When you've had a few drinks, yapping with your pals about bad 80's TV shows, and you search your memory for a title that evokes everything that was cheesy, tacky and just plain dumb about that era's television entertainment ... well, you probably say "The A-Team." And you'd be right. But you'd be even more right if you said "Riptide." Both were created by Stephen J. Cannell, both starred an ensemble cast of one-dimensional types, but "Riptide" was so awful that it actually made "The A-Team" look good by comparison.
Cannell practically invented the modern sexy-but-flawed TV private eye, from the heights of "Wiseguy," "The Rockford Files" and "The Commish" to the dregs of "Hardcastle & McCormick," "Hunter" and "Silk Stalkings." Some of his work has bordered on genius – and much of it was crap, partly because of Cannell's habit in the 80's and 90's of pitching so many shows that he'd get greenlights on three or four or five of them at one time, meaning that once he got the okay, he wasn't around enough to keep an eye on production, and the quality of the shows suffered as a result.
"Riptide" premiered in 1984 as an obvious attempt to lure viewers already watching the popular "A-Team," then in its second season, while stealing wholesale from 1960's shows like "Surfside Six" and the CBS hit "Magnum, P.I." In "Riptide," Cody Allen and Nick Ryder (Perry King, Joe Penny) are old 'Nam buddies now working as on-the-cheap private detectives in Redondo Beach, Calif. The two live on the eponymous boat, and enjoy ogling scantily clad females -- especially the crew of the Barefoot Cruises sailing operation the next berth over, run by the tough-but-has-a-heart-of-gold Mama Jo (60's private-eye icon Anne Francis, in a crusty turn). Nick also operates a sightseeing operation using his hideous pink helicopter, the "Screaming Mimi," and owns a shiny red sportscar -- so between the boat, the chopper and the car, they're equipped for any detecting adventure. Sort of like life-size action figures, only not as smart.
In the pilot episode, the pair bicker, run around a lot, take their shirts off and drive fast in pursuit of some minor case, bringing the third and fourth members of the cast on board -- geeky computer whiz Murray "Boz" Bozinsky (Thom Bray) and his absolutely insufferable robot, called Roboz, a mechanical version of every annoying kid, animal, midget or robotic sidekick ever thrown into a cast to provide cheap laughs. In an attempt to bring some sort of technological relevance to the proceedings, Boz, his computer and his Roboz can do absolutely anything -- calculate figures, send messages, provide encyclopedic information, hack into satellites. If you think the way computers are used on TV today is unrealistic, Boz's hardware will make you giggle. Or make you sob quietly into a tissue, depending on your emotional investment in television integrity.
The episodes in Season One vary, in classic Cannell fashion, from straightforward P.I. shenanigans to high concept "message" episodes -- the connecting threads are pretty girls, explosions and chase scenes. In "Long Distance Daddy," two Cambodian children Nick sponsors show up on their dock because one of the tykes needs heart surgery. In "Raiders of the Lost Sub," a very young Geena Davis plays Boz's hot sister, a historian who gets the guys to help her search for a sunken WWII submarine full of gold -- which is also being sought by Lance Henrickson. And in the ultra-kitschy "Four-Eyes," Nick and Cody join forces with a pair of hot female detectives (one of whom is "Hunter's" Stefanie Kramer) to find a killer. In each ep, Nick and Cody snipe at each other like an old married couple and, despite being 80's-television-handsome, never seem to be able to make it with the ladies. You may fill in your own subtext at any time.
All 13 episodes of the first season come on three discs, in two slimline cases with a paperboard slipcover. Why don't all DVDs come packaged this way? After wrestling with one of those multi-fold deals that hold six discs and won't fit back together unless you can recall the order of its origami-like folding system, it's great when the studios (in this case Sony) package their product in a manner that's easy to use.
Presented in the original 1.33:1 fullscreen ratio, the picture is a little grainy but very clean. The color saturation varies from episode to episode, sometimes very rich and sometimes, not so much. Still, for a show that's two decades old, the transfers are pretty darn good.
Your basic Dolby mono, and it's fine for what it is. Just don't expect the explosions, helicopter sounds and Mike Post's irritatingly insistent score to come popping out of your surround speakers. English only, no subtitles.
Sorry, there aren't any.
Hey, it's "Riptide." Perry King and his mustache, a pre-"Jake and the Fatman" Joe Penny, a geek and an annoying robot. It was the 80's, and everyone in show business was doing massive amounts of drugs. Just how good do you expect it to be?