The unbendable cop

I only found out last month that Jack Lord, the saturnine star of Hawaii-Five-0, passed away in 1998. I suppose it’s too late send flowers and a condolence card. Who could ever forget that moment in the opening credits when the camera zooms in on the resolute face of Steve McGarrett, standing tall on the uppermost balcony of the Ilikai Hotel? It was a sight to give any watching crooks the willies – and possibly a touch of vertigo as well.

Those dynamic opening shots – the big wave, the high-speed zoom, the wiggling hips – were perfectly synchronised to perhaps the most thrilling
theme music in television history. Quite rightly, the tune was reprised in the closing sequence featuring burly Polynesian oarsmen heaving away in their canoe. When tourists ask me what to do if a crocodile approaches their rowboat, I tell them to paddle like the blazes while dah-dahing the Hawaii-Five-0 theme. It never fails to add a couple of knots to your speed, which can make the difference between a lightning flight and a frightening bite. The Eton Boating Song is a nursery rhyme for lethargic sea slugs by comparison.

The show itself was good clean entertainment. Everyone has their own favourite episode – I’ll never forget the one in which the ‘Five-0’ team snare an obnoxious neo-Nazi plotter. When the would-be Reichsprotektor of Honolulu is finally spreadeagled, McGarrett solemnly declares:

“Leave him to me Danno, I’ll read him his rights myself.”

They don’t write lines like that anymore. Nabbing the bad guy was never enough for McGarrett – he always had to make an apt final remark to reinforce the moral of the story. “How many rights would a suspect have under a Nazi regime?” is the entirely valid point he was making. I bet any watching neo-Nazis must have felt like utter chumps.

The secret of McGarrett’s success was his total dedication to the cause of law-enforcement. Leading the ascetic life of the brahmacharya, all his virile energy went into ridding Hawaii of the mobsters and villains who infested her beaches and boulevards like multiplying head-lice. There was an episode in which McGarrett did have a love affair (with a woman), but this was obviously a clumsy attempt to prove he wasn’t gay. The stupid producers didn’t realise that: (a) no genuine fans of the show gave a hoot that McGarrett was celibate and (b) it is literally impossible to prove that anyone is not gay. Forcing him to kiss a woman simply undermined his dignity while making everyone wonder if he’d rather be kissing Danno.

Although McGarrett was undoubtedly the alpha male of Five-0, I personally identified with Chin Ho, whose thickset physique was closest to that of a gorilla. You could always rely on Chin to do the sensible thing, unlike pretty-boy Danno who was constantly getting into trouble. When I was a young circus ape, I used to take a starting pistol in both hands and aim it at the nearest mirror, shouting “CHIN! FIVE-0!”. Believe me, I was such a fearsome sight that I scared myself.

The deeper message of Hawaii-Five-0 is that even the most affluent and idyllic of human commonwealths will have its fair share of malefactors who prey on the innocent. Paradise on Earth is not for homo sapiens, hence the need for incorruptible lawmen who devote their lives to putting the rogues behind bars. Sneer not at Steve McGarrett, O featherbrained human sheep! He gave up sex that you might live.
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