Just by pure happenstance, this turned out to be the week where I finally had to add “Hasselhoff” to my MS Word spell check dictionary. We didn’t intend to post two recaps of two episodes of two completely different shows starring David Hasselhoff on the same week—it just happened that way. Perhaps there’s some sort of irresistible force that attracts all recappers to discussing the Hoff sooner or later.
A couple of days ago we covered Knight Rider, and now it’s time to talk about Baywatch. Do I really need to tell you anything about Baywatch? I don’t think I do. After all, at its peak it was the world’s most watched TV show—the Guinness Book of World Records says so. At the time, it had an estimated weekly audience of over 1 billion people in 142 countries, providing clear evidence that large breasted women jogging in slow motion truly is the universal language.
I’ll be honest: The time I spent preparing for this recap is the first time I’ve ever watched a complete episode of Baywatch from start to finish. I remember seeing bits and pieces of it when it was on, but I always thought of it as just one of those shows that aimed for the lowest common denominator, with broad, obvious plots and plenty of hammy acting. As it turns out, I was absolutely right.
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But that’s not why I never watched it. As an unabashed Degrassi Junior High fan, I obviously have no qualms with shows aimed at the lowest common denominator. But while this show has loads of kitsch value, even kitsch gets old after a while.
Baywatch started out on NBC in 1989 as an ensemble drama about lifeguards patrolling the beaches of Southern California, led by David Hasselhoff as Lt. Mitch Buchannon. The show was cancelled after one season, but found new life in first-run syndication. It surged in popularity thanks to a revolving cast of former Playboy Playmates, including Erika Eleniak, Pamela Anderson, Carmen Electra, Tracy Bingham, Gena Lee Nolin, and many more.
While the NBC season was certainly cornball and cheesy, it was nothing compared to the lunacy of the syndicated years, where lifeguards dealt with everything from shark attacks to earthquakes to super-viruses to plane crashes to eco-terrorists to pirates to AIDS to Mary Lou Retton. Baywatch truly had it all.
To cut production costs, the show eventually moved from L.A. to Hawaii, but by the end of season 10, even Hasselhoff decided he had better things to do. There was one, final, Hasselhoff-less season before the show ended in 2001. To me, it’s no surprise that the heyday of Baywatch ended with the rise of broadband internet access in homes. Clearly, Baywatch was primo spank material for guys without easy access to porn.
The current episode, “Mirror, Mirror”, comes from season 4, when one of the show’s primary draws was Pamela Anderson, who wisely left her gig as a Tool Time Girl with maybe one line per episode to take on the role of lifeguard C.J. Parker. But I regret to inform you that Pamela Anderson does not appear at all in this episode. However, this episode has something much better in store: Carrie-Anne Moss in an embarrassing early role.
These days, Carrie-Anne Moss seems to have mostly retired from acting to raise her kids, but for a time she was the go-to girl for everything genre, with notable roles in Memento, Red Planet, and of course, all three Matrix films.
But before all that, she was one of many struggling actresses doing plenty of TV work. She was a regular on the short-lived Beverly Hills, 90210 spinoff Models, Inc. She had a recurring role on F/X: The Series, and she did a guest spot on Silk Stalkings that shares a lot of similarities with her appearance on Baywatch.
But this episode would be just as hilarious with or without a big name actress humiliating herself. Allow me to sum up the plot for you: A woman with split personality disorder becomes obsessed with Mitch Buchannon. Her two personalities fight over Mitch, and eventually one personality takes over and kidnaps Mitch, and almost kills him. Honestly, does it get any stupider than that?
Also, given the name of this website, there will always be a weak spot in my heart for any TV episode titled “Mirror, Mirror”.
A show so massive, they can't even fit the whole title on the screen.
Opening credits. Thundering drums and echoing piano kick off the show’s theme song, which is “I’m Always Here” by Jimi Jamison, best known as the lead singer of Survivor. He wasn’t the lead singer on “Eye of the Tiger”, but he did sing on equally cheese-tastic hits like “The Search is Over” and “Burning Heart” from the Rocky IV soundtrack. Here, Jimi sings about how he’s always ready and how he won’t let us out of his sight, while we watch shots of bikini babes on the beach, and lifeguards running in slow motion.
I should note that my copy of this episode is from the German release of the series. I originally thought season 4 hadn’t been released on DVD in America, but it turns out it actually was released as “Baywatch Season 3”. Don’t ask me. It’s actually seasons 5 through 11 that haven’t been released here, whereas all 11 seasons are currently available in Germany, which is just more proof that Germans love David Hasselhoff.
The only thing different about the German release is that it shows the German title for Baywatch, which is Die Rettungsschwimmer Von Malibu, which roughly translates to “David Schwimmer owns a rockin’ beach house in Malibu”. What that has to do with lifeguards, I have no idea.
Here we get shots of Hasselhoff running in slow motion, along with shots of co-star Pamela Anderson (billed here as “Pamela Denise Anderson”), and also shots of co-star Nicole Eggert, who’s probably best known as the hot sister on Charles in Charge. Did you know that at some point, Nicole dated Scott Baio? Does that seem just plain wrong to anybody else? In recent years, she’s chubbed up a bit, so it comes as no surprise to find out she’ll be on Celebrity Fit Club when the new season starts in February.
And then there are shots of all the people who won’t be appearing in this episode, such as: the token fat black guy, the token kid, the token flat chested lifeguard, and the token “older brother type” bald lifeguard. You can rest assured that by the end of this series, all of these actors will be replaced by wall-to-wall ex-Playmates and bodybuilders.
The episode opens with two lifeguards, Summer (Nicole Eggert) and Matt (some guy named David Charvet, who was also on Melrose Place) riding a jet-ski to rescue a stranded surfer. The shots from below the water’s surface are noticeably darker than the shots above water, and the reason for this soon becomes clear: it’s so that the underwater shots blend in with the stock footage of a shark.
Through the magic of editing, we’re made to believe that a shark has grabbed hold of Matt’s leg, and he’s now being dragged through the water in slow motion, and Summer screams and screams. I don’t know when this shark stock footage was originally used on Baywatch, but I’ve only seen a handful of episodes and even I’ve seen this same stock footage over and over.
Summer’s cries of “Matt!” start to echo, and to no one’s surprise, Matt sits up straight in bed, his shirtless chest heaving. Yes, it was all a nightmare. A stock footage nightmare.