There was a time when American drama series/quick-perv-before-teatime show Baywatch was officially the most watched television show on the planet, we like to call it "the 90s". During that time, David Hasslehoff (pre-obnoxious self-awareness) and his crew of red-suited beauties solved crimes, stopped drug dealers, reunited runaway children with their parents, dealt with earthquakes, found hidden treasure and won volleyball tournaments every week for eleven seasons.
Occasionally, they prevented someone from drowning. Y'know, their actual job.
I remember the show being on Saturday evenings, just before dinner and followed by a solid run of Blind Date, Gladiators and You Bet! Good times.
I didn't particularly care for the show as a must-see, but as a just-hit-puberty teen I had a bizarre need to tune in every week. For the same reason. Always:
|Bleeth, in happier times.|
At the shows series 5-7 peak, an abundance of cameos and special guests stopped by the Malibu shores, more often than not peddling some terrible product placement. Richard Branson even showed up to shill that Virgin Cola that you never bought.
In 1996, WCW had an idea to run a PPV event live from an actual beach, and somewhere the idea was formed to tie this event in with an episode of Americas favourite L.A lifeguard show.
All well and good so far, show some matches, bit of bad comedy, have Pamela Anderson stand around, fun for all, right?
But wait, what if we made the wrestlers an intricate part of the episodes storyline? Better yet, what if we juxtaposed it with a really serious storyline featuring one of the shows most important characters?
Let's take a look at Baywatch: Season 6, Episode 16: Bash At The Beach.
|You're not watching Thunder in Paradise.|
We find out why when it requires no less than SIX babes to rescue him and drag the orange monster to shore.
The girls are stunned to realise it's Terry "Hulk Hogan" They all stare on, mouths agape.
Even these three "Too unattractive to get dialogue or an individual closeup" girls.
|I wonder why the lass in the middle got the role?|
Savage makes it to shore and chastises Hogan for "checking out the babes" without him, this apparently being a euphemism for having a near-death experience. C.J (Pam Anderson) reveals that she is a "closet wrestling fan" So closet in fact, that when she was paid a fortune to appear at the 1995 WWE Royal Rumble and Wrestlemania events, she acted like a moody bitch for the entire duration of her meagre screen time, despite the oodles of dollar paid out to wheel her in.
Back at the beach, Caroline (Yasmine Bleeth) is forced to actually act turned on at the possibility that Hogan and Savage are gonna fight.
Wrestlemania V sister, I got the DVD if you wanna come over for an education?
This looks set up to be a fun episode. Ok, probably a bit campy but good for a silly laugh and forty minutes of carefree fun, right? a casual storyline and a bit of corny wrasslin' lulz.
Further down the beach mainstay character Stephanie (Alexandra Paul) is having a romantic picnic with her Doctor boyfriend, ah, I see, so a bit of a romantic sub-plot for the ladies to add to the wrestling action.
Dr. Gary Busey then finds a possible tumour on her leg.
Hogan and Savage are hanging down at the beach gym IN THEIR RING GEAR, Hogan explains how the gym saved his life, apparently it was this "or the streets." They then get down to pumping some serious iron and tuning those not-at-all-built-by-steroids-bodies.
Speaking of unnaturally built:
|Jesus Christ Pam.|
Well, the wrestling angle of all this might be a bit hokey, but at least we have an antagonist now, and as long as the guy playing the land developer is slightly less histrionic and cheesy then hopefully we can get th....
...oh, for fucks sake.
So we got Flair, Kevin Sullivan in his full-on "Evil Taskmaster" gimmick and monster heel Vader who apparently all felt the desire to buy up a small beach gym so they can build "condos" (that's flats to you and I) in its place.
Imagine being the guy in charge of that deal, waiting in your boardroom office to draw up a contract and these three fucking waltz in.
Kevin Sullivan constantly rubs his hands together and laughs throughout this entire scene, like he's a bad guy from Wizard of Oz or something.
|Sadly, Kevin Nash doesn't make an appearance.|
|Move over Ted Bundy|
Sullivan expresses concern to Flair that Hogan will beat Vader, based on the fact that, get this, "Hogan's too agile" AGILE.
Flair reveals he'll secretly make it a cage match to aid Vader. This makes Sullivan laugh and clock the camera for the 345th time this scene.
|Sullivan, planning Benoit family murders #ConspiracyTheoryBelievedByIdiots|
The next morning, We are treated to Caroline applying Coppertone to her legs in extreme closeup.
This is the best bit of the episode, and makes me sob actual tears that widescreen television wasn't more prominent in 1996.
|Damn you, 4:3|
Stephanie then proceeds to reel off a bunch of torn-from-the-headlines statistics about the dangers of the sun, and the proper use of sunblock, with literally Quincy M.E levels of "the shows producers just read all this up at the weekend" statistics.
|Hrmph. I guess this shot will have to do..|
Stephanie reveals to her little sister that she may have cancer and how she isn't strong enough to deal with this situation at all, just wanting to scream and cry.
