Classic TV Themes: Hawaii Five-O
I grew up during the seventies when network TV shows still put a lot of thought and effort into such things as their theme tune. It was a decade littered with memorable tracks that captured the essence of the shows they came from. Many have now become integral aspects of popular culture, leading to countless internet memes as well as becoming the ringtones of choice for many a fortysomething. However, things are very different now. You can have a staggeringly good theme for your show, but it can't possibly be longer than thirty seconds. And don’t think for a moment that viewers can listen to it again at the end, as it has now become standard practice to compress the credits into a third of the TV screen and preview what's coming next, while some link announcer spouts inanities. Mercifully, cable and streaming companies tend to treat their TV shows with greater respect. The lack of commercial advertising ensures a longer program duration and hence more focus on a theme tune. However, network TV still commands big audiences, yet hasn’t in recent years produced any TV show themes of note.
For me the track that embodies the traditional notion of the TV theme tune and elevates it to an art form, is Morton Steven's Hawaii Five-O theme. I cannot think of a piece of music, born of a TV show that is quite as evocative and inspirational. For years there has not been an original recording available so fans and enthusiasts have had to slum it with indifferent cover versions (which I hate). However, in 2012 the only legitimate soundtrack album was finally re-released on CD. It contains a studio extended version of the main theme along with incidental music from one the episode Operation Smash. It is a crisp and tight arrangement of the theme and superior to all previous version in circulation.
In 2010 the show was rebooted and has proven to be surprisingly popular. It is currently in its 8th season. However, at the time the question on everyone’s lips was would the main theme be retained, or would it be jettisoned for something else? Luckily common sense prevailed so the classic iconic theme and title credits were cleverly recreated. But the process was not exactly problem free. Brian Tyler, a composer with a respectable pedigree in film and TV, was brought on-board to manage the soundtrack production. He initially toyed with idea of re-arranging Stevens seminal theme tune. Let it suffice to say that test audiences did not warm to it and after some overtly negative feedback the it was replaced with a more traditional arrangement. This recording even included some of the session musicians that worked on the original track in 1968. Sadly, the demands of modern TV broadcasting still had an impact on the completed piece of music. Modern title sequences on popular network shows are now no more than thirty second and so the theme was shortened to meet this requirement. However, the full version can be found on the official soundtrack album to season one and is version posted below along with the original from 1968.