Cult TV

Cult TV Essentials: Baywatch Nights

There were beaches, hot people running in slow motion and boobs jiggling. That is a winning formula. Yet Baywatch Nights was the very definition of misleading. Judging from the title and the producer’s fondness for not trying too hard, you’d think this show would be Baywatch, at night. Instead they took the extra step and made it Baywatch, only in a detective agency solving beach cases. But if you watch it in slow motion with the brightness turned down, yeah, it’s Baywatch, at night.

Basically the premise is that the “when the sun goes down, that’s when it really starts to heat up”. The main police officer on the original Baywatch show, Sergeant Garner Ellerbee–and yes that was his actual name on the show–has a midlife crisis and quits his job to start a detective agency. He’s joined by Mitch Buchannon, grippingly portrayed by nuanced character actor David Hasselhoff.

Together, they solve beach-related crimes, every week but after Baywatch Nights didn’t turn into the mega-hit its predecessor was, producer/star Hasselhoff wanted a piece of all the money X-Files was making at the time. So, he started forcing a science-fiction plot into every single episode. From there the episodes turned from the “Cliché detective show” to a more extreme “X-Files on Crack”,  You would think that they would run out of sci-fi beach crime plots quickly, and they did. And thus some of the most ridiculously insane plots ever aired on TV were born.

Episodes included:

Sea Monsters;
Unfrozen Vikings;
Surfing aliens;
A mutant mermaid serial killer;
David Hasselhoff getting cloned to save himself from mutated Brazillian-body-snatching snails.

I am not making any of those up.

Cheese is what David Hasselhoff does best and if you like yours particularly ripe then Baywatch Nights is for you .The original Baywatch had a huge following worldwide and brought in a lot of dollars, But this spin off is truly where the gold is.

The actual detective agency never seems to do any investigative work except when a mysterious figure named “Teague” shows up to cryptically point them in the direction of some mysterious paranormal happening. Just don’t expect anyone to offer an explanation as to why this clandestine man chose a part-time lifeguard and newbie private investigator to deal with matters involving ghosts, aliens, monsters, alternate realities, mad scientists, the Illuminati, the end of the world, and even Satan himself.

Not even sure why they really needed Teague seeing as Mitch and Ryan would out of the blue become inexplicably knowledgeable of whatever the episode’s strangeness might be. Angie Harmon’s novice detective magically transformed into a Dana Scully, looking into microscopes and spouting off scientific hypothesis as if she has multiple degrees in biology, astrophysics, or whatever field of scientific theory they were dealing with that particular week.

By the way, if you can’t afford a ton of special effects, just make sure you have a spacious setting and actors that can walk around it slowly pretending to be investigating or looking for someone, anyone, for extended periods of time. If you don’t have enough material to fill out an entire episode, just keep flashing back to the lifeguard station so that characters can engage in a going-nowhere subplot that has nothing to do with the rest of the program.

Baywatch Nights was truly something to behold when it was in Hasselhoffian overdrive.

Like the episode with the unfrozen Viking during which Hasselhoff…

  1. A) Spouts off facts about Vikings as if he were a scholar of Nordic lore.
  2. B) Sword fights an unfrozen Viking with a broomstick,
  3. C) Gives a dead Norseman a traditional Viking funeral by shoving his corpse out into the ocean on a makeshift wooden raft and shoots a flaming arrow hundreds of yards to set it ablaze, but not before yelling “VALHALLA!”

Or the end of the episode in which Donna is in the hospital after having been possessed by a serial killer and we’re told she is going to be fine because the doctors are filtering the evil out of her blood – somehow.

A major conceit of the show, clearly at the behest of its star, was, simply put, women, human or otherwise, cannot resist The Hoff. The sexual tension between him and Angie Harmon is played up the entire season. Vampire chicks want to suck him. Genetically engineered mutant women want to mate with him. And in the end who can blame them?

Baywatch Nights is firmly in the so bad its good side of entertainment. A guilty pleasure akin to bagful of Mattesson’s Fridge Raiders, a pot noodle, or a sack of own brand cheese puffs.  Go on you know you want to…

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