The new Hawaii Five-O;the same old Detroit 187.

The new Hawaii Five-O;the same old Detroit 187.

The new Hawaii Five-O;the same old Detroit 187.

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Sept. 22 2010 6:25 PM

The New New Cops

Athletic gunfights in the sun on Hawaii Five-O.

Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, and Alex O'Loughlin in Hawaii Five-O. Click image to expand.
Scott Caan, Daniel Dae Kim, and Alex O'Loughlin in Hawaii Five-O

"What kinda cops are you?" a reptilian villain asks his interrogators on the remake of Hawaii Five-O (CBS, Mondays at 10 p.m. ET). The detainee is stunned to hear the police playing so tough—threatening to deport his family to Rwanda and sketching an image of his son lumbering under the weight of a child soldier's assault rifle. He's discombobulated by their hardball. It's also likely that, having just been whacked across the temple with his own ashtray, he is too disoriented to recall the plot of 24.

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate’s writer at large and a contributing writer at the New York Times Magazine.

What kind of cops are the new Steve McGarrett, the new Danny "Danno" Williams, the new Chin Ho Kelly? "The new kind," McGarrett answers triumphantly, a claim that will suffice despite its being as ancient as his code of honor. There's a storm always brewing behind the detective's eyes, where a cold front of cynicism circles a feverish passion for justice. The local forecast calls for a tropical storm of cinematic car chases, athletic gunfights, and thrilling violations of due process.

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The role of McGarrett, once inhabited by granite-voiced, petroleum-haired Jack Lord, falls to Alex O'Loughlin. CBS has been attempting to harness O'Loughlin's chiseled sensitivity for some time now, casting him as a vampire P.I. on the ill-fated Moonlight and a crinkling M.D. on the worse-fated Three Rivers. Here, he and his hawklike profile get their best shot yet at superstardom. This kind of dreamboat cruises terrifically when under the power of an action-show motor, and this kind of action show can get halfway to Hitsville simply on the strength of its theme, which surges across the mind as relentlessly as the sun-spangled surf.

O'Loughlin's McGarrett enters the series as a Navy SEAL escorting an arms dealer out of South Korea. The baddie's brother takes McGarrett's father hostage back in the Aloha State, and both detainees meet ugly ends. Returning home for the funeral, the hero takes a meeting with the governor at Pearl Harbor, where he agrees to head up an extra-special task force dedicated to avenging his father's death, ridding the world of terrorism, keeping local morgues stocked with uncooperative felons, and gratifying the audience's desire for loud direct action sequences choreographed with a refreshing unfussiness.

His team includes wrongly disgraced ex-cop Chin Ho (Daniel Dae Kim), Chin Ho's nubile police-cadet cousin (Grace Park), and blustery Danno (Scott Caan), a haole new to Honolulu from New Jersey. Danno doesn't much care for Hawaii; he's only there to enjoy partial custody of his daughter, and his distaste for protocol shows in the crucial detail of his always wearing 36 more hours of stubble than McGarrett does. Neither of these two play by the book, but they're on the same page of the book they're not playing by. We watch their bro-love blossom as they trade all the usual courtship gestures—emasculating wisecracks, roundhouse rights, bottles of well-deserved beer clinked in Dolby at sunset.

Jon Michael Hill and Michael Imperioli in Detroit 187. Click image to expand.
Jon Michael Hill and Michael Imperioli in Detroit 187

Meanwhile, 4,500 miles to the northeast, it seems that people continue to live in Detroit and, living there, continue to die, at which point they become burdens welcomed dolefully onto the shoulders of Detective Louis Finch on Detroit 187 (ABC, Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET). Louis has been on the homicide squad for 10 years. To underscore his veteran's weariness, the show's producers have his new partner toss his cookies upon witnessing his first crime scene and further arrange it so that the spectacle of his vomit is more graphic than that of the victim's spilled blood. It's nice to see Michael Imperioli, formerly The Sopranos' volcanic Christopher Moltisanti, resist typecasting by playing a character as constrained as this one—moderately neurotic, reliably cryptic, impenetrably stoic, eager to crack a suspect by staring him down for hours. "Nobody understands the guy, but he gets results," says a cautious admirer. What kind of cop is he? The old kind, floating in the middle of the old kind of cop show, with its dogged legwork and trembling rookies and closure achieved by 11.

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