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The idea to bring Hawaii Five-O back to television had been in the works well before the 2010 version was announced. The first attempt was a one-hour pilot for a new series that was made in 1996 but never aired, although a few clips were found years later and are available online. Produced and written by Stephen J. Cannell, it was supposed to star Gary Busey and Russell Wong as the new Five-0 team. Original cast member James MacArthur briefly returned as Dan Williams, this time as governor of Hawaii, with cameos made by other former Five-O regulars. Another attempt was to turn the project into a film by Warner Bros. but that was scrapped, too.
On August 12, 2008, CBS announced that it was to bring Hawaii Five-O back to the network schedule, originally targeted for the 2009–2010 television season. The new version was to be an updated present-day sequel, this time centering around McGarrett's son Chris, who succeeded his late father as the head of the unit. Ed Bernero, executive producer and showrunner of Criminal Minds, was to helm the new take, which he described as "Hawaii Five-O, version 2.0". It was also to incorporate most of the iconic elements from the original, including the "Book 'em, Danno" catchphrase, into the remake. Bernero, who was a fan of the original, and had a ring tone of the series' theme song on his cell phone, had always wanted to bring the series back to TV. This version did not go beyond the script stage.