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The Real Reason Hawaii Five-0 Is Ending

Hawaii Five-O has been gracing our screens for many years, but its time has come to an end.

In February 2020, it was announced that the tenth season would be the last for the popular show, with a two-hour finale that aired on April 3. The show's viewership may have diminished slightly over the years, but as 7 million people were still tuning in every Friday night to watch the crime-fighting duo of McGarrett and Danno round up the bad guys, it's unlikely the show was cancelled due to poor audience numbers.

So why did the duo decide to retire from the small screen? It turns out there's a pretty solid reason for the ending. According to Deadline, both Alex O'Loughlin (Lieutenant Commander Steve McGarrett) and Scott Caan's (Detective Sergeant Danny "Danno" Williams) contracts ended at the conclusion of season 10. While that's not necessarily a reason to end the show in itself, O'Loughlin does have another reason to walk away: The actor sustained a serious back injury on the set of the popular show early on in the series' run, and has been feeling the effects ever since. He's carried on until now, but you can't blame the now-43-year old actor for wanting to hand in his badge and gun if he's struggling with chronic pain.

It's not the first time O'Loughlin considered leaving Hawaii Five-O

Deadline's report offered some more insight into O'Loughlin and his time on the show, pointing out that it's not the first time the actor has considered calling it quits because of the injury. As recently as a couple of years ago, it was speculated that the actor, who was known to be having physical difficulty with the show's demands, would depart — but after a successful round of stem cell treatment, he opted to to stay on.

At this point, however, O'Loughlin's body was telling him to quit — and rather than replace him with a new partner for Caan's Danno, the series' creatives decided that it was simply time to hang it up. After all, can anyone really see Danno running around with a new partner, someone who's not McGarrett? The rest of the cast may have been fairly fluid throughout the past 10 years, but the two leads have been together from the beginning. Sometimes it's best for shows to pull the plug rather than push on when they hit a wall, and losing one of their main leads would certainly constitute such a wall. Hawaii FIve-O is just one of several great shows ending in 2020, but it's one that'll be sorely missed by its fans.

It's a decision that's been a long time coming

O'Loughlin spoke two years ago on his possible departure to TV Line, pointing out how things had changed since the show's beginning.

"I've blown both shoulders, one knee. I've had my elbow tendon reattached. I've got bulging discs in my neck and my back. I don't know where to start. I'm a mess, and a lot of it's been really, really hard. I think back to when I was doing most of my own stunts in the first few years — that was not a great idea. But the physical exhaustion of working with injury and working huge hours day after day, year after year ... The whole show has been extremely physically daunting. That's one of the things I'm trying to figure out at the moment now; I don't know how much longer I can do it."

After the announcement that the show would be ending, O'Loughlin shared a message for fans. "This show has been pretty much every waking moment for the last 10 years of my life," said O'Loughlin. "Everywhere I go on this planet, in every language, I am McGarrett to all these people. What we've done, what we've accomplished, it's extraordinary. I can't really put words to express my level of gratitude. I'm just glad to have been a part of this, a part of history and I'm going to miss it. And to the fans, I don't know how to thank you guys. Thank you for following us the way you have. I'm going to miss you. Aloha."

It's a simple matter of economics

While networks may allow visionary creators and talented actors the freedom and budget to make exactly the kind of shows they want to make, television is still a business. Broadcast networks like CBS aim to turn a profit by selling advertising space on its programs. If it spends millions of dollars each week on a show that isn't bringing in the big audiences that it promised advertisers — and for which it charged accordingly — then that show is likely to get canceled. 

This is a big reason why long-running shows leave the air when they do, as they no longer attract a big enough audience to justify its costs. "I think the network just thought it was a good time" to end Hawaii Five-0, showrunner Peter M. Lenkov told TVLine. "There are so many different things that factor into this — economics, everything." In other words, the ratings for Hawaii Five-0 had dropped over its decade on the air. At its peak of popularity in 2015, the show averaged 12.28 million weekly viewers. By the 2018-19 season, that figure had dropped to just over 10 million, and the first episode of the tenth (and what would turn out to be the last) season brought in just over 7 million pairs of eyeballs.

There were plans in place for season 11

Despite several factors indicating that Hawaii Five-0 was moving toward a close in its tenth season, producers made plans for the future, just in case CBS did decide to bring it back for one more round of episodes. The final two installments of the show added a brand-new character: ex-Marine Lincoln Cole, portrayed by recurring MacGyver actor Lance Gross. Steve McGarrett (Alex O'Loughlin) even asks him to "hold down the fort" in the event of his absence. "I thought he would be a great addition to the team," showrunner Peter M. Lenkov told TVLine, calling Cole "the perfect sort of 'broken toy' to complement the team." 

In addition to moving Cole into focus, the last episode of season 10 — which became the Hawaii Five-0 series finale — had initially been written to set up some eleventh season plot lines. But when Lenkov learned CBS ended the show, he had to make some cuts. "I have 12 minutes of that show that are not in there that are on the cutting room floor," he said.

Final goodbyes and thanks

Peter Lenkov, one of the main brains and producers behind the popular show, specifically mentioned O'Loughlin in his statement when the cancellation was announced, another clue that the actor is a main reason why the show has come to an end.

"My eternal gratitude to our cast, led by our hero Alex O'Loughlin, the writers, the production team, our CBS ohana, and most importantly — YOU, the fans, who allowed us to come to work with pride and made our series such a success," Lenkov said.

David Stapf, the president of CBS Television Studios, told fans to prepare for "a big sendoff" with an "opportunity to say goodbye to their favorite characters." Fans indeed got that in the two hour April 3rd series finale. There was action, emotion, and intrigue aplenty — and even a few surprises. Though the show might be over, its run was a success that will be cherished for years to come by fans around the world.