Tom Lopaka, Tracy Steele & Greg MacKenzie (Hawaiian Eye)

Created by Roy Huggins

“The soft island breeze brings you strange melodies
And they tell of exotic mysteries under the tropical spell of
Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye.”
— most irritating TV theme ever?

Another piece of product from the Warner Bros. TV Eye factory, picture this as “77 Sunset Strip goes Hawaiian.”

But actually, Hawaiian Eye was by far the most successful of the Sunset clones, lasting four seasons, and still has plenty of fans to this day. In its heyday, it spawned a comic book, a tie-in paperback, a couple of soundtrack albums and even a board game. (Which makes it all the more peculiar that Warner Bros. has still not released the show on VHS, DVD or Blu-Ray, and has only allowed a few episodes to trickle onto their own streaming service).

But after finally seeing some of those episodes, personally, I don’t get it.

Unlike say, Peter Gunn, I don’t think Hawaiian Eye has held up all that well over the years, beyond a certain lightweight nostalgac charm and easy-going harmlessness. The plots are rather loose, coincidence-prone shambles, the acting glib, the gags obvious. But hey, that’s just me…

Set in Honolulu, it featured the exploits of two handsome (natch!) private eyes, studly young TOM LOPAKA (Robert Conrad in his breakthrough role) and slightly older Korean war vet TRACY STEELE (Anthony Eisley), who sported a Walt Disney-style mustache that I guess was supposed to be dashing. They worked out of a poolside office at the ritzy Hawaiian Village Hotel, where they had a side gig as house detectives.

Adding (allegedly) comic relief were Cricket, a ditzy blonde nightclub singer/photographer (played by Connie Stevens), and Kim, a ukulele-playing local cabbie with relatives all over over the islans. And, of course, there were all those helpful crossovers with other WB P.I.s from 77 Sunset Strip, Bourbon Street Beat and Surfside Six.

A third eye, GREG MacKENZIE (played by Grant Williams), joined the agency midway through the second season, and Troy Donahue, who’d recently played private eye Sandy Winfield II in Surfside Six, joined the cast as the hotel’s social director Phillip Barton in 1962. All the eyes made good use of their police contact, Lt. Danny Quon of the Honolulu police.

All in all, I suppose it was probably no worse than any of the other cheesy private eye shows Warner and its rivals were squeezing out like so much video Play Doh at the time, although I much preferred Bourbon Street Beat, which had arguably better scripts.

But if you’re keeping score, Hawaiian Eye is the one with the palm trees and occasional scenes of women in grass skirts.

And the annoyingly upbeat cast…

AN INSIDE JOB?

“Although the show was basically 77 Sunset Strip (with Hawaiian shirts), which in turn was based on Roy Huggins’ Stuart Bailey character, Huggins never actually wrote a single episode of Hawaiian Eye. The only credit he had was for Dead Ringer, during the 59-60 season. But it was actually an old Maverick script, “The Jeweled Gun,” that was recycled during a writer’s strike, and “rewritten” for Hawaiian Eye by another writer. And Warner Brothers took the position that since it was a remake of a previously aired script, no additional payment for additional uses of the script were due the writer credited on the original TV film.”
— an anonymous source who–in 1998–was still worried about his WB pension.

UNDER OATH

  • “Thanks for the memory. Even after all these years, I can still hear Poncie Ponce singing, “Mele Kalekimaka” on one of the Christmas shows, AND I still know all the words. It’s become one of my husband’s favorite “carols.”
    — Elizabeth

TELEVISION

  • HAWAIIAN EYE
    (1959-63, ABC)
    134 60-minute episodes
    Writers: Robert J. Shaw, Gibson Fox, Philip Saltzman, Stanley Niss, Dwight V. Babcock, Robert Hamner, Day Keene, Gloria Elmore, Sam Ross, Lee Loeb, Ed Jurist, Roy Huggins
    Directors: Robert Sparr, Dick Benedict, Bob Totten, Irving J. Moore, Charles Rondeau, george waGGner (yes, that’s the way he signed his name), Robert Douglas
    Producers: Stanley Niss, Charles Hoffman, Ed Jurist
    Executive Producer: William T. Orr
    Theme Music composed by Mack David and Jerry Livingstone (see below)
    Performed by Warren Barker
    Starring Robert Conrad as TOM LOPAKA
    Anthony Eisley as TRACY STEELE (1959-62)
    and Grant Williams as GREG MacKENZIE (1960-63)
    with Connie Stevens as Cricket Blake
    Poncie Ponce as Kazuo Kim
    Mel Prestidge as Quon (1960-63)
    and Troy Donahue as Philip Barton (1962-63)
    Guest Stars: Doug Mossman, Tina Cole. Chad Everett, Gale Garnett, Cloris Leachman, Mary Tyler Moore, Warren Oates, Stella Stevens, Adam West
    Crossover appearances by: Edd Byrnes, Richard Long, Efrem Zimbalist Jr.

