Dalton Ross on the ”Baywatch” ripple effect
This week sees the long-awaited DVD release of one of the most influential TV shows of the past 20 years. No, not Beverly Hills, 90210 (that’s next week), although a tall cool glass of the Notorious B.A.G. (Brian Austin Green) never hurt anybody. No, I am referring, of course, to that great sand-and-sandals epic… Baywatch. Go ahead and laugh (especially if scenes from Baywatch Nights are suddenly running through your head), but don’t forget that a decade ago Baywatch was the biggest TV show on the planet! How much of that success can be attributed to the overseas appeal of international pop sensation David Hasselhoff remains unclear, but what is clear is that Baywatch ushered in a golden era of syndicated television.
Just think back to L.B.B. (Life Before Baywatch). Sure, we had the most excellent Star Trek: The Next Generation (an update even better than the original, but that is another debate for another column), but that was about it as far as syndicated shows went. Then Mitch Buchannon walked into our lives… shirtless. Yes, we thought we had seen the last of Hasselhoff (and Parker Stevenson, for that matter) by the time April 23, 1989, rolled around and Baywatch made its debut on NBC with the gripping premiere episode ”Panic at Malibu Pier.” Alas, NBC canceled the show after a single season. But then, on Sept. 23, 1991, a funny thing happened: Baywatch found new life — debuting as a syndicated series. Of course, it was a different show then. The pinup beach babe was none other than Erika Eleniak, who later went on to bigger and better things (if you consider jumping out of a cake topless in a Steven Seagal movie bigger and better). A bevy of big-breasted beauties would follow, including — but not limited to — Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Donna D’Errico, Gena Lee Nolin, and Traci Bingham. And then there were all those buff dudes like… well, to be honest, I didn’t pay much attention to them.
But the best thing about Baywatch was not the copious amounts of flesh on display. No, it was the incredible number of cheesy syndicated programs that followed in its wake. The best of the bunch was the Saturday-night double shot of Hercules and Xena. My buddy Mike and I would hang out every week, ordering sushi and taking in this magnificently ridiculous two-hour extravaganza, which is probably more of a testament to our superlame social life than the quality of the programming, but it was appointment television… for nerds, perhaps, but appointment television nonetheless.
But those were merely the first drops in a big, delicious pool of Velveeta. Soon enough we were also treated to shows like Queen of Swords (an expertly crafted Mask of Zorro rip-off), Relic Hunter (an expertly crafted Tomb Raider rip-off starring Tia Carrere), and, of course, VIP (Pamela Anderson… again!) and Sheena (Gena Lee Nolin… again!). Had it not been for Baywatch, we would never have had Bruce Campbell running around like a lunatic called the ”Dragoon” in Jack of All Trades. Had it not been for Baywatch, there would have never been Cleopatra 2525, which featured an exotic dancer cryogenically frozen and thawed out 500 years in the future, and yes, you just read that last sentence correctly. And, of course, had it not been for Baywatch, we would have missed out on the aforementioned spin-off, Baywatch Nights, starring the somewhat mind-blowing pairing of Angie Harmon and Lou Rawls.
Unfortunately, all these syndicated dramas — and countless others, like Andromeda and Mutant X — are a thing of the past. Now, this Saturday night, instead of checking out people in funky alien costumes on Babylon 5, I’m stuck with something called American Idol: Rewind. And on Sunday afternoon, when I should be kicking back with a Milwaukee’s Best and watching Terry ”Hulk” Hogan chasing around a drug lord in some sort of computerized superboat on Thunder in Paradise, I’ll instead have to settle for an airing of Rollerball (and not even the original Rollerball, but the LL Cool J sequel).
If only we could get the Hulkster and Hasselhoff off of their lame reality shows and back where they belong — sucking in their stomachs on beaches and boats while artificially enhanced women run by in super slo-mo. Now that’s television! At least it used to be.
OBSESSION OF THE WEEK
I’m a sucker for loud guitar, screaming vocals, and basic all-around rock & roll mayhem. I’m also a sucker for bands who release their own music, because even though I am no longer an idealistic teenager, I still tend to romanticize the whole DIY spirit. In any event, if you dig garage rock at all, you could do worse then checking out the upcoming Paybacks CD, Love, Not Reason, which follows the band’s two previous releases on Get Hip (home of the mighty Cynics). The new album is on the group’s own Savage Jams label. It’s not easy putting out music yourself, so if you’re feeling adventurous, check it out. Oh, wait! It’s not out yet… but it will be on Nov. 14, so commence your search then. (In the meantime, see the band's MySpace page for more info.)
So, happy belated Halloween, everybody. I managed to scare the living bejesus out of my kids by taking them to a haunted house where they were attacked by King Kong, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, a mummy, and a wicked witch — thereby ensuring loads of future therapy bills. It didn’t really scare yours truly, but it did get me thinking about a new List topic: The 5 Scariest Movies Ever Made. BOO!
