Honolulu Lite

Charles Memminger

Sunday, September 5, 2004

‘Hawaii’ and ‘Bounty Hunter’
are no Dog-and-pony shows

Ever since the show "Hawaiian Eye" first aired nearly 40 years ago, an army of TV cops, gumshoes, private dicks and various busy-body layabouts in aloha shirts have been chasing criminals around the islands and exposing the so-called "dark underbelly of paradise." It's a fairly compelling, if obvious, story line: Behind the beautiful sunsets, swaying palms and expensive drinks with paper umbrellas in them lies a sinister world of organized crime, murder, mayhem and expensive drinks with paper umbrellas in them.

I keep waiting for a TV producer to launch a counter-intuitive show like "New Jersey." (New Jersey: It's not all Mafia-controlled landfills, corrupt politics and underworld whackings. Follow our crack team of scantily clad nuns and Boy Scouts as they root out the beauty, love and cuddly puppies lurking beneath New Jersey's notoriously depraved outer skin.)

Two crime-related TV shows originating from Hawaii debuted last week: The slick, fast cop drama "Hawaii" and the strangely compelling reality show "Dog the Bounty Hunter," featuring bail bondsman and bounty hunter Duane "Dog" Chapman and his family.

Both shows can trace their genetic lineage back to "Hawaiian Eye," which not only did the crime-in-paradise thing first, but had the guts to name one of its characters Cricket (the sexy hotel photog played by Connie Stevens).

The first episode of "Hawaii" was fast-paced to extreme, relatively free of Crickets and engaging. I try to never judge a show by its pilot because it's hard to introduce all the characters and their story lines in the one hour, especially when there are seven main characters and several local supporting actors, like comedian Andy Bumatai.

Unfortunately, it seemed like every time Andy, playing a detective, opened his mouth, the network ran a "crawl" under the scene announcing that rape charges had been dropped against Kobe Bryant. How unlucky was that? Especially since the news was several hours old by the time the show aired in Hawaii.

"HAWAII" looks like a good show. It even got the clichˇ story of the haole hero knocking off the psychotic murdering Hawaiian out of the way early. It would be an insult to "Hawaii" to say it is better than the unwatchable "North Shore." The Republican National Convention warm-up speeches were better than "North Shore."

(That might be jealousy talking. I co-wrote a "hotel drama" pilot like "North Shore," only entertaining, that never got picked up. I should also disclose that the manager who got me hired as a staff writer on "Baywatch Hawaii's" last season has pitched my name to "Hawaii" producers. I'm not sure what I could bring to "Hawaii" other than that, now that you've got the "psycho Hawaiian" story out of your system, let the Hawaiians be heroes for a change.)

The only thing to say about "Dog the Bounty Hunter" is that it will be a huge hit. The blond-maned Dog is a made-for-TV archetype who lives the part. I was surprised by how much heart is displayed on the series. Dog not only catches the bad guys, he gives them a cigarette and a few bucks before they are sent back into the joint. His quarry ends up respecting him in the end. If Dog's bail bond partner and companion Beth would change her name to Cricket, the show would be perfect.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Charles Memminger, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail cmemminger@starbulletin.com



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