    • SEASON ONE
    • “Malihini Holiday” (October 7, 1959)
    • “Waikiki Widow” October 14, 1959)
    • “Second Day of Infamy” (October 21, 1959)
    • “All Expenses Paid” (October 28, 1959)
    • “Cloud Over Kaola” (November 11, 1959)
    • “Beach Boy” (November 18, 1959)
    • “Three Tickets to Lani” (November 25, 1959)
    • “Quick Return” (December 2, 1959)
    • “Secret of the Second Door” (December 9, 1959)
    • “Shipment from Kihei” (December 16, 1959)
    • “A Dime a Dozen” (December 23, 1959)
    • “The Koa Man” (December 30, 1959)
    • “Stamped for Danger” (January 6, 1960)
    • “The Kamehameha Cloak” (January 13, 1960)
    • “The Kikiki Kid” (January 20, 1960)
    • “Then There Were Three” (January 27, 1960)
    • “Sword of the Samurai” (February 3, 1960)
    • “Hong Kong Passage” (February 10, 1960)
    • “Cut of Ice” (February 17, 1960)
    • “Fatal Cruise” (February 24, 1960)
    • “Danger on Credit” (March 2, 1960)
    • “Bequest of Arthur Goodwin” (March 9, 1960)
    • “A Birthday Boy” (March 16, 1960)
    • “Second Fiddle” (March 23, 1960)
    • “Kim Quixote” (March 30, 1960)
    • “The Lady’s Not for Travelling” (April 6, 1960)
    • “Murder, Anyone?” (April 13, 1960)
    • “Typhoon” (April 27, 1960)
    • “Shadow of the Blade” (May 4, 1960)
    • “Dead Ringer” (May 11, 1960)
    • “Little Blalah” (May 18, 1960)
    • “Assignment: Manilla” (May 25, 1960)
    • SEASON TWO
    • “I Wed Three Wives” (September 14, 1960)
    • “Princess from Manhattan” (September 21, 1960)”
    • “With This Ring” (September 28, 1960)
    • “Sea Fire” (October 5, 1960)
    • “The Blue Goddess” (October 19, 1960)
    • “White Pigeon Ticket” (October 26, 1960)
    • “Vanessa Vanishes” (November 2, 1960)
    • “The Kahuna Curtain” (November 9, 1960)
    • “Girl on a String” (November 16, 1960)
    • “Kakua Woman” (November 23, 1960)
    • “The Contenders” (November 30, 1960)
    • “Swan Song for a Hero” (December 7, 1960)
    • “The Money Blossom” (December 14, 1960)
    • “Services Rendered” (December 21, 1960)
    • “Baker’s Half Dozen” (December 28, 1960)
    • “Made in Japan” (January 4, 1961)
    • “A Touch of Velvet” (January 11, 1961)
    • “Talk and You’re Dead” (January 18, 1961)
    • “Robinson Koyoto” (January 25, 1961)
    • “The Manabi Figurine” (February 1, 1961)
    • “Caves of Pele” (February 8, 1961)
    • “Man in a Rage” (February 15, 1961)
    • “The Stanhope Brand” (February 22, 1961)
    • “The Trouble with Murder” (March 1, 1961)
    • “Man from Manilla” (March 8, 1961)
    • “Her Father’s House” (March 15, 1961)
    • “The Humuhumunukunukuapuaa Kid” (March 22, 1961)
    • “Don’t Kiss Me Goodbye” (March 29, 1961)
    • “Dragon Road” (April 5, 1961)
    • “It Ain’t Cricket” (April 12, 1961)
    • “The Comics” (April 19, 1961)
    • “Father, Dear Father” (April 26, 1961)
    • “The Manchu Formula” (May 3, 1961)
    • “The Pretty People” (May 10, 1961)
    • “The Big Dealer” (May 17, 1961)
    • “Maid in America” (May 24, 1961)
    • “A Taste for Money” (AKA Stranger in Paradise; May 31, 1961)
    • SEASON THREE
    • “Satan City” (September 27, 1961)
    • “The Kapua of Coconut Bay” (October 4, 1961)
    • “The Moon of Mindinao” (October 11, 1961)
    • “The Doctor’s Lady” (October 18, 1961)
    • “Thomas Jefferson Chu” (October 25, 1961)
    • “Pill in the Box” (November 1, 1961)
    • “Kill a Grey Fox” (November 8, 1961)
    • “The Reluctant Visit” (AKA Point Zero; November 15, 1961)
    • “The Queen from Kern County” (November 22, 1961)
    • “The Final Score” (November 29, 1961)
    • “Two for the Money” (December 6, 1961)
    • “Tusitala” (December 13, 1961)
    • “The Classic Cab” (December 20, 1961)
    • “Concert in Hawaii” (December 27, 1961)
    • “The Missile Rogues” (January 3, 1962)
    • “Little Miss Rich Witch” (January 10, 1962)
    • “Big Fever” (January 17, 1962)
    • “Year of Grace” (January 24, 1962)
    • “My Love, But Lightly” (January 31, 1962)
    • “Cricket’s Millionaire” (February 7, 1962)
    • “Four-Cornered Triangle” (February 14, 1962)
    • “Total Eclipse” (February 21, 1962)
    • “Blackmail in Satin” (February 28, 1962)
    • “A Scent in Whales” (March 7, 1962)
    • “A Likely Story” (March 14, 1962)
    • “The Meeting on Molokai” (March 21, 1962)
    • “Payoff” (March 28, 1962)
    • “An Echo of Honor” (April 4, 1962)
    • “Nightmare in Paradise” (April 11, 1962)
    • “Aloha, Cricket” (April 18, 1962)
    • “The Last Samurai” (April 25, 1962)
    • “RX Cricket” (May 2, 1962)
    • “Location Shooting” (May 9, 1962)
    • “Across the River Lethe” (May 16, 1962)
    • “Scene of the Crime” (May 23, 1962)
    • “Among the Living” (May 30, 1962)
    • “V is for Victim” (June 6, 1962)
    • “Koko Kate une 13, 1962)
    • “Lalama Lady” (June 20, 1962)
    • SEASON FOUR
    • “Day in the Sun” (October 2, 1962)
    • “Somewhere There’s Music” (October 9, 1962)
    • “There’ll Be Some Changes Made” (October 16, 1962)
    • “The Broken Thread” (October 23, 1962)
    • “Lament for a Saturday Warrior” (October 30, 1962)
    • “The After Hours Heart” (November 13, 1962)
    • “The Sign-Off” (November 20, 1962)
    • “A Night with Nora Stewart” (November 27, 1962)
    • “To See, Perchance to Dream” (December 4, 1962)
    • “Pursuit of a Lady” (December 11, 1962)
    • “Shannon Malloy” (December 18, 1962)
    • “Go Steady with Danger”” (January 1, 1963)
    • “The Kupikio Kid” (january 8, 1963)
    • “Maybe Menehuenes” (january 15, 1963)
    • “Pretty Pigeon” (January 22, 1963)
    • “Two Too Many” (January 29, 1963)
    • “Boar Hunt” (February 5, 1963)
    • “Go for Baroque” (February 12, 1963)
    • “The Long Way Home” (February 19, 1963)
    • “Two Million Too Much” (February 26, 1963)
    • “Blow Low, Blow Blue” (March 5, 1963)
    • “Gift of Love” (March 19, 1963)
    • “The Sisters” (March 26, 1963)
    • “Passport” (April 2, 1963).

