September 03, 2006

Hawaii Five-0 and Indians

While working at PECHANGA.net (two days a week), I watch old movies and TV shows. Among the shows I've been watching lately is Hawaii Five-0. For a '70s cop show, it was better than average, and it holds up well.

One notable aspect of Hawaii Five-0 is that a quarter or so of the characters are Asian. No one comments on this; it's pretty much taken for granted. But even today, it's still remarkable to see Asians playing mechanics, police officers, lawyers, doctors, and judges.

Has a network TV show ever featured this many Indians? I didn't watch Northern Exposure or Doctor Quinn, Medicine Woman, but I don't think so. Indians are still limited to singular roles in shows such as Wolf Lake and King of the Hill. They're never just there in the background.

The US population is about 1% Native. If the networks created shows in proportion to the population, there'd be one Native-themed show every three or four seasons. Why hasn't that happened? If several black shows, a few Latino shows, and one semi-Asian show can succeed, why not a Native one?

If the networks deem Indian country too "strange," they could do a hybrid like Hawaii Five-0. Set the show in two towns straddling a reservation border: one white and one Indian. The Indian town could be considered "the wrong side of the tracks," so there'd be ample opportunities for racial, class, and cultural conflicts.

If anyone wants to produce such a show, give me a call. Or as Steve McGarrett might say, "Book him, Danno!"

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I watched almost all of the episodes of Dr. Quinn. In my view at least, its treatment of Natives and related issues was outstanding. However, other than a few episodes that showed a lot of Indian characters, there was Larry Sellers as Cloud Dancing (11 episodes) and Nick Ramus as Black Kettle (12 episodes). I don't know much about Ramus. IMDB gives little about his life, but most of his minor roles in TV shows are characters with Native-sounding names. The same with Sellers.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
The only Native-themed series of any note were 1966's HAWK with Burt Reynolds as a Native investigator with the NY Distric Attorney's office that ran 17 episodes, and 1974's NAKIA with Robert Forster as Nakia Parker,a Navajo deputy sheriff that ran 13 episodes. There have been various TV pilots over the decades about Native this's and thats but none ever were picked up for airing. Most notable Native presence in recent years was in several episodes of THE X-FILES, with one continuing Navajo character, Albert Hosteen Tsinniejinnie played by Floyd Red Crow Westerman. One could point at Robert Beltran's Chakotay on ST VOYAGER who ostensibly was Central American Native but with no tribe attached to the character.
By the bye, Nick Ramus is Mexican with a slight amount of Comanche heritage, and he is from Lawton, Oklahoma. Never heard of Larry Sellers...
All Best
Russ Bates
'writerfella'

Rob said...

I know of Larry Sellars but not Nick Ramus. I probably watched some "Hawks" when it was on, but I didn't recall "Nakia" until you mentioned it. I'll have to add these to my
list
of TV shows.

I've covered Chakotay at length, of course.

But a show with a recurring Native character, or even a lead character, isn't quite what I'm talking about. I want a show that's steeped in a Native culture, a Native mindset. Even though Hawaii 5-0 starred two white guys, one could argue that it had an Asian-Pacific feel to it.

writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
Though they were all separate X-FILES episodes, "Shapes," "Anasazi," and "The Blessing Way" (the last two were a two-part season 3 ender and season 4 opener) were stories built around Native culture and there were quite a few Native characters in each one. Thereafter, the character of Albert Hosteen Tsinniejinnie appeared from time to time as a Navajo codetalker who had encoded secret government conspiracy texts and spread them among other Navajos. His eventual reward was to be inflicted with cancer by the Cigarette-Smoking Man. My own X-FILES, "The Piasa Bird," if it had been done, would have been full of Illiniwek and Menominee culture, would have had a dozen or more Native character parts, and would have been a right cross punch in the eye for AIM. It originally was done for KOLCHAK: THE NIGHT STALKER back in the 70s, but the series never went a second season. It is a story without a home...
All Best
Russ Bates 'writerfella'

Rob said...

For more on Hawaii Five-0, see Review of Hawaii Five-0 Remake.