Created by Leonard Freeman -

Created by Leonard Freeman


I’ve only seen the pilot of the new Hawaii 5-0 (or CSI Hawaii as everyone has been calling it for some time now) so I can’t presume to guess how strong or weak the show will wind up being. But I can say two good things about the main title. One, they actually listened to complaints about the arrangement of the theme song in the first version of the title, and created a new, brass-heavy arrangement that is appropriate for the music. And the other thing that’s nice is that the creator of the original series, the late Leonard Freeman, is prominently credited in the opening, just as prominently as the developers of the new version. That might be done out of respect, and it might be done out of contractual requirements, but it’s still a good thing either way.

The show might still wind up being hard to watch after the theme song ends, but that’s true of many episodes of the original, too. It’s at least good that they got the theme song right.

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I do feel like this is one of those themes that really needs more than 30 seconds to make its full effect. Some don’t need more than that, but the original theme gets a lot of its impact from its structure: A-B-A-C followed by the coda. To get it down to 30 seconds, you have to chop out the A and C sections and go directly to the coda, which lessens the power of the famous tune because we never get to hear it come back (with a different arrangement). But that’s just the way things are.

By the way, that complaint isn’t limited to today’s shows: Bonanza‘s theme song is justly famous but I thought the main title version on the show was way too short — again, usually only about 30 seconds — to really sell the tune the way it deserved to be sold, and had to monkey around with the song’s structure to fit it into that space.

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Created by Leonard Freeman

  1. Oh yeah, much better. Has to be one of the best theme songs ever, and maybe even best songs in pop culture period. Let it be what it is.

    • I just wanted to add, I think it was amazing the kind of creativity Hollywood had in times past. For the most part, I think it's gone.

      • What a ridiculous statement…

        • Let's see. In a post where you're apparently defending Hollywood's creativity, you display none yourself. Good job.

          • To be fair, your comment wasn't the most nuanced exploration of the creative ebbs and flows of the industry I've encountered! :)

          • Thank you. It wasn't meant to be nuanced.

          • Then don't assume someone's reply to your statement has to be some kind of creative repartee or some nuanced rebuttal.

          • Maybe it's just me, but I'd expect a wee bit more creativity from someone defending the industry's creativity than: "What a ridiculous statement… ". In fact, a pulse would even do.

      • Nah. And I say that as a proud pop-culture reactionary in many respects. But I think things get better and worse, rise and fall. Some things are better now than they used to be, others are worse; and I think that's true at any given moment — in the realm of creativity, I don't think there's ever absolute regression or absolute progress.

        Or as the husband sings in Company:

        "Good things get better,
        Bad get worse.
        Wait —
        I think I meant that in reverse."

        • Then why is Hollywood more adept at remaking shows like Hawaii 5-0 than creating something new with the impact that Hawaii 5-0 and/or its theme song once had? Remakes of the A-Team, Magnum, Brady Bunch, and on and on it goes. The people in the business seem more concerned with Sarah Palin than with producing new substantive entertainment. At least from my perspective.

          • Well, it's part of what I mean about some things getting better and others worse: movies, particularly big-budget movies, are going through a rough patch at the moment creatively. But TV drama has been going through a good patch in the last decade, particularly when it comes to serialized drama (which is a different form from the Hawaii 5-0 mystery form, which I think arguably isn't quite at its best these days).

            Similarly when I was watching a lot of prime-time TV in the '90s, TV comedy was going through a very strong phase and TV drama had retreated somewhat from the ambitious TV dramas of the late '80s — but then comedy started to go through a tough period and drama came back very strong. And so on. I don't think anything is ever the best all at once.

            It's true that theme songs aren't one of the things this era does best, partly due to short running times and partly due to the preference of some shows for buying pre-existing songs. But even that is cyclical in its own way. The networks were moving toward eliminating theme songs in the early '90s and then Friends came along and showed that a theme song could still be iconic. These things come and go.

          • What TV drama would you point to specifically as reflecting current Hollywood excellence? As far as I can see, most of it is about sex and crime.

          • I'd point to many of the usual suspects — shows like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, some of the just-off-the-air shows like Sopranos and Wire and The Shield and so on. Not that every show has to be liked or else, but the better dramas of the '00s represent a type of show that really didn't exist for much of U.S./English Canadian TV history apart from soaps: the open-ended, novelistic, long-form show where each episode is part of a big season-long story. I wouldn't want all shows to be that way, but it's a type of show that was terrific at its best and hit its peak in the '00s.

            Hasn't most Hollywood entertainment always been about sex and crime? There are different standards for how much sex and violence you can show, but there's a reason the term "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" is so durable.

          • And, if I'm not mistaken, almost all the shows you cited are cable, right? I know it's a far more complex media market, but those shows are not big network hits that define a TV era. What has defined this TV era? Reality TV, which requires very little investment in creativity or dollars. The biggest network hit? LOST, which has a reality TV premise.

            The sex? More gratuitous than ever. I watched the first episode of Stargate Universe yesterday, and one scene has a woman literally wrapping her legs around a heaving man in a closet somewhere.

            Crime? Yup, always there. But, today, so much of it is based on two franchises: Law and Order, and CSI. As you mentioned, even Hawaii 5-0 is referred to as CSI Hawaii.

            Twenty years ago, would you have had Canadian TV premiering on American networks? As much as shows like Flashpoint are great achievement this side of the border, no way it happens in an era of Kojak or Hill Street Blues.