Baywatch: The Movie?
I have always maintained that there are certain rooms where I would have loved to
been a fly on the wall. One of them was when the television show Baywatch was
pitched to NBC. I imagine it going something like this:
NBC exec: I love your idea of the buddy cop series. He’s a rule breaker and his
partner is one of those by the books types. Do you have anything else?
Producer: I am thinking a show about lifeguards doing lifeguard things.
NBC exec: You mean getting a suntan, looking bored, yelling at kids for acting like
idiots, and doing Jello shots at night?
Producer: No, no, rescuing people, fighting sharks, fighting frozen Vikings, and
defusing thermonuclear bombs.
NBC exec: I am not really feeling this one. Give me more.
Producer: Okay, we got Parker Stevenson signed up.
NBC exec: Who?
Producer: Parker Stevenson, one of the Hardy Boys.
NBC exec: Oh, the guy who sang the “Da Doo Run, Run” and his brother was one of
the Partridge Family. I like him.
Producer: No, the other one. The one married to Kristie Alley, the scientologist on
NBC exec: Yeah… No, don’t remember him.
Producer: We also have David Hasselhoff, Knight Rider.
NBC exec: Okay, we got the Hardy Boy no one remembers and the guy that took
second billing to a car, and they are lifeguards.
Producer: Okay, we also have Shawn Weatherly and Ericka Eleniak on board. You
remember Shawn Weatherly, former Miss America and Miss Universe.
NBC exec: The one that got nude in that Amityville Horror sequel? I need to watch
that again. She is hot.
Producer: And Ericka Eleniak.
NBC exec: The Playboy Playmate and the girl that popped out of the cake nude in
Under Siege? I need to watch that again. Tell me more. What are they wearing?
Producer: Well, the traditional red lifeguard one piece swimsuit… but of course,
trimmed down in the front and along the thighs to show off the acting talents of Ms.
Eleniak and Ms. Weatherly.
NBC exec: This idea is starting to grow on me. Give me more.
Producer: Well, just off the top of my head. You know how when the Six Million
Dollar Man would run or jump they would show it in slow motion to show his bionic
powers, or when Bruce Lee would do some slow motion cool karate move, the film
would be slowed down to show just how superhuman that move was? Well, I’m
thinking we could do the slow motion thing when Erica and Shawn are running
down the beach to show their superhuman abilities bouncing… superhuman
abilities as lifeguards, I mean.
NBC exec: Genius. This is just the type of show a classy network like NBC should
have. It is so affirmative to women. It shows that they can be…
NBC exec: Yeah, lifeguards. No pigs, right?
Producer: No pigs.
NBC Exec: Gold, son, gold.
It would take three years and a cancelation by NBC, allowing Baywatch to become
syndicated, before noted thespians Pamela Anderson and Niccole Eggert appeared
on the show. They would later be joined in the lifeguard ranks by Alexandra Paul,
Yasmine Bleeth, Gina Lee Nolan, Donna D’Errico, Traci Bingham, Kelly Packard,
Carmen Electra, Angelica Bridges, Brook Burns, Brande Roderick, and Krista Allen,
perhaps the sexiest women of the 1990s and like seashells, if you put your ear to
their heads you could hear the ocean.
Similarly, almost all of them were naked so often in magazines and movies in the
1990s that even the Pope could have given a police artist a detailed description of
their mommy parts. Why none of them have been interviewed by James Lipton on
Inside The Actors Studio is beyond me.
For almost a decade, Baywatch was the most popular show in the world. That
means Eskimos, Aussie, and Chinese children all watched Mitch and the girls battle
evil arms dealers, werewolves and Santa’s elves (you think I am joking) on the
beaches of Santa Monica. Real hold hands/kumbaya moments. Baywatch continued
strong until David Hasselhoff wanted to prove that the show’s strong ratings had to
do with his superstardom and not the girls’ acting assets. He went on to do
Baywatch Nights, where lifeguard Mitch becomes a James Bond-like private
detective. A fully clothed Angie Harmon, his girl Friday.
Who won? No little red swimsuits, no ratings. Hasselhoff’s ego: 0, Slow motion
running on the beach: 1. The Baywatch franchise was dead.
Critics routinely write about Baywatch as one of the worst shows in television
history. Yet, it lasted 242 episodes. To put it in perspective, Baywatch lasted longer
than The Beatles, including the Pete Best years. It lasted longer than any of Rush
Limbaugh’s four marriages. World War II took about half as long and probably did
about half as much damage. It is the Nickelback of television shows.
The reason it was such a success was simple. There was no Internet. Before
Baywatch there was jiggle tv. In the 1970s and 80s, almost every television show
had a nubile, young actress or actresses that somehow forgot to wear a bra on set.
Hence, the jiggle in jiggle tv. Be it Charlie’s Angels, The Dukes of Hazzard, or Three’s
Company, the more often it looked like an actress was shoplifting Jello in her blouse,
the higher the ratings. There was even a group of actresses, most famously
personified by the Landers sisters, Judy and Audrey, that became famous just by
guest starring on various shows.
Baywatch was the apex and last gasp of jiggle tv. You did not have to speak English
to understand what the show was all about. In fact, understanding English probably
hurt a person’s enjoyment of the show. It was pure camp, with an extra slice of
cheese on the side. A viewer could be doing twenty-five different things and still
look up in time to see Pamela Anderson running down the beach.
Hollywood likes brands. They want something that people have an association with
and a liking for before they ever purchase a ticket. Hence, Baywatch the movie. But
how do you sell a piece of ham well past its expiration date? Baywatch the television
show was free. It knew what it was. There was never going to be that very special
episode where they brought in Meryl Streep. It was always about girls in tight
swimsuits whose bust size was bigger than their I.Q. Why would anyone purchase a
ticket to see that when they can see it for free on the Internet?
Hollywood’s traditional method is to parody something that is already a parody, be
it The Dukes of Hazzard, Scooby-Doo or The Brady Bunch. Camping up something
that is already camp is always a sure ticket to failure. With a thousand great ideas
out there, we are getting Baywatch. The only thing good about Baywatch is Sandra
Bullock and Leonardo DiCaprio said no to Baywatch.