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FALL TV: 'H50' music reboot
August 5, 2010  | By Diane Werts
hawaii five-0 lord jet engine.jpg

Fall season pilot episodes are always a dicey thing for critics to write about, because you never know what the networks will change before the show finally hits air. One year, an ABC sitcom actually changed a male character in spring's original pilot to a female character in the reshot fall episode that eventually introduced the series -- without alerting critics to the change. Oops.

(In an ideal world, critics would watch every single version of the pilot the network provided. But an ideal world would have 38 hours in the day to match the number of this fall's new shows.)

So now that critics are writing about the 2010 Hawaii Five-0 pilot's awful "update" of the show's iconic theme music, CBS has re-recorded the pulse-pounding tune to sound more akin to that of Jack Lord's original 1968 series.

The reboot's reboot sounds much better, restoring the brawny horns-and-percussion attitude of composer Morton Stevens' Top 10 hit from 1968, replacing a tinny electronic version that was probably supposed to feel more current and just felt more wimpy.

Let's see what they do with the visuals, however. Those were just as bad in the first pilot provided to critics after the May upfronts, layering pseudo-computer crosshairs over the images and glomming up the screen with multiple frames.

The 1968 Hawaii Five-0 credits sequence remains a thrilling piece of montage filmmaking, with images of Hawaii flashing and whizzing by in a dynamic promise of the scenery/action to follow in the location-shot show itself. It actually moves like a proto-music video, mirroring the music and maintaining interest every single second -- no, every single frame.

This sequence was "visualized" (that's the closing credit) by Reza Badiyi, who would become a busy director working on everything from Mission: Impossible to The Rockford Files to Police Squad! to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Sliders.

He's 80 now, but heck, bring him out of retirement and give him another shot. Anybody who could produce a minute of such brilliance that it's still thrilling 40 years (and 100s of viewings) later deserves the nod.

Now, the compare-and-contrast.

Here's the 2010 H50's early pilot credits sequence:


Here's the re-recording session for the more robust audio:


And here is Badiyi's 1968 masterpiece:




Tom said:

Any chance all of this attention to a show's theme music might mean more series will start to use theme music again?

An aside: the TVWW jukebox has audio of a few memorable theme songs. Perhaps you can poll readers on their favorite theme song and/or whether they would like series to add theme songs again.

Stewart said:

Reza Badiyi also did the iconic title sequence for The Mary Tyler Moore Show. It was he who came up with the idea of having Mary throw her hat in the air. When James L. Brooks saw the shot, he said "What the hell is that?"

[Diane here: I did not know that. Thanks, Stewart!]

Angela said:

That was funtastic to watch/listen to, even though I don't remember much of the Hawaii-Five-0 show and only a shot or 2 of the credit sequence. (Where the hell was I?)

That first take was laughably bad. I thought the second was really great. But then I heard the 3rd and original version and it's great. Now I see what all the fuss is about.

Mac said:

A fun moment that almost turned sour at my workplace. The overhead music occasionally plays the Ventures' hit version of 5-0 and someone got on the intercom and simply said, "Book'em, Dano!" The sad part is that the company is so sensitive that someone misusing the intercom for mischief may delay a possible emergency call. I'm not questioning the potential problem,but the guy almost lost his job for a few seconds that relieved some tension during a busy day.

BTW, is there a listing anywhere of musicians who were on both the original and the new theme? As a music geek, I follow certain studio guys. E.g.- Alto sax icon Bud Shank possibly was on the original - he was on tons of West Coast studio sounds - he passed away last year, but tenor Plas Johnson - the Pink Panther sax - might have been there, though he turns 80 next year.

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