Hawaii Five-O: 60s TV Sensation and Cultural Icon with Jack Lord as Steve McGarrett

“Hawaii Five-O,” a television series that debuted in the late 1960s, became a cultural phenomenon and had a lasting impact on the world of television. Created by Leonard Freeman, the show centred around an elite state police unit tasked with solving crimes in Hawaii. 

Jack Lord: The Iconic Steve McGarrett in Hawaii-Five-0
Jack Lord: The Iconic Steve McGarrett in Hawaii-Five-0

The series not only captivated audiences with its thrilling storylines and picturesque Hawaiian backdrop but also solidified the career of its lead actor, Jack Lord, who became an iconic figure through his portrayal of Steve McGarrett.

The Popularity of “Hawaii Five-O”

When “Hawaii Five-O” premiered on CBS on September 20, 1968, it brought something new and exotic to American television. The show offered a unique blend of police procedural drama set against the lush, scenic beauty of Hawaii, which was still relatively new to the American imagination, having only become a state in 1959. This setting, combined with engaging storylines, made the show stand out.

“Hawaii Five-O” quickly gained a loyal following. Its distinctive theme song, composed by Morton Stevens, became instantly recognizable and is still celebrated today. The show’s catchphrase, “Book ’em, Danno,” delivered by Jack Lord’s character, Steve McGarrett, entered the lexicon and remains a part of popular culture.

One of the reasons for the show’s success was its innovative approach to the crime drama genre. While many police shows of the time were set in urban environments, “Hawaii Five-O” used its island setting to create a sense of adventure and allure. The plots often involved international intrigue, espionage, and complex criminal enterprises, which kept viewers hooked.

Jack Lord: The Iconic Steve McGarrett

Jack Lord, born John Joseph Patrick Ryan, was the face of “Hawaii Five-O” and played the role of Steve McGarrett with a commanding presence that left an indelible mark on television history. Before his breakout role on “Hawaii Five-O,” Lord had worked in theatre, film, and television, but it was his portrayal of McGarrett that made him a household name.

Lord’s performance as the no-nonsense, tough-as-nails head of the Five-O unit resonated with audiences. His character’s dedication to justice and his unwavering resolve made McGarrett a symbol of law and order. Lord’s distinctive style, including his trademark hair and serious demeanour, became iconic.

Lord was not just an actor but also played a significant role behind the scenes. He was known for his meticulous attention to detail and high standards, which contributed to the show’s quality and longevity. His involvement in the production process helped ensure that “Hawaii Five-O” maintained its consistency and appeal over its 12-season run.

Worldwide Impact

The impact of “Hawaii Five-O” extended far beyond the shores of Hawaii and the United States. The show was syndicated in over 80 countries, introducing international audiences to the landscapes and culture of Hawaii. It played a role in shaping perceptions of Hawaii as a paradise, contributing to a tourism boom that benefited the state’s economy.

In many countries, “Hawaii Five-O” was among the first American television shows to be broadcast, serving as an introduction to American culture and entertainment. Its global reach helped establish the American police procedural as a popular genre worldwide. The success of “Hawaii Five-O” paved the way for other international crime dramas, influencing how these shows were produced and received.

The series’ format and style also inspired future generations of television creators. The idea of a specialised law enforcement unit dealing with high-stakes cases in an exotic location became a template for many shows that followed. The show’s impact can be seen in series like “Magnum, P.I.,” which also highlighted Hawaii’s beauty, and “CSI: Miami,” which adopted a similar formula in a different locale.

Legacy in the memories of Capitol.fm readers

“Hawaii Five-O” left a lasting legacy that continues to be felt today. The show’s influence was evident in the 2010 reboot, “Hawaii Five-0,” which paid homage to the original while introducing a new generation of viewers to the adventures of the Five-0 task force. The reboot enjoyed a successful run for ten seasons, underscoring the enduring appeal of the concept and characters.

Jack Lord’s portrayal of Steve McGarrett remains a benchmark for the role of the tough, dedicated law enforcement officer. His influence can be seen in countless characters across the crime drama genre. Lord’s dedication to his craft and his iconic status have ensured that he is remembered as one of television’s greats.

In conclusion, “Hawaii Five-O” and Jack Lord’s portrayal of Steve McGarrett had a profound impact on television and popular culture. The show’s unique blend of crime drama and exotic setting captivated audiences worldwide, while Lord’s performance left an indelible mark on the genre. Decades after its original run, “Hawaii Five-O” continues to be celebrated for its innovation, its contributions to the portrayal of law enforcement on television, and its role in showcasing the beauty and culture of Hawaii to a global audience.