1) The Exorcist (1973)
Hello?!? Little girl vomiting up green slime pretty much takes the cake… which is then vomited up as well.
2) Poltergeist (1982)
Never slept the same after seeing that damn clown under the bed.
3) Angel Heart (1987)
Holy crap, this freaked me out when I was a kid. Not sure if it was the pointing baby with the glowing eyes, all that freaky voodoo stuff, or Robert De Niro’s beard. Probably all three.
4) Magic (1978)
As if ventriloquist dummies aren’t creepy enough, now they have to go all psychotic on us?
5) The Evil Dead (1981)
I’m a bigger fan of the goofier sequel, but the first one was eerie as hell. Pretty sure I’ve never seen a person get raped by a tree before.
This is why I love you, dear Glutton readers. You’re not just here to be entertained — you’re here to make a difference. Last week, I brought up the plight of one Wesley Snipes, or, as I like to call him, The Sniper. Within hours of the column’s posting, scores of suggestions were coming in as to how The Sniper can get — pardon the pun — back on target. I can only hope that somewhere in Namibia, Mr. Snipes is reading this and taking in all your thoughtful, considerate advice. Advice from the likes of Melissa Jasinski…
Before I chime in on Wesley Snipes’ career going down the toilet, I have a question: How can a man who makes crappy movies even have $12 million to defraud the IRS? Anyway, my advice for The Sniper is to make some phone calls to people he’s worked with in the past. Stallone is making another Rocky. J.Lo is always in need of a love interest for her next cheesy romantic comedy. Jessica Biel could hook him up with an appearance on (the last season?) of 7th Heaven. Or Snipes can call his boy Spike Lee for a role in his next movie (if he’s willing to hire someone besides Denzel). If Snipes gets convicted and goes to prison, Lee could do a documentary about life behind bars for a celebrity. — Melissa Jasinski
Damn straight, Melissa! What good are famous friends if they can’t put you in their stupid movies? Let’s just hope he and Woody Harrelson don’t show up on the screen together again anytime soon. I’m still recovering from Money Train.
Wesley should make a sex tape and send it to a ”friend” who sells ”unauthorized” copies for $100 apiece. Unfortunately, once one is out there, it will be downloaded for free by everyone, who, according to Mae West, will want to see if he’s HALF the man we think he is. OOOOOOOH! — Charles Almon
Hold on a second here, Charles. We can poke fun at Snipes’ tax woes, laugh at some of his regrettable films, even smirk about that time he showed up on The Tonight Show in a full Blade ensemble. But I will not under any circumstances call the reputation of one ”Little Wesley” into question. Shame on you, Charles. Shame.
I have to defend To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Okay, Wesley Snipes was the Ugliest Betty of a drag queen in history, but he was freakin’ hilarious in that movie. For me, Wesley Snipes is a terrific actor who’s been the only good thing in some truly horrible movies. Demolition Man still reeks to this day, but he was good in it. Wesley, just get some good roles, act the hell out of them, remember to pay the taxman every April 15th, and you’ll be fine. — Nancy Methot
Your optimism is contagious, Nancy! Oh…wait, no — that’s just a bacterial infection coming on. Never mind. And pass the cough syrup.
I love Friday Night Lights, but I do think it was doomed from the start. People who think it’s only about football and don’t like football won’t watch. People who like football won’t like the other stuff. Although I did overhear a conversation the other day between six rather burly men, and they were raving about it! Maybe there’s hope! — lisamama
First off, lisamama, love the name. That’s an interesting point. It’s sort of like those action movies that try to wedge in a mushy love-story angle to please the chicks and then no one ends up being satisfied. So far, I am enjoying both the on- and off-the-field stuff, but I fear there won’t be anything to enjoy at all soon. I would be shocked if this show made it to 2007, due to its low ratings. In fact, it may even have been canned by the time you read this.
Keep Lucky Louie at the top (or bottom) of The 5 Worst HBO Shows Ever…and keep it there for at least another 10 years. Nothing has ever been, or will be, as bad as this piece of crap! Besides the constant flow of potty language (and I’m no prude), weak story lines, and a cast of characters you couldn’t like or relate to, I think the thing that irritated me most was their god-awful laugh track. The hysterical braying over every sentence and situation was more than annoying. But wait! Someone told me it was not a canned track, but an actual live studio audience! Say it isn’t so. Where would they get an audience of such mindless spectators? Please make my day… tell me that Lucky Louie will not be back next season. And that the HBO execs who approved this travesty are out looking for new jobs. — Lex Larsen
Wow, Lex. And I thought I didn’t like that show. But you’re right, of course — the ”comedy” was excruciating, and proof that throwing a bunch of curse words into a lame script doesn’t automatically make it funny. And I just made your day, my friend, because Lucky Louie will not be back next season.
Still longing for cheesy syndicated dramas? Not scared by my scary movies List? Any more suggestions for The Sniper? Send your questions, comments, and quibbles to firstname.lastname@example.org, or just fill out the handy-dandy form below. See ya next week!