COMIC BOOKS

  • HAWAIIAN EYE
    (1963, Gold Key)
    1 issue, photo cover.

    • “The Case of the Brunette Blonde” (July 1963, #1)
      Played up the roles of Cricket and Phil Barton; backup feature about a surfing detective called Beach Boy.

NOVELIZATION

OH THE GAMES PEOPLE PLAYED THEN

  • THE HAWAIIAN EYE BOARD GAME
    (1963, Lowell)
    This “Thrilling Game of Intrigue & Suspense” was of course a spin-off from the show of the same name, produced by Warner Bros., who had already given us 77 Sunset Strip and Surfside Six. The current day appeal to this one lay with the kitschy Hawaiian motif, of course, but serious gamers will appreciate that noted American game designer Sid Sackson (1920-2002) had a hand in creating it.

MUSIC

“The soft island breeze brings you strange melodies
And they tell of exotic mysteries under the tropical spell of
Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye.

Where love and adventure await
This is your fate and you can not stray from
You can’t run away from
Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye. Hawaiian Eye.”
(repeat ad nauseum)

FURTHER INVESTIGATION

THE DICK OF THE DAY

  • August 3, 2021
    THE BOTTOM LINE: This cheesy but popular 77 Sunset Strip clone from 1959-63 had Hawaii as a backdrop, ukuleles and Robert Conrad. (Referring to photo): Notice they’re all posing but nobody’s driving? Pretty much like the show.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Thanks to Warren Sears, Dick Martin and Henkinex for some of the info on this page.

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