A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show's clear message is that crime doesn’t pay, and justice prevails. The dogged and determined members of the Hawaii Five-O unit always manage to crack even the toughest cases and book the bad guys.
Positive Role Models
Steve McGarrett sometimes comes off as a bit stiff, focused solely on catching the bad guys. But he’s willing to bend a few rules, especially if bureaucratic red tape gets in the way of solving a crime. And while he’s all law and order, he also displays an easy acceptance of Hawaii’s multiracial culture (and even the hippies who were becoming a bigger element of the island state's casual lifestyle). His attitude was somewhat unusual for the period, especially in the show’s early seasons, when racism was more common and the culture clash was in full swing.
Violence & Scariness
Lots of action, including fistfights and shootouts. Some people get shot, but the wounds don’t look realistic.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Plenty of women wearing bikinis on the beach, and some flirting. Steve McGarrett sometimes dates, but in the end, he's married to his job.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Several characters smoke (accurate for the era), and people sometimes drink socially. Occasional references to hippie culture and drugs.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this classic crime series about a team of detectives in Hawaii was considered groundbreaking when it hit the screen in 1968 but seems dated now. Filmed on location, the show made a point to include a multiracial cast and often featured references to Asian cultures and the politics of the Pacific Rim. These efforts were progressive then, but the small glimpses of Asia are no longer exotic; instead, they seem somewhat clichéd and stereotypical. Still, overall there aren't too many moments that are inappropriate for kids. There are a fair number of fights, and main character Steve McGarrett sometimes has romantic encounters, but all of these scenes seem quite tame by today's standards. One thing you'll see more of is smoking, which is accurate for the era.
Is It Any Good?
But on another level, the series has become a cultural touchstone. When it hit the air in 1968, Hawaii Five-O offered a look at what was then a far off and exotic place. Filmed on location in Hawaii, the show cast Hawaiian and Asian actors in many key supporting roles and sprinkled its scripts with Hawaiian words and plenty of references to the Far East. Running for 12 seasons, it made the islands seem familiar even to people who had never left the mainland. And don't forget about the instantly recognizable theme song (second only, perhaps, to Mission: Impossible for TV's most distinctive tune).
Sadly, the series doesn't pass the test of time. Its view of Hawaii in the late 1960s and 1970s is like a fun look into a time capsule, but the plots drag it down. McGarrett's foes include Chinese spies, cold-blooded serial killers, gold smugglers, turncoat gangsters, and other far-fetched villains. The stories might have made for entertaining TV when they originally aired, but today they seem hokey and unbelievable. And the brief glimpses of Asian and Hawaiian culture, so progressive then, seem slightly patronizing and stereotypical today.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.