Sunday, March 3, 2013

Favorites :: Ensemble Casts :: ALOHA! Where the Soft Island Breeze Brings Strange Melodies of Mystery!

Douglas Mossman

 Mel Prestidge

The Rotating Sign

The Shell Bar

Andre Phillipe

The Arthur Lyman Combo

The Outdoor Office

The rotating pool of secretaries
(Because you'd never know who might show up.)

Poncie Ponce

Grant Williams

Connie Stevens

Robert Conrad

Anthony Eisley

And together, they made a show called...

In a series of wonderful discoveries while beta-testing the Warner Archive streaming site one of the most pleasant surprises was finding several seasons of Hawaiian Eye tucked away in the TV section. Honestly, aside from hearing Tom Servo belt out the theme song a couple of times on Mystery Science Theater, I had never seen -- hell, heard of this show before, but after giving a couple of episodes a spin I found myself both hopelessly and helplessly addicted.

(Video courtesy of Dentu-Cream and jaava44.)

For those of you also unfamiliar with the show, the series can basically be summed up as the point on the graph where Hawaii 5-0 and Magnum P.I. meet -- or more appropriately, the series that planted the seed for those later programs' germination. 

Producer William T. Orr basically put ABC on the map back in the 1950's with a series of westerns (Maverick, Lawman) and the detective series, 77 Sunset Strip, which Orr quickly spun-off into three more shows in the same vein, Bourbon Street Beat, Surfside 6 and Hawaiian Eye, with each set in a different exotic locale (Hollywood, New Orleans, Miami, Hawaii -- but the majority of every one of them shot on the Warner lot), and in an ingenious twist, each existing in the same TV universe, leading to several cameos and cross-pollination of plots and characters. 

Hawaiian Eye (-- a Polynesian spin on private eye, dig? --) centered around a trio of hard-drinking, lady-killing, thin tie-wearing, and two-fisted do-gooders -- Tracy Steel (Eisley), Tom Lopaka (Conrad) and Greg MacKenzie (Williams) -- who own and operated a private investigation and security firm based out of a resort hotel, where they also served as the house dicks for the free room and board, with the comedy relief ably aided and abetted by the hotel's lounge singer, Cricket Blake (Stevens -- who always wore the ginchiest damned hats), and Kim (Ponce), a local cab driver who seemingly knows everybody and everything on the islands. (Apparently a fourth partner, Troy Donahue, migrated over from Surfside 6 in the last season but I never made it that far before the beta-test expired.) 

Now, each episode usually only focused on just one of the detectives getting in and out of trouble -- though I found the rare episodes where all hands were called for -- mostly to get gal-pal Cricket out of danger or off the hook -- to be my favorites. (I'm assuming this formula allowed for multiple script-shooting on a daily basis to get the 30-odd episodes needed for each season. Heh. Remember when TV shows had more than 12 episodes a season?) And speaking of the highly adorable Cricket, each and every episode also allowed a brief and welcomed hiatus from the action for a musical interlude:


Ah, Cricket, my Cricket. You are the Most-Ut! *sigh*
(Video courtesy of therealexx.)

Anyways ... Of all those spin-offs, Hawaiian Eye had the most staying power, lasting four seasons. And the majority of the credit for that, I think, goes to the cast (-- how Eisley went from this to The Navy vs. the Night Monsters, The Mighty Gorga and Monstroid baffles me to no end), who expanded these caricatures into characters, and who, together, also brings a sense of family endearment to this dangerous enterprise, allowing the audience to invest themselves in the outcome that much more. And in this day an age of crime-fighting TV shows where the audience is drowning in forensic goobledy-gook and reveling in the sadism of the villains -- no matter how much you white-wash it by focusing on the heroes trying to stop them (c'mon, admit it, you're watching for the former not the later) -- I find these throwbacks and happy-endings to be a welcome respite. Highly formulaic? Sure. But also highly entertaining and highly recommended. 

Hawaiian Eye (1959-1963 / 134 Episodes) Warner Bros. Television :: American Broadcasting Company (ABC) / EP: William T. Orr / AP: Stanley Niss, Howie Horwitz, Charles Hoffman / S: Anthony Eisley, Robert Conrad, Connie Stevens, Grant Williams, Poncie Ponce

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