Caroline offers her support and says she'll be brave as she can be for the both of them. The sisters embrace.
|More importantly, Hogan and C.J save some kids from some polystyrene rocks.|
|Wear it, WEAR IT DAMMIT!|
Stephanie is having a hard time. Covered up to almost OCD levels by Baywatch standards, she patrols the beach laying into everybody about sunblock and sunscreen, hitting them (and the audience) with facts and statistics. Just to help the audience understand she's having a hard time mentally, they play not-at-all-offensive "crazy sounds" in the background.
Unfortunately, it's all for nought, Dr Busey/Dafoe comes back with the news that Stephanie's tumour is indeed malignant, and that they need to perform further tests to find if it has spread.
Naturally, showing a real command of dramatic direction, this leads to a three minute music video where Hogan works out to his excruciating WCW entrance theme.
This involves him pumping iron like he's about to lay a brick.
And ripping off Rocky II.
Meanwhile Randy Savage cuts a typically inexplicable promo where he uses the term "funky like a monkey" During this scene I noticed how natural lifeguard Cody looks as an interviewer, its like the wrasslin' business is his calling. Which led me to wonder, have he and WWE referee Charles Robinson ever been seen in the same room together?
|Referee Charles Robinson?|
|Cody from Baywatch?|
Flair and Savage do battle. To add to the drama, the producers add kung-fu sound effects to the punches and kicks. No, really.
Despite no pinfall taking place, we are informed that Savage has won the match. Because that's how wrestling works.
Now its time to put the belt and the gym on the line. Hogan's doing some bad squat exercises when C.J notices that a cage is being assembled around the ring.
|Anger? Fear? Joy? Gas?|
Vader enters the arena/beach marquee, wearing his fanny-kicking, steam-spewing helmet. It totally works for me, despite what that mark on the right thinks. I bet he doesn't get The Wrestling Observer and therefore is no quantifier of what's good and bad. I bet he's one of those evil John Cena fans today.
|Sorry son, It's Vader Time.|
Well, Hogan does what he does best, rips off his shirt and beats the ever loving shit out of his opponent no worries. Hogan slams the monster to the mat, recreating the famous moment he slammed the 7000 ton Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III.
It's a bodyslam the editor loves so much, he uses it again later in the montage.
Hogan drops the big leg, and wrestling purists the world over are disgusted as they realise that it's not the finish to the match!! Did this editor know nothing??
As before, we are simply "informed" that Hogan has won, and the crowd go absolutely home.
Hogan raises the belt and actually says: "We did it for the kids!" without a trace of irony.
He also says he did it "for the youth centre", now I'm pretty sure it was a small beach gym, so I'm just guessing that, in true Hogan fashion, the story gets slightly more embellished with each telling. If you asked him about this show tomorrow, he'd probably say it was a shoot and it was for the deed to the whole of California.
As Hogan leaves the ring, we catch a glimpse of basketball freak Dennis Rodman with him, for the uninitiated, this is one of a few appearances Rodman made for WCW shows, where he would turn up, get paid millions, and, just like in this episode, add little of interest and do nothing whatsoever.
|"Check the script! Santa With Muscles is happening Brotha!"|
A ton of fans then invade the backstage area, breaking kayfabe way before Shawn Michaels and The Clique ever got the chance to.
All the faces run out to the beach and celebrate in the hot summer sun. (Terry) Hulk "Hogan" saved the gym, the youth centre, the WCW title, the kids, the world and ran off the evil wrestling land developers.
And they all lived happily ever after.
...oh, and then Stephanie finds out that her cancer has spread.
Now, we had a lot of fun today (results may vary)
But I wanna point something out, I don't think Cancer is funny. I think it's terrifying. I also think the topic should, especially when used in entertainment, be treated respectfully and carefully.
That's the fucking point.
If you are writing an episode of a TV show where one of your long term regular characters finds out she is terminally ill, why on earth would you co-promote that episode with some beyond hokey pro-wrasslin' storyline that wouldn't be out of place in an episode of Rock 'n' Wrestling?
Let's take a quick look at the amount of screen time given to these scenes:
Wrasslers arguing at the gym: 3:15
Stephanie finds out she has Cancer: 1:40
Stephanie finding out the tumour has spread: 1:10
Hogan's match: FIVE FRIKKIN' MINUTES
Didn't one person in the script meeting put there hands up and say "This is a terrible idea" Did Baywatch even have script meetings?
Why didn't they just shift the cancer storyline to the next episode? they could have replaced it with any other storyline, or just more footage of Bleeth rubbing down her legs.
I wonder what Alexandra Paul thought when she watched the episode back. To be fair, she works really hard to convey her fear and helplessness in the wake of the discovery, I can't imagine what it must be like to watch your performance back, only to have it cut to Kevin Sullivan's gurning face and pantomime villain acting.
Personally, I think it's one of the single most awkward, and ill-conceived pieces of television writing I've ever watched. Even if it is "only Baywatch"
Then again, maybe I really am asking for too much in the way of sensitive, logical writing, after all, if you want to talk about a show that really loses its mind, then we have the prize pig right here.
Who knew demon fighting, alternate dimensions and resurrection would get involved?
..But maybe that's a story for another day.
In any sense, I'd assume the producers probably learnt their lesson from this escapade and hopefully they stayed well clear of featuring pro-wrestlers in Baywatch storylines ever again..
Oh, for fu...
|If that's his smile, I now know why he lost it.|