"Hawaii Five-O" rides back to TV after 30 years

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Classic detective series “Hawaii Five-O” is riding a big wave back to television with new stars and grittier action, but with the same legendary theme tune and idyllic surf culture that made it a worldwide hit more than 35 years ago.

The free-wheeling cop drama that put Hawaii on the international TV map in 1969, returns to CBS in September in what producers said on Wednesday was a re-imagining, rather than a remake or sequel, to the beloved original, and with more emphasis on character.

“A remake suggest we are doing exactly the same thing again,” executive producer Alex Kurtzman told TV reporters.

“We felt we had to find the spirit of the original and bring it into modern times,” Kurtzman said, adding that the new version “pays tribute to everything that was good about original show.”

Australian actor Alex O’Loughlin plays the part of Detective Steve McGarrett (originally portrayed by Jack Lord) who returns to Hawaii to investigate the murder of his father and is persuaded to set up an elite crime-fighting force.

Scott Caan, the son of actor James Caan, plays McGarrett’s sidekick Danny “Danno” Williams, a former New Jersey cop and a recent, reluctant transplant to the paradise islands.

Both actors said they had refrained from watching tapes of the original “Hawaii Five-O,” because they wanted to start fresh.

Not so for producers Kurtzman and Peter Lenkov. Both are big fans of the 1969-80 “Hawaii Five-0”, which in its time was one of the longest running dramas on U.S. television.

That means that not only is the old, “Book ‘em, Danno” catch phrase back, but so is the iconic theme tune.

“A great theme song is a lost art, and this is one of the best ever. To not have it would be a huge disservice,” said Kurtzman, adding that the original musicians had been found and brought together to re-record the tune.

Lenkov said the new show included numerous other touches -- such as McGarrett’s original car -- that he hoped older fans would remember.

Action sequences are bigger and often more violent than in the 1970s, and the new show fills out the characters of McGarrett and Williams.

But the show, filmed on location, is again a showcase for the natural beauty of Hawaii and its surfing culture. “The original series is a real badge of honor for Hawaii. We had to make sure the legacy endured in the right way,” said Kurtzman.

Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte