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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 19, 2004

'Hawaii,' faced with poor ratings, gets ax

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

It's time to bid aloha to "Hawaii."

Members of the "Hawaii" cast arrived on O'ahu last summer with much aloha, appearing at such events as a sneak preview at Sunset on the Beach. Now, the cast is saying aloha again — but this time it means goodbye — after NBC's decision to cancel the police drama.

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After weeks of declining ratings, NBC yesterday cancelled the O'ahu-based police drama. Cast and crew were notified yesterday morning.

NBC publicist Jamie French confirmed yesterday that the show "has stopped production."

The cancellation is a blow to the local film and television industry, which has been enjoying a boom year with the arrival of three network television shows filmed on O'ahu: "Hawaii," ABC's surprise smash "Lost," and Fox's "North Shore."

"This is obviously the worst news you can get," said Hawai'i film commissioner Donne Dawson, whose office had worked closely with the production since filming for the pilot episode last spring. "We all had high hopes for this show."

The seventh and, as it turned out, final episode of the show aired Oct. 6 and drew a series-low 5.3/8 overnight rating, barely edging the WB's "Smallville" for third place in its time slot.

The network had pulled the show from its Wednesday lineup for the sweeps ratings period this month, but cast and crew were told last week that the show would return later in the year.

However, a decision was apparently made over the weekend to simply pull the plug on the struggling show.

The network had made an initial order of 12 shows in May, at an estimated cost of about $2 million per episode. An eighth episode has been shot but will not air.

"Hawaii," which starred Michael Biehn, Sharif Atkins, Eric Balfour, Ivan Sergei, Aya Sumika, Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, had promised to expose "the other side of paradise" as detectives from the fictional Honolulu Metro Police Department took on a wide and wild array of criminal cases.

The network had big expectations for the show, running high-profile advertisements during the Olympics and scheduling three airings in its debut week.

But the show opened to harsh reviews from national television critics who found it poorly scripted and derivative. And after some encouraging numbers in the first few weeks, the show's ratings fell off.

"Hawaii" did earn praise for attempting, however awkwardly, to represent the breadth of local lifestyles and traditions in its stories, and for hiring a large number of local actors, extras, and crew.

Ultimately, it may have been the debut of another series shot on O'ahu that spelled the end for "Hawaii."

"Hawaii" and "Lost" aired in the same Wednesday night time slot, a position "Lost" has dominated since it debuted a month ago.

"'Hawaii' had relatively strong numbers at the beginning, but unfortunately it had to go up against one of the No. 1 shows of the season," said Honolulu film commissioner Walea Constantinau. "It's unfortunate for us that two Hawai'i shows had to go head to head."

There are many issues yet to be resolved regarding the show's exit from the Islands, but Dawson said her office will work with other productions — including the WB's "Rocky Point," which filmed a pilot here last month — to see if they can make use of some of the resources now available.

"It's disappointing because NBC, both the studio and the local production here on the ground, has been stellar to work with," Dawson said. "They're some of the best people in the business, and we're just deeply saddened."

Constantinau said the cancellation, in some respects, underscores just how fortunate Hawai'i has been to get three (and potentially four, including "Rocky Point") network television series filmed here in one year.

"(The cancellation) is certainly a disappointment, because it really is a challenge to get shows to come here," she said. "But there is a law of attrition with television shows, and it's not a complete surprise that one of the three would not survive.

"It's the nature of the business, and that's why we need a robust industry," she said. "It's fortunate that we have an embarrassment of riches to fall back on this year. The fact that all three got the green light in the first place put us way ahead of the game."

With "Hawaii" getting the early hook, attention now turns to Fox's "North Shore," which has also struggled in the ratings.

The show is on hiatus until Nov. 4, when it moves from Mondays to Thursdays. Fox is hoping to jump-start the show by slotting it after last season's surprise hit, "The O.C.," to which it is often compared.

Fox gave "North Shore" a significant vote of confidence when it picked up the show for the rest of the season (and nine additional episodes). Still, there is a good chance the show might not return next year if it continues to flounder.

The late addition of Shannen Doherty to the cast (a la Heather Locklear on "Melrose Place") was supposed to draw in more of the show's target audience, but it hasn't happened yet. The last episode to air (on Sept. 27) drew a dismal 3.5/5 overnight rating. "North Shore" placed fifth in its time slot, behind ABC's "The Benefactor."

Reach Michael Tsai at 535-2461 or mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.