionage, terrorism and other major crimes. But without the moustache and the Ferrari.

The intro

Despite having only the haziest memory of the show itself – I first watched it as a five or six-year old – the programme’s intro remains one of the strongest TV memories from my childhood, from the first drum beats of Morton Stevens‘ rousing theme tune to several of the key visual elements.

The image of the rolling ocean wave which plays behind the title card is surely one of the most distinctive opening elements of any intro ever. It is then followed by a series of unique and distinctive shots, from the fast zoom in to McGarrett standing on a hotel penthouse balcony, via a fish-eye view of a 747 at Honolulu Airport and a start-stop close-up of a dancing hula girl – all intercut with snapshots of distinctive Hawaiian landmarks – before finishing on the flashing blue light of a speeding police motorcycle. There is no mistaking the show’s exotic home – further reinforced by extensive use of exterior locations in the episodes themselves – which stamps the Hawaiian islands’ identity all over it. Watching the intro sequence for the first time in what must be 25 years, I am amazed by how much of its detail remains rooted in my memory.

The minute-long opening sequence was created by Reza Badiyi, whose long and impressive CV also includes directorial credits for Mission:Impossible, The Six Million Dollar Man, Starsky & Hutch, The Rockford Files, Cagney & Lacey and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

An updated remake of Hawaii Five-O has just – as of last week – started airing in the US. (In the UK, it will be broadcast on Bravo, although no air-date had been confirmed at the time of writing.) The new show stars Alex O’Loughlin (Moonlight, The Shield) as McGarrett, who is joined by Scott Caan (Entourage), Lost‘s Daniel Dae Kim and Battlestar Galactica‘s Grace Park, with HeroesMasi Oka also on board in a recurring role.

Pleasingly, the new intro – although considerably shorter at 30 seconds – has remained impressively faithful to both the musical and visual elements of the original. Based on its iconic intro alone, I’ll certainly be giving it a try.


Jack Lord was the original Felix Leiter in the first James Bond film Dr No.

Kam Fong (who played Five-O member Chin Ho Kelly) was also an 18-year veteran of the Honolulu Police Department.

Hawaii Five-O was the longest running crime programme on US network television until Law & Order passed it in 2003.

Helen Kuoha-Torco, the grass-skirted hula dancer who features in the title sequence, has since become a Professor of Business Technology.

Magnum P.I. began shooting in Hawaii shortly after Hawaii Five-O ended. To build continuity, a number of references to Five-O are made in early episodes of Magnum, such as Magnum’s observation in the first episode: “Putting Dan on this stuff is like making McGarrett the meter maid on Waikiki.”

In the 2010 remake, ‘Kono’ Kalakaua is played by Grace Park, who took the role of Sharon ‘Boomer’ Valerii in the remake of Battlestar Galactica. In both cases, her original character was male.




Previous classic TV intros

#1 – Knight Rider

#2 – The Sopranos

Do you think the intro for this show deserves the status ‘classic’? And do you have a favourite of your own? Watch out for more ‘Classic TV intros’ posts coming soon.