Over the last few days, I’ve watched two – and part of a third – episode of the original Hawaii Five-O. About six months ago, I watched many episodes of Mission: Impossible mostly from the 1st and 2nd season. Reflecting on these, I’ve been struck by some of the socitial and cultural differences since the era of those shows (Late 1960s for the episodes of Mission: Impossible and 1968 & 1975 for Hawaii Five-O).
First thing I noticed was the casual way smoking was treated. In nearly every first season episode of Mission: Impossible one or more of the main characters was smoking. According to one site (I’m not sure the link) only the character of Willy Amratage was never depicted as smoking on screen. In fact, in a couple of episodes, sm0king was a significant part of the plot. Similarly on the 1st season episode of Hawaii Five-O - actually the first regular episode – it was clear that someone was smoking in one of the briefings in McGarett’s office, but it wasn’t clear who since they never actually took a smoke on screen.
The next thing I noticed was the casual use of seat belts. Now in both the episodes of Mission: Impossible and the first season episode of Hawaii Five-O, it wasn’t easy to tell who had on lap belts and who didn’t. But in the 1975 episode of Hawaii Five-O there were many scenes where the characters clearly did not have on their shoulder belts.
I also noticed a few other things from the 1975 episode of Hawaii Five-O I watched yesterday. First, in an early scene, the character of Danny “Dano” Williams (James MacArthur) picked up his Aunt Clara (played by MacArthur’s real-life adopted mother Helen Hayes) at the airport. They offered the gentleman who was her seat-mate on the flight from L.A. to Honolulu a ride to his hotel. During this ride, all three shared the front seat of Danny’s car, comfortably. Now there are very few cars – and not even that many pickup trucks – that even have a middle front seat, and in those that do, the middle seat is rarely comfortable for an adult, even an adult as small as Aunt Clara/Helen Hayes.
Later, not wanting to waste an actor of Hayes caliber on a borderline cameo appearance, Aunt Clara was placed undercover at a retirement home to help sting the people involved in the murder of the seat mate. In this role, it was necessary that she stay in a wheel chair. In one scene, she was being rolled out of a state office building by her nurse (who was later reveled to be a HPD officer), and the nurse had to roll her down the stairs. Now, there would have to be a ramp.
Also, in the 1968 episode of Hawaii Five-O the fact that it was still reasonable for people to travel to Hawaii from San Francisco by passenger boat, and the trip was key to the plot. Even by the 1975 episode, it seemed to be expected that flying was the only way to go. I could also see some differences between 1968 and 1975. In the 1968 episode people were shown flying from Honolulu on a Boeing 707 (I presume), and getting into the plane by walking up the stairs, yet in 1975 people got off of a Boeing 747 through a jetway.
While the memories are vague, I can attest that in 1975 one took a 747 – which was nearly empty – from LA to Hilo, and I’m 90% sure that even in Hilo a jetway was used. By 1981, you couldn’t even get from the mainland to Hilo directly, and we had to fly through Honolulu, but did use stairs at the inter-island terminal of the Honolulu airport (a place that probably contributes to my less-than-great impressions of Honolulu, even if the inter-island terminal has been greatly improved in the 30 years since I was last in Hawaii)
For what it is worth, while I did notice all of these things, I still enjoyed watching these shows that were both part of my childhood. And, I can attest that they still hold up pretty well.