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The Strange Things Boutique




DVD. Network.

Baywatch Season 6Bizarre as it sounds, I’d never seen a single episode of Baywatch prior to sitting down with this six-disc box set. Of course, I was aware of the cultural phenomenon – who couldn’t be? I knew it was all The Hoff, Pamela Anderson, tight swimsuits and slow motion running, but funnily enough, none of that had made me inclined to match the damned thing. Hell, I could watch of Pam naked and watch David Hasselhoff in that cheerleader film he made – why did I need this?

The opening titles of this show are amazing – a thoroughly unashamed parade of insanely bodies in outfits that seem impossibly tight, backed by one of the most shocking theme songs I’ve ever heard. I immediately started to wonder how they ever got away with this in the family viewing slot? These days, you’d have idiots lining up to accuse the show of sexualisation of children, with its parade of Playboy Playmates (actual and should’ve been). But don’t get me wrong – this show is an equal opportunity leching experience – early in the first episode of the season. David Chokachi is shown in possibly the most objectifying manner you could imagine outside of gay porn: rippling muscles, tight trunks, camera angles designed to emphasise the bulge and slow motion. The fact that he’s being giggled over by a swim team of eight-year-old girls makes it seem even more depraved. Sometimes, the show will lurch into blatant gratuitousness (even within the context of a programme where the cast spend most of their time in skimpy swimsuits) – one episode has Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth taking part in a sexy photo shoot that resembles a clothed version of a Playboy video and lasts several minutes despite having zero connection to the story, while beach babes in skimpy bikinis are regularly used for filler footage. Between that and the continual cleavage and ass shots, it’s so ridiculously blatant that you have to marvel at the audacity of it all.

As for the show itself – it’s really like a head-on collision of a teen soap opera and Sports Illustrated, populated almost entirely by bimbos and himbos. There’s a range of dramatic stuff happening – the opening two-parter Trapped Beneath the Sea is an oddity, with Part One being all bland interpersonal drama while Part Two becomes a poor man’s Poseidon Adventure. Other episodes see forest fires, English pirates who kidnap a millionaire couple (this episode also has a secondary plot with a ludicrous Fagin-type sleazeball who forces kids to work for his criminal empire!), and psycho killers mixed in with rather more prosaic stories of infidelity, relationships starting and ending, lifeguard training, illness and other tedium.

Baywatch The most entertainingly trashy episode doesn’t so much jump the shark as grapple the alligator, as a grown up sewer gator goes on the rampage in a cross between Aliigator and Jaws. TV censorship restrictions mean that the a savage gator attacks seemingly result in little more than a few cuts, but its worth it for the finale where the Hoff actually wrestles the beast into submission! This episode also includes a technical howler – as Hasselhoff and Jaason Simmons track the alligator to its sewer lair, Simmons says “we’re not alone”, and indeed they are not, as a cameraman’s hand slips into view at the corner of the screen!).

Then, there are the ludicrous guest slots that smack of desperation. The episode Surf’s Up stars the Beach Boys – long past the age where the word ‘boys’ was appropriate, and opens with a cringeworthy performance of Summer of Love by the band, Mike Love embarrassing himself with a faux-rap and a failed attempt not to look like a dirty old man surrounded by beach bunnies. It’s probably a low point for all involved. Almost as shameful is Bash on the Beach, tying in with a WCW pay Per View of the same name, where Hulk Hogan and Randy Savage battle villainous Ric Flair and Vader to save a gym from closure. If nothing else, it does show that taking those personalities and characters out of the rings just doesn’t work – it’s always depressing to see people playing themselves badly. This episode also introduces an ongoing skin cancer sub plot, presumably to counter criticism of a show where everyone spends all day on the beach wearing very little without any consequence.

Baywatch Hulk HoganOther episodes suggest a show running low on ideas – Baywatch Angels sees Caroline fantasising that she and her colleagues are the stars of Charlie’s Angels for example – which I guess is one way to pad out 42 minutes. I guess the producers weren’t quite ready to simply fill the show with nothing but beautiful people in as little clothing as possible dancing around for an hour without the hindrance of a narrative structure, though I probably would’ve been more inclined to watch if they did.

Notably, the Hoff doesn’t really do much in this series – possibly because he was also making the move into Baywatch Nights (in the first episode of this season, he talks about wanting to start a career as a private detective). And so much of the drama is split between CJ (Anderson, here credited as Pamela Lee) – who herself vanishes for a few early episodes, supposedly in France – Caroline (Bleeth), Logan (Simmons), Cody (Chokachi), Neely (Gina Lee Nolin) – the resident ‘bad girl’ – and Stephanie (Alexandra Paul, who seems to be here just to show that the series didn’t just cast stacked glamour girls). Oh, and assorted extras who don’t get any lines and plenty of bikini babes who are there to fill up empty spaces. Performances are pretty much what you’d expect – not awful, especially given the clunky dialogue, but hardly Shakespearian. And the production values are similarly functional – while the odd moment of shoddiness will make you howl – a Birdemic-level CGI moment of a sinking oil rig in the first episode for instance – it’s mostly effective, unflashy, point/shoot/cut cookie-cutter TV style here. Not that you’ll care – if you’re watching this show, it’s probably not to see art.

In the end, fans will love this, and non-fans won’t. As a first-time viewer, I’m not exactly a convert to the cause, and in all honesty would view anyone owning a whole collection of Baywatch box sets with some suspicion. But as trashy, inconsequential, time wasting T&A TV, it’s a harmless distraction with some inadvertent laugh-out-loud moments.





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