Hawaii today is a hotbed for film production. Producers have discovered the islands’ amazing beauty, and they’ve come to realize that the metropolitan areas – especially Honolulu – serve well for street scenes and interiors.
It wasn’t always that way. Back in the late 1950s and early 60s, a detective show was running on CBS that became extremely popular. “Surfside Six” was set in Miami Beach and featured good-looking private detectives surrounded by pretty girls and crimes that baffled or were under the radar of the police.
When “Surfside Six” had run its course, CBS management wanted to continue the concept of pretty people solving crimes in a tropical location. “Hawaiian Eye” was born to replace “Surfside.” Although it was set in Hawaii, it was shot in Hollywood, with only some background scenes reflecting the islands.
By 1968, “Eye,” too, had run its course, but the CBS bigwigs were determined to follow the pretty people-pretty-place formula. “Hawaii 5-0” filled the bill and the network took a giant step. This time, with Hawaii again the setting, principle filming was actually done in Hawaii, with most post-production still being done in Hollywood. Supporting facilities were built, equipped and staffed. We locals loved it. We delighted in recognizing locations and other locals who had landed parts in most episodes. We especially enjoyed ridiculing the continuity. A car would take a left in Downtown Honolulu then suddenly be driving along a small street on Oahu’s North Shore.
“5-0” starred Jack Lord as lead detective for a fictional Hawaii state police department. (Hawaii has no state police. The counties provide their own police forces.) The show ran for 12 seasons, from 1968 to 1980. It remains one of the most-watched shows in television history. In fact it still runs in syndication.
In 1980, “Magnum P.I.” appeared, still following the same formula and again set in Hawaii, with Tom Sellick emerging as a sexy star portraying a private eye who lives in a cottage on a large estate. One of the reasons for this series being set in Hawaii was that CBS did not want to close its Hawaii production offices when “5-O” ceased production.
CBS had produced the program from 1980 through 1988, and it’s broadcast in syndication throughout the world and on-demand streaming media via CBS.
Currently running (on ABC) is the popular “Lost,” which is filmed in Hawaii but not set here.
So Hawaii is on the producers’ maps. They recognize that the islands are full of camera-friendly locations and that now there’s a small army of well-trained and experienced film production people to hire. Movies, too, now are filmed in the islands regularly. When you’re on vacation here, you probably will recognize the places where memorable scenes from both popular films and TV series were shot.
Don’t forget your own camera.