Networks turn back the television clock

As 'Hawaii Five-O' returns to the TV, a slew of shows based on old hits are set to follow

Book 'em, Danno! Thirty-five years after it first hit TV screens, Hawaii Five-0 made a high-profile return to US airwaves last week, as one of a slew of new programmes that suggest the nation's ailing networks are suffering from a 1970s flashback.

The cop show still boasts its famous theme tune, and still takes place on beaches inhabited by women in bikinis and muscle-bound surfers. But despite the iffy financial climate, not to mention the troubled state of the increasingly fragmented television industry, it boasts none of the low-budget charm of the original, which starred Jack Lord as detective Steve McGarrett.

Instead, CBS, the network that has relaunched the show, has bet big on its revival, putting an estimated $15m (£9.5m) into a slick 45-minute pilot episode which made use of dozens of helicopters, cargo ships and fast cars, together with expensive pyrotechnics more normally seen in a well-budgeted action movie.

While the old Hawaii Five-O revelled in the seedy underbelly of island counterculture, the new version is altogether glossier, and its drama revolves squarely around chases, shoot-outs and personality clashes between its protagonists, played by Alex O'Loughlin, Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park. It was written and produced by Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, the modish scribes behind the films Mission Impossible: 3, the Transformers series and the last Star Trek movie.

The big question, of course, is will the gamble pay off? Initial evidence is varied: the programme sold to a some lucrative foreign markets (including the UK, where it will be broadcast on Bravo next month) and its debut episode was the most watched network show in the US on Monday night, attracting an estimated 13.8 million viewers. However, critics were measured. The Washington Post, for example, dubbed it "a big bag of dumb fun". Cynics wondered if it will be able to sustain interest, and noted that its viewing figures were down 12 per cent on the show that debuted in the same slot last year.

Compared with other new arrivals on American television, Hawaii Five-0 was nonetheless flying high. In a week that saw almost all of the nation's "big five" networks step back in time, flooding the airwaves with new shows inspired by the hits of yesteryear, an overwhelming majority of the debuting shows were dead on arrival. The most notable flop was Lone Star, an oil industry soap set in Texas, which recalls Dallas and stars Jon Voight. Despite almost universally strong reviews, it opened to public apathy with such a tiny audience that Fox was rumoured to be preparing to axe it after just one episode. In the event, they allowed it to stay on for a second week.

Other familiar faces from previous decades who had a somewhat disappointing return to the US airwaves in new TV shows last week included William Shatner, whose Shit My Dad Says was critically panned, Tom Selleck, the Magnum PI star in Blue Bloods, and Blair Underwood from LA Law in The Event. Dara Delaney also debuted in Body of Proof, a procedural that recalls the 1980s hit Quincy M E.

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