I am going to say flat out and first off that Bill West beat me to it. He has a book blog, East of the Sun, West of the Moon. In addition to being my cousin through my Packard lineage, Bill is a bookseller. Me, I'm a reader and a writer, so my perspective will be different. However, I had to tip my hat to Bill and confess to my imitation, which I do hope will be sincerely flattering to him.
For this first entry, I am going to ricochet off of books, or rather, one specific book and onto television, from my own Booking Hawaii Five-0: An Episode Guide and Critical History of the 1968-1980 Television Detective Series to the reworking of that series for the 21st Century, which debuted Monday night. As indicated by the book's title, the original series went off the air in 1980. Nobody wrote anything about it, even though at the time it was the longest-running cop show in television history (later beat out by the first Law and Order series). Since nobody else wrote a book about it, and since I was, I confess, very much a fan of the original Five-0, I wrote the book.
After submitting the book to several publishers, and receiving an equal number of rejections, I despaired of it ever being published. However, I learned that editors and publishers keep files, and revisit them from time to time. I had submitted it to McFarland & Company of Jefferson, North Carolina, in its turn among the publishers I pitched the book to. What I submitted was a proposal, a standard method in non-fiction writing, in which you outline the proposed topic and content of the book, and provide two or three sample chapters.
A year after I had originally sent the proposal to McFarland, they wrote me asking to see more. I sent them more. They sent me a contract. McFarland seems to have been a good choice. They are a "traditional" publisher, which means they pay me, not the other way around (in the future, I'll discuss this phenomenon more in depth). McFarland keeps books in print longer than the large publishing houses. Booking Hawaii Five-0 has been in print since 1997. For the first ten years, it was in hardback. Then, in 2007, it came out in paperback, and is still selling a few hundred copies a year.
So I wrote the book on the series, and now the series has been reborn. I was skeptical and a bit nervous about watching the premiere episode of the new series, having heard bits and pieces about it for the past few months. For one thing, they were using the same character names, but with newly-engineered characters who would not jibe with the old, rather like what was done in the latest Star Trek movie, where we go back in time, relative to the events of the original series, and see Kirk, Spock, McCoy and all the rest knowing each other from Starfleet Academy on, which definitely was not consonant with what had gone before.
Hawaii Five-0, the new series, is likewise dissonant with its predecessor, which I suppose we must now saddle with the designation TOS (The Original Series) as has been done with Star Trek (1966-1969). The "new" Steve McGarrett isn't from the mainland (Jack Lord had a pronounced New York accent), he's from Hawaii. In the original series, it was Dan Williams who was from Hawaii; now he's from New Jersey! Chin Ho Kelly is younger, more casual, and possibly darker of personality than the original. And Kono Kalakaua has gone from being a burly Hawaiian man the size of an NFL linebacker to being a svelte young girl! That was the most dissonant note of all!
There were a couple sops to us old-line fans. When Steve McGarrett goes into his murdered father's garage, he uncovers a 1960s black Mercury, which is what the original Steve McGarrett drove for the entire 12 years of the series. And the governor of Hawaii -- a woman this time -- is named Jameson, a salute to the old series' governor Paul Jameson, played by Richard Denning.
There are some similarities, as well. Both incarnations of McGarrett were Naval Academy graduates. The original Steve was a black-shoe (surface sailor) who also was in Naval Intelligence, and we get the hint that, though head of the state police agency in Hawaii, he was still an intelligence operative as well. The new McGarrett is involved in counter-terrorist activities, and is a SEAL. That latter fact tells us right away that he's a lot crazier than the original McGarrett ever thought of being! Both McGarretts suffered their fathers being murdered. The original Steve's father was run down by criminals escaping their crime when Steve was still a boy; the latest one's dad is murdered by terrorists in this opening episode, as Steve listens helplessly on the phone.
All in all, I feel about the new Five-0 series the way I feel about the latest Star Trek movie. It is good -- well-written, well-directed, a good story, very entertaining. But it just isn't "real" to me, since I knew the original Five-0 as only a fan can.