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Hawaii Five-O - The Complete Series Review

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Surf's Up!
by Gord Lacey (All reviews)

    Ride the wave of excitement as this epic 73-disc set throws you into all twelve seasons of this landmark police procedural action-drama. Hawaii Five-O was a groundbreaking series, the first of its kind to be filmed on location in Hawaii. The show follows former U.S. Naval Officer Steve McGarrett (Jack Lord), now acting head of an elite state police unit, and his young officer, Danny "Danno" Williams (James MacArthur). For 12 seasons, McGarrett and his team hound international secret agents, criminals, and organized crime syndicates plaguing the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii Five-O: The Complete Series includes every episode from 1968-1980, plus a bonus disc of exclusive special features.
Hawaii Five-O ran for 12 seasons, and 284 episodes, from 1968 until 1980 (wow, it spanned 3 decades), and now you can own almost every episode produced in this massive 73-disc set thanks to CBS Home Entertainment. CBS started releasing the show on DVD in 2007, and put out 2 or 3 seasons a year until they went to one a year for the 11th and 12th seasons. The set weren't without some controversy though, as the season 2 set was missing an episode, and fans complained that the 10th season was poor quality. Thankfully this set fixes one of those issues.

The Packaging
This is a hefty set, weighing over 4 lbs, so the packaging has to be sturdy enough to keep everything together. I (mostly) like what CBS has put together here; a wide case (about 1 DVD case high, and just over 2 cases wide) with a slipcover on it. The slip cover has the rolling wave (opaque) with a transparent part on the right that shows the crashing spray. Removing that reveals McGarrett and Williams on the actual DVD case. When you open up that firm cardboard case you'll see the first book containing seasons 1-6, with the second one below it. A ribbon makes removing the two books easy, you just have to remember to put the ribbon back properly or you'll have troubles the next time you try to take one out.

The pages of the books are thick cardboard, and each one holds two discs, along with a list of the episodes found on them, and their airdates. This type of packaging has become fairly standard for a complete series set because it allows for a tasteful presentation, along with space for the episodes and photos from the show. I like the looks of this packaging, but my issue still lies with the sliding of the discs in and out of a cardboard pocket. I didn't have any problems removing the discs, or getting them back in, I'm just worried that a tiny speck of dust in there will cause the discs to scratch. With that said, only one of my 73 discs had any kind of scratch on it, and the disc played fine. Still, we all know how easily it is to scratch a DVD, and this type of packaging seems to encourage it.

The Material
You'll find 283 of the 284 episodes on this set, the one missing episode being the 16th episode from season 2, "Bored, She Hung Herself." The episode featured someone performing a yoga technique where a character hangs himself from a beam without dying. A few days after the episode aired someone tried to duplicate the stunt and died. It was decided that the episode would never be shown again, and has never aired in syndication, or included on the season 2 DVD set. While we can fault CBS for not putting it on the DVD set (and it's something that they could trump as a selling feature), they're respecting the wishes of the producers by not leaving it off. The collector in me would love to see the episode in the set, but I understand why they left it off. I should also commend CBS from making it very clear that the episode isn't included in the set. This is the line you'll find on the back of the box, and it's in the same size font as the main description: "Due to viewer reaction following the original telecast of the episode 'Bored, She Hung herself' (Season 2, episode 16), that episode has not been re-broadcast or released in any manner since its original airing and is not included in this collection." It's hard to miss that disclaimer.

Thankfully the set fixes a problem that occurred with the release of the 10th season on DVD. It's my understanding (after talking to a number of fans, and doing a bit of research), that seasons 1-9 featured new transfers that had been completed recently, and used fully restored material. When they hit season 10 the material hadn't been restored yet, so remastered episodes were used instead. That really upset the fans, as I received a ton of emails about it, and a look at reviews on feature lots of 1-star reviews for the set. Now that the restored episodes are available to be used, CBS has included them in the set, and yes, they look great. To be honest, the season 10 episodes I quickly checked out on the original set looked quite good, just not as good as the previous seasons, but the new restored episodes do look better, and match the quality of the other seasons.

You'll also find a bonus disc, which contains the following material:

Hawaii Now: "Hawaii Five-O" Vintage Documentary (30:03)
The quality of this may be pretty bad, but the content is pretty great. A documentary from the mid-70s about the series.

Hawaii Five-O Syndication Sales Reel (7:29)
Used to sell the show into syndication, this reel shows some of the highlights of the series, and why it should be picked up.

Jack Lord on "The Mike Douglas Show" (3:04)
A short clip from "The Mike Douglas Show" featuring Jack Lord.

Clip from "In the Winners' Circle" 1968 CBS Fall Preview Show (5:31)
This was likely one of the very first looks at the show most people would have gotten.

"Inside Edition" Segment (2:46)
A story about Jack Lord, and his health before he passed away.

"Entertainment Tonight" Segments (4:15)
A few stories about the show from "Entertainment Tonight."

To Upgrade, or Not to Upgrade?
CBS has put together a nice set, but it's one that probably won't appeal to people that already own all the seasons. First off, buying the seasons individually right now would cost roughly $180, so selling used copies to help fund the purchase of the complete series is going to get you about half that, if you're lucky. So, assuming you have $90 from selling your previous sets, you're still going to pay about $155 to make up the $245 price tag of the complete series set. For that money you're getting a restored season 10, and a bonus disc with less than an hour of material (53:08, to be exact). That's a lot of money for an hour of bonus material, a restored season 10, and a nice box that holds all the discs (and may scratch them sometime in the future).

I think this is a great gift for the Hawaii Five-O fan that doesn't own any of the previous seasons. It's a nice set, and the best presentation of the episodes you'll find, but it's a very hard sell for someone who already owns the show on DVD.

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