You may have noticed on the exterior of last week’s Parade Magazine (or maybe you didn’t…) an insert advertising CBS’ two new Fall shows: Hawaii Five-O and Mike and Molly. Hawaii Five-O is a remake of the classic cop TV Show that applied 70’s buddy cop action to the heritage of Charlie Chan. Mike and Molly is apparently a sitcom that tries to tap the obese Irish heritage market. And while Molly’s advertised preference for a man who: ” …knows to order onion rings for the table,” has enough cultural and social dynamics swirling in it to fill even Mike’s enormous gut, I am going to focus on the Hawaii Five-O ad. More specifically on how masterfully it blurs the line between ad and article and between TV character and actual person.
Check out the ad cover below:
What has this image told you?
Clearly this people are selling something right? The picture is a posed, stylized shot of people in formation. Scott Caan is apparently too much of a douchebag to remove his sunglasses or tie.
The first lines of text mirror our reaction to the photo: “Who are these people?” (In the Copy Writer’s wet dream we are also saying: “Wave? What wave? I want to be part of a wave. “)
The second piece of text answers our question. “These people compose Hawaii Five-O!”
Then our eye is led off to right to the only space cleared from the splash itself. Here we are informed of what the following article will be about: “It’s a Q&A about them! I will now surely be able to join this wave I was just told about!”
What’s interesting is the change in font, size and color with the bottom line station id as well as the discontinuity of the text. The relationship that exists between Hawaii Five-O and CBS is ambiguous here. Are they responsible somehow for Five-O? Are they responsible for the Q&A? Did they sponsor this section?
What you don’t get is an explicit disclosure that all three of these the result of CBS. The section, the Five-O and the questions as well as the answers.
This line between ad/article/product is increasingly blurred if you are familiar with the magazine and with Walter Scott’s “Personality Parade” on the inside cover of the magazine itself.
I’ll put “Personality Parade” and the inner spread of the Five-O ad side by side.
“Personality Parade” is a thinly veiled press-releases-posed-as-Q&A’s section that at least maintains a sense of being related to reality. Somehow, somewhere, Juan Ramirez from New York City might actually be someone who has the time and inclination to see a promo for a new TV show starring a B-list actor and write in to a national magazine with the dictate: “Tell us about his character.” It’s not likely but it doesn’t involve the kind of boggling cognitive dissonance that the Hawaii Five-O feature does.
There are several astonishing features of the page that masterfully confuse what exactly it is that you are looking at. The first and perhaps most notable is the lack of indication that the people on the page are actors or that Hawaii Five-O is a fictional thing. Were it not for the bombastic language and posed profile shots with captions like: “Chin Ho Kelly: He’ll crash your luau,” it would be possible to read the article and not even be aware that a television show was at issue. The title at the top is: “Profiles in Paradise,” as though this were a regular feature on notable Hawaiian events or people. Even the small tag at the bottom of the page that finally (begrudgingly it seems) announces that a TV show is actually what is being sold here still fails to really establish if this is reality TV or a fictional drama.
Further reinforcing this is the center section which ostensibly provides information about Hawaii. Each bullet starts with a fact about the state and then finishes by explicitly using that information in communicating a plot point. e.g.: Hawaii: Surfing is a Hawaiian tradition. Plot Point: The girl in the bikini will be doing this as much as her justice fighting schedule allows.
The second notable aspect of the spread is the format of the questions themselves which matches that of Personality Parade on the following page. The format creates a mindset through physical proximity and pretends as though real people have written in to ask about the show. This would be hackneyed and clumsy but at least effective and reasonable in providing information about the show in a straight forward manner. What truly tips us past crude manipulative advertising and into the fantastic and bizarre world of blurred reality is the content of the questions themselves and the perspective they portray.
I submit the cropping below:
This question not only supposes that the characters and stories being portrayed are real life but further – implicitly states – that the previous incarnation of Hawaii Five-O was also composed of real people. Steve McGarrett is not only portrayed as a real person but he is supposed to be related to another cop on another TV show from several decades ago. To step back: this ad is suggesting that these two ACTORS are father and son and that the world of Hawaii Five-O is a real one – is in fact the only one – is the one you and I live in – and that the last two decades while your life has been ongoing Steve has been growing up with his legendary crime fighter father legendarily fighting crime while he prepared to fill those giant justice filled shoes by battling terrorists and being a Navy SEAL.
These suggestions of alternate reality do more than envelop the characters and the show, they also implicitly plot the reader of the ad and potential viewer of the show as inhabitants of the same universe. It suggests that in this world the kind of intimate information of others lives presented in the questions is casually and easily available to people as distant from one another and Hawaii as California, Nebraska, Virginia, and Ohio. And it suggests implicitly that YOU TOO can and should have this kind of emotional and intimate attachment to the goings on of Hawaii’s newest “Elite Task Force.” It presupposes a more exciting, sexier world that has existed in your own all this time and invites you too to become so invested in these characters that you will feel the need to write into CBS’s “Profiles of Paradise” to find out things like: How will Kono fit in? What brings ‘Danno’ to the land of Aloha?
The end result is an incredible blending of plot summary, character trait, visual information and even specific dialogue in a format that leaves you both uncertain as to whether or not the plot/people/surfing is real but also uses that blurred line between fact and fiction to pique the viewer’s curiosity and activate their desire for intimacy and belonging.
 This, I assume, should be read as a threat with an emphasis on “your” in that Chin Ho himself knows that YOU – the reader – are up to no good at your luau and should you continue down this path, he will have no choice but to show up uninvited and kick your ass. (This copy appears twice on the spread suggesting that Chin Ho is not merely able and willing to crash your luau, but somehow looking forward to it and is just hoping you give him an excuse.)
 I’m sure a staggering amount of focus grouping was put into choosing those particular states.
 The following is a list of cliches/platitudes/island language that are deployed in the article to demonstrate islandicity/dynacism/coolness. In each case where the cliché has been modified to surprise the reader and reiterate the fact that the show takes place in Hawaii the altered word has been underlined: in the shadow, legendary, Big Kahuna, surf circles around, fish-out-of-water, land of Aloha, more than just a job, everything he knows he learned, don’t cross him, crash your luau, fighting for justice, catch a/the/many wave/s, keeping the beaches clean, had you at aloha.
 Here is a list of all the plot information bluntly jammed into the questions and answers in the article along with a count for the number of times it is mentioned: Steve McGarrett’s dad was a super cop. (3) Steve is a former Navy Seal and Navy Intelligence Officer. (1) Steve has tracked down terrorists! (1) Steve’s dad has been murdered! The murderer has not been caught! Steve has come home to catch that killer!(1) Steve will be continuing his father’s legacy. (2) By the end of the first episode Steve will say: “Book’em Danno.” (1) Steve will be leading a force. (3) It is an elite force. (4) Kona is referred to by her nickname Kono. (?!??!) (1) Kono was recruited straight out of the academy. (1) The only two asian people on the show are related. (2) (Adding credibility to the theory that on Hawaii Five-O you can use ethnicity and race to assume familial relation.) Her unique skills are desperately needed. (1) She can surf circles around everyone else on the team and plans to do so often. This will be done in small bikinis and is only slightly less important to her than criminal justice. (2) She has a black belt in Jujitsu (1) Kono “has you at Aloha.” (1) Danny’s nickname is “Danno.” (2) Danny is “a fish out of water.” (1) This is because Danny hates the beach. (1) (This implies that Danny will be going to lots of beaches and complaining about them.) Danny is in Hawaii only because his 8 year old daughter is here. (1) Because he has a child here, he is even more devoted to keep Hawaii safe. (1) By the end of the first episode Steve will instruct him to book some one and in the same sentence will use his nickname “Danno.” (1) Chin Ho used to work at the Pearl Harbor memorial. (This both reminds middle America of how it is that they have heard of Hawaii before and also suggests that even though the Japs are the ones who bombed us in the first place, this asian guy is okay!) (2) Chin Ho was trained by Steve’s dad! (1) Chin Ho will crash your luau